In the Twin Cities & across the country // Easter weekend getaway leads to a challenging hill-filled ride in the Mississippi River valley
I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend! I was able to get away from the big cities this weekend and spent Saturday and Sunday at my Grandparents house which is along the Mississippi River near Lansing Iowa. And since we were lucky enough to have a rain-free weekend, I took the opportunity to get outside and explore a nearby bike route I came across on WisconsinBiking.com called Black Hawk’s Retreat Tour. In total the trail was 35 miles if you took the outer loop and consists of a lot of hilly climbs and descents. We ended up starting where the trail recommends you end, on accident, but I think I would have preferred to go that direction anyway.
As you can see on the map, the trail recommends starting in De Soto and going clockwise around the loop. Which would mean a long steady climb into West Prairie and then a quick downhill finish. Instead, we began at UU with a STEEP climb up into Red Mound and then the rest of the route was hilly, but it made for a more pleasant second half of the ride.
Start: Either in De Soto, WI for a full loop [but you will be riding on a long section of busy Highway 35] or just North on UU
End: 30-35 mile loop back to the start
In Between: Lots of hills! This is a route that starts in the Mississippi River valley and climbs out onto the tops of the tall, hilly banks giving you a total climb range of around 700 vertical feet. Once you reach the highest points on the route you truly feel like you are up in the sky. When you look around you are surrounded by sweeping valleys of Midwest farmland and it is beautiful. When you descend into the valley along the Bad Axe River, you pass many old rural farm houses and pastures of cattle. On my ride this last weekend, the trees were just budded enough to create a lovely pattern of different shades of green across the hillsides. In the fall, the views would be jaw-dropping.
When to Ride: There are a couple places on the route that you will want to make note of. Along County Road UU and Highway 82 that connects Victory and West Prairie, these roads are pretty busy with big trucks and locals, so you will want to make sure you are being very cautious as there is not a shoulder to ride on and the route is very hilly and curvy. I would definitely recommend a rearview mirror and bright clothing to increase your visibility. When planning your ride, aim to do this section during the non-busy traffic hours, depending if it is a week day or weekend. As for the roads along Bad Axe River, they are much less busy. However, the dotted section of the trail is a gravel road, so make sure you have a bike capable of some rocky sections.And as I mentioned already, the hillsides make a spectacular landscape view and the pastures in between are richly colored as well. In the summer there would be green galore, but fall would bring a spectrum of autumn colors. I think I will definitely be making another trip back just to see that.