Our Road Trip Around Lake Pepin

Bald eagle at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota

Lisa and I had a day free of responsibility recently. We needed to find something to do. We decided to go for a drive around Lake Pepin in southeast Minnesota and southwest Wisconsin. Our road trip around Lake Pepin will fill our day.

We’ve driven down the west side from Red Wing to Winona several times. We’ve also driven down much of the east (Wisconsin) side, but not nearly as many times. The trip is best taken in the summer, but we didn’t have that luxury today. It was lightly snowing and about 20F all day.

We had all day to kill. We’ll take our time and stop where we want. We hopped in the car at about 7 am. Crossed the river from Minnesota to Wisconsin at Prescott, WI and settled in for the 70-mile loop around the lake.

This is by no means, an exhaustive study on what to do on your trip but will give you an idea of places of interest to do more research on….

Prescott

Although, not technically on the shores of Lake Pepin, Prescott lies just north of the lake on the Mississippi River.

A very cool little town with numerous restaurants, bars, beaches, and parks for entertainment. In the summertime, it fills up with bikers, boaters, and casual visitors every weekend.

It’s worth checking out!

Diamond Bluff

As we approach Lake Pepin, the first town we pass through is, Diamond Bluff. A small town of 479 people. There is not a whole lot to do here for a tourist during the wintertime. But the town is very picturesque! Really fun to see!

On the webpage for the city is this quote, “Come relax on our sandy beach, eat lunch on a picnic table, and watch the Mississippi roll by.

That kind of says it all about this city. Just a wonderful place to relax and enjoy!

Free beer tomorrow sign
It’s never tomorrow yet!

Hager City

Soon after, we show up in Hager City, WI. An unincorporated little township with a couple restaurants, bars, and a marina.

It was a little too early on a Sunday morning for us to stop here.

a barn on the side of the Great River Road in Wisconsin on our road trip around Lake Pepin
Just a barn on the side of the Great River Road

Bay City

A village of somewhere around 500 people, Bay City comes complete with a campground on the lakeshore and a winery!

Fallen tree on the banks of Lake Pepin near Bay City, Wisconsin on our road trip around Lake Pepin
Fallen tree on the banks of Lake Pepin near Bay City, Wisconsin

We drove through the campground and took some cool photos of a desolate place in winter.

Lonely winter railroad tracks
Lonely winter railroad tracks

Maiden Rock

This excerpt from L.I.N.K. Magazine’s website is the best description I can find of the legend of Maiden Rock…..

While there are numerous variations of the story, research suggests that all carry a central theme of Princess Wenonah’s father attempting to force her into a marriage with someone she didn’t love, which ultimately resulted in her death as she chose to leap from the bluffs at a place called Maiden Rock rather than be forced into a loveless marriage. The first official record of this story comes from explorer Zebulon Pike in 1805 on an exploratory journey following the Mississippi River: “I was shown a point of rocks from which a Sioux maiden cast herself, and was dashed into a thousand pieces on the rocks below. She had been informed that her friends intended matching her to a man she despised; having been refused the man she had chosen, she ascended the hill, singing her death-song; and before they could overtake her and obviate her purpose, she took the lover’s leap! Thus ended her troubles with her life.”

Maiden Rock is a fascinating town of 120 or so, that has plenty to do in the summer! Not so much in the winter. We stopped to admire the beautiful scenery along the bluffs that border the eastern side of town.

Stockholm

Stockholm, Wisconsin has 66 people living in it, as of the 2010 census, and 2 telephone area codes! I’m not sure why.

A fence made of skis Ski fence! somewhere on the Great River Road on our road trip around Lake Pepin
Ski fence! somewhere on the Great River Road

The town is perpetually active summer or winter! Plan to spend some time here visiting the many and varied art studios, restaurants, shops, and cultural sites.

We stopped the car just outside of town and spotted several bald eagles above and trumpeter swans in the small amount of water that hadn’t frozen over yet.

