Fall Color Pictures | Great River Road

Mississippi River Maiden Rock
A little North of Maiden Rock looking south across the river.

Fall Color Drive along the Mississippi River, La Crosse to Red Wing

In the second week of October, we took a drive along the Mississippi Great River Road to hopefully see some nice fall color. We begin our trip on the Wisconsin Great River Road section at La Crosse. Then traveled North on the Wisconsin side of the river until Hager City. Then we crossed the bridge to Red Wing, Minnesota and returned South along the Minnesota Great River Road. To follow are pictures the fall color scenes along the route.

Fall Color Trip Wisconsin Great River Road

On the way to La Crosse, the we noticed the hillsides were showing some nice color, but not quite at Peak color. Once we got to La Crosse, we stopped at the Riverside Park and took a few photos, then headed North towards Trempealeau, Wisconsin.

Fall Color Hwy 14
Some hillside color along Hwy 14 on the way to La Crosse
La Crosse Riverside Park
Some color change at La Crosse Riverside Park
Riverside Park La Crosse
Looking across the river, not much color change yet.

There was still only a modest color change along the river when we arrived at Trempealeau, but a few miles North near the community of Marshland we started seeing some photo-worthy scenes.

Wisconsin Great River Road Fall Color
We started seeing some nice splashes of color near the village of Marshland along Hwy 35 (Wisconsin Great River Road)

As we traveled North through Fountain City and Alma, the color palate returned to modest until we approached Nelson, Wisconsin.

Approaching Nelson Wisconsin
nelson wisconsin great river road
Finally some nice color

Travel Tip. While in Nelson, plan to stop at the Nelson Creamery for lunch, a huge selection of Wisconsin cheeses, or everyone’s favorite: one of their fantastic ice cream cones.

Nelson Creamery
The 160 year old creamery is a favorite stop along the Wisconsin Great River Road

Traveling North of Nelson, some of the steep bluffs with impressive rock outcroppings were unfortunately not producing impressive color. We speculated that the trees that would grow on very thin soils weren’t the kind that produce impressive fall color. But it was a beautiful day along the river and some nice scenery even if not peak color.

Mississippi River near Maiden Rock, WI
River view from a wayside North of Maiden Rock

We crossed the river at Hager City into Red Wing, Minnesota to take Minnesota Great River Road back South along the river.

Fall Color Trip Minnesota Great River Road

Red Wing’s Memorial Park on a high bluff overlooking the city and the river valley offered some decent views of attractive fall color.

Red Wing Minnesota
Looking towards downtown Red Wing and the Mississippi River Valley
Red Wing Minnesota Memorial Park overlook
Looking North from Red Wing’s Memorial Park overlook

Going south along the river from Red Wing there were sections with splashes of color but like some of our experience on the Wisconsin side nothing photo-inspiring . . . until South of Winona near Great River Bluffs State Park.

Kings Bluff Fall Color
Some nice color below King’s Bluff
Queens Bluff Fall Color
Some decent color below Queen’s Bluff

Adjusting Fall Color Expectations.

While we didn’t find consistent fall color along the Great River Road, it was a beautiful day for a drive and there were some worthy highlights along the route. The impressive limestone bluffs that are scenic highlights along the Upper Mississippi Great River Roads on the Wisconsin and Minnesota sides favor trees that don’t offer the full palate of color that you’d find in a Northern Wisconsin forest. But the landscape along this section is unique and attractive any time of the year and the fall splashes of color add some nice highlights. So you adjust your expectations and enjoy what nature is presenting.

See more fall color photos and information on things to see and do from a Great River Road Fall Color drive in October 2017.

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