Are You Bluffing?

April 24, 2022  |  La Crosse, Wisconsin

A treasure beyond measure

Grandad Bluff and accompanying bluffs to the south on a stormy autumn afternoon.

Grandad Bluff and accompanying bluffs to the south on a stormy autumn afternoon.

During my adolescence the bluffs along the east edge of La Crosse were open spaces where kids could - for the most part - freely roam. Ancient footpaths and occasional logging roads were the main tributaries that fed into side streams of real-life choose your own adventures. Since I lived on the north side of La Crosse, a trail which started near the east end of Gillette Street provided the most direct route for me and my climbing colleagues to reach the top of the bluffs. We would stop at an artesian spring shortly after crossing Highway 16, fill our canteens, and then set out for the day. One favorite destination was Table Rock, which was situated a bit south of where we began our climb. It was named for a natural feature that has since weathered away.

Cliffwood, Hedgehog, Miller, Table Rock and other assorted unnamed promontories still provide wonderful hiking experiences and gorgeous panoramic views in any season. The mac daddy, the king-of-the-hills, the one that welcomes any native of La Crosse or adopted child of our fair city home with a familiar face was and continues to be Grandad Bluff. These sentinels above the river valley have drawn hikers, climbers, bird watchers and other outdoor adventurers for decades.

In recent years, thanks to careful planning and community collaboration, Grandad Bluff and the surrounding bluff lands are welcoming a many new types of adventurers. Thanks to upgraded access points, an accessible overlook that provides stunning views of the Mississippi River valley, and years of multi-use trail development, we now have expanded and thoughtfully crafted venues for biking, climbing, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, birdwatching and a whole lot more. A partnership between ORA trails, the Mississippi Valley Conservancy and other conservation organizations, the City of La Crosse, generous donors and hundreds of volunteers have made all this possible.

It is a treasure beyond measure.

This view is from a point above the entrance to Grandad Bluff Park in La Crosse, Wisconsin, looking west towards the surrounding...

Grandad Bluff Park in Winter #1

This view is from a point above the entrance to Grandad Bluff Park in La Crosse, Wisconsin, looking west towards the surrounding bluffs, the city of La Crosse, the Mississippi River and the Minnesota bluffs in the distance. Grandad Bluff overlook is a crown jewel standing 590 feet above the river valley below. It is joined to the other bluffs and river valley by a network of over 100 miles of area hiking and biking trails.