Description - Following the railroad bed of the Chicago and Northwestern line, the Great River Trail explores 24 miles of the Driftless Area (untouched by glacial activity) from the Onalaska area to Trempealeau. Passing through the magnificent Mississippi River Valley, this region has a rich diversity of plant material from northern forests to eastern forests to western prairies.
The 24-mile segment is part of the 101-mile Wisconsin State Trail System that incorporates five trails. The 400 State Trail runs between Elroy and Reedsburg, Bike4Trail runs from Reedsburg to Trempealeau connecting with Elroy-Sparta State Trail, LaCrosse River State Trail, and Great River State Trail, terminating north of Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge. Omaha Trail, running north from Elroy to Camp Douglas along a paved surface, offers an additional 13 miles.
- The southernmost point of Great River State Trail is Medary. A visitor center is offered in Onalaska as the trail proceeds north through Midway on to Trempealeau reaching Perrot State Park. Each year thousands of visitors are attracted to the Perrot Ridge Trail and Brady's Bluff Prairie in search of ancient Native American burial mounds, 460-foot-high bluffs and over 100 plant species that include specimens such as big and little bluestem, northern dropseed, rough blazing star, pitcher plants, and lady's slipper. Extending 24 miles, the trail crosses 18 bridges to terminate at Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge provides important habitat for a variety of migratory birds including bald eagles, osprey, black terns, American white pelicans, sora rails, nineteen species of ducks, and numerous species of warblers. Sights from the shady Mississippi bluffs include commercial boat traffic and the impressive Black River Bridge. Trail passes required for bikers 16 years of age and older.
Recreation - The state trail is open for hiking, tour biking, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling.
Climate - Southwest Wisconsin has four distinct seasons with warm summers and long winters. January's average temperature is above 16 degrees F (-9 degrees C). Average July temperature is 85 degrees F (29 degrees C). During summer, temperatures can climb to above 90 degrees F (32 degrees C). The area's average yearly precipitation ranges from 32-34". Annual snowfalls in the Southwest Region can range from 20 - 40". Dressing in layers is a good way to remain comfortable in Wisconsin.
Great River State Trail runs through the Driftless Area from the Onalaska area to Trempealeau.