Trumpeter swans outside of Stockholm, Wisconsin we found on our road trip around Lake Pepin
Trumpeter swans outside of Stockholm, Wisconsin

Pepin

 A larger outpost on this side of the lake is the town of Pepin. Lots to do here if you enjoy museums and restaurants. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name shows up more than a few times along the way.

Nelson

Nelson is another popular spot to find plenty of motorcycles parked along the street in the summer. For us today it was all about getting some lunch at The Original Nelson Cheese Factory! We ate until we couldn’t anymore and filled our cooler with goodies to bring home!

Nelson Creamery in Nelson, Wisconsin from our road trip around Lake Pepin
Nelson Creamery in Nelson, Wisconsin
Inside Nelson Creamery in Nelson, Wisconsin
Inside Nelson Creamery in Nelson, Wisconsin
The shop at Nelson Creamery in Nelson, Wisconsin
The shop at Nelson Creamery in Nelson, Wisconsin

Alma

Alma is cool! Huge bluffs all along the eastern edge of the city and Lock and Dam #4 on the Mississippi River to the west.

A fun place to spend a few hours checking it out!

Fountain city

The most fun thing to see in Fountain City is The Rock in the House. I’ll just put a couple of links here for your entertainment.

The Rock in the House in Fountain City, Wisconsin on our road trip around Lake Pepin
The Rock in the House

 Amusing Planet link

Great River link

It was winter and the place was closed to visitors, but we walked up the steps and peeked around back.

Worth a stop just to make you feel small and insignificant!

Winona

At roughly 28,000 people, Winona seems huge after half a day spent seeing tiny townships on the Wisconsin side of the lake.

Back in Minnesota, the city is filled with plenty to do. We drove up the bluff on the west side of town and found Garvin Heights City Park which had an amazing overlook above the city!

View of Winona, Minnesota from the Garvin Heights City Park overlook on our road trip around Lake Pepin
View of Winona, Minnesota from the Garvin Heights City Park overlook

Minnesota City

Minnesota City doesn’t offer the visitor much to do on a cold winter day. During the summer it offers good fishing opportunities in the slow-moving backwaters of the lake and river.

Historically, if your interested, the city is known for being “first” in many categories in the county of Winona!

Minneiska

There are 4 local businesses listed on the Minneiska official city website here. A good place to stop and take some photos along our road trip around Lake Pepin!

Kellogg

Fun little shops and restaurants in Kellogg. The city mostly caters to hunters, fishers, and outdoor activities.

Wabasha

Wabasha is a destination town to be sure! Lots of galleries, places to eat, places to stay and fun things to do! They even have a ski area if you’re there with your gear!

We stopped at the famous National Eagle Center right on the shore. Hung out with some live eagles and took turns with the binoculars trying to see more outside.

One of the rescued bald eagles at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota on our road trip around Lake Pepin
One of the rescued bald eagles at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota

Reads landing

Stop in at the brewery and relax for a bit. It’s been a long day.

Lake City

Popular with birders, Lake City has plenty to see and do! Fishing, biking, shopping, and eating. Stop by on your way through and tell your friends that you’ve spent time at the Birthplace of Waterskiing!

Frontenac

An unincorporated village, Frontenac has a ski area and a state park nearby that are fun to visit. Our road trip around Lake Pepin is nearly complete.

Red Wing

Finally, we get to the end of our day in Red Wing, Minnesota. If you still have any energy left, stop and do some shopping, or simply crash in one of several hotels.

If you’re up for a small hike, Barn Bluff on the edge of town is a fun little walk with views overlooking the river. At the right time of year, you may see rock climbers hanging from the cliffs above you!

So, that was our day driving around Lake Pepin. I intentionally didn’t put a whole lot of information about any of the destinations so that you can add your stories to the mix. Post your adventures from the Lake Pepin area in the comment section below and I will add them to Our Road Trip Around Lake Pepin!

Also, check out our other adventures!

Until then…. Grab whatcha got and let’s GO! Road-trippin!

Author: Deane

Deane is an outdoor enthusiast, website content provider, DIYer, and always looking for the next adventure.

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