US-2’s brief stint across Wisconsin navigates wisely, for it takes in the lovely Lake Superior cap of Wisconsin’s northern region and includes a majestic 140-mi (225-km) detour along the rough-and-tumble Lake Superior shoreline, home of rich history, gorgeous boreal forest, and pastoral and littoral scenery.
If starting your Great Northern Wisconsin road trip at the northwestern corner of the state, you’ll begin in the town of Superior, both rival and best friend of bigger Duluth across the harbor. Millions of tons of ore are shipped each year out of Superior, America’s most inland port. To follow the shoreline, you’ll detour off US-2 onto Hwy-13, a 100-mile loop that takes you through Cornucopia, Wisconsin’s northernmost community. Also along Hwy-13 is the laid-back resort village of Bayfield and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. If you have time for an extended visit, the islands offer over 60 miles of hiking trails to explore.
Roughly midway between the Minnesota and Michigan borders sits Ashland, Wisconsin. Ashland’s attractive Main Street has many well-preserved old buildings, while just south of town is the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, a spacious building with interpretive exhibits of local history and industry. Heading east towards Michigan takes you through the Bad River Band Reservation, one of Wisconsin’s six Ojibwa communities.
Best Times for a Wisconsin Road Trip
While the state is a four-season destination, northern Wisconsin is in the heart of big snow country. Play it safe if you’re traveling along Lake Superior in the winter. Fall is prime for leaf-peeping and touring Wisconsin’s Rustic Roads, while summer is the best time to follow US-2 along the Great Northern. In fact, winding through Wisconsin is our pick for the best August road trip.
If you’re taking a Wisconsin road trip in August along the Great Northern, consider timing your drive to coincide with the Bad River Manoomin Powwow, or catch a performance at Big Top Chautauqua in Bayfield.