Westby Amish Tour
Westby is a picturesque ridge-top town that clings tightly to its Norwegian roots. If you can say "Uff da" you'll fit in just fine here. Set in northern Vernon County among the maze-like ridges and valleys of the state's Driftless Area, Westby is a great base for on-road tours in any direction. Indeed, this tour is one of five bicycle routes of 17 to 43 miles detailed in Westby's "Venture into the Coulee Region" map and brochure. All the routes start and finish at the Stabbur, Westby's Information Center modeled after an old-world Norwegian farmhouse. They say the area's Norwegian pioneers were attracted to this part of the state for its similarity to the landscape of Norway. True or not, you can't deny that the ridges and valleys offer exceptional scenery. More recently, the quiet valleys of the Kickapoo River and Knapp Creek have also appealed to Amish settlers. "Uff da" is a Norwegian expression used when things get rough. You may want to add it to your verbal repertoire climbing one of Vernon County's tough hills. There are no easy rides here. Since you start and finish on top of a 300-foot ridge, you know you'll have to climb that again just to get home. Or, you could start down in the valley at Avalanche and follow the course of the Kickapoo and Knapp Creek out and back. The valleys here are incredibly scenic. The roads twist and turn nearly as much as the river. Much of the modern world is left behind. The sight of an Amish horse pulling a black buggy adds to the feeling of a bygone era. Along the valleys and ridge tops, hand painted farm signs offer Amish crafts and products. Just north of Westby, along one of the other bike routes, you can get a look at the daunting scaffold of the Snowflake Ski Club's 100-meter Olympic ski jumping facility. The local club has hosted tournaments there for more than 80 years. As you might expect, Westby is a center for authentic Norwegian crafts. The beautiful art of rosemaling is practiced and sold in a number of characteristic styles. A few miles west of town you'll find the Norskedalen Nature and Heritage Center where Norwegian crafts and traditions are preserved on a 400-acre site that includes an authentic pioneer homestead. To the east of this tour you can visit Wildcat Mountain State Park, one of Wisconsin's most scenic state parks. The park has wonderful overviews of the winding Kickapoo Valley. The road up to the park is also one of the toughest bike climbs in the state. Nearby, the Kickapoo Valley Reserve offers 8,000 acres of hiking, biking, canoeing and camping. Westby hosts an annual bicycle tour with three different routes in May during their Syttende Mai - Norwegian Indepencence day - weekend. You're sure to find some good climbs on any of the loops. But for the locals, if you're tough enough to ski jump off a ridge in the winter, what's the big deal about biking up one come spring?