My final stop on the July 2019 road trip was at Perrot State Park in Trempealeau, Wisconsin. I have been camping here the past few nights and sadly didn’t have enough time to explore everything but can 100% guarantee it’s worth a visit. Lots to cover here so buckle up and join me on a brief photo journey of a few main features and trails.
Black Walnut Nature Trail
I started the day with a nice short hike around the Black Walnut Nature trail loop. This is a self-guided interpretive trail with minimal elevation and is densely forested providing great shade from the hot summer sun.
The main features in my opinion are the exposed cliffs and coves found on the eastern section. In contrast to other flatter areas in Wisconsin, this is the “Driftless Area” which wasn’t affected by glaciers and has much more topology going on.
Once you finish the trail be sure to check out the panoramic vista across the Trempealeau River & Bay which spans for miles.
One feature that caught me by surprise was a small trail labeled Horseshoe Falls. This isn’t shown on any of the park maps or my hiking apps. Curious…
Approaching the steep cliff face you can see evidence of water but during the hot seasons it is reduced to a trickle or nothing at all (ephemeral).
Another angle from directly below the “falls”. This is still very much worth seeing as it is a huge shear cliff face but would certainly be better either in the rainy spring seasons or winter for ice cliffs/falls.
Perrot Ridge Trail
Next up was the Perrot Ridge Trail which climbs up one of several hundred feet to the top of a bluff. I started the hike counter-clockwise to tackle the steepest section at the beginning.
The trail itself is a combination of well-groomed dirt/mulch, wooden staircases, and other more primitive and unmaintained or just flat out destroyed sections. Here you see the stairs – hope you are ready to workout those glutes!
Near the top the trail becomes very steep and slippery. I’m glad I took the counter-clockwise route because this would be dangerous coming down the other direction. Take your time on this part to avoid injury.
The work to reach the summit is well worth it as you are rewarded with panoramic views across Trempealeau Bay and Trempealeau/Mississippi Rivers. Breathtaking scenery for Wisconsin. Those bluffs in the distance? That’s the state of Minnesota.
From the previous photo here is the view after rotating another 90 degrees to the right (west). This is Brady’s Bluff and can be hiked/climbed from the same trail head as Perrot Ridge. I ran out of time today but it would be on my short list of things to do for a future visit!
Continuing on the loop trail the remaining hike is easy by comparison and nearly all downhill. This winds much more gently through the dense forests and is a sea of green vegetation.
Voyageurs Canoe Trail
I spoke with the rangers in the visitor center who said I should take my kayak on the water trail. I couldn’t find this published on the DNR website but you can get the paper copy from the office (click here to see it). I said “what the heck, let’s give it a go!” and set out on the water.
First lesson learned: Taking a fishing kayak on this route is an ass-kicking workout. Not sure I would try this again. Thankfully I did learn that my max hull speed is around 2.5mph and with the head current my speed dropped to around 1mph going upstream. Stop paddling for just a second to catch a break? You were floating backwards.
Regardless I muscled my way through and it actually is a very scenic area. Wish I could stop for more photos but I was paddling furiously just to stay moving forward. Here you can see one of the few signs/markers – a high water line. Here it should around the “6” mark but I’m not sure if that is 6 feet above flood stage or just 6 feet above average levels. Waters are very high and many other places along the Mississippi are currently at or above flood stage.
The trail itself is all upstream until you reach the far North/Northwest point very close to this high water mark. Here the current shifts and is all down current making for a much more relaxing float back to the docks. In the distance you are gifted with views of Trempealeau Mountain at 388 feet in elevation (for comparison Perrot Ridge above is 507 feet, Brady’s Bluff is 520 feet). Still pretty huge elevation for us cheeseheads!
Finally back at the car and time to re-load the kayak onto the roof which in itself is quite a chore at 90 lbs of straight overhead press. Time for a beer!
End Of The Road(trip)
Camping tonight was zero percent fun. 81 degrees at 10pm with no wind and suffocating humidity. I was sweating laying still. Decided to pull the plug and make my way home. Bittersweet but I have been on the road for over 2 weeks and it was the right call.
Total trip driving distance was 3,166 miles. Unofficial Stats: 6 state parks, about 40 waterfalls/rapids, around 100 miles hiked, around 10 miles paddled. Looking back I pushed myself extremely hard but feel it was worth it to accomplish so much on a short timetable. That being said I’m gonna stop & smell the roses more from now on. Maybe.
Here’s a map showing all hiking & paddling sections I took today. The paddling section easily dwarfs the rest in distance but that is to be expected.
Black Walnut (blue line on map): I would rate this quite easy. Gentle rolling elevation change and not much of it. Right at 1/2 mile distance.
Horseshoe Falls (green line): Quick and easy stop if you like waterfalls (even if they aren’t flowing all the time).
Perrot Ridge Trail (orange line): Going counter-clockwise it’s a brutal climb to start followed by a gradual descent down. I think this route is the safer option but more difficult. 100% worth it for the panoramic views.
Voyageurs Canoe Trail (red line): A fun paddle but definitely DO NOT attempt if you & your kayak can’t reach speeds above 2mph. I would not recommend doing this in a fishing-style yak like I did, it’s no fun. Any other regular recreational kayak or canoe should be just fine. Watch your kids too as they could be swept off in the current if not strong paddlers.Lat = 44.0188065 , Long = -91.4877014 -- Show at Google Maps