There are a pair of Wisconsin state parks along the Mississippi River – Perrot and Merrick – that have an interesting history. They are both connected to a grocer from Winona, Minnesota, named John Latsch.
You can read the details on this Merrick page (suggest you read that one first) and this Perrot page at the Wisconsin DNR site.
We visited both of these parks in one trip – Perrot on Day 1 and Merrick on Day 2. Perrot was by far the more interesting, beautiful, and challenging.
Brady’s Bluff Trail
The Brady’s Bluff Trail is the path to hike in Perrot State Park…if you can handle it.
The trail goes from what is basically river level to the peak of the bluff in a relatively short distance. This means that much of the path is quite steep and getting to the top (or the bottom) involves following a few switchbacks.
There are railings along parts of the trail, but if you’re afraid of heights and falling from them, you might not want to attempt this one. In some places (usually with a railing) the path is so narrow that you can’t pass another hiker coming from the opposite direction.
This shot shows a prairie-like opening in the trees about halfway along the eastern portion of the trail. (It’s almost the same as the main picture at the DNR site.) The ground on either side of the trail is steeper than it looks here.
The creators of the trail helped where they could with wooden steps and railings. In other places, stone steps were used.
We started the trail at the far eastern end.
Early on, there’s this sign that tells some of the history of the trail.
And shortly after that, you’re reminded that the Wisconsin Conservation Corps has had a hand (or two, or three) in the maintenance of the trail.
I recommend you start this trail in the same place we did. The path to the top is longer – and therefore not as steep overall – than the one on the west side. Not everyone agrees with this, as we did meet several hikers coming the other way.
Here’s a look at the river from that same prairie-like area I mentioned earlier.
In the closest trees shown just above, there was a family of blue jays making a racket. Theoretically you should be able to see four of them in this shot. Good luck.
Thankfully, there’s a nice shelter at the top where you can rest in the shade. Side note: I also suggest you try this trail only when the temperature is no higher than the mid 70s (as it was for us).
Next to the shelter is a sign explaining the involvement of the CCC in creating this trail (and others) in the area in the 1930s.
Views from the top of Brady’s Bluff are amazing. These photos barely do them justice.
Here are a couple of closeups from the top.
Part of the way along the western portion is this warning sign. Apparently some hikers had been confused in the past.
Nearer the bottom of the trail is this interesting rock formation that looks like it could be a waterfall during the rainy season.
To get back to the starting point (assuming that’s what you want to do, if you came by car) from the western end of the trail, you have to either follow the Riverview Trail or the road that it parallels.
We did a little of both.
Part of the way along the Riverview Trail is a spur that takes you back to the road. Across the road is (unmarked on the official map) Horseshoe Falls.
This falls seems to by barely damp most of the year.
Further along the Riverview Trail are some plaques telling about the fish in the Mississippi River.
I remember thinking years ago that it would be fun to try to climb one of the bluffs that you can see from the Interstate near La Crosse. Climbing Brady’s Bluff is likely as close to that as I’m going to get.
So, I’m counting this trip as Goal Achieved.
Trempealeau, Wisconsin (1 mile)
Nearest Emergency Facility
La Crosse, Wisconsin (25 miles)
6:00 AM to 11:00 PM, year-round
Vehicle admission sticker required