Up for a rustic road trip? Buckle up as we join the Wisconsin Counties Association for an epic exploration of the four corners of Wisconsin. Following our adventurous compass, we’re heading to Wisconsin’s most rugged and naturally scenic roadways known as rustic roads. The Rustic Road system strives to preserve the states’ most picturesque, untouched country roads for bikers, hikers, and motorists to enjoy. From the Northwest and Northeast to the Southeast and Southwest, get ready to be in awe of Wisconsin’s natural wonders.
Beginning in the Northwest nook, let’s explore its intertwined, breathtaking rustic roads that showcase Wisconsin’s natural beauty from Barron County and Dunn County to Bayfield County and Sawyer County.
In Barron County, ride along Rustic Road 83 for 4.6 miles filled with rich history and striking sights. For one, R-83 follows the grounds of an old railroad line dating back to Wisconsin’s logging age. In addition, you’ll traverse through Barron County Forest–totalling in 4,100 acres while crossing paths with the famous Ice Age Trail.
Due south, Dunn County’s Rustic Road 89 is another pristine path to enjoy with views from the climbing bluffs. As you make your way along the 4.7 miles of this designated route, watch the Red Cedar River flow from below. When you reach the halfway point, trek to Devil’s Punch Bowl–a true Wisconsin hidden gem.
If you’re looking for a longer journey, Rustic Road 95 is the roadway for you, located in both Bayfield County and Sawyer County. For 16.4 miles, travel under the tree canopy of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest where you may have the chance to get an up-close look at the native Wisconsin wildlife: deer, bear, and even elk!
Take in the luscious landscapes of Marinette County and drive along the vast Rustic Road 32–the longest rustic roadway to date. This 37-mile stretch winds through countless county parks, Governor Thompson State Park, and Governor Earl Peshtigo River State Forest. You’ll also have the opportunity to take in the views of the Thunder and Peshtigo Rivers as well as High Falls and Caldron Falls reservoirs from amazing vantage points.
Make your way to Rustic Road 34, a Forest County favorite. Nestled in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, enjoy epic views of Wisconsin’s wilderness. Along the 8.8 miles of terrain, pass through a spectacular 50-year-old pine plantation! Be sure to pack your binoculars and keep a lookout for roaming wildlife.
Up next, two dreamy Door County rustic roads–R-38 and R-39–which both offer views along the Door County Coastal Byway. On Rustic Road 38, meander along the 2.5-mile paved route through a beautiful boreal forest and nearby Lake Michigan’s stunning shoreline. While you’re in the area, venture out to Rustic Road 39 for another 2.5 miles of panoramic magnificence. With vistas of the lakeshore on one side and astounding state natural areas on the other, you’re in for a remarkable ride.
With 5.5 miles of roadway, Rustic Road 22 of Green Lake County surely has a lot to see in a short distance. This fantastic roadway highlights incredible natural features home to the area including Sucker Creek and the White River. Not to mention, the road passes directly through the White River Marsh Wildlife Area. Talk about scenic!
It wouldn’t be a trip to southeast Wisconsin without exploring Walworth County. Hop on Rustic Road 29 for a quick and quaint excursion of the county’s treasured landscape–featuring the gorgeous Geneva Lake. Totalling at 2.7 miles, this paved path will give you a glimpse of Walworth’s immaculate beauty that will keep you coming back for more.
Interested in birding and blooming? Rustic Road 72 in Winnebago County is perfect for you. In this 3.1-mile adventurous avenue, you’ll get to experience a true sense of serenity cutting through Rush Lake State Natural Area where the birds chirp and fragrant wildflowers bloom creating an utterly peaceful setting.
Last but not least, let’s ride on rustic roads home to the southwestern rim of Wisconsin. Whether you’re visiting Sauk County, La Crosse County, or Jackson County, there's a rustic road to venture down.
Start off in Sauk County on Rustic Road 21 and go off the grid for 8.6 miles. This remote roadway weaves through some of the most astonishing territory of the county near Natural Bridge State Park–home of the oldest documented grounds of our primitive humankind in the upper Midwest region. Come and marvel in our awe-inspiring history.
Speaking of history, just northwest of Sauk County lies La Crosse County, which is known for its history and bluff-filled landscape, given its close proximity to the Mississippi River. Rustic Road 26 offers 5.3 miles of views overlooking the Mississippi River Valley and even the world-renowned Wisconsin Great River Road, to name a few amazing attributes.
Yet another journey awaits in Jackson County–Rustic Road 54–mainly twisting through the beautiful Black River State Forest. With plentiful tree plantations, native plants, and animals, there’s so much to see.
These are only a few of the rustic roads that truly capture the essence of Wisconsin’s natural beauty. Click here for a full guide and choose the path perfect for you.
As our epic rustic road trip with Wisconsin Counties Association comes to an end, it’s your turn to plan yours! Following the rustic roads, you’ll cover all four untouched corners of our beautiful state–Northwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest. What are you waiting for? An amazing adventure awaits!
*This article is brought to you with support from the Wisconsin Counties Association.
Hailey Rose: Writer for Discover Mediaworks. A born & bred Wisconsinite with a love for fishing, hunting, and enjoying the great outdoors.