Scenic Motorcycle Routes

7 Scenic Motorcycle Routes in the US

 

Embracing the freedom of the open road, motorcyclists from all walks of life find solace and adventure on scenic routes across the United States.

Whether you’re astride a classic Harley Davidson, a sleek Indian, or any other cruiser, the call of the journey is universal. The wind in your face, the roar of the engine, and the panoramic views create an unparalleled sense of freedom and connection to the world around you.

A scenic motorcycle route transcends the ordinary, transforming a simple ride into a memorable adventure. It’s not just about the destination; it’s about the journey, the landscapes you traverse, and the unique moments you collect along the way. These routes offer motorcyclists a chance to experience stunning vistas, challenging terrains, and the thrill of exploration, all from the saddle of their beloved bikes. However, as exhilarating as the ride may be, it is crucial for bikers to remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings. The roads are shared spaces, bustling with cars and fellow motorcyclists alike, all out to enjoy the journey. While we hope for a safe and enjoyable ride for everyone, accidents can occur if caution is thrown to the wind. Being prepared for any eventuality ensures a safer experience, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty and thrill of the ride. Now, with safety in mind, let’s delve into exploring some of the top scenic roads for motorcycle rides in the US.

1. Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia

Route Overview

The Blue Ridge Parkway, often referred to as “America’s Favorite Drive,” is a mesmerizing stretch of road that spans 469 miles, connecting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. This iconic route is renowned for its stunning vistas, lush landscapes, and serene atmosphere, providing motorcyclists with a tranquil yet exhilarating riding experience.

As you navigate through the winding roads of the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the majestic beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, with ample opportunities to stop and soak in the panoramic views. The road itself is a marvel, with its smooth tarmac and gentle curves, making it accessible and enjoyable for riders of all skill levels.

Highlights and Must-See Stops

One of the standout features of the Blue Ridge Parkway is its plethora of overlooks and scenic pull-offs, each offering a unique perspective of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The Linn Cove Viaduct, a marvel of engineering, wraps around the contours of Grandfather Mountain and provides a thrilling ride and breathtaking views.

 

Mabry Mill in winter

 

Mabry Mill, located at Milepost 176.1, is another must-visit stop, offering visitors a glimpse into the past with its historic gristmill and sawmill. Here, you can enjoy live demonstrations, explore the surrounding trails, and indulge in some delicious, home-cooked meals at the on-site restaurant. It is one of the most photographed spots on the Parkway.

The Peaks of Otter, situated at Milepost 86, is a popular destination for both riders and hikers, with its stunning Abbott Lake, picturesque lodge, and a variety of trails, including the challenging hike to the summit of Sharp Top Mountain.

The communities of the Blue Ridge Parkway (and surrounding areas) offer accommodations for overnight stays from rustic mountain cabins to backcountry camping to luxurious resorts and bed & breakfast inns with all the amenities.

Riding Experience and Tips

The Blue Ridge Parkway is renowned for its smooth roads and rider-friendly conditions, but it’s important to keep in mind that the speed limit is strictly enforced, and the road is patrolled regularly. Additionally, the weather can be unpredictable, especially at higher elevations, so it’s crucial to come prepared with the appropriate gear.

With its unparalleled beauty, smooth riding conditions, and abundance of scenic stops, the Blue Ridge Parkway stands out as a premier destination for motorcycle enthusiasts looking to experience the best of what the Appalachian region has to offer. Whether you’re seeking a peaceful ride through nature or an exciting journey through the mountains, this iconic route has something for everyone.

Dining: Pisgah Inn Restaurant offers meals with a view of the Pisgah National Forest.

 

2. Beartooth Highway, Montana and Wyoming

Route Overview

The Beartooth Highway, a spectacular mountain road that stretches for 68 miles, is a true testament to the raw and untamed beauty of nature. Straddling the states of Montana and Wyoming, this route offers motorcyclists an unforgettable journey through some of the most rugged and breathtaking landscapes in the Rocky Mountains.

Starting from the quaint town of Red Lodge, Montana, the highway quickly ascends, winding its way up to the Beartooth Pass, which sits at a staggering elevation of 10,947 feet. From here, riders are treated to a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains, alpine lakes, and lush valleys, creating a sense of awe and wonder.

 

 

Highlights and Must-See Stops

As you navigate the twists and turns of the Beartooth Highway, you’ll encounter a variety of stunning natural features. The Top of the World Store, located near the summit, offers a unique shopping experience and a chance to catch your breath while taking in the views.

