Travel media writers have consistently voted Wisconsin one of the United States’ greatest road-touring states, in part because many rural roads, originally farm-to-market routes, seem to have changed little in a century and a half Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation has highlighted more than 100 of the state’s best back-roads trips with its Rustic Roads designation. Road trip Wisconsin’s Rustic Roads mid-September to late October to see an amazing palette of colors.

aerial view of famrland and trees in rural Wisconsin

Wisconsin is flooded with vibrant color in the fall. Photo © Wildnerdpix/iStock.

Notable Rustic Roads by Area

  • Near Milwaukee, Cedarburg is a lovely anachronism. From here, take Highway NN northwest five miles and then north a few more miles on Highway M, where signs to Rustic Road 52 (seven miles) lead you past fieldstone buildings and ancient cabins before skirting a wetlands preserve.
  • Heading for East-Central Waters? From Waupaca, head southwest on Highway 22 to the Yankee village of Rural, possibly the state’s quaintest original. From here, Rustic Roads 23 and 24 (three miles total) form a V shape around Hartman Creek State Park and take you three times over the Crystal River atop stone bridges, then past a spring-fed trout stream.
  • In Northeastern Wisconsin, the Peshtigo River Parkway (Rustic Road 32) cannot be beat for river beauty and waterfalls. To get here, head to little Pembine at the junction of U.S. 141 and U.S. 8. Head west on U.S. 8 approximately nine miles to signs leading you south. This is a big one, 37 miles long, but you’ll have plenty of places to stop and rest at state and county parks.
  • Also in Northeastern Wisconsin, Rustic Road 60 begins at Highway K, two miles south of Boulder Junction along Highway M. Coming from the south, take U.S. 51 from Minocqua and follow signs to Boulder Junction. Driving for 11 miles, you’ll pass the remains of logging camps, drive through tunnels of conifers and hardwoods, and find an extant sawmill at the eastern end.
  • In Southwestern Wisconsin, Rustic Road 31 starts in West Salem northeast of La Crosse at the exit off I-90 at Highway C, running to Highway 16. Head north on Highway 16 to Highway 108 and the Mindoro Cut, 20 miles of some of the loveliest roller-coaster driving imaginable. A massive project when undertaken around the turn of the 20th century, the road was cut into a ridge between the La Crosse and Black River Valleys by hand, one of the most ambitious hand-built roads in the United States when it was finished in 1906.
Map of Wisconsin Driving Distances

Wisconsin Driving Distances

Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon Wisconsin.