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Top 20 Must-See Motorcycle Routes In The U.S.
One of the best benefits of having a motorcycle is the freedom to ride and see the four corners of our country. If you love scenic rides, then hang tight, we’re delivering the “Top 20 Must-See Motorcycle Routes In The U.S.”
1. Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) -- Oregon/California
This is 1,700 miles from Astoria, Oregon, to San Juan Capistrano, California, and in general opinion, the undisputed champion of road trips. There are beaches, cliffs, redwood forests, sleepy seaside towns, hot tub, B&Bs, and world-class dining all along this stretch of road. It provides both thrilling sport riding and contented cruising. You can stop at the frequent turnouts, and see destinations such as the Olympic Peninsula, Big Sur, and Hearst Castle, or stop at hot spots like Malibu, Seattle, San Francisco, and San Diego.
2. Route 50, The George Washington Highway -- West Virginia
If you’re a fan of twists and turns, then this route is a MUST for you. It checks all the traditional boxes (mountains, rivers, etc.) as a bonus. On this route, you'll ride just north of the beautiful Monongahela National Forest, and pass Cathedral State Park along the way too. At the end of your trip, this route also intersects with major roadways where you can continue your sightseeing if you want to.
3. River Road (FM 170) -- Texas
Everything is bigger in Texas...Even the road trips! River road winds 120 miles from Terlingua to Candelaria, Big Bend, Texas. Smooth pavement gives you a dream-like ride along the Rio Grande through the Big Bend’s Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem. There’s no shortage of mountains, canyons, badlands, and stunted forests. Got a dual-sport? Then you’re REALLY going to love this route. You’ll be able to ride on a boat over the Rio Grande at the Boquillas Crossing for a short jaunt to Mexico.
4. Needles Highway, Black Hills -- South Dakota
This is one of many roads you can take to get to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally each August, and it feels like it was designed just to be experienced on a bike. It’s common for this route to take a little longer though for a ride. Why, you ask? The surrounding scenery is absolutely stunning. The highway passes through two tunnels blasted through sheer granite walls -- Iron Creek Tunnel and Needles Eye Tunnel (the highway is named after the high granite "needles" it passes). If you’re not a fan of wildlife though, you may want to choose an alternate route. You'll get to see the actual spots where "the deer and the antelope (and the bison) play."
5. Coastal Highway 1 -- Maine
This is a 170-mile stretch from Kittery to Bucksport, Maine, and is one of the most breathtaking coastline rides you’ll ever take. The oldest highway on the east coast is dotted with more than 60 lighthouses, countless cute towns, antique shops, lobster shacks, and almost 50 peninsulas to explore. The highway connects with many other scenic routes, including a ferry ride to Nova Scotia. It offers plenty of twists and turns for the adventurous and more than enough stop-alongs to keep any rider interested.
6. Going-To-The-Sun Road -- Montana
For motorcycle riders, this route is the Mount Everest of the continental U.S. Near the Canadian border, it is not for the faint of heart. Snow banks line the road at certain points as late as July and August. It has some of the most wicked turns and steepest elevation changes of any paved road in the U.S. You won't be disappointed by driving this route! It goes from one end of Glacier National Park to the other end crossing through a magnificent section of the Rocky Mountains. It’s definitely one for the ole’ bucket list.
7. Tail of the Dragon (Deal’s Gap) --Tennessee
This short but sweet 11-mile stretch of U.S. Route 129 is known as one of the best motorcycle roads in America. Resembling a dragon’s tail, Deal’s Gap is said to contain more than 300 curves, the sharpest of which has been given nicknames such as Gravity Cavity and Copperhead Corner. The challenging two-lane blacktop-highway stretch brings riders through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a view that you won’t forget. The speed limit was even reduced by 20 mph to a paltry 35 in 2005 to protect riders. If you want proof of the nasty turns on this road, a shrine dubbed the “Tree of Shame” has motorcycle parts attached to it by those who weren’t able to tame the dragon.
8. Route 36 -- California
The route takes you through several elevation changes, through farming and ranching country, and treed mountains. It is a memorable ride from mile 0 to the end and will have you wanting to ride it again. The scenery is gorgeous, when you can take your eyes off the road that is. This road has in excess of 900 curves, so it's best to save the views for when you dismount.
9. Beartooth Highway -- Montana/Wyoming
Beartooth Highway is a section of U.S. Route 212 that stretches between Red Lodge and Cooke City, Montana. It’s a rather steep road and consists of many zigzags and switchbacks, eventually bringing riders to an elevation of 10,947 feet at Beartooth Pass. The 69-mile highway is typically only open from mid-May to mid-October, so it’s the perfect summer or early fall ride. Along the short route, riders twist through rocky mountains, glaciers, and wildflower-laden alpine meadows. Well known for its temperamental weather, this route has even seen snowstorms in the summer. So if you ride it, come prepared!
10. Route 66: Chicago/California
When a road has a song written about it, you know it's going to be a good ride. Twenty-two hundred miles of spectacular sights take you from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California. Route 66 is on just about everybody’s bucket list. For the history buff, there are many stops along the way to enrich your mind and also wide-open spaces where you can take the RPMs way up! If you don’t take the time to venture down this highway, you will truly regret it.
