Looking to take the ultimate Wisconsin road trip? Pull out your maps and plan to visit Ashland County, Bayfield County, and Douglas County located in the Northwestern region of the state! Each county is filled with picturesque nature views and activities, outstanding orchards and farmer’s markets to get your Wisconsin goodies, and parks and campsites to stay for a weekend getaway. Pack up your car and let’s get started on this road trip!
Ashland County is home to Madeline Island, the ultimate island getaway, and a scenic road trip destination year-round! Madeline Island is part of the Apostle Islands and is the largest of all 22 islands. By regular car, you can drive on a ferry to travel across 2.5 miles of lake beginning in early April when the ice begins to melt and break up! Or, during the winter, take the journey on the great “ice road” that connects mainland Wisconsin and Madeline Island. Once you arrive, relax, unwind, and enjoy the Wisconsin island life! Visit La Pointe, the only quaint town on the island, and check out the local shops and boutiques.
Feeling adventurous? Big Bay Town Park offers a variety of activities just for you! By land, dip your toes in the sand of the breathtaking beaches, lace up your hiking boots or grab a bike and explore the nature trails through the rugged woods. By water, you can canoe or kayak the scenic shorelines or dive right in for a swim!
If you’re looking to stay ashore, the Ashland area has much in store! Ashland is home to Chequamegon Bay, a world-renown smallmouth bass fishery. But there’s not just smallmouth bass, you can catch any species from walleye, trout, and even salmon! Cruise the curvy country roads to Copper Falls State Park which has 3 different waterfalls to explore. And if you didn’t know, Copper Falls State Park is home to the second-highest waterfall in the entire state, Morgan Falls! Take a detour through downtown and admire the wonderful art Ashland has to offer! There are 21 vibrant murals showcasing Ashland’s history with hopes to keep it alive. These murals highlight the lumberjacks, veterans, railroads, and once gigantic ore dock! Ever since 2005, Ashland has been given the title of “Historic Mural Capital of Wisconsin!” Feel free to drive by on the 8 blocks down Mainstreet or hop out and take the Ashland Mural Walk!
Head west on your road trip and enter Bayfield County where the beautiful Wisconsin Lake Superior Scenic Byway begins and gaze at the great Lake Superior. The Byway is 70 miles long and will take you through orchards, farms, and small harbor and fishing villages that date back years ago!
The hills that climb high around Lake Superior create the ideal climate, especially for growing fruit like apples and berries. This makes orchards and farms in the area vast and abundant in tasty goods just for you. In fact, Bayfield is the berry capital of the state! Keep an eye out for Erickson’s Orchard, one of the oldest and most abundant apple and berry orchards!
Bayfield County has several farmer’s markets around the area including Bayfield, Cable, Port Wing, and Washburn! Taste the goodness of their homemade local products including fresh fish, wine, hard cider, sweets like fudge and creamy chocolate, bakery goods, and jarred maple syrup, honey, jellies, and mustards at one of their farmer's markets.
As you drive, you will pass through Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and take in the views of the untouched northern forests, beaches, and crystal clear waters of Lake Superior. Make a pit stop at the sea caves during any season! Though, if you visit in winter, the sea caves transform into ice caves and will surely be the highlight of your road trip journey!
Follow the Wisconsin Lake Superior Scenic Byway west and you’ll arrive in Douglas County! Douglas County has so much to share and many recreational trails to add to your road trip! Hop out of the car and cruise down the 300 miles of seasonal trails by snowmobile or ATV. But there’s more! There are also 10 miles of cross country skiing trails that coincide with other hiking trails to explore Douglas County.
Stay a little longer and attach your camper to your hitch and check out the many campgrounds available to stay, right in the pristine state parks of Douglas County! To name a few, Pattison State Park and Amnicon Falls State Park. Each campsite offers its own unique experience nestled into the beauty of Wisconsin’s nature. Pattison State Park has a breathtaking 165-foot waterfall and two twin 30-foot waterfalls with a sandy beach at leisure. Amnicon Falls State Park includes waterfalls and rapids for the perfect picnic!
Continue your adventure into the Brule State Forest where you can find the booming Bois Brule River! This river is known for its worldwide fame for trout fishing. Believe it or not, the Brule River is actually called the “River of Presidents” because 5 United States Presidents have visited to cast a bait in these waters! The presidents were Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Dwight Eisenhower.
Fishing isn’t the only water-filled fun activity to enjoy on the river, there is a range of canoeing and kayaking from calm to adrenaline-pumping paddle ways! The upper section is calm for those who enjoy a peaceful paddle. But for those who like the fast, thrilling ride, just across the Copper Range, the water starts to fall 328 feet to eventually reach and pour into Lake Superior!
Now that you have read about road tripping the Northwestern counties of our great state, it’s time to hit the road! Take the grand tour through Ashland County and explore from the mainland or travel to Madeline Island, the ultimate island getaway! Keep heading west through Bayfield County to see outstanding orchards to sea caves along the way to Douglas County, where true 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.