The highway also provides access to a plethora of hiking trails, including the popular trek to the summit of Beartooth Peak. For those looking to explore further, the road leads directly to the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone National Park, providing an excellent opportunity to extend your adventure.

Riding Experience and Tips

The Beartooth Highway is known for its challenging riding conditions, with sharp turns, steep grades, and variable weather conditions. It’s a route that demands respect and attention, making it a favorite among experienced motorcyclists seeking a thrill.

Due to its high elevation and mountainous terrain, the highway is only open during the summer months, typically from late May to mid-October, depending on weather conditions. It’s crucial to check the road status and weather forecast before embarking on your journey, as conditions can change rapidly.

Despite its challenges, the Beartooth Highway offers a riding experience like no other, with its stunning scenery, exhilarating roads, and sense of adventure. It’s a route that captures the spirit of motorcycle touring, providing riders with memories that will last a lifetime. Whether you’re seeking solitude, adventure, or simply the chance to connect with nature, the Beartooth Highway is a destination that should not be missed.

Dining: The Bearclaw Bakery in Red Lodge is a favorite for breakfast.

Accommodations: The Pollard Hotel in Red Lodge offers historic charm.

 

3. Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

Route Overview

The Kancamagus Highway, affectionately known as “The Kanc,” is a 34.5-mile scenic byway that cuts through the heart of New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. This two-lane highway offers motorcyclists a serene and picturesque ride, showcasing the natural beauty of the region.

Starting in Conway and ending in Lincoln, the Kancamagus Highway takes riders on a journey through dense forests, alongside rushing rivers, and over rolling hills, providing a diverse array of landscapes to enjoy. The road itself is well-maintained, with gentle curves and smooth tarmac, making it accessible for riders of all skill levels.

Highlights and Must-See Stops

One of the major draws of the Kancamagus Highway is its abundance of scenic overlooks and pull-offs, each offering a unique vantage point to take in the stunning surroundings. The Sabbaday Falls, a short hike from the road, reveals a captivating waterfall nestled in the woods, providing a peaceful retreat and photo opportunity.

 

Sabbaday FallsSabbaday Falls

 

The Rocky Gorge Scenic Area is another popular stop, featuring a picturesque gorge carved by the Swift River, with walking paths and viewing areas to fully appreciate the natural beauty.

For those looking to immerse themselves in the wilderness, the Kancamagus Highway provides access to numerous hiking trails, ranging from easy walks to challenging backcountry adventures.

Riding Experience and Tips

The Kancamagus Highway is renowned for its smooth riding conditions and breathtaking scenery, but it’s important to note that there are no gas stations along the route, so riders should plan accordingly and fill up before embarking on their journey.

The highway is particularly popular during the fall foliage season, when the landscape transforms into a vibrant tapestry of reds, oranges, and yellows. While this is undoubtedly a spectacular time to visit, riders should be prepared for heavier traffic and take extra caution on the roads.

Regardless of the season, the Kancamagus Highway offers a tranquil and scenic riding experience, providing motorcyclists with a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and connect with the natural world. Whether you’re seeking a leisurely ride through the forest or a chance to explore the rugged beauty of the White Mountains, “The Kanc” delivers an unforgettable adventure.

Dining: Café Noche in Conway offers Mexican cuisine.

Accommodations: The Kancamagus Lodge in Lincoln provides a cozy stay.

 

4. Pacific Coast Highway, California

Route Overview

The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), also known as California State Route 1, is a legendary stretch of road that hugs the breathtaking coastline of California. Spanning over 650 miles from Dana Point in the south to Leggett in the north, this iconic highway offers motorcyclists a ride of a lifetime, showcasing the stunning beauty and diverse landscapes of the Golden State.

As riders traverse the PCH, they are treated to a visual feast of dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches, and the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. The road itself is a marvel, with its winding curves, undulating hills, and smooth tarmac, providing an exhilarating and enjoyable riding experience.

Highlights and Must-See Stops

One of the most famous stretches of the PCH is through Big Sur, where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean, creating a dramatic and awe-inspiring landscape. Here, riders can take in the views from the Bixby Creek Bridge, one of the tallest single-span concrete bridges in the world.

