Come enjoy four days of on and off road, self-supported bike rides in Wisconsin’s scenic Driftless Region. The La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival, September 4-7, includes mountain biking, architectural tours, coffee and muffin rides, ice cream rides, 30-100 mile road rides, live music and entertainment. All rides leave from Cameron Park (unless noted).
Free to the public, please register here to take advantage of all the festival has to offer.
Road rides that take you outside of La Crosse are self-supported, self-timed and self-guided. By registering above you will get suggested start windows, turn-by-turn smartphone routes online, and maps with cue sheets available for free at Cameron Park. Featured road rides also have volunteer ride ambassadors who will leave from Cameron Park at staggered times throughout the start window. Routes out of town are also outlined on free maps and cue sheets, with turns marked on the road in the city.
In town guided interest rides are suitable for families, kids, and are easy to ride. They leave from Cameron Park at the designated time, make frequent stops, and have a leader to guide the ride through the city.
Friday, September 4 — Schedule
A mostly-moderate routes to start out the festival, the featured road ride leaves La Crosse to the northeast, heading through West Salem, over a few somewhat-challenging climbs including one through the scenic Mindoro cut. The shorter Grandad Bluff Loop leaves town on the exact same route, but turns back for a much shorter (while still very scenic) ride, with a stop at an overlook.
- 7-9AM Start Window — Featured Road Ride: North-East Route (63 miles)
- 7-9AM Start Window — Optional Road Ride: Grandad Bluff Loop (23 miles)
- 5PM Advanced Mountain Bike Ride: Meet in Myrick Park, where there’s plenty of parking if your bike is on the car. We’ll ride over to Hixon Forest and ascend the Rotary Vista Trail before hooking up with the Upper Hixon Trails network on top of the ridge. Expect to ride 14-18 miles for about 2 hours on technical singletrack. Rocks, roots, and fast elevation changes challenge even the most skilled rider. This will be a no-drop ride. (leader, organizer: Robbie Young)
- 5:30PM: Guided Interest Ride: Slow ride through history. Local cyclist and Slow Bicycle Movement organizer Scot McCollum joins up with archivist and author Laura Godden for a tour of historic La Crosse. While any period outfits and retro bicycles are optional, they’re certainly welcome. Tonight’s ride tours North La Crosse and will finish at Old Crow Bourbon Whiskey Bar and American Gastropub.
- EVENT: Cameron Park Farmer’s Market, 4pm-8pm Enjoy fresh produce and treats from area vendors
- 7PM All Rider’s Regroup: Old Crow Bourbon Whiskey Bar – It’s a chance for riders of all kinds to come together at the end of the day — no matter if you were on the 63 mile ride to start to day or out on the Slow Ride through history, join us in the back room of the Old Crow Gastropub, 100 E. State Street for a little deluxe socializing
Saturday, September 5 — Schedule
Today the festival features the routes to the west of La Crosse, crossing the bridges across the Mississippi and entering Minnesota to explore the bluffs and farmland near La Crescent, Houston, Brownsville and Hokah. The featured ride, known as the Driftless Region’s Most Scenic Ride (or DRMSR), features wide-open landscapes and four good hills, including of the most challenging climbs of any of our routes. The optional rides leave La Crosse by the same route and explore the same region as the DRMSR, but with shorter distances and different routing. The new mixed gravel/road ride is in the same Minnesota region, but occasionally leaves the hard-surfaced road for unpaved climbs. Meanwhile, back in La Crosse, the ever-popular Ice Cream Ride visits three (three!) different shops that make their own ice cream.
- 7-9AM Start Window — Featured Road Ride: Driftless Region’s Most Scenic Ride (DRMSR, options for 59 or 82 miles)
- 7-9AM Start Window — Optional Road Rides: Brownsville-Hokah (32 miles) / Apple Blossom (35 miles)
- 8-30AM Mixed gravel ride: La Crosse – Nodine – La Crosse or L-N-L is a brand new addition to our routes, and our (rural, Minnesota) version of Paris-Roubaix — a 64-mile mixed road ride with six gravel sections and five big climbs. Gravel, cyclocross, or mountain bike recommended.
