Motorcycling Wisconsin’s Great Rustic Roads

By Daniel Rose

10 Rustic Roads You Need to Ride

Few things pair better with the soul of motorcycling than country roads off the beaten path. On these roads, harnessing the joy of a great ride becomes effortless. And in Wisconsin, these hidden gems don’t have to be hard to find! The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDot) has been mapping and protecting the state’s great rustic roads since 1974 through the Rustic Roads Program.

"Rustic roads offer a great change of pace from typical riding," said motorcycle enthusiast Stephen Bak. "You get to escape the city, the scenery is beautiful and most rustic roads have some great turns which are a blast on a motorcycle."

Bak does offer one word of caution about rustic roads: gravel. Even the paved roads can have some gravel on them since they often pass farms that accidentally spread some gravel onto the roads. This is easily remedied by simply watching out for any rough spots, especially if you’ve never ridden the road before.

The Rustic Roads Award Program

If you enjoy a challenge, the WisDOT offers an award program exclusively to motorcyclists who ride the state’s Rustic Roads. You need to take a picture with your bike in front of 10 of the distinctive Brown and Yellow signs to earn a “Rustic Roads Motorcycle Tour” patch. Below is a list of 10 roads that will take you from St. Croix County to Washington County and allow you to earn your Rustic Roads patch in a single weekend.

Rustic Road 13Hudson

Spanning three miles in total, R-13 features a scenic view of Willow River State Park.

Rustic Road 89Menomonie

This next road will take you past the Devil’s Punch Bowl, a natural canyon formed nearly 12,000 years ago. The Punch Bowl was originally known as Black’s Ravine and has often been reported as haunted by those who visit.

Rustic Road 31West Salem

A series of famous Wisconsin homes make R-31 a road you don’t want to miss. The Palmer-Gullickson Octagon House and Pulitzer Prize winning Author Hamlin Garland’s homestead are both visible during this ride.

Rustic Road 26La Crosse

R-26 offers a lot to take in over its 5.3 miles, but the highlight is easily “Brinkman’s Ridge,” which provides a panoramic view of the Mississippi River and the Goose Island wildlife refuge.

Rustic Road 49 - Baraboo

This beautiful road runs along the Wisconsin River for nearly 10 miles, and if you’re getting hungry stop by the Green Owl Restaurant in nearby Lake Delton.

Rustic Road 19Madison

The Waubesa Wetlands preserve borders this unique two mile road. You can also take a moment to view the William Lalor Farm which was purchased from the government in 1846. US President James Polk signed the farm's original deed.

Rustic Road 96Cottage Grove

R-96 offers a great stopping point if you want to break your 10 road gauntlet into two chunks because it is just outside Madison. You can use this list to find a great place to stay in the city and then hit R-96 in the morning. Be sure to stop by Crema Café on your way to the road. Their bakery is legendary!

Rustic Road 48Saxeville

Stay on the lookout for wildlife while you’re riding R-48. Ring-necked pheasants, sandhill cranes, deer, red fox, beaver and otter have all been spotted from the road thanks to the nearby Pine River.

Rustic Road 10Delafield

R-10 is Wisconsin’s only Rustic Road that offers views of four different lakes: Upper Nashotah, Lower Nashotah, Upper Nemahbin, and Lower Nemahbin.

Rustic Road 33Hartford

R-33 will mark the completion of your journey, but its 12.1 total miles should at least let you savor the moment. The church spires of Holy Hill are visible from this road, along with views of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

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