The Great River Trail, Wisconsin

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Lake Onalaska along the Great River State Trail
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287' Bridge spanning the Black River
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From the bridge, looking south on the Black River

The Great River Trail (GRT) is a 24 mile Wisconsin State Trail that runs from Onalaska to Trempealeau and through the Trempealeau Wildlife Refuge. The trail was created from the abandoned Chicago and Northwestern railroad bed, as one of the rails-to-trails projects, and has a mostly crushed stone surface.  

The GRT is located on the east side of the MIssissippi River (i.e. the "Great River") and runs along Lake Onalaska, then through a mixture of prairies and wetlands, through the towns of Onalaska, Midway and Trempealeau and over the rivers and streams that flow into the MIssissippi including the Black River.

I believe that the most scenic part of this ride is where the GRT runs along Lake Onalaska which is surrounded by hills and bluffs and forms the widest part of the Mississippi River.

Bike Trail Information

The Great River Trail in Wisconsin is 24 miles one way and connects to the Lacross River Trail in Onalaska, Wisconsin. The 4 connecting west central Wisconsin trails (aka Bike 4 Trails) going from southeast to northwest are:

Daily or annual state trail passes are required for riders age 16 and older. As of June, 2014 the pass costs $4.00 /day or you can choose the $20.00 yearly pass, which is good for all Wisconsin state trails.

Here's a link to the Great River Trail Map

First Hand Ride Reports and Photos

This page includes bike trail information, maps, first hand ride reports and photos from 2 permeate rides on the Great River Trail. The original ride report included here is from Fall of 2006 and the most recent ride is from May of 2014 The Photo Tours, with additional trail information, for both rides can be found below.

Lacrosse River Trail Panoramic

May, 2014 Ride

I have wanted to ride all 4 of the connecting west-central Wisconsin bike trails ~ described above ~ that run from Reedsburg to Trempealeau (around 100 miles) for quite some time now.

I had ridden the first 2 trails (the 400 Trail and the Elroy-Sparta Trail) a while back and, with this ride, have now ridden all 4 trails with the exception of a 15 mile stretch on the LaCrosse River Trail that I have not yet ridden (but will soon!).

I actually started my Great RIver Trail ride on the LaCrosse River Trail in West Salem, Wi (about 7 miles east of the GRT). I connected to the Great River Trail in Onalaska and rode the entire trail to town of Trempealeau and then through the Trempealeau Wildlife Refuge where the trail ends.

For my Photo Tour, I only took a few photos on the way north to Trempealeau and planned to take most of my photos later in the day on the way back. This was actually a fairly long ride and I had to rush a little to get back before dark. I actually had to ride the last 5 miles or so in the dark anyway.

I did manage to get photos from parts of the entire trail including a few fairly nice and scenic locations. I also had my Garmin GPS bike computer with me so I have a map of this ride that I have included here.

Here's link to the GPS MAP on the GarminConnect site so you can review the route, connecting trails and surrounding areas interactively.

GPS Map of the Great River Trail Ride

See the May, 2014 Photo Tour below (pages 3-7) for photos and much more information on this trail

September, 2006 Ride ~ by Dale Kiffel

I rode the trail on a new toy I purchased this year, my Bacchetta Giro 26 recumbent, aka the reclining lawn chair on wheels, during the last week of summer.

This article includes first hand descriptions and plenty of photos of the Great River Trail going from Onalaska, Wisconsin to the Trempeleau National Wildlife Refuge (September 2006).

A lot is said about the abundant wild life on this trail, but I didn't really see a whole lot unless you consider the geriatric bicycle club that had a particularly good showing for a Monday morning. :-) I did see a few bunnies, grey and black squirrels, and a number of different birds. Various bird calls can be heard also, which sound eerie echoing through the marshes. A lot is also said of the 18 bridges, however, there are only 3 or 4 of any significance and the others are 10 - 20 ft crossing small creeks. Small nigglings aside, The Great River State Trail is a fun and interesting trail.


Great River Trail Photos

Here is the September 2006 photo tour of the Great River State Trail from Onalaska, Wisconsin to the Trempeleau National Wildlife Refuge.

Great-River-Trail - Home < You are here

Great River Trail Photos 1 - Onalaska to Black River
Great River Trail Photos 2 - To Trempeleau Wildlife Refuge

2006 Photos © Copyright Dale Kiffel

Below is the May 2014 photo tour of the Great River State Trail from the Trempeleau National Wildlife Refuge to Onalaska and then on to West Salem on the LaCrosse River Trail.

Great River Trail Photos 3 - New Salem, Lake Onalaska
Great River Trail Photos 4 - Tree Tunnels and Thru Trempeleau
Great River Trail Photos 5 - Wet Lands and Black River Bridge
Great River Trail Photos 6 - Midway and Lake Onalaska
Great River Trail Photos 7 - Onalaska and LaCrosse River Trail

2014 Photos © Copyright Rob Chapman