With the open road in front of you, Wisconsin is one of the best places in the U.S. for a road trip. Its three nationally recognized scenic roadways will take you along bluffs carved by the Mississippi River, the Northwoods shores of Lake Superior and the sweeping coast of Lake Michigan.
Wisconsin’s incredible driving routes — the All-American Great River Road National Scenic Byway, the Door County Coastal National Scenic Byway and the Wisconsin Lake Superior National Scenic Byway — must meet specific criteria to qualify for national designation.
An All-American Road (the top honors a road can get!) must meet a minimum of two and a National Scenic Byway must meet at least one of these attributes:
- Amazing scenery.
- Untouched wildlife and natural surroundings.
- Historical significance.
- Cultural significance.
- Archeological significance.
- Plenty of outdoor adventures and activities along the way.
Here’s what’s great about each route to help plan an amazing getaway with the people you love.
All-American Great River Road National Scenic Byway
Enjoy bluff-top views, outstanding trails and charming river towns along the historic Great River Road—Wisconsin’s only designated All-American Road.
The Wisconsin Great River Road parallels the Mississippi River for 250 miles from Prescott in the north to Kieler in the south. Along the way, you’ll experience some of the most incredible scenery in the Midwest and 33 unique communities. You’ll find hiking, bicycling, fishing, boating and paddling in the numerous recreational areas along the byway.
Nearly two-thirds of the Wisconsin Great River Road passes along or through protected natural areas, with endless chances for birdwatching. Scenic overlooks along the Great River Road are some of the best places in North America to see bald eagles.
Don’t miss stops along the Great River Road Wine Trail on your way. These provide the perfect excuse for an overnight at a picturesque cabin overlooking the Mississippi or a quaint B&B. Other attractions along your road trip showcase Western Wisconsin’s local farmers markets, organic farms, wineries, cheesemakers, orchards and more.
While this route is incredible in any season, it truly shines during September and October when your drive is heightened by the changing fall foliage.
Door County Coastal National Scenic Byway
Door County is already one of the most popular destinations in Wisconsin but you truly haven’t seen it until you’ve roadtripped this forest-studded coastal drive edging along Lake Michigan, with crystal-clear waters that could make some tropical island waters blush.
Travel this scenic coastal byway as it loops 66 miles along the Green Bay bluffs and through the dunes and bays of Lake Michigan.
Explore historic lighthouses, nature preserves, and quaint towns along the way. The last few miles of the northern section of Highway 42 offer some of the most picturesque scenery, as does a hike through the 2,400-acre Newport State Park in Ellison Bay (one of the few “Dark Sky Parks” in the U.S.) that’ll leave you with an unreal view of the Milky Way.
With so much to explore, you’ll want to book a few nights at an inn, a B&B or camp at one of Door County’s state parks for a few nights to round out the experience.
Wisconsin Lake Superior National Scenic Byway
This roadway takes you northward along the Bayfield peninsula, where you’ll be able to stop at what is often said to be one of the most picturesque natural wonders in the world, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
The Wisconsin Lake Superior Byway follows the southern shoreline of Lake Superior along the Bayfield peninsula and is a snapshot of the geological, historical, cultural, ecological and recreational diversity of the region.
The 70 mile route features breathtaking scenic views of forests, pristine sandy beaches, and the sparkling blue waters of Lake Superior, the Apostle Islands and the Gaylord Nelson Wilderness Area. The Byway is a unique route featuring quaint harbor towns, historic fishing villages, small farms and The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation.
The beauty of the byway is experienced through the stories and scenery that embrace the majesty of Lake Superior.
Looking for a place to stay? Whether you're looking for seclusion or full amenities, check out these eight hidden cabins and cottages in Wisconsin.
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