This Scenic drive is a wonderfully picturesque 40 mile loop that begins and ends right here in Baraboo and can make for a fun family road trip any time of year. Along the way you’ll view old country churches, rustic cabins, wildlife and farmscapes surrounded by rolling hills, stone cliffs & amazing sandstone formations. You’ll also have the opportunity to visit Natural Bridge State Park, have your picture taken on the “Devil’s Chair” and stop by the Mid-Continent Railway Museum. Ready? O.K. Let’s go…
Now, if you’re not the reading type.. Just scroll to the bottom of the post for your Google map of the route. It will cover the main points.
Our loop begins at the gas station on the corner of Highway 12 and Highway 33. You can fill up at the local Kwik Trip, get food an snacks there or run across the street to the last local family owned grocery store, Pierces Pick-N-Save. There is also a McDonalds on route if you need a quick bacon & cheese biscuit fix and so-so latte. Once you are stocked up, head south on Highway 12 through Baraboo’s box store alley, past Wal-Mart, past Menard’s and south. Once you cross the a tiny bridge over Skillet Creek, your on your way.
About a mile south of Baraboo, just past where highway 59 to Devil’s Lake State Park intersects highway 12, you’ll enter an s curve, turning west, then south and up the bluffs. On that turn south, look to your left. Here you will see a stone outcrop. This little “point of rocks” as it is called, is a slice of the ancient Baraboo mountain range and was an integral part of the understanding of our areas unique local geology. It is now under consideration for a state & national landmark designation. It is possible to get off the road and have a peak, but it is a dangerous corner so be careful.
As you get up and over the bluff, you may, in season, want to take a left on Ski-Hi Road for a visit to the orchard before continuing on. Further down Highway 12 you will start down the other side of the Baraboo range and have a fantastic view out over a wide prairie and the remnants of the former Badger Ammunition plant. Happily this land is on its way to become a massive new natural area. How wonderful is that!?
Head down the hill for another mile or so and watch for the County Road C turn. You will see a brown sign marking the turn for Natural Bridge State Park. It will be to your right.
From this spot and all the way back around to Baraboo, the country roads are perfect for cycling, as well as driving. We don’t recommend bicycling on the Highway 12 section but of course people do it all the time.
You will drive west on County Road C, passing through the small village of Denzer and the Ugly Coyote Saloon, about 11 miles before reaching Natural Bridge State Park. Stop for a break. Take a quick hike up to the giant sandstone bridge. From there you can continue on about an hour-long loop through the woods or head back to car and travel on.
Turning right out of Natural Bridge SP, you’ll go another mile or so to the village of Leland. There are two taverns in Leland, but that’s pretty much the limit of local food or drink. Just outside of the village you will come to a “T” in the road. Head north on County Road PF. You will stay on this route for the most part all the way up to North Freedom, the home of the Mid-continent Railway Museum. The PF section is amazing for its rolling hills, cliffs, and wide open vistas where you can see miles of farmland stretching out through the hills and valleys that make Wisconsin’s Driftless area so special.
About 2 miles past the village of LaRue, which by the end of the current Mid-Contient Railway track, County Rd. PF will turn to County Road “W”. You will pass an intersection with an old house and then go around a corner to your right. If you look to the right side of the road you may notice a rock that looks a bit like an old recliner. This is Devil’s Chair. Every kid should have a picture of themselves sitting in the Devi’s Chair. Just do it quick before he comes back!! County W continues for another half mile before coming to a bend. Here you can choose to head north to North freedom or if you like turn west and stay on county W which will take you through McGivra Woods & Pewit’s Nest Natural areas and back to Baraboo.
If you choose to go to North Freedom, there is a small restaurant and a gas station in addition to stopping by the Museum. From here you can head north to highway 136 which will take you back to Baraboo or take County PF through the village of North Freedom and take a slightly more meandering route to Highway 136. Either way you will end up right back in Baraboo, at our starting point, the intersection of Hwy 12, 33 & 136.
This is just one of the great little scenic routes you can enjoy here in the Baraboo hills region. Keep an eye out for more of our favorite central Wisconsin road trips in the future!
What are your favorite drives in the area?
View Natural Bridge / Mid-Continent Loop in a larger map