The city of La Crosse, perched on the banks of the Mississippi River, bills itself as the top Midwest motorcycle getaway destination. It may very well be the case, as it has incredible riding roads, unique destinations, and a location that is close to Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Des Moines to back up this claim. Two roads near La Crosse will test your riding skills as you attempt the 112-year-old Mindoro Cut climb and the Tail Of The Cow section of Hwy 33, crawling to the top of Wildcat Mountain.
Start the ride heading north out of La Crosse on the National River Rd (Hwy 35) until you reach the village of Marshland. Head northeast on Hwy P along the west bank of the Trempealeau River until it reaches Dodge. Cross the river at the bridge and pick up Hwy J, which runs north along the river to Arcadia. This road and its connectors climb and twist so greatly that Trempealeau County has metal road signs along Hwy J calling out various riding options along the river bluffs.
At Arcadia, pick up Hwy 95 going east until it ends at Hwy 53. Follow Hwy 53 south to Galesville. Hwy T, running east out of Galesville, puts you on another twisting river road. When it intersects with Hwy C, turn south. Hwy C, running south through Mindoro, climbs and claws up to the famous Mindoro Cut, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. These 30 bends and switchbacks have entertained riders for over 100 years as they climb 1,300 feet to the top. The south slope looks like a bobsled run rimmed with guardrails and provides even more floorboard-decking action.
The Tail of the Cow
Follow Hwy C to I-90 and pickup Hwy 33 at Middle Ridge just south of the freeway. Hwy 33 east from La Crosse to Hillsboro is often listed in the top 20 scenic and challenging roads in the U.S.
The Tail of The Cow section of Hwy 33, climbing up into Wildcat Mountain State Park, will require your A game. Just how many curves there actually are is open to conjecture. Some say 22 curves in two miles, others say 25. There is no time for counting as you tackle the obstacles. A paved bowl that also has a 10-degree slope is one of the major challenges as you climb up the mountain. Watch the downhill lane as riders on the way down may stray over the yellow lines on occasion.
One of the best routes back to La Crosse is Hwy P, just south of Hwy 33 off Hwy V. This backroad meanders through several counties until it reaches Coon Valley. Head north out of the village on Hwy 162 until it intersects with Hwy 33 and ride it west back into the southern outskirts of La Crosse. La Crosse provides a Motorcycle Routes brochure (Midwest Riders Getaway) that lists 6 more Driftless Destinations that can keep you entertained for a week.
Points of Interest
This diner with a menu of biker specials sits next to the Mississippi River Lock and Dam #6 in downtown Trempealeau. Riders arriving on Triumphs, Nortons, or Royal Enfields must try the full English breakfast, which includes English sausage, beans on toast, fried tomatoes, back bacon slices, sautéed mushrooms, hash browns, two eggs, and HP brown sauce. If an English feast isn’t to your taste, see if you can handle the Day Tripper. Find it at 23991 3rd St, Trempealeau, WI, (608) 534-5055.
Wildcat Mountain State Park
Located on the bluffs above the Kickapoo River, this 3,643-acre park has many options besides canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and challenging the Tail Of The Cow on two wheels. Hiking trails and horse riding loops abound and the equestrian crowd have their own separate campsites. Others can enjoy 25 family campsites with all amenities and 20 rustic campsites with no electricity. The winter season features cross country skiing loops and snowshoeing trails. Some snowmobile trails also cross the park.
This unique motorcycle lodge is located in Hillsboro, WI, just south of Wildcat Mountain State Park. It claims to be the only motorcycle-exclusive motel in the U.S. Separate log cottages are available with attached bike ports to keep your equipment out of the weather. Book a night early as the lodge is often full on weekends. Find it at S2669 County Hwy V, Hillsboro, WI, (833) 637-0848.
S&S Performance Cycle
La Crosse is home to S&S Cycle, a motorcycle manufacturer founded in 1958 that builds their own brand of V-twin engines and performance parts for Harley-Davidsons, Indians, and Royal Enfields. S&S manufactures their U.S. built parts in Viola, south of La Crosse. Their consumer outlet is located in downtown La Crosse at 322 Causeway Blvd, (608) 784-5591. S&S Viola factory tours are also available by appointment.