Whether it’s weather, holidays, or some other circumstances that keeps me from riding, being off the bike for too long always leaves me with an itch – something many of us can all relate to. Being cooped up in the house even without the occasional escape for a few hours of riding can get old! I have the overwhelming urge to pack my gear on the bike, throw a dart at a map and hit the road! You know what that means – get out your motorcycle road trip checklist and start the process. This will be over before you know it, so you had best be ready!
Our 15 Favorite Motorcycle Rides in the USA
What is your favorite ride? Where do you wish you could go? I asked some of my riding friends that same question and this is what we came up with – 15 motorcycle rides in the USA you can’t miss!
1. TAIL OF THE DRAGON, US 129 – NORTH CAROLINA
A good friend of mine recommended the Tail of the Dragon which runs through the Great Smoky Mountains between Deals Gap, NC and Tabcat Bridge in Tennessee. There are 318 sweeping curves in the 11-mile section of US 129. This part of the ride takes 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes on average. Even though this is a shorter ride, there are many other rides in the area so you can make a day of it. Check out the Tail of the Dragon website for all the info and motorcycle trip maps.
2. THE DEVIL’S HIGHWAY, ROUTE 666 (CURRENTLY AZ HIGHWAY 191) – ARIZONA
Kat, another good friend who spends a good deal of time working in Phoenix says this is one of the best motorcycle roads in Arizona. It is a 100 mile stretch of Arizona Highway 191 which runs from Alpine, AZ to Clifton, AZ about 4 ½ hours East of Phoenix. Like the Deals Gap run, it has a lot of curves, too many to count! Many are marked at 10mph and they mean it! Morenci, AZ is a popular place to fuel both the bike and the body after a couple hours of intense riding.
3. BEARTOOTH ALL-AMERICAN ROAD, HIGHWAY 212 – MONTANA
Beartooth Highway starts in Red Lodge, MT, dips down into Wyoming and ends at Cooke City, MT just 68 miles later. I did this ride on one of my “long way to Sturgis” trips. Coming from Iowa, it’s not on the way but made for some memorable riding. Beartooth was referred to as “the most beautiful drive in America” by Charles Kuralt, the famous television reporter. With the elevation ranging from 7,300 feet to 11,000 feet above sea level, you can expect some grand views as it skirts Yellowstone and Gallatin National Forests. The ride can take all day if you stop to enjoy some of the breathtaking views, quaint eateries and shops.
4. THE THREE SISTERS, RM 335,336 AND 337 – TEXAS
Located a short ride Northwest of San Antonio, the Three Sisters motorcycle route is in the heart of Texas Hill Country, particularly the Frio River Valley. It gets its name from the three “Farm to Market” roads the ride consists of. When most folks think of Texas they think of wide open, hot, flat space. While it can be hot in Hill Country, it is anything but flat. If you’re looking for a little something different in Texas, this ride might be for you.
5. PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY, ROUTE 1 – CALIFORNIA
A Pacific Coast Highway motorcycle ride takes you more than 600 miles along the entire coast of California. Running all the way from San Diego in the South to Crescent City in the North, there is a veritable smorgasbord of things to see along the way. Incredible ocean views, rugged cliffs, wine country, redwood forests and many famous landmarks can be seen along the way. There is an in depth review of the pacific highway motorcycle ride here. Even the best writing cannot describe its true beauty, you have to experience it for yourself.
6. ARCHES NATIONAL PARK – UTAH
There are so many incredible rides that start and end in Moab, UT. Arches National Park is one of the more breathtaking of them all. I’ve visited here with friends many times and am always left speechless. The topography in that part of the country is unlike anywhere else I’ve been. The fiery orange sandstone carved deep by rainwater over thousands of years to expose layers of soil is nature’s timepiece and a sight to behold. This would be a worthy addition to the list of best cross-country motorcycle routes.
7. OZELLO TRAIL RIDE, STATE ROUTE 494 – FLORIDA
There are many great rides in Florida, but few have the variety of scenery the Ozello Trail ride has to offer. This ride starts about an hour North of Tampa. Head east from Highway 98 between Homosassa Springs and Crystal River and follow the twisty two-lane black top road. You’ll ride through the Crystal River Preserve State Park eventually ending up at the Gulf of Mexico where you can enjoy some time at the beach to compliment to the ride
8. COASTAL ROUTE 1, US HIGHWAY 1 – MAINE
This 230-mile ride along the coast of Maine is one of the best motorcycle trips on the East coast. It showcases breathtaking ocean views with lighthouses and mountain vistas. Maine is rich with fresh seafood; you can enjoy lunch at one of the many restaurants along the route. You need to set aside a couple of days for this ride as there are so many stops that can be made as you travel along.
