This itinerary covers the part of southwestern Wisconsin/northeastern Iowa known as the Driftless Zone. It assumes that you fly into and out of Madison and rent a car there. The itinerary actually includes three nights and two full days in Iowa, as well as a brief time in Illinois, but I have included it all under Wisconsin for continuity.
- Fly into Madison, spend whatever time you have exploring the city.
- Eat dinner at The Old Fashioned, have drinks at One Barrel Brewing Co.
- Eat breakfast at Marigold Kitchen.
- Rent car, leave Madison by 10 am.
- Drive to Gibraltar Rock, spend 1.5 hrs.
- Take the ferry across Lake Wisconsin to Parfrey's Glen State Natural Area, spend 1.5 hrs.
- Drive to Devil's Lake State Park, set up camp at Northern Lights Campground.
- Spend the evening hiking around/exploring Devil's Lake.
- If you're an early riser, do a bit more hiking in the state park. Head into the town of Baraboo about 10 am. See Circus World, explore the town, grab a bite to eat (check out Bella Vita Cafe).
- Drive to Pewits Nest, spend 1 hr.
- Drive to Baxter's Hollow, spend 1 hr.
- Return to Devil's Lake, finish up exploring the park thoroughly. Make sure you've hit Cleopatra's Needle, Balanced Rock, Devil's Doorway, Elephant Rock, the Ice Age Natl Scenic Trail, and renting a canoe/kayak if that's your thing (you can rent them right there lakeside in the park).
- Pack up camp and leave Devil's Lake about 9 am.
- Drive to Wildcat Mountain SP, spend 1.5 hrs.
- Drive to Kickapoo Valley Reserve State Natural Area, spend 1.5 hrs.
- Drive down the Great River Road, eat an early dinner at The Barn.
- Cross the Mississippi River into Iowa, spend 1.5 hrs at Effigy Mounds Natl Monument.
- Drive to the town of McGregor, spend the night. You could also choose to camp just south in Pikes Peak SP instead.
Today's route is fairly meandering, so if you aren't interested in what's in Dyersville, you can omit that and it will save you a few miles.
- Leave McGregor by 10 am.
- Drive to Pikes Peak SP (unless you camped there last night), spend at least 1 hr.
- Make brief stops in the town of Elkader and at Motor Mill Historic Site.
- Drive to Dyersville, where there is the beautiful Basilica of St. Francis Xavier as well as the filming site for the movie "Field of Dreams."
- Drive to Breitbach's Country Dining, overlooking the Mississippi River, and eat an early dinner.
- Drive to Dubuque, spend the night.
This is a leisurely day giving you plenty of time to explore Dubuque as well as go on an excursion within Iowa. If you have limited time, you can omit this day entirely and still have some time to explore Dubuque the next morning.
- Spend the morning exploring Dubuque's historic architecture.
- About 1 pm, drive south to Maquoketa Caves SP; spend about 1.5 hrs.
- Loop back to Dubuque, stopping at Mines of Spain on the way. Spend about 1.5 hrs.
- Eat dinner at L. May Eatery or Brazen Open Kitchen (more expensive).
- Again, spend the morning exploring Dubuque; leave about 1 pm.
- Drive back across the Mississippi to Galena, IL; spend about 3 hrs.
- Drive to Mineral Point, WI, spend the night at Brewery Creek.
- Eat at Red Rooster Cafe. Mineral Point is a Cornish-settled town, so get a Cornish pasty!
This day covers only a very short distance, but is packed with interesting things to see.
- Leave Mineral Point about 10 am.
- Drive to Gov. Dodge SP, spend 1.5 hrs
- Drive to The House on the Rock, spend 1.5 hrs
- Drive to Taliesin (Frank Lloyd Wright's studio), spend about 2 hrs
- Drive to Tower Hill SP, spend 1 hr.
- Drive to Spring Green Preserve State Natural Area, spend 1hr.
- Eat dinner in Spring Green at White School Collective.
- Spend the night at Spring Valley Inn.
- Leave Spring Green about 9 am, grab a coffee in town at Convivio.
- Drive to Blue Mounds SP, spend 1 hr. This is the highest point in southern Wisconsin. You may wish to tour Cave of the Mounds as well, which would take additional time.
- Drive to Mount Horeb, spend 1.5 hrs. This is a Norwegian-American town and the "Troll Capital of the World." Get a souvenir at Open House Imports.
- Drive to New Glarus, spend 2 hrs. This is a Swiss-American town. Get bratwurst at Hoesly's Meats and wash it down with a spotted cow beer at New Glarus Brewing Co. If you still have room, get a pastry at New Glarus Bakery.
- Drive back to Madison, stopping on the way to tour the headquarters of Epic in Verona. It is a veritable fantasy-land.
- Once back in Madison, have another beer at Ale Asylum.
- fly back home
Enjoy your trip!
- Drive to New Glarus, spend 1.5 hrs.