Perrot (pear-oh) State Park sits along the Mississippi River. It is a part of the Driftless region and features several large bluffs to hike up to and get a great view of the river and Trempealeau Bay. There is a campsite, canoe launch, and canoe trail, a boat launch, and over 12 miles of hiking. The nature center at this park is top notch featuring engaging educational materials and a small area of blocks and books for younger visitors. Don’t miss this beautiful Wisconsin State Park.
Hiking at Perrot State Park
Perrot State Park has over 12 miles of hiking trails. One of the steepest, and perhaps most popular, is the hike to Brady’s Bluff. Brady’s Bluff West trail starts near the boat launch. It is 0.5 miles to the top of the bluff, but don’t let the short distance fool you. Everyone we saw reaching the top was huffing and puffing. It is a steep and beautiful climb. There are narrow and steep stairs-both wooded and rock. At the top, you can stop for a break in the shelter made by the CCC while enjoying the magnificent view of the mighty Mississippi.
Take Brady’s Bluff East down if you want to make this into a loop. This trail is slightly longer at 0.7 miles, and though there are some steeper sections, overall, it is not as challenging as the West trail. The East trail ends at the park entrance station. From there, join the River View trail to loop back to the boat launch for a total distance of approximately 2 miles.
The River View trail is 2.5 miles long and follows along the river. There are a few sections with some stairs, but it is mostly flat overall. For another loop option to the top of the bluffs, try the Perrot Ridge Trail, which is 1.5 miles. It climbs from the park entrance up to Perrot Ridge for beautiful views of the surrounding area. It climbs to approximately the same elevation as Brady’s Bluff but over a longer distance with a more gradual slope.
Finally, the Black Walnut Nature Trail is a 1/2-mile trail made of wood chips. There are informative signs along the way. At the parking area across from the Walnut Nature Trail is a handicap-accessible viewing area overlooking Trempealeau Bay. You can find a selfie station at this viewpoint.
Beware of Poison Ivy, we saw a lot of it abutting the trail.
Don’t miss this free little gem at Perrot State Park. The last time we went, it was a Saturday, and while the building wasn’t staffed, it was open. There are several beautifully put-together billboards and education displays. They talk about geography, native history, and prehistoric animals. There are replicas of artifacts found near the site, and overall it is very well put together.
There is also a children’s area in the nature center. It has a selection of wooden blocks, small tree branches for stacking, and a collection of picture books. I love when parks dedicate special areas for their youngest visitors. While the indoor area is perfect for kids, Perrot State Park does not have a playground.
The nature center is adjacent to a parking area and a large grassy area. You will find plenty of picnic tables here and space for games. You can check out horseshoes or volleyballs from the park.
There is both a canoe launch and a boat launch at the park. They both provide access to Trempealeau Bay. There is a marked canoe trail that is an approximately 3.4-mile loop. Follow the blue/white signs. I couldn’t find a map of the water trail online, but they have brochures in the nature center detailing the route.
The park rents out canoes or single kayaks for $15 for three hours in the summer. You can, of course, bring your own boat. There is a large parking area by the nature center and canoe launch. There is a grassy slope leading to the launch, which is perhaps a couple of hundred yards.
Dogs at Perrot State Park
We often see many dogs enjoying this park. As in all Wisconsin state parks, your four-legged friend should remain on a leash. While we saw dogs of all shapes and sizes out hiking, ensure they are comfortable with steep stairs if you decide to hike Brady’s Bluff West.
Biking within the park is limited to the park roads. The roads themselves have narrow shoulders and quite a few potholes, so they wouldn’t be ideal for biking. You can, however, access the Great River State Trail, a 24-mile rails-to-trails path that runs through the Mississippi River valley. You can bike this trail to the city of La Crosse via the La Crosse River State Trail.
Tucked into the northwest corner of the park near the nature center is the camping area with 102 sites. Just under half of the sites are electric. There are several flush toilet buildings, a couple of shower buildings, and some pit toilets. A section of the campsite overlooks Trempeauleau Bay. Firewood is sold at the entrance of the campground. As with all Wisconsin state park campgrounds, weekend sites fill up quick so reserve your spot early.
The Great River State Trail leaves directly from the campsite. For hiking, the campsite has direct access to the Riverview trail. You can get to the rest of the hiking trails from the Riverview Trail.
Sullivan’s Supper Club is immediately adjacent to Perrot State Park. Check them out for an Irish meal and a great water view. Just a mile farther from the park is the Trempealeau Hotel and Restaurant, featuring a locally sourced and ever-changing menu.
Check The Station (recently known as Driftless Bike ‘N Bean) for a cup of joe. In addition to coffee, they serve food from “Ma’s Kitchen.” For a more traditional and full breakfast plate, go to River Cafe. Head about 15 minutes northeast from the park to Lylli Ivi’s Cake and Sweet Treat Cafe for a fancy bakery treat.
La Crosse is just over 30 minutes away. It has a lively downtown partially fueled by the nearby university. There is a great network of hiking trails and mountain biking in the city. Check out the Hixton and Gateway Trails. If you prefer a view without the hike, go to Grandad Bluffs for a beautiful city view. For kids, check out Springbrook Park, which has a splash pad and playground. Riverside International Friendship Gardens has a huge variety of flowers. The Children’s Museum is a great place to burn energy off for the kids. Check out Driftless Mercantile for some local Wisconsin goodies.
There are lots of great food options as well. We loved Bluebird bakery for breakfast. Buzzard Billy’s is downtown and features cajun/creole food. The Hungry Peddler offers a superb burger. For Italian, go to Ciatti’s. The Sports Nut was an unexpected find featuring authentic Korean Food in a dive bar type atmosphere. Ruby’s Drive Inn is a fun place for a quick burger.
Nearby State Parks
Merrick State Park is 30 minutes upriver. Wildcat Mountain State Park is just over an hour southeast. I haven’t written about all of Wisconsin’s amazing state parks yet, but I’m working on it! To check out my list and get information about other parks, check out my list here. Here are my recommendations for the best Wisconsin State Park Playgrounds or state parks near large Wisconsin cities.
Great River Bluffs Minnesota State Park is 40 minutes away and across the river.
All in all, this is a great park. The trails are short enough to be mangeable with a limited amount of time and still provide a challenge and a stunning view. The nature center is top notch and an interesting stop for all ages. The campsite is wooded and close to one of the few canoe trails available in the state. Did I miss any highlights? Comment below.
Watch the Friends of Perrot State Park Facebook page or the DNR website for park updates.