8 Amazing Scenic Drives in Wisconsin

Skip the interstate. Pack up your car, pick a destination in Wisconsin and then head someplace gorgeous in Wisconsin! May we recommend:

  1. Barron County – Oh, northwest Wisconsin, how I love thee! Find Rustic Road 83 in Barron County. Hint: It’s in the Town of Bear Lake and is on Narrow Gauge Road. (Psst! Fun fact: Narrow Gauge Road got its name because it follows the course of an old railroad line from the logging era.) This route winds through 4,100 acres of Barron County forest land, which intersects the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Download a map.
  2. Door County Coastal Byway – Door County’s Coastal Byway (DCCB) is an official Wisconsin Scenic Byway consisting of 66 miles of Wisconsin’s gorgeous Door Peninsula on Highway 42/57. Your journey will start just north of Sturgeon Bay, following State Highway 57 north along one side of the Peninsula to Northport and Gills Rock at the very tip. From there, head south on State Highway 42 back to your starting point and don’t be surprised when you ooh’ing and aah’ing throughout your entire trip! See a map.
  3. Driftless Area – The drive from Wilton to Viroqua is another one of the state’s most picturesque drives. This stretch traverses the hardwood ridges and valleys of Wisconsin’s driftless area. While taking the rustic routes, you’ll trace crystal clear trout streams, pass traditional and Amish farmers working their fields and come across a plenty of orchards and vineyards, homespun diners and eclectic shops. The stunning scenery is never-ending: steep limestone bluffs, the backwaters of streams and rivers, tugboats pushing barges on the Mississippi and more. See a map.
  4. Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive – Pass through six beautiful Wisconsin counties and 50,000 acres when you explore the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive. The northern end of the 115-mile route begins at Sheboygan County’s Elkhart Lake. The southern end is at Whitewater Lake in southeastern Walworth County. Along the way, there are countless spots to picnic, hike, camp, bike, shop and more! Download the directions.
  5. Lower Wisconsin River Road – If the rural countryside, steep valleys and rolling ridges sound like your idea of an ideal Sunday drive, take a tour of the lower Wisconsin River valley in southwest Wisconsin. Boasting thousands of acres of public land, the Lower Wisconsin River Road is a great area to explore by canoeing, angling, hunting, hiking and wildlife watching. You’ll find it well worth your time to make a stop at any of the river towns along your journey, too. Download the map.
  6. Sawyer County – Highway 77 between Minong and Hayward is a breathtaking drive. This route is especially fantastic during the fall thanks to the changing colors of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. And a little treat for you ATV enthusiasts: Head to Tuscobia State Trail for 74 miles of pure fall fun. See a map.
  7. Wisconsin Great River Road – The renowned Great River Road – also known as Highway 35 – wraps around the Mighty Mississippi for about 250 miles from Prescott in the north to Kieler in the south. Revel in its amazing history, gorgeous bluff-top views, outstanding trails and 33 charming river towns along Wisconsin’s only designated National Scenic Byway. Nearly two-thirds of the Great River Road passes along or through protected natural areas, providing endless bird-watching opportunities along with plenty of opportunities for bicycling, fishing, boating or paddling. See the map.

    For more beautiful river views along Wisconsin’s western edge, continue on Highway 35 about an hour north of Prescott through Hudson and Somerset to St. Croix Falls. There, you’ll find Interstate State Park (pictured above), the oldest state park in Wisconsin and the western trailhead of the Ice Age Trail. The views are absolutely beautiful no matter the season, and there’s plenty to do from visiting the Ice Age Interpretive Center to checking out the St. Croix National Scenic Byway via boat or a hike!

  8. Wisconsin Lake Superior Byway – Close your eyes and envision 70 miles of phenomenal views of forests at Gaylord Nelson Wilderness Area and the sandy beaches and the sparkling blue waters of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Sounds like heaven on Earth, right? It is. And it can be found via the Wisconsin Lake Superior Byway, which follows the southern shoreline of Lake Superior along the Bayfield peninsula and provides an unbelievable snapshot of the geological, historical and cultural diversity of the region. Download a map.

Now get out there and explore…because the journey’s half the fun!


Mariah Haberman is the co-host of the nation’s longest-running tourism TV show, Discover Wisconsin. She hails from Evansville, where she was brought up in a family of seven in a small farmhouse outside of town. Some of her favorite memories include Lake Michigan fishing trips with her Dad, showing sheep at the Rock County Fair and buzzing around the farm on an ATV with her little brother. Watch Discover Wisconsin Saturdays at 10 a.m. on FSN Wisconsin’s outdoor block.

48 replies
  1. Rustin Workowski
    Rustin Workowski says:

    Outstanding! Is there a website or some place I can get these routes printed out. We would love to tour them. Thank you!

  2. sue
    sue says:

    The heard of elk is most seen hwy 77 from Hayward to calm lake wi. Not from Hayward to minong. I travel both roads often and see the elk all the time toward calm lake. FYI if your looking for elk to watch.

  3. Karl Marquardt
    Karl Marquardt says:

    Time to take the top off the Jeep and take a ride. Look forward to the cruise in the fall, too. Would love to take a day hike…any suggestions welcome.

  4. Michael Matusinec
    Michael Matusinec says:

    Wi. has so much beauty these listed are most interesting. I have done half of them. Plus do not forget some interesting restaurants along the way.

  5. Ann Daley
    Ann Daley says:

    I’ve driven about half of the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive, from West Bend to Elkhart Lake. Some day I’ll have to do the southern half!

  6. Amy
    Amy says:

    Would be nice if pics from each of the scenic drives were posted along with the texts and maps. Would help assess whether the trek would be worthwhile to the driver(s). Is it possible for you to do this yet? Thanks!