 

Big Sur bixby creek bridge fpkBixby Creek Bridge

 

Further south, the quaint town of Carmel-by-the-Sea offers a charming retreat, with its boutique shops, art galleries, and white sandy beach. Nearby, the historic Hearst Castle stands as a testament to the opulence and vision of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.

For those looking to explore the vibrant city life, the PCH runs through the heart of Los Angeles, providing easy access to iconic destinations such as Malibu, Santa Monica, and Venice Beach.

Riding Experience and Tips

The Pacific Coast Highway is renowned for its scenic beauty, but it’s important for riders to stay alert and focused, as the road can be narrow and winding, with sharp turns and steep drop-offs. Additionally, the PCH is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, resulting in heavy traffic, especially during the summer months.

To fully enjoy the ride and take in the views, it’s recommended to plan your trip during the off-peak seasons of spring or fall, when the roads are less crowded, and the weather is mild.

With its unparalleled scenery, thrilling ride, and endless opportunities for adventure, the Pacific Coast Highway stands out as one of the premier motorcycle routes in the United States. Whether you’re seeking the thrill of the ride, the beauty of the coast, or the allure of the open road, the PCH delivers an unforgettable experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Dining: Nepenthe in Big Sur offers dining with breathtaking views.

Accommodations: Located on a hillside overlooking Big Sur’s beautiful Pacific coastline, Ventana Inn & Spa is an adults only resort located on 160 secluded acres. It features 2 heated pools adjoined by a Japanese hot bath.

 

5. Route 66, California

Route Overview

Route 66, also known as the “Main Street of America,” is a historic highway that once stretched from Chicago to Santa Monica, covering a total of 2,448 miles. In California, this iconic road traverses through diverse landscapes, offering motorcyclists a unique and nostalgic riding experience.

Starting from the California-Arizona border, Route 66 winds its way through the Mojave Desert, showcasing the stark beauty and solitude of this vast wilderness. As riders continue westward, the road takes them through small towns and communities, each with its own unique history and charm.

 

route 66 mojave desert

 

Highlights and Must-See Stops

One of the must-visit stops along Route 66 in California is the town of Amboy, home to the famous Roy’s Motel and Café, a classic example of mid-20th-century roadside architecture. The town itself provides a glimpse into the past, capturing the spirit of the Route 66 era.

Further along the route, the town of Barstow serves as a gateway to the Mojave National Preserve, offering riders the opportunity to explore the natural beauty and rugged landscapes of the region.

As Route 66 approaches its final destination in Santa Monica, riders can take a detour to the bustling city of Los Angeles, exploring the iconic sights and sounds of this vibrant metropolis.

Riding Experience and Tips

Riding on Route 66 in California is like taking a journey through time, with the road telling the story of America’s westward expansion and the golden age of automobile travel. The riding conditions vary, with stretches of well-maintained asphalt interspersed with sections of rough and uneven road, adding to the adventure and authenticity of the experience.

It’s important for riders to come prepared, especially when traversing through the Mojave Desert, as temperatures can soar, and services are sparse. Carrying extra water, sunscreen, and ensuring your motorcycle is in top condition are essential for a safe and enjoyable ride.

With its rich history, diverse landscapes, and sense of adventure, Route 66 in California offers motorcyclists a unique and memorable riding experience. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or simply seeking the thrill of the open road, this historic highway delivers a journey like no other.

Dining: Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Café is a historic Route 66 diner.

Accommodations: The Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino offers unique teepee-shaped rooms.

 

6. Cascade Loop, Washington

Route Overview

The Cascade Loop in Washington State is a breathtakingly beautiful scenic byway that takes riders on a journey through some of the most diverse and stunning landscapes in the Pacific Northwest. Spanning approximately 440 miles, the loop encompasses everything from arid desert landscapes to lush alpine forests, providing a feast for the senses and a thrilling riding experience.

Starting in the vibrant city of Seattle, the Cascade Loop heads north, skirting the edge of the Puget Sound before turning eastward into the heart of the Cascade Mountains. Riders will find themselves immersed in the beauty of the North Cascades National Park, with its rugged peaks, pristine lakes, and lush valleys.

Highlights and Must-See Stops

One of the major highlights of the Cascade Loop is the scenic drive through the North Cascades Highway, offering unparalleled views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The Washington Pass Overlook provides a perfect spot to take a break and soak in the majestic beauty of the area.

The charming town of Winthrop, with its Old West architecture and welcoming atmosphere, is a great place to stop, explore, and perhaps spend the