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Worth the Drive: Rustic Roads & Scenic Drives 

Posted on July 9, 2020 by Emily Speers

Whether you are eager for a road trip or wanting to stay closer to home, these drives offer the perfect solution. Located about an hour or two from the Fox Cities, these rustic roads and scenic drives feature the history, nature and scenery that give us pride in calling Wisconsin home. In 1973, Wisconsin State Legislature deemed lightly-traveled country roads displaying significant, unique scenic views and history as Rustic Roads in an effort to preserve Wisconsin’s notable routes. As you embark on your trip, you are helping sustain the beauty of Wisconsin on roads that are truly worth the drive. Experience lake views, old country roads, bustling wildlife, lush forests, and more on these diverse drives. 

Rustic Road 16: Lush Forests & Lake Look-Outs 

Point Beach

Running along the shores of Lake Michigan on Sandy Bay Road in Manitowoc County, this Rustic Road showcases all of Wisconsin’s proudest features. Great coniferous pines and lush broad-leafed trees frame the drive and teeming wildlife lingers just beyond the pavement. With glimpses of Point Beach and its state forest, experience the best of both worlds: beachy sand dunes and dense green forests. While passing these sites, take a pit stop with a walk on the beach or a hike through Point Beach State Forest, open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. year-round with the purchase of a vehicle-admission sticker. 

Rustic Road 22: Bustling Rivers, Wildlife & Quaint Towns

Heading southwest from the Fox Cities to Berlin, Rustic Road 22 gives beautiful views of the White River Marsh Wildlife area, creeks, rivers, and countryside. Following Berlin’s highway 91 out to County Road D, RR22 begins on Big Island Road and continues onto White River Road. Leading deep into a secluded marsh, this gravel rustic road is teeming with the sounds of wildlife and the views of untouched nature. View vast marshland and peaceful creeks, or try out multiple parking stops and walk or bike through the area. Choose to explore more scenic roads around the area or head into the quaint towns of Princeton and Green Lake to view historically preserved towns and bustling summer attractions, especially the Mascoutin Golf Club or Green Lake Conference Center. 

Rustic Roads 23, 24 & 57: Back Road Adventures 

Hartman Creek State Park. Photo by Christina Streiff.

Missing those old back roads? Rustic Roads 23, 24 and 57 are the perfect reminder of Wisconsin’s beautiful, secluded country roads. View old farms, quaint rivers and bridges, and towering trees on these scenic routes. Just head to Waupaca and drive to Rural Road; continue straight onto Rustic Road 24, or turn left onto Rustic Road 23 (Emmons Creek). After finishing RR 23, head up to WI 54 and turn onto Nelson Street to experience Rustic Road 57. If you’re looking for some activity, while driving on RR 23, keep your eyes peeled for a sign signaling the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. This remote trail connects into the Hartman Creek State Park and makes for a breathtaking hike. 

Lake Drive/Highway 32 in Milwaukee: From Lakeside to City 

Starting at Doctors Park in Fox Point, North Lake Drive (Highway 32) takes you across the shoreline of Lake Michigan and into the heart of Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. Doctors Park starkly contrasts Milwaukee’s bustling downtown with blooming flowers and breathtaking views of Lake Michigan. Following the lake, a right on North Lincoln Drive allows for glimpses of Milwaukee’s proud historic homes and the homes of notable past NBA players. Finish your drive exploring the beauty of Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward or ditch the car at Doctors Park and catch some lakeside breeze; if you’re wanting more, explore any of Milwaukee’s attractions or nearby nature spots to make the most of your drive. 

Rustic Road 48 and 117: A Drive Through Time 

Filled with history and beauty, Rustic Roads 48 and 117 in Waushara County begin in Pine River and feature significant landmarks and ancient nature. Rivers, plains and farmhouses surround you as you pass down RR48. Connecting into RR117, experience the historic town of Saxeville and get a glimpse of Wisconsin’s past in the buildings, homes, Keystone bridge, and the Civil War relic, Jefferson Davis Bell. While driving along RR117, turn onto Covered Bridges Road featuring one of Wisconsin’s last covered bridges and a Covered Bridges Park which is perfect for walking and exploring. 

Door County Coastal Byway: Scenic Trip from the Bottom to the Tip

Whether planning a trip for the weekend or just looking for a fulfilling drive, Door County Coastal Byway (DCCB/Hwys 42/57), takes you through 66 miles of Wisconsin’s most scenic nature and quaint towns. Beginning north of Sturgeon Bay, State Highway 57 trails up to the peak of Wisconsin’s Door County Peninsula to Northport and Gills Rock. After experiencing the views, the ride begins again on State Highway 42 back to Sturgeon Bay. Experience views of Lake Michigan, the Bay of Green Bay, and the Niagara Escarpment bluffs while dense forests, agricultural lands, and shoreside towns and villages frame the road. Aching to get out into nature? The DCCB features three state parks, 10 county parks, and several lighthouses that make for the perfect adventure or afternoon picnic. 

Rustic Road 63 & Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive: Glacier-formed lakes, wetlands & valleys

Driving south on Highway 41 to Byron, take exit 92 and head east on County Road B to Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive. Drive through lush greenery and take a break in the Greenbush picnic area or hit the trails. To experience Rustic Road 63, continue up to WI 23 and turn right, watching for County Road S on your left. RR63 features glacial remains, rolling hills, old, mysterious forests, and the breathtaking Ice Age National Scenic Trail. After soaking up RR63’s unique beauty, continue on to the historic town of Glenbeulah and drive past or visit the Wade House and Wesley W. Jung Carriage Museum. Full of history and beautiful forests, this drive is sure to bring Wisconsin appreciation. 

Travel Tips

  • Due to COVID-19, state parks now require an annual sticker before entry. These are available for purchase online at dnr.wi.gov
  • If you’re looking for more Rustic Roads to access around Wisconsin or for more detailed directions, check out Wisconsin DOT’s Rustic Roads Guide. 
  • Several of these drives feature rough conditions such as dirt or gravel roads, so plan your trip safely with the proper vehicle. 
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