- 8AM Coffee Ride: A leisurely morning ride with coffee stops at La Crosse’s Olde Town North and University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. Along the way, we’ll explore north side neighborhoods, the city trails through the marsh, and a newly built bicycle/pedestrian bridge. We’ll finish the 12-mile route with plenty of time to shop and enjoy the Cameron Park Farmer’s Market.
- EVENT: Saturday Morning Cameron Park Farmer’s Market. Enjoy fresh produce and treats from area vendors
- 9AM Mountain Bike Ride (WORS Preview Ride): Be the first group to get a sneak-peek preview the new race course for this month’s Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS) Hixon Forest Epic. Meet at the Hixon Forest parking area at 9AM; riders will split into two groups to ride their courses, led by local volunteer race organizers. Course routes available on Strava.
- 11AM Hear, Here Guided Interest Ride: Public History Tour: Bring your phones to hear history told by the person who experienced it. Hear, Here executive director Ariel Beaujot will talk about the recent history of downtown La Crosse, and how public history projects can bring a community closer together.
- 1 PM Guided Interest Ride: Architectural Tour: Public historian Charles Lee leads a family-friendly loop through La Crosse to explore the historic districts of 10th and Cass, 17th Street, and 23rd Street.
- 1 PM Family/Kid-friendly Mountain Bike Ride: Guided ride around Upper Hixon Forest, mostly on beginner-level trails, with some intermediate. Meet at the trail head on Highway FA next to the NOAA weather ball, make time to explore your skills on the new pump track, and then venture into the beautiful bluffs of the Driftless Region. If there are enough riders to split into varying skill-level groups, we will do that. Otherwise expect to ride 4-7 miles over about an hour, leaving time to get back downtown for the Ice Cream Ride. (leader, organizer: Robbie Young)
- 3PM Guided Interest Ride: Ice Cream Ride: These short, popular rides are great for families, kids, and riders of all abilities on any kind of bike. This one will only be around six miles long. Leader Carolyn Dvorak will take quiet city streets and bike paths to get to the goods. Destinations for today: local favorite Ranison’s Ice Cream, and downtown’s Great River Popcorn.
- 5PM: The Root Note Pre-Party Tour de Pearl Ride (leaving at 5:30p to Pearl Street Brewery). Remember to bring your Tour cards for $2 beers and FREE entry into the End of Tour Party!
- 5:30PM: Guided Interest Ride: Slow ride through history. Local cyclist and Slow Bicycle Movement organizer Scot McCollum joins up with archivist and author Laura Godden for a tour of historic La Crosse. While any period outfits and retro bicycles are optional, they’re certainly welcome. Tonight’s ride tours South La Crosse, finishing up at Four Sisters Wine Bar and Tapas Restaurant.
- 6PM: Tour De Pearl End of Tour Party (joint party with Pearl Street Brewery) Celebrate with all your fellow bicyclists, free entry and food for premium members. $5 If you want to ride to PSB from downtown La Crosse, meet up at Root Note between 5:00 and 5:30 to socialize, then ride with leader Tami Plourde to the Pearl Street Brewery in North La Crosse. Special musical guest: The 4onthefloor.
Sunday, September 6 — Schedule
An absolute fan favorite, the Norski Tur leaves La Crosse to the southeast, exploring the coulees and Amish farm region in Wisconsin. Multiple loops let you choose your preferred length even in the middle of a ride. You might go all the way to Viroqua and Westby, known for Norwegian immigrants, dairy farms and excellent cheese. Big climbs and major distance options let riders pick their level of challenge.
