Wisconsin's Rustic Roads: a positive step backward
The new Wisconsin Rustic Roads travel guide is
available! Get your free copy today!
The Wisconsin Legislature established the Rustic Roads program in 1973 to help citizens and local units of government preserve what remains of Wisconsin's scenic, lightly traveled country roads.
Unique brown and yellow signs mark the routes of all officially-designated Rustic Roads. These routes provide bikers, hikers, and motorists an opportunity to leisurely travel through some of Wisconsin's scenic countryside. For motorcyclists, Wisconsin offers a special
Rustic Roads award
A small placard beneath the Rustic Roads sign identifies each
Rustic Road by its numerical designation within the total statewide
system. Each Rustic Road is identified by a 1- to 3-digit number
assigned by the Rustic Roads Board. To avoid confusion with the
State Trunk Highway numbering, a letter "R" prefix is used
such as R-50 or R-120. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation
(WisDOT) pays the cost
of furnishing and installing Rustic Roads marking signs.
An officially designated Rustic Road shall continue to be under
local control. The county, city, village or town shall have the same
authority over the Rustic Road as it possesses over other highways
under its jurisdiction.
A Rustic Road is eligible for state aids just as any other public
What is a Rustic Road?
To qualify for the Rustic Road program, a road:
should have outstanding natural features along its borders
such as rugged terrain, native vegetation, native wildlife, or
include open areas with agricultural vistas which singly or in
combination uniquely set this road apart from other roads.
should be a lightly traveled local access road, one which
serves the adjacent property owners and those wishing to travel
by auto, bicycle, or hiking for purposes of recreational
enjoyment of its rustic features.
should be one not scheduled nor anticipated for major
improvements which would change its rustic characteristics.
should have, preferably, a minimum length of 2 miles and,
where feasible, should provide a completed closure or loop, or
connect to major highways at both ends of the route.
A Rustic Road may be dirt, gravel or paved road. It may be
one-way or two-way. It may also have bicycle or hiking paths
adjacent to or incorporated in the roadway area.
The maximum speed limit on a Rustic Road has been established by
law at 45 mph. A speed limit as low as 30 mph may be established by
the local governing authority.
What you can do...
As you drive around the Wisconsin countryside, think of roads you
would like to see included as part of the Rustic Roads system.
Inventory Rustic Road candidates in your area. Then follow up with
talks to local residents and government officials.
Initiate and circulate petitions among resident property owners
along your favorite road to have it designated a Rustic Road. Work
with civic, recreational and environmental groups to publicize and
encourage the success of the Rustic Roads program.
information page includes a letter to prospective applicants
explaining the Rustic Roads Program, petition, description and
resolution forms to use in working with local government officials,
and the state administrative codes governing the program. More information can be obtained by contacting your town chairman,
county highway commissioner, Rustic Roads Board members and by going
to our contact