Rustic Road Tripping in Scenic Wisconsin

Green foliage just starting to turn is visible behind a road sign with an outline of the state and the text Rustic Road.

A road sign marks one of Wisconsin’s designated Rustic Roads. Photo © Sarah Smith, licensed Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives.

Travel media have consistently voted Wisconsin one of the greatest road-touring states in the country. Much of this comes from natural beauty; a good deal also comes from the fact that many rural roads, originally known as farm-to-market roads, seem to have changed little (other than having pavement) in a century and a half. You’ll find more than 100 fantastic roads that cannot be rivaled.

Options for serpentine blue highways are infinite; thankfully, the Department of Transportation has highlighted more than 100 of the state’s best back-roads trips in an effort to preserve the lightly traveled avenues into the real Wisconsin. A road trip on one of these roads is a phenomenal way to view the countryside and the culture. Every single Rustic Road of the state is guaranteed to offer an amazing palette of colors mid-September–late October. Visit the website of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation for downloadable guides with Rustic Road maps or for information on ordering a booklet.

Notable Routes by Area

    • Near Milwaukee, head for Cedarburg, a grand little place with its own lovely road-trip (#52).
    • Near Madison, this author’s favorites are south (#19 near Goodman Park) and east (#96, south of Cottage Grove).
    • In Southeastern Wisconsin, those near Burlington (#42), Lake Geneva (#11 and #29), Horicon Marsh (#106), and Fort Atkinson (#84) are unrivalled.
    • As for Door County — well, the entire thing is a rustic road!
    • Heading for East-Central Waters? Go to Hartman Creek State Park, at which you’ll find #23 and #24 together amidst amazing village scenery.
    • In Northeastern Wisconsin, the parks and waterfalls of Peshtigo River Parkway (#32) are grand, as is #60 east of Boulder Junction.
    • In the Indianhead region, history and gorgeous beauty are found along the old Flambeau trail voyageur route on #100 north of Mercer (in the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage) and #6, west of Brunet Island State Park.
    • For the Great River Road, #51 east of Maiden Rock is preternaturally lovely, and history doesn’t get any better than #99 out of Potosi.
    • In Southwest Wisconsin, #66 east of Hazel Green has agriculture and mining history (or any road at all in Coulee Country).
    • In Central Wisconsin, off Interstate 39/90/94 at WI 33, then north, you’ll find #49, which rolls through Aldo Leopold’s favorite lands.

Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Wisconsin.

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