7-9AM Start Window — Featured Road Ride: Norski Tur with multiple length options – 50, 75, 100, 125
- 8:00 a.m. La Crosse Gravel Classic: It’s the 6th annual La Crosse Gravel Classic, a 56-mile road race and/or bike tour. Your choice. The unique road-racing format is done in six parts on the gravel back roads of Minnesota, just across the Mississippi River from La Crosse. Whether you are racing or touring, the event is free, but you’ll need to register on line or at the Cameron Park registration tent. We recommend you ride or tour the course on a mountain bike, cross bike or road bike equipped with extra wide tires. The 56 mile course has 3 climbs totaling 2800+ feet of climbing. The course is unsupported but well marked by volunteers.
- 8-11AM BMX Open Track Ride: Take advantage of one of the world’s largest indoor BMX facilities right here in La Crosse at Toad’s Cove Arena BMX! This world-class course is opening its doors to highlight their great venue with this free event. Staff will help riders of all ages and abilities, from the two-year old learning to balance on the Strider pushbike, to the seasoned rider who still digs the rush of the ride, learn and partake in the excitement and thrill that the sport of BMX racing has to offer!
- 9:30 AM Guided Interest Ride: Pedal Paddle: Starting with an easy 8 mile trail/street ride to Goose Island, south of La Crosse. From there, explore the pristine backwaters of the Mississippi at 11:00 a.m. with knowledgeable guide, heading South on Sunday. Limited number of kayaks available at no cost or bring your own, (Personal flotation devices required; Only Bikefest registrants will receive notice of when they may register for this event).
- 12-3 PM Family Pumptrack Ride at Human Powered Trails: Join local rider Aaron Kerr at the brand-new pump track at Human Powered Trails off of County Road FA on the bluff overlooking La Crosse. A pump track is a continuous loop of dirt rollers and berms that you ride — on mountain bikes or BMX — without pedaling. An excellent way to improve your mountain biking skills. Family and kid-friendly skills clinic to start.
- 1PM Guided Interest Ride: City Tour: Enjoy a leisurely ride through the City and its historic neighborhoods. This guided tour will show off some of La Crosse’s best known landmarks, architecture and bike trails.
- 3PM Guided Interest Ride: Ice Cream Ride: These short rides are great for families, kids, and riders of all abilities, on any kind of bike. Leader Carolyn Dvorak will lead the group on an eight mile loop, on streets and bike paths. Today’s destinations: downtown’s Pearl Ice Cream Parlor, and the Sweet Shop in north La Crosse.
- 5 PM Mysteries of the Driftless at Earl’s Grocery and Saloon: Join representatives of the Mississippi Valley Conservancy for a showing of this 30-minute, Emmy-award winning documentary about the unique geology, history, and ecosystems of the Driftless region. We’ll follow the screening with socializing and discussion!
- 7PM Guided Interest Ride: Dark La Crosse tour: The La Crosse Public Library Archives takes you on a tour of the . . . seedier . . . side of local history. This tour will take you to the old red light district, past former speakeasies, gangster hangouts, and the occasional murder scene. Not all content of this tour will be entirely appropriate for young ears; spaces are limited, so sign up at early for a spot (Only Bikefest registrants will receive notice of when they may register for this event).
- EVENT: 7PM REGGAE on the RIVER:Labor Day Luau with TUGG
Monday, September 7 — Schedule
After four days of festival riding, we slow down with a shorter distance, moderately hilly road ride to the west into Minnesota, stopping midway at a favorite coffee shop. Appropriate for ambitious single speed riders. Back in time for travel for out-of-town visitors who need to head home.
- 7-9AM Start Window — Feature Road Ride: Barista’s Epic Coffee Ride (distance 44 miles, with option for additional loop for total of 55 miles)
9:30AM Guided Interest Ride: Pedal Paddle: Starting with an easy 8 mile trail/street ride to Goose Island, south of La Crosse. From there, explore the pristine backwaters of the Mississippi at 11:00 a.m. with knowledgeable guide. Limited number of kayaks available at no cost or bring your own, (Personal flotation devices required; Only Bikefest registrants will receive notice of when they may register for this event).
The La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival is sponsored by Mayo Clinic Health Systems.