  7. Botham Vineyards & Winery
    Botham Vineyards & Winery says:

    Wonderful drives, great scenery and so many interesting places to stop. Botham Vineyards & Winery welcomes one and all. Travelers in southwest Wisconsin and the Driftless Area, we look forward to sharing our one-of-a-kind approach to Wisconsin hospitality and true vine-to-bottle Wisconsin wine with you.

  8. Kathy Enerson
    Kathy Enerson says:

    Love my beautiful state! Mariah, one correction, I am from Prescott and the Great River Road starts there and continues south along the Mississippi River. It doesn’t go north to St. Croix Falls and Interstate Park, which is on the beautiful St. Croix River. The St. Croix Scenic Byway crosses into Minnesota at the Prescott Bridge and goes continues north. Both byways are beautiful.

  9. Jackie Kahlhamer
    Jackie Kahlhamer says:

    Thank you for this list of drives. If I may add, Hwy 171 from Gays Mills to the Mississippi River is incredible. I have to pinch myself and say “yes” I still am in WI.

  10. Ron Gray
    Ron Gray says:

    So I will not have to look at maps that are not in the areas I wish to visit or visited before, I wish you had a map of Wisconsin with the routes marked. Then I could decide if they might be interesting enough to change my route to accommodate them.

    I will be in Wisconsin 7-11 days the end of June 2015.

  11. Bob Johnson
    Bob Johnson says:

    Hello Mariah, thanks for posting these routes for us to enjoy here in Wisconsin.

    I live in the Driftless area. I love taking long motorcycle rides by myself or with friends on wonderful back roads that are not on anyone’s scenic route maps. Wandering through lush canopied country roads, along side winding rivers and streams, then up along ridge lines with spectacular views that go on forever, this area is a true hidden treasure.

    There are over 2,300 miles of maintained roads here in Trempealeau and Buffalo Counties. You’re never really far from a small town or village that has friendly people and tasty treats.

    You can ride a loop that’s well over a hundred miles, and still be close to home.

    I love Wisconsin!

    • Mariah Haberman
      Mariah Haberman says:

      Hey Bob – Thanks for taking the time to write! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. This really is a gorgeous state. I love Wisconsin – it sounds like we have that in common! 🙂

  12. Jane
    Jane says:

    Far Northeastern Wisconsin (yes, there is Life north of Green Bay) remains mostly invisible to many. Highway 70 from Florence County along the Nicolet National Forest, through Forest County and on to Vilas County and Eagle River, Minocqua, Rhinelander. ….. Hundreds of miles of recreational trails. … okay I’ll stop now! 🙂

  13. Louis V
    Louis V says:

    #1 The rustic road in Barron county is 13 3/4-16th street and runs from Shallow lake Rd to County Road V. Bikers be advised – it’s a 5 mile stretch of gravel road. Not bad though, I went through with my bike without issues today.

  14. Anna Bradfute
    Anna Bradfute says:

    My dad was born in Wmisconsin, and all though im a native Texan. Wisconsin is my second home, it truly is Gods country. These trips sound amazing. He was born near Sturgeon Bay, so i already know how beautiful that drive is.

  15. hap sperry
    hap sperry says:

    25th anniversary in a couple weeks , wife loves northwoods what would you recommend for a road trip north and places to stay? thanks in advance

  16. Andy Smith
    Andy Smith says:

    Have enjoyed your stuff . . . sending your scenic drives piece to some relatives across the country. 🙂

  17. Rachel Spear
    Rachel Spear says:

    I also like the old Hwy 10 from Osseo to St Paul. Beautiful bluffs, hills and valleys a great relaxing drive. Been on some of these roads you suggest and found them to be as good as you say.

  18. Evelyn Regan
    Evelyn Regan says:

    Mariah: Beautiful article. My friend and I toured all the Rustic Roads in Northwest Wi this summer on a motorcycle. Drove on most of the roads you have listed. You described them perfectly. Love your show, love you! Thanks for all you share. Evie

  19. Rhonda Davidson/Scott Allen, Roberta/Mel Davidson
    Rhonda Davidson/Scott Allen, Roberta/Mel Davidson says:

    We are driving from Dix, IL to Wisconsin.
    MAY is when we are planning.
    I want to DRIVE.
    I’m in a wheelchair, my boyfriend is fine. My parents are fine.

  20. evelien
    evelien says:

    Hi Mariah! great blog!
    We are visiting Wisconsin end next april. Is it doable to drive from Thiensville to Priarie du chien and then continue on to Lacrosse on the great wisconsin river drive and then drive back?

    • Mariah Haberman
      Mariah Haberman says:

      Hi Evelien! Thank you for reading. And I’m excited to hear you are visiting in April! Are you looking to make that trip all in one day? If so, I’d say that would be tough unless you are open to staying on the road most of the day without really stopping in PdC and LAX. Ideal scenario would probably be to make a weekend trip!

      • Evelien
        Evelien says:

        This drive is indeed too much in one day. I am now focusing on a nice (not too long) drive from Chicago to Thiensville, WI.
        Any suggestions? Thanks!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Scenic Drives. If you haven’t taken the top off your jeep on a warm summer day and set out on one of Wisconsin’s scenic drives, then you’re doing it wrong. Shame on you. There are tons of websites and blog out there with maps and guides, but here’s a good one from Discover Wisconsin: https://bobber.discoverwisconsin.com/scenic-drives/ […]

  2. […] In search of even more roadtrip ideas? Read 8 Amazing Scenic Drives in Wisconsin. […]

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