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.
These Rustic Roads will take us across Burnett County, Wisconsin. The first route will be route #80 located East of Trego, Wisconsin next to Big Lake McKenzie.
After leaving Highway 53N, you'll head East on County Highway E towards Big Lake McKenzie. The county road is peaceful and quaint, as you get closer to the lake beautiful homes with luscious landscapes begin to come into view and the road begins to twist and turn as you make your way around Big Lake McKenzie. This time of year, the area is quiet and homes appear to be deserted, clearly, a seasonal area that is probably booming during the summer and once again in the winter. Plan your trip to this route accordingly.
As you continue on you'll come across the sign marking the county line and there ahead lies the Rustic Road route 80. This paved route is approximately 2 miles long and continues to follow along Big Lake McKenzie, offering amazing views of the lake from different angles as well as the continuation of beautiful, lush vegetation and tranquility. The route is full of twists, turns, and hills with speed limits changing along the way. This route ends at County Road A which can be used to take you to Highway 35.
From here to Highway 35 there are several miles that separate the two but continue on County Road A North the whole way and it'll bring you right to Highway 35. County Road A also brings you through more resort towns that are currently quiet or closed, but offers great views of woods, wildlife, fields, and marsh along the way. Another route that has the speed limit changing quickly with little to no notice and sharp turns that require to come almost to a complete stop. Be mindful the whole way!
Once on Highway 35E, you'll be heading towards Danbury, Wisconsin. Thankfully, this route is marked and will point you the way to Old 35 Road which is where the next Rustic Road Route begins which is route #98.
This paved route is approximately 8 miles long and does a complete U-turn to bring you back out to Highway 35. Lined with very few residents, lots of thick vegetation and plenty of wildlife to call this place home.
The route continues to be marked along the way to give guidance back to Highway 35. Low hills and easy turns along the way make this an easy route to maneuver don't forget to look over to the side as some areas offer long drops to the streams below as well as the few lakes that surround this route.
It continues to bend and turn taking you back towards Highway 35, more resort homes and taverns will be seen along the way, followed by more thick vegetation, hills, and turns. Keep an eye out for those signs that are placed along the way.
About halfway along the route, there is a sharp turn and a bridge crossing and on either side is Falk Lake and Gull Lake both of which flow into a larger lake known as Minerva Lake. A few miles later and you are now back at Highway 35. Continue East on 35 for about two blocks and on the left is another Rustic Road Route, which is also marked, and now begins route #79.
This paved route is straight across the countryside. A few homes, large trees and a straight and easy road are all that make up this route just before ending enjoy the Yellow River view as you cross over it. This route ends at County Road F, follow it South all the way to Grantsburg, Wisconsin where the next route is located. This is a fun route to take, as there are old barns, abandoned buildings, taverns, wildlife areas and Governor Knowles State Park pull-offs along the way. Traffic is minimal but trucks are frequent hauling logs from point to point but a peaceful route to sit back and enjoy until you reach Grantsburg which is approximately 25 miles away.
Upon arrival, it is important to be mindful of the streets in order to find your way to the next Rustic Road Route, this has no markings and even major highways are not marked until you are there. Once arriving into Grantsburg look for North Oak Street and follow until the end, then turn left onto S Pine St and right onto Highway 87/48 and begin heading away from Grantsburg. It is only on this road that there is a sign to mark the turn off to Rustic Road. Turn off onto Skog Road and follow for several miles, which is filled with residential homes, lush vegetation and a few twists and turns making you think you are on the Rustic Road route but you are not. At an intersection a few miles ahead you see the next sign in front of you that says "Rustic Road Ahead". This begins the final Rustic Road route of Burnett County; route #15 which is a little over 5 miles long and is both paved and gravel.
This route is lined with medium to low vegetation, lots of marshes, swaps and thick grass lines the road. Parts of the road even look like they are going to be swallowed up by the thick grass and weeds that line the way. Twist and turn and it feels like you are looking down on them. Open fields and swamps lead to endless views of various birds, hawks, and eagles soaring high above, while looking down at anything that catches their eye.
From here on out you are on your own as there are no signs to guide you along the way. My suggestion is to have your printed map handy and that at any intersection you come to read the signs and look for Shogren Road. This is the road needed to take you back out to Highway 48, but even this road is not obviously marked.
A good indicator that your off of the Rustic Road route is the narrowing of the road which means you are continuing on West River Road, and at times this road becomes dirt but it narrows to the point of only one car at a time. But not to fret if you find yourself on this route, keep going. The road eventually comes to an end where you turn either right or left onto County Road O; turn left and enjoy the widened county dirt road, the marsh land that surrounds the area and the pickups kicking up dirt as they drive by.
County road O leads you all the way back to Highway 48/87, you may even see Shogren Road along the way but continue on. Once at Highway 48/87 head South to enjoy more small towns and communities as you head towards St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin.
Look off to the right and see the St. Croix River come into view as well as the Lions Club St. Croix park that is open year round and has a dock landing. Stop in to stretch your legs, take a breather and enjoy a nice walk down to the river. There are also restroom facilities available and open year-round. Enjoy the buildings and businesses that line the main street of St. Croix as you head closer to Highway 8. Upon arrival, you can turn right and head over to Minnesota or head back into Wisconsin by turning left. The choice is yours!
For more information about this route and other routes please visit:http://wisconsindot.gov/Pages/travel/road/rustic-roads/maps.aspx
Blog & Photography By Nettie B.
These scenic drives are broken down by county as most of them are not connected.
Videos are also available on YouTube.