Fall into La Crosse, WI | Hit the Road!

by Anastasia Penchi

Thelma and Louise eat your heart out. Nothing is better than a fall road trip in the Coulee Region – even if you don’t have a young Brad Pitt to take along with you. Put the top down on that red convertible. Lower the windows on that Ford pick-up. Fire up that motorcycle before you put it away for the winter. Expect great weather and see great sites. Highs start in upper 70s at the beginning of September, but by the end of the month, days top off in the upper 60’s. Then it’s time to start wearing sweatshirts. And socks. And making warm dinners in the oven after months and months of summer grilling. We live in the Coulee Region. Beauty is seriously in our midst. We need only select the mode of transportation and go. It’s time to hit the road and explore.







Fall into La Crosse, WI | Hit the Road!

by Anastasia Penchi

Here are five reasons to get out and hit the road:

1) The Prairie du Chien History Loop.

Are you a history junkie? If so, you probably already know the connection to the Civil War in this area. Think Fort Crawford, a former Civil War hospital, which is located just south of La Crosse down Hwy. 35 in Prairie du Chien. The Military Hospital is a registered National Historic Landmark that offered care for sick and wounded soldiers beginning in 1831. The highway traveling from La Crosse to Prairie du Chien (Hwy. 35) is known as the Great River Road, and the constant river and bluff scenery lining the sides of the highway won’t disappoint. Another nice thing about this drive is that you can cross over the Mississippi River and head into Marquette, Iowa, in a matter of minutes. There you have a historical treasure from another era:  Effigy Mounds, which has more than 200 sacred burial mounds (raised areas of dirt and grass). Thirty-one mounds created by Native Americans there are in the shapes of birds or bears. SEE MAP

2) The Three State Fall Color Loop.

Yes, everyone has their favorite place to see the fall colors, but why not drive three states in one day? La Crosse is so close to Iowa and Minnesota that everyone who visits or lives here is able to enjoy the beauty of the fall colors in all three states in the same day. Stop and get apples while you’re in La Crescent, Minn. The former Fire Chief there, Bernie Buehler, got me addicted to Fireside apples many years ago, but I also can’t turn away Honeycrisp. Actually, almost any fresh, local apple will work for me now. I have since become an apple snob. Keep your gas station shiny, soft-meat, browning Delicious apples to yourself. They are anything but. SEE MORE

3) The Buffalo City Loop.

Another option is to take the Great River Road the opposite direction and head north. This route also has some quaint little bar/restaurants to eat at along the Wisconsin side of the river, as well as Perot State Park in Trempealeau, which is a great place to take a picnic if you had the foresight to pack a cooler. Stop and gawk at the Rock in the House in Fountain City. It’s right along the highway. Drive up. Park. Toss a couple of bucks into the honor system box and tour. Be glad you weren’t in the house when this giant rock came tumbling down the bluff. Can you say, “Pancake?” SEE MORE

4) The Mindoro Cut.  

How important is cheese to this area? Mindoro farmers and La Crosse County officials commissioned a cut through a bluff in 1907 to link a creamery in Mindoro with the railroad in West Salem so traffic had a shorter route (bypassing a ridge). Rock was removed with wheelbarrows balanced on narrow, uneven planks. One supervisor apparently fired workers who toppled their wheelbarrow three times; other workers left the job after bringing their first load down. The Mindoro cut was added to the Wisconsin State Register of Historic Places in 2006 and the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. Drive through the cut yourself on Highway 108 in the town of Farmington and be glad you didn’t have to haul rock. MORE

5) The beautiful Driftless Region.

The Driftless Region is an area of land in the American Midwest (primarily southwest Wisconsin) known for its deeply carved river valleys. It’s the spot where the glaciers stopped moving and altering the landscape. Driftless Region promoters list two “Rustic Roads,” (scenic, lightly-traveled country roads), which start in Vernon County:  Rustic Road 55 is also known as Tunnelville Road, begins at State Hwy. 131 and travels 2.8 miles to County Road SS: and Rustic Road 56 is a 8.6-mile route that begins at the intersection of Dutch Hollow Road and State Hwy. 131. Drive carefully as local farmers and the Amish use these roads, too.
Anastasia Penchi is graduate of UW-La Crosse and a long-time Coulee Region writer who has written for area newspapers and magazines (www.loislaneforhire.com).