Great River Road National Scenic Byway

The Wisconsin Great River Road is a wonder to behold any time of year. With festivals and special events in the summer, blooming plants in the spring and colorful views in the fall, you’ll discover many attractions and landmarks along the way. 

The national scenic byway, designated as an All-American Road, is a 250-mile journey along the mighty Mississippi River. Not only does the byway offer eye-catching views, but it features 30 charming Wisconsin river towns, historical landmarks and local restaurants. In its entirety, the Great River Road weaves through 10 other states and stretches 3,000 miles, but the Wisconsin portion is enough to make for a memorable weekend getaway. So, grab your family or friends, and begin the journey from Prescott to Kieler on U.S. Highway 35.

Outdoor Landmarks

For a panoramic view of the Mississippi River, visit the 600-foot tall Grandad Bluff in La Crosse. Residing in a city park, the bluff, which has a scenic overlook, is the largest in the area and beloved for its unbeatable view. To the west, you can see Minnesota and Iowa to the south. While in La Crosse, explore the city’s craft beer scene, arts and culture venues and restaurants from supper clubs to pubs. Perhaps enjoy the river on a paddle boat or river cruise. 

Another must-see outdoor attraction is Perrot State Park in Trempealeau. Widely known to have the best views of the Mississippi River, this Wisconsin park is nestled among picturesque 500-foot bluffs and is an excellent spot for hiking, biking, canoeing and fishing. It's also an ideal camping destination with over 100 campsites available. The park also has access to the Great River State Trail, a former railroad line with 24 miles of riverside scenery. 

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Popular Attractions

One of the popular attractions along the byway is the historic Villa Louis mansion in Prairie du Chien. This Victorian-era mansion sits on 25 acres of land, featuring ponds, gardens, a War of 1812 battlefield and several historic landmarks, including a bathhouse. During your visit, take a tour of the mansion and the grounds with a costumed guide and learn more about Wisconsin’s history from our early fur trader days up to the Victorian era. 

While in Prairie du Chien, you’ll want to venture over to the Fort Crawford Museum. A working fort between 1816 and 1856, a museum now resides on the former fort site focusing on local and medical history. Visitors, both young and old, are sure to learn a thing or two. 

Closer to the southern part of the Wisconsin Great River Road is the Potosi Brewing Company. The brewery is home to a microbrewery, restaurant and two museums, including the National Brewery Museum. A family-friendly destination, this dynamic hub is the perfect spot to grab a bite to eat and sample new beers while also learning about craft beer history. The brewery also offers tours and hosts special events.

The Full Route

After completing the Wisconsin Great River Road, you’ll want to make it an annual family tradition or come back to see it during a different season. If you’re looking for more adventure, keep journeying on the byway. The byway and the river both start in Minnesota. The river flows south towards the Gulf of Mexico, through Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. Look for road signs featuring a green pilot’s wheel that mark the designated route. 

Driving along the byway is the perfect way to make memories with your family and friends and see, taste and experience everything that makes Wisconsin great.