La Crosse is a beautiful river city in Wisconsin nestled between the Mississippi River and some lovely bluffland. As a result of the varied terrain, there are many wonderful outdoor areas to explore with a dog in tow. Below are my top five trail recommendations for hiking La Crosse, WI.
- Hixon Forest is one of the highlights of La Crosse. The trails in Hixon forest are mostly wooded and range from low grade meandering trails to steep hikes up (or down) the bluff. On a nice spring or summer day it is not abnormal for the parking lot to be completely full. However, despite the high traffic, the number and length of the available trails are sufficient to spread out hikers. If you are planning to hike the longer trails, even on the busiest days you will find stretches of trail to enjoy all by yourself. Midweek, I typically only encounter one or two other groups of people during hikes. I prefer using the parking lot near the golf course (driving in on Milson Ct), as then I can start by hiking up the bluff, enjoy the views of La Crosse and the river, and then relax on my way back down. However, there is also a parking lot at the top (near the weather station) that allows access to Hixon Forest trails and the human powered trails. More information and the larger version of the map can be found at Explore La Crosse.
Below are a few pictures from a sunny spring hike. We took the bicentennial trail from the Milson Ct parking lot up to County FA and stopped at a view point along the way. It was a lovely day on a lovely trail.
- Hass Tract is my second favorite dog hiking spot in La Crosse. From the parking lot you enter into a picturesque wooded trail complete with a babbling brook. The trail then heads up the bluff to an overlook that is partially obscured by power lines, but still offers great views of the city of La Crosse. This is a smaller area than Hixon, but it still makes for a nice 45 minute hike. This area is a little hidden, but you can find it on google maps if you type in “Hass Tract.” Beware that there is also a Hass Park, which is not the same spot. You can also find more information about Hass Tract at the website for the La Cross Blufflands Project.
- Goose Island takes a solid third spot on my list. Goose Island is a county park just outside the south end of La Crosse. The “island” boasts a campground, boat launch, and several picnic shelters (find out more at Goose Island’s website). There is also a lovely little trail loop called “wigwam trail.” Once you have completed the trail loop, I recommend spending some time just wandering around the open grassy areas and along the paved roads. The views of the Mississippi river are wonderful. Additionally, the flatness of this area makes it a wonderful hiking location for when the snow and ice makes the bluffs harder to traverse.
- Mathy Tract (or the Quarry) is also part of the La Cross Blufflands Project. This area of land is located adjacent to Hixon Forest on the top of the bluff. You can see the P for it’s parking lot just below the key on the map for Hixon. This trail is another flatter option and has some beautiful landscape. The area used to be a quarry and there is still a fair amount of exposed rock that adds variety to the terrain.
- Coulee Experimental Forest is my final favorite hiking trail in La Crosse. It’s website can be found here. This is a lovely low traffic area with a hike that heads across a stream, up a low-grade but long forested hill, along some farmland and then back down. Beware that this is an open hunting area during hunting season.
The trails listed above are my favorites in La Crosse, but there are many other great trails in the area. Feel free to let us know about your own favorite trails in the La Crosse area in the comments section below. Also, don’t forget about the many great state parks nearby (check out Perrot in Wisconsin and Great River Bluffs in Minnesota for a start). Alright, now it is time to get out and start hiking La Crosse, WI!