Top 10 Scenic Drives in Wisconsin

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Wisconsin is fortunate enough to have all the ingredients for astounding scenery from the shores of two Great Lakes to wide open plains to rolling hills with thriving farms. There is also a wide array of rivers, streams, and other waters to provide recreation and memorable views, including ones of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers. With so much inherent beauty, it may be difficult to choose just one way to experience the landscape of this state. For those in doubt of where to begin, try one of our favorite Wisconsin scenic drives on for size:

No. 10 – Highway 56

Highway 56 Wisconsin
Flickr user: Keith Ewing

Starting Location: Genoa, WI
Ending Location: Richland Center, WI
Length: 55 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

The landscape along this rural highway is ever-changing – at times vast and fertile farmlands and, at others, an oscillating mix of narrow valleys and verdant hills. There isn’t a lot of traffic, which likely contributes to the unspoiled beauty of the area and the thriving eagle population. Once in Richland Center, the birthplace of Frank Lloyd Wright, check out the historic buildings downtown, including  Wright’s 1921 A.D. German Warehouse, which is a shining example of the Mayan Revival style of architecture.

No. 9 – Highway 107

Highway 107 Wisconsin
Flickr user: cjnoof

Starting Location: Merrill, WI
Ending Location: Tomahawk, WI
Length: 28 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This long-established highway runs along with the Wisconsin River, affording lots of opportunities to see if the fish will bite or tour it up-close in a kayak or canoe. Local wildlife is often in view as well, including eagles, deer, and wild turkey. Stop at Grandfather Falls to stretch your legs on the nature trails or just take advantage of the awesome picture-taking potential.

No. 8 – Backroads on County Road Q

Backroads on County Road Q Wisconsin
Flickr user: Pedro Salinas

Starting Location: Lookout, WI
Ending Location: Independence, WI
Length: 12 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This short and sweet ride isn’t about sightseeing or picking up souvenirs but with a focus on the drive itself as it coils through bucolic farmlands. Gently rolling hills provide visual interest and ensure travelers never bore as pastoral scenes pass by their windows. In Independence, there are ample opportunities to fish or cool off in the summer months in either Elk Creek or Bugle Lake.

No. 7 – Highway 95

Highway 95 Wisconsin
Flickr user: Darin

Starting Location: Fountain City, WI
Ending Location: Arcadia, WI
Length: 19 miles
Best Season to Drive: Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

Although this route is fairly short, it isn’t short on natural beauty and opportunities to unleash your inner photographer, especially in the fall with the changing of the leaves. With lots of rolling hills and bluffs to gain a good vantage point of the landscape, it is an area to be savored. When the trees and curves line up just right, travelers gain sweeping views of the Mississippi River and the surrounding valley.

No. 6 – Mt. Horeb to New Glarus

Mt. Horeb to New Glarus Wisconsin
Flickr user: Tom Kelly

Starting Location: Mt Horeb, WI
Ending Location: New Glarus, WI
Length: 34 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

For travelers worried about making time, this route is not for them with 35 mph speed limits much of the way. It is, however, full of farmland views, rolling hills, and striking streams. Be sure to check some of the many antique shops in Mt. Horeb for hidden treasures, and New Glarus Brewing Company offers tours of its facilities and samples to quench your thirst.

No. 5 – Highway 60

Highway 60 Wisconsin
Flickr user: Jim Bauer

Starting Location: Prairie du Chien, WI
Ending Location: Sauk City, WI
Length: 85 miles
Best Season to Drive: Summer
See this drive on Google Maps

Passing through the Wisconsin River Valley, there are ample views of the fast-flowing river along with foothills and bluffs. Before setting off for the trip, however, check out Villa Louis in Prairie du Chien, a mansion built in the 1800s that still retains its splendor. The route is quite rural, meaning travelers this way won’t have to fight traffic to enjoy the scenic vistas, and it is particularly beautiful in summer when the wildflowers are in bloom.

No. 4 – Kickapoo River Valley

Kickapoo River Valley Wisconsin
Flickr user: Ryan Rowley

Starting Location: Tomah, WI
Ending Location: La Farge, WI
Length: 34 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This route crisscrosses the Kickapoo River numerous times, giving anglers plenty of chances to try their luck. Aside from river views, Amish communities and cheese factories are common sights, which afford opportunities to see a different walk of life or satisfy a twinge of hunger. For those itching to hit the trails, Wildcat Mountain Park has quite a few to explore.

No. 3 – Mighty Mississippi River

Mighty Mississippi River Wisconsin
Flickr user: Eric Sivesind

Starting Location: Prairie du Chien, WI
Ending Location: La Crosse, WI
Length: 58 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This drive twisting and turning with the motion of the Mississippi River is not only full of water views but provides easy access to a wealth of other things to see and do. Kains Lake Wildlife Management Area and Mounds Wildlife Area are great spots to see native birds and animals up close. For more athletic types, Bergen Bluff State Natural Area has numerous hiking trails and places to enjoy a picnic spread.

No. 2 – Boulder Junction Beauty

Boulder Junction Beauty Wisconsin
Flickr user: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Starting Location: Boulder Junction, WI
Ending Location: Boulder Junction, WI
Length: 53 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

A winding and leisurely drive, this loop beginning and ending in Boulder Junction can put virtually any mind at ease while traveling through trees that overhang the road like a giant verdant canopy. Star Lake is a major attraction on the way, with plenty of dining options and opportunities to hit the water in a favorite suit during the summer months or by boat year-round. Also, don’t forget to browse the many specialty shops in Boulder Junction’s historic downtown with countless one-of-a-kind items.

No. 1 – Wisconsin Lake Superior Byway

Wisconsin Lake Superior Byway
Flickr user: yadem.hayseed

Starting Location: Superior, WI
Ending Location: Ashland, WI
Length: 104 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

With views of Lake Superior from pristine shores, quaint little towns brimming over with good cheer, and the magnificence of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, this scenic drive showcases one of the best spots in the state. Dine on fresh seafood in Cornucopia after hiking to Siskiwit or Lost Creek Falls. The Apostle Islands Maritime Cliffs State Natural Area, however, is the highlight of this trip with astounding sea caves naturally carved into the cliffs, many of which can be explored by boat.


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