11. Trail of the Mountain Spirits Byway -- New Mexico
This route travels through the Gila National Forest, which has truly incredible scenery that includes high alpine mountain settings including lush spreads of aspens and Douglas firs to the warmer/semi-arid lowlands with cactus, junipers and oak trees. It is one of the last untouched and most expansive National Forests in the southwest and covers more than three million acres. On this route you'll also see the huge Chino mine which is one of the largest open pit copper mines in the world. Trucks from the overlook on Route 152 look like mechanical ants. If you’re into natural geological formations, The Kneeling Nun, a source of many local legends, overlooks the mine.
12. The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument tour -- Utah
Unbelievable views of Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. The Staircase is an incredible collection of multicolored cliffs, buttes, plateaus, mesas, and canyons. Bring a camera with plenty of memory space/film for this one! It’s a fantastic ride with many opportunities to stop and hike if you’d like to do so. A word of caution though, you need to plan a day of this trip to have enough time to take in all the great views.
13. Tunnel of Trees -- Michigan
A portion of Michigan’s 27.5-mile route M-119 is known as the Tunnel of Trees and is a scenic road surrounded by heavy foliage. Noticeably, the Tunnel of Trees lacks a centerline in the middle of the road. It’s popular in the autumn when the canopy changes colors, and provides a picturesque view of Lake Michigan. The area was once inhabited by the Ottawa Indians, as well as trappers, traders, and loggers. The Tunnel of Trees Scenic Heritage Route is a popular tourist attraction in the area, so this is a rather popular route compared to others on our list.
14. Horsetooth Reservoir Tour -- Colorado
This road begins in the small town of Bellvue, and continues past a couple small farms to Horsetooth reservoir. The reservoir is beautiful with plenty of areas to pull off and enjoy the view, hike, snack, or go for a swim when it's warm out. There are many sweeping curves and a couple slow speed corners along the dam walls. This makes for a short but sweet ride if you are in the middle of our great nation.
15. The Great River Road (Highway 61) -- Minnesota/Louisiana
A long route, the Great River Road slinks along and is 2,552 miles from Itasca State Park, Minnesota, to Jackson, Louisiana. It was created in 1938 to highlight the 10 states bordering the great Mississippi River from its headwaters in Minnesota to its termination in Louisiana’s Cajun Country. Local riders from all 10 states flock to ‘their” section of the road, whether it’s lined with meadows, cypress swamps, thick forests, limestone cliffs, or wildlife refuges.
16. Overseas Highway (Highway 1) -- Florida
For the warm-weather lover, this road winds 100 miles from Key Largo to Key West. So with that said, make sure to pack the sunscreen! You can cruise out onto a narrow stretch of road made of bridges atop a living reef in the turquoise Straits of Florida which is sandwiched between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Enjoy the biker-friendly atmosphere in this beautiful area.
17. The Scenic Triangle Loop -- Idaho/Montana
Scenery on this route is amazing from start to finish! There are excellent views of Lake Coeur d’Alene and depending on the time of year you may see nesting Bald Eagles. This route allows you to see steep canyons and continuous river views. Winding up the twisty mountain road over Thompson pass, the views are breathtaking of the Panhandle National Forest. If you love wildlife, then this route is for you.
18. Pig Trail Scenic Byway -- Arkansas
The Pig Trail is a 19-mile portion of Arkansas Highway 23 that consists of steep hills, dropoffs, and switchbacks cutting through Ozark National Forest. The road is variously said to have been named after the University of Arkansas football team due to the resemblance between the road’s curves and a pig’s tail. Also, hogs roam the area — so the true origin remains unclear. Running along the heavily wooded Boston Mountains, the Pig Trail additionally provides access to recreational activities, including whitewater rafting, kayaking, and camping. The road is popular in the spring and fall when you can see the flowers bloom, and then the trees change their colors and set the mountain on fire with their yellow, orange, and red colors.
19. San Juan Skyway -- Colorado
The San Juan Skyway requires care due to dropoffs, S-curves, and constant ascents and descents. Even with these cautions, it has earned its place as an All-American Road. The San Juan Skyway is a scenic 233-mile route through the San Juan Mountains. The looping road brings riders through historic mining camps, ski resorts (including Telluride), and national parks. The Million Dollar Highway section of the road is particularly scenic. You can see animals such as mountain goats, black bears, and mule deer among the waterfalls, gorges, and mountain peaks.
20. Blue Ridge Parkway – Virginia and North Carolina
Blue Ridge Parkway wanders through the Virginia countryside featuring a fair share of the local charms like an old mill pond with a working mill wheel, as well as fascinating Civil War battle sites. In Cherokee, North Carolina, you'll see the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, with countless overlooks to view the beautiful Smokies. Below in Asheville, North Carolina, are some of the greatest mountain views in the eastern U.S. One of the best parts of this road is the fact that the only trucks ever encountered are the few service trucks that service the two service station/restaurant areas along the parkway.