The Rustic Roads program was created about 40 years ago and allows hikers, bikers and motorists to enjoy the less traveled, scenic backroads of Wisconsin regardless of the season. These routes help to enhance the beauty and serenity that the state has to offer. There are approximately 119 individual routes that travel through 59 counties and when added up equal about 722 miles.
It is important to point out that these routes do not connect to each other and some are quite a distance apart from each other. Also markings are limited and usually only one-way and regardless of what the website says, most of these routes don't end near a major city or road with limited GPS signals. Be sure to print out the map from the website and take with you to help navigate you along the way.
This one includes the two routes located in Barron County. The first route, route 18, turned out to be the most difficult to find and follow that I've been on since I started. I can't stress enough the lack of signage that is put up for these routes and on this one in particular if you were not heading in the right direction you will see no signage at all. It is too bad because these routes offer some beautiful sites and relaxing drives through Wisconsin's countryside and it should be better marked so more can take advantage of these routes.
Route 18 begins outside of Cameron, a two part route, off of Highway 8 East. Follow the highway to 24 ½ Street and turn left/North, follow for a couple of miles and the road will turn into County Highway MD, turn East on 16 ¼ Avenue and begins the Rustic Road Route 18. This part of the route has a lot of homes barns and a few twists and turns before you have to turn off to continue the route, once again it is not marked. The route crosses over a small creek, called Rock Creek and the road appears to go into a cul-de-sac but, none the less, this is the route. Turn left and follow the twists and turns and rolling hills to the stop sign where this part of the route comes to an end.
This area is also popular to dump trucks and farm equipment, take your time and be cautious. At the end of the route, turn left on 24 ½ Street, there is a sign here that points the way to the other half of the Rustic Road route, and follow for a short distance and turn right onto an unmarked street with a sign that says “Blue Hills Sportsman's Club”; again there will be a Rustic Road sign to point the way.
The route follows Pokegama Creek but during this time of the year, the creek is low and the brush is high giving limited views of the flowing water, however, the route is still full of twists and turns, lush vegetation and the peeking through of the sun. The road will curve around and pass the Sportsman's Club and continue on until comes to a stop at 23rd Street. From here, turn right to continue the route. The view opens up to farms, livestock and rolling fields as far as the eye can see. The route comes to an end at the stop sign on 18th Avenue. Also these routes won't bring you near a major Highway, you will need to back track a bit to get back to Highway 8.
Turn right onto 18th Avenue and continue South towards Highway 8. 18th Avenue will turn into 24 ½ Street/County Road MD. After a couple of miles you will have reached Highway 8. Turn West to head back towards Cameron and to head on to the next Barron County Rustic Road Route. Follow the Highway 8 Signs to Cameron, turn left at the stoplights and turn Right onto Highway 8 West. Once on Highway 8, follow the signs to Highway 53 North towards Rice Lake/Superior.
Take the Highway 48 Exit towards Cumberland, at the bottom of the ramp turn left/West. Follow Highway 48 for several miles until you reach County Highway V, this route is marked with a Rustic Roads sign and is located on the right, if you pass a large white church on the left you have gone too far.
Continue on County Highway V for a few miles, along the way, there will be a couple of signs that point to the Rustic Road Route, County Highway V will turn into the Rustic Road Route 83 and a sign that states that it has begun.
This route is very secluded with few cars along the way, some of the route is paved and some of it is dirt road. It twists and turns with large trees, ponds, swamps, and creeks along the way. Some of them can be seen but most are hidden by the large vegetation that surrounds the route. One more twist and the road straightens out and comes to an end at a stop sign with the option to go straight or left.
Once again this will not end at a major highway, it ends in the middle of no where and to return back to the main road involves some paved and some dirt road along the way but the drive is still a beautiful as you venture back to a nearby town. Turn left at the stop sign and you are now on 30th Avenue, continue West and enjoy the rolling hills, large trees, homes, livestock and wildlife that call this area their home. Keep on 30th Avenue for a few miles and it will end at Highway 63.
From here the choice is yours depending on where you would like to end the day. Head South on Highway 63 to head towards Cameron or North to head towards Shell Lake.
Route 83 was my favorite route in Barron County, not only because of the better markings but because of the quietness and secluded area it is located in. This route is a must-see during the Fall.
These scenic drives are broken down by county as most of them are not connected.
Videos are also available on YouTube.