The Rustic Roads program was created about 40 years ago and allows hikers, bikers, and motorists to enjoy the less traveled, scenic back roads 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.
Let's take a drive up to Door County which has a total of five Rustic Roads. The first one is Route 77 located East of Sturgeon Bay off of County Highway TT.
This route is paved, runs parallel to Lake Michigan and is approximately 3.5 miles long. Despite what the map shows and the description says, there is no lake view anywhere along this route. Thick trees and brush block the view along with the many homes that have been built here. So if you're looking for a view, it is not here and you may want to skip this route.
It ends at Michigan Road and a short five miles later is the next route, number 9.
This route is also paved and is a little over 6.5 miles long. At the beginning of the route, there is one pull off that allows a limited view of the Lake. Enjoy it because it is the only one you're going to see. Once again the route is lined with thick trees, brush, and real estate. However, the real estate along this route is more beautiful than the last route and has a few of my favorite types of homes; log homes. That made the drive worth it.
It is also a restricted speed limit area with sharp and blind curves that usually have a biker or walker on them. Take caution, go slow and enjoy the ride. It's easy, peaceful and calming the entire way. This route ends at Whitefish Bay, head West to pick up Highway 57 and hook up with the next Rustic Road which is about 15 miles away.
Located outside of Bailey's Harbor is Rustic Road 39.
Once again this route runs parallel to Lake Michigan and this one does offer more views of the Lake, however, they are restricted to private residences. If you're a passenger you should be able to get a few shots along the way, but traffic goes from nothing to busy in a short amount of time so be cautious.
This route also ends at a Dead End, be ready to turn around and have a feeling of deja vu as you head back to the main road along the same route you just drove. Ending back at Highway 57 head North and take County Road Q, also called the wildlife lookout turn because to have an obvious sign that says County Road Q would be ridiculous.
Follow this road to W Cana Island Road to start Route 38.
If you turn too soon and find yourself driving through a residential area with strict speed limits, don't worry, it'll lead you back to W. Cana Island Road where the well-marked Rustic Road will lead you the rest of the way. Although the homes through there are also very nice too. This route is heavily used by walkers and bikers be cautious and go slow it is an easy paved route that is approximately 3 miles long. Views of the Lake are limited until you reach, once again, the Dead End.
Here is where Cana Island Lighthouse is located.
Although it can't be seen from the road, it can be visited and there is a fee. I pulled into the parking lot to make a u-turn and pulled into a spot where Aria and I discovered a small path that took us down to an even smaller, white sanded beach with an open, unrestricted view of Lake Michigan.
It also offered a view of Cana Island but again, no lighthouse. But the little walking area was a nice place for photos, walking, stretching legs and taking a break from the car. Time to have another feeling of deja vu as you head back out on the same road to get back to the main highway.
From here it is time to head North to the final Rustic Road which is about a 25-minute drive.
Are you ready for a boat ride? If so, come along with me to this final Rustic Road of Door County, Route 119 located on Washington Island. The ferry runs every hour, on the hour, to and from the Island, come early as it is a first come, first serve basis when taking a vehicle across. Pay a little more and take another Ferry over to Rock Island. I only visited Washington Island and Route 119 covers the entire Island.
The entire route is paved and approximately 27 miles long. It covers the entire Island, I didn't do the entire route due to a time constraint but did 3/4 of it which was along the outer most perimeter of the Island. Thankfully, this route is very well marked and at every intersection, there is a sign pointing the way and even signs showing to keep going straight. There are thick trees, heavy brush, open fields, homes, barns, beaches, small business, and beaches to enjoy along this entire route.
Speed is restricted and beware of the bikers, motorcycles, and four-wheelers that also travel along this route.
It is a fun ride and quickly became another favorite of mine along the Rustic Road routes. The ferry ride to and from the Island was easy going, relaxing and well-organized. I highly recommend checking out this route and enjoying all that the Island has to offer. You won't be disappointed.
Once back to the mainland follow the road away from the pier and hook back up to WI-42 to lead you back to Green Bay or to one of the many Coastal Lake towns along the way.
These scenic drives are broken down by county as most of them are not connected.
Videos are also available on YouTube.