This Scenic drive is a wonderfully picturesque 40-mile loop through the Wisconsin Driftless area 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.
Update 2017: The new Highway 12 bypass is now in place. That means we have to adjust our starting point slightly. We still recommend you start from the Kwik Trip on the corner of old Highway 12 and 33. You can fill up at the local Kwik Trip, get food and snacks there or run across the street to Festival grocery store. You’ll also notice the Baraboo Chamber of Commerce building by Festival if you need more local information.
Once you are stocked up, you can take 136 west through 2 round-a-bouts, then hope on the new highway 12 bypass heading south toward Madison. 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. This area is now designated as the Sauk Praire Recreation Area and is being restored to its natural state.
Less than a mile from the Sauk Praire Recreation Area, look for Dr. Evermor’s Art Park on the right. It’s free and worth the stop if you have time! From there it’s just a short distance until our first turn. Turn right on County Road C. 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-Continent 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 Devil’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 and Hwy 136.
View Natural Bridge / Mid-Continent Loop in a larger map