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 Dunn County, Wisconsin. The first route will be route 89, located near the college town of Menomonie off of County Road P.
This route is approximately 5 miles long and is paved the entire way. It begins in a residential area with a few twists and turns before the houses move back and on the left, you are running parallel with the Red Cedar River. Cross over a small bridge and the road begins to climb with a view down to the river and on the right opens up to fields and farmlands.
Plenty of sharp turns along the way as the road continues to follow the Red Cedar River. For a moment the houses disappear, to allow the vast trees and thick woods to line the road before opening again to farmland and slowly houses begin to line the road. Eventually, it leads to a small unincorporated town before the road comes to end, but this is just the road, not the route. At the stop sign, there is a Rustic Road sign that points to the right, turn and cross over the bridge before turning left to continue on the route.
The second part is well-marked and starts out with a climb into the hills with the Red Cedar River flowing below. It starts off thick with residential homes and eventually gives way to fewer homes, open farmland and thick woods with glimpses of the river alongside you. Continue a while longer and the route will twist and turn before coming to an end in the middle of nowhere.
This route ends, literally, with nothing around you. No road signs, street signs, homes or towns just one sign indicating that the Rustic Road route has ended. Not being familiar with the area this can create a stressful situation. Continue straight until you come into a small town and look for a road on the left, which will be 390th Street which may not be marked. As you enter the un-named town the road comes to a “T” and that is the only indicator you have. Turn left onto this road and continue on it until it comes to an end.
390th Street has just as many if not more twists and turns than the Rustic Road you just left. It also becomes very desolate with minimal houses around, the road will turn into 440th which now has hills and some sharp turns, continue forward. Eventually, the road will come to a stop sign at which time you will now have reached Highway 72.
From here we'll head on out to the next Rustic Road Route, turn left onto Highway 72, Right onto Highway 25 and follow to US-10E, turn left onto 85E, left onto County M and the route begins on County Road O which is route 107.
This route is located outside the town of Durand and is approximately 7 miles longs with both paved and gravel portions.
Route 107 starts out as an easy drive with easy turns along the way which are lined, at times, with fields, farmland, and woods. A drive that allows you to sit back and enjoy the surroundings, this route also runs parallel to the Chippewa River State Trail. As the route continues, hills become high on one side while sinking down on the other offering views of thick marshland. Soon there is a peak of a river which will be The Chippewa River which is now running parallel to the route.
The road begins to climb taking you out of the thick trees and low land raising you to be above the river and out to open fields and farmland. There will be turnoffs along the way but do not leave this route, continue going straight which will lead to a thickening of trees along the route. The remainder of the route continues with an opening to fields, marsh, and farmland before closing in again with thick trees and brush. More twists and turns along the way but most of them are easy to maneuver along with the few hills along the way.
Once again, there are a lot of turnoffs along the route but do not deviate from the straight-ahead road, eventually, you will cross over the Chippewa River State Trail, which is used by snowmobiles and ATVs, from here you are a few short miles away from the end; which is marked. The route comes to an end in another small, unincorporated town. Once again, the roads are not well-marked and looking for Highway O is no easy task, mainly because it isn't marked from this direction.
As you leave the Rustic Road Route you will come to a stop sign. From here you have three options and turning right would be the correct one. A short distance later there will be a sign, that can't be seen from the stop sign, that states you are now on County Road O. Like any other county road this one is also full of hills and twists and turns, take your time and continue on it all the way to Highway 85. This will now end the Rustic Road routes of Dunn County.
Upon arrival to Highway 85, you can either turn right and head back to Durand or turn left and follow the signs to Eau Claire, a major city and college town, that has access to Highway 53 and Interstate 94. As always, 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.