By Julia Hunter
Special to TravelWisconsin.com
Cruising along a scenic country road has always embodied freedom, simplicity and endless possibilities.
Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation has been preserving its most picturesque routes since 1975 through its Rustic Roads Program. Today, there are 117 designated stretches. They span more than 669 miles and touch 59 counties. View the DOT's interactive Rustic Roads Guide.
So grab your picnic basket, hop in the car and check out some of our favorite drives, with recommendations on cbains where you can stop and stay along the way.
It’s no surprise that breathtaking Polk County hosts six of Wisconsin’s rustic roads.
You won’t have to go far to connect to a cluster of three more charming routes. Travel through open farmland and beneath canopies of bright red and yellow leaves as you traverse the nearby Rustic Roads 28, 41 and 93.
Hunker down for the night or the weekend at the Hunky Dory Resort in Balsam Lake, just off Rustic Road 41. Time stands still at this family favorite, where you can enjoy serene waters, spy bald eagles and stargaze after the sun sets.
If the cabins at Hunky Dory are booked, try nearby Reverie Cabin. The-two bedroom country cabin on Long Lake boasts a screened-in porch and two outdoor fire pits, and includes, kayaks, a canoe and standup paddle boards.
The five-mile gravel stretch between State Highway 102 and County Road D near Taylor County’s Rib Lake was dedicated in 1975 as Wisconsin’s first Rustic Road. The breathtaking drive will take you between north and south Harper Lakes.
Stay at one of five cabins at High Point Village Resort and you’ll be rewarded with sweeping panoramas of Bass Lake and a view of the bespeckled Timm’s Hill.
Or rent part or all of Timm’s Hill Retreat, a renovated farmhouse nestled in the surrounding hills.
While driving to his job as Racine County highway commissioner in 1970, Earl Skagen decided that the scenic stretches he passed every day should be preserved for future generations to enjoy. He went on to found the rustic roads initiative.
Today, Racine County is home to more rustic roads than any other county in the state.
Rustic Road 2, the eight-mile stretch north from Burlington to State Highway 83, provides panoramas of rolling fields and dairy farms. The route passes near Honey Creek Wildlife Area, a 1,023-acre property that is home to a variety of wildlife including deer, turkey, pheasants, waterfowl and other small game.
With five of the county’s seven rustic road’s in the Burlington and Waterford areas — R-2, R-5, R-25, R-30 and R-42 — it’s a great region to explore. Stay at the cozy Elm Island Bay Lakehouse with the charm of a Northwoods cabin and a pier of its own. Or travel north to The Boat House, a quaint cottage overlooking Waubeessee Lake — the three seasons room is perfect for catching the sunrise over the lake.