Wisconsin, known for its stunning natural landscapes and picturesque small towns, offers an abundance of opportunities for unforgettable road trips. Whether you are an adventure seeker, history enthusiast, or simply looking to explore the diverse beauty of the state, Wisconsin has it all. In this guide, we will delve into the best road trips that start in Wisconsin, showcasing the hidden gems, charming communities, and breathtaking routes that will leave you with cherished memories. So fasten your seatbelts, prepare your itinerary, and get ready to embark on an incredible journey through the heart of America’s Dairyland.
Unveiling the Charm of the Badger State
Wisconsin, also known as the Badger State, not only offers stunning natural landscapes but also serves as a gateway to some of the most captivating road trips in the Midwest. From picturesque lakeshores to rolling hills, this state boasts a diverse range of destinations that are perfect for embarking on an unforgettable adventure. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking a relaxing getaway, here are some of the best road trips starting in Wisconsin that will leave you spellbound.
The Great River Road: A Scenic Journey along the Mississippi River
Immerse Yourself in the Beauty of Nature
Embarking on the Great River Road is like stepping into a postcard-worthy scene. This iconic road trip takes you along the majestic Mississippi River, revealing breathtaking vistas and charming river towns. Starting in Prescott, Wisconsin, make your way south along Highway 35, also known as the Great River Road, and soak in the mesmerizing views of the river as it winds its way through lush forests and towering bluffs. Take frequent stops at scenic overlooks to capture the perfect Instagram-worthy moments and witness the river’s ever-changing beauty.
Discover Quaint River Towns and Cultural Gems
As you traverse the Great River Road, you’ll encounter a string of quaint river towns that offer a glimpse into the region’s rich history and vibrant culture. Make a stop in the charming town of Pepin, birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum to learn more about the life and legacy of the beloved author. Continue your journey to La Crosse, where you can explore the vibrant downtown area, visit the Dahl Auto Museum, or take a relaxing boat tour along the river. With its cozy bed and breakfasts, unique shops, and welcoming locals, each river town has its own charm waiting to be discovered.
Indulge in Outdoor Adventures and Wildlife Encounters
For those seeking adventure, the Great River Road offers ample opportunities to engage in outdoor activities and immerse yourself in nature. Explore the stunning landscapes of Wyalusing State Park, where you can hike through wooded trails, witness panoramic views from the bluffs, or camp under the starry night sky. Birdwatching enthusiasts will be delighted by the vast array of species that call the river valley home, including bald eagles, pelicans, and various migratory birds. Take a scenic boat tour or rent a kayak to get up close and personal with the river’s wildlife and experience the serenity of the water.
Door County: A Peninsula Paradise
Discover a World of Natural Beauty
Nestled on a picturesque peninsula jutting out into Lake Michigan, Door County is a true gem of the Midwest. Known for its charming coastal villages, scenic beauty, and vibrant arts scene, this road trip destination offers a little something for everyone. Start your journey in Sturgeon Bay, the county seat, and make your way up the peninsula on Highway 42 or 57. As you drive through the lush forests and rolling hills, be prepared to be enchanted by the stunning vistas of Lake Michigan and Green Bay.
Explore Quaint Villages and Artistic Delights
Door County is home to an array of charming villages, each with its own unique character and attractions. Visit Ephraim, a historic village steeped in Scandinavian heritage, and stroll along its picturesque waterfront lined with charming shops and galleries. Explore the vibrant streets of Fish Creek, known for its lively theater scene and art galleries that showcase the works of local artists. Don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in the county’s famous cherry pie or sample the delectable local cuisine that highlights the region’s fresh produce and seafood.
Unwind on Pristine Beaches and Traverse Scenic Trails
One of the highlights of Door County is its pristine beaches that offer a perfect escape for relaxation and tranquility. Head to Cave Point County Park and witness the rugged cliffs and limestone caves carved by centuries of wave action. Bask in the sun on the sandy shores of Newport State Park, a designated International Dark Sky Park, where you can enjoy stunning stargazing opportunities after dusk. Lace up your hiking boots and traverse the trails of Peninsula State Park, boasting panoramic views of the bay and dense forests that come alive with vibrant colors during the fall season.
Continue to Part 2…
FAQs: Best Road Trips Starting in Wisconsin
What are some popular road trip destinations in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin offers a variety of exciting road trip destinations. Some popular options include the Door County Peninsula, with its scenic coastline, charming small towns, and beautiful state parks. The Great River Road along the Mississippi River is another fantastic choice, providing scenic river views, historic sites, and charming river towns. The Wisconsin Dells, known for its waterparks and natural beauty, is a popular tourist destination for families. Additionally, the Northwoods region offers stunning forests, lakes, and recreational activities such as hiking, fishing, and boating.
How long does it take to drive from Wisconsin to the Badlands National Park in South Dakota?
The drive from Wisconsin to Badlands National Park in South Dakota is approximately 10-12 hours, depending on the starting location in Wisconsin and the specific route taken. It is advisable to plan for rest stops and overnight accommodations along the way to ensure a comfortable and safe journey.
What road trip routes can I take to explore the Upper Peninsula of Michigan from Wisconsin?
To explore the scenic Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan from Wisconsin, there are multiple route options. One popular route is to cross the Mackinac Bridge from Mackinaw City into St. Ignace and then continue westward on Highway 2 along the northern coast of the UP. This route allows you to experience the beauty of Lake Superior and access popular locations like Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Alternatively, you can take Highway 141 north from Green Bay and cross the border into Michigan, providing access to the western side of the UP and attractions such as Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.
Are there any scenic road trips within Wisconsin for fall foliage viewing?
Yes, Wisconsin offers numerous scenic road trips for fall foliage viewing. One popular route is the Wisconsin Rustic Roads Network, which consists of over 100 designated rustic roads that showcase the state’s natural beauty. Some notable options include the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive, winding through the Kettle Moraine State Forest, and the Great River Road between Trempealeau and Prairie du Chien, which follows the Mississippi River and offers stunning autumnal landscapes. Door County is also renowned for its vibrant fall colors, with scenic routes like the Door County Coastal Byway and the Cana Island Road providing breathtaking views.
Are there any iconic Great Lakes road trips starting from Wisconsin?
Absolutely! One iconic Great Lakes road trip starting from Wisconsin is the Circle Tour. This route follows the shorelines of Lake Superior, Lake Huron, and Lake Michigan, allowing you to explore the diverse landscapes and cultural attractions of the Great Lakes region. The Wisconsin portion of the Circle Tour starts in Superior and travels along Highway 13, passing through charming towns like Ashland, Bayfield, and Door County before continuing into Michigan. This road trip offers opportunities to witness stunning coastal scenery, visit lighthouses, indulge in local cuisine, and explore historic sites along the way.