9. CASCADE LOOP – WASHINGTON
Known as Washington’s Ultimate Road Trip, this 440-mile loop lets you enjoy almost everything Washington has to offer. You’ll experience the forests and streams of the Stevens Pass Greenway, the mountains and glaciers of the North Cascades Scenic Byway and the beaches and sea air of the Whidbey Scenic Isle Way.
10. BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY – NORTH CAROLINA AND VIRGINIA
The Blueridge Parkway is touted as America’s Favorite Drive. A 106-mile ride that begins in Cherokee, NC winding its way through the Appalachian and Smoky Mountains before ending in Afton, VA. You’ll have a better opportunity to appreciate the awe-inspiring views as the speed limit is only 45mph and no large trucks are allowed. There are many scenic overlooks along the way as well as plenty of places to stop for fuel and food and enjoy the local culture.
11. THE OZARKS – ARKANSAS AND MISSOURI
If you have never ridden the Ozarks, put it on your list! We have been going every spring for the past few years and still haven’t done all of the rides. Some of our favorites are the Pig Trail, Eureka Springs to Jasper, the Ozark Moonshine Run, and the Arkansas Dragon. This is a very rider friendly area. The locals always welcome us and the camaraderie was just as much a part of the trip as the riding was.
12. TUNNEL OF TREES – MICHIGAN
As Michigan motorcycle road trips go, the Tunnel of Trees is one of the crown jewels. Located as far North on the “hand” as you can go, this ride along the shore of Lake Michigan is a part of the North Country National Scenic Trail. Tunnel of Trees is one of six ride loops that start and end in Cadillac, MI. For an added adventure, ride the Ironton Ferry across Lake Charlevoix.
13. THE BADLANDS – SOUTH DAKOTA
This ride takes you through the rock formations and forests unique to this area of South Dakota. If you are a wildlife fan, you’ll enjoy this ride. There are vast prairie dog colonies, massive herds of buffalo and the occasional bunch of donkeys! Head Southeast on Highway 44 out of Rapid City. After the ride, stop at the world-famous Wall Drug for a cool drink and some ice cream!
14. NORTHWEST PASSAGE SCENIC BYWAY – IDAHO
This route is a part of the trail Lewis and Clark took through Idaho. The 202-mile ride takes you through the Clearwater River Canyon, Camas Prairie, the Lochsa Wild and Scenic River and ends at Lolo Pass at the Montana border. Historical markers along the route give you an opportunity to learn some of the rich heritage of the area.
15. INDEPENDENCE PASS – COLORADO
Take a trip through ski country in the summer. At 12,095 feet above sea level, Independence Pass is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day as it can become impassable in winter months. The route will take you through the ski areas of Aspen and Snowmass which look much different without snow. Rising above the tree line allows for views of the valleys below. End the ride in Glenwood Springs and enjoy a nice soak in the Iron Mountain Hot Springs to unwind.
Tips For Long Motorcycle Trips
Before you just hop on the bike and roll, here are a few tips for taking a long motorcycle trip. As always, check your gear and your bike out before you hit the road. Be sure you have your service done. You’ll want to do this a fair amount of time before your scheduled departure in case you find something that needs repaired. Depending on what time of year it is, you might find it difficult to get your bike into the shop! Some trips are long enough that they will require you to get an oil change while on the road. Mind your mileage and find a shop when it’s due.
Your gear needs change for a longer ride too. You should pack extra riding gear. Remember to plan for the worst, but hope for the best. Even in summer, the desert or mountains can get dangerously cold at night when foul weather strikes. Or a rainstorm can blow in and change the name of the game in a jiffy. You should bring along some water and high energy food to keep yourself fueled up for the ride. On that note, watch that gas gauge! If you’re not sure where the next station is, fuel up! A rule of thumb we follow is when one stops for gas, everyone tops off.
Start Planning Now
There are hundreds, if not thousands more trips than mentioned here. Pick your destination, plan your route and get your gear ready! Being cooped up inside isn’t fun for anyone, so when riding season picks back up, you’ll be ready to mount up and ride! Your bike is your ticket to the freedom that only the open road has to offer.
Be safe, we’ll see you on the road!
Written By: Dean Giese – Law Tigers Contributor
About Dan Giese: Dean Giese lives outside of Macedonia, Iowa. He is an avid motorcyclist who has been riding and repairing bikes since 1982. He has logged thousands of miles through daily commuting and touring the country. He is an advocate for motorcycle rights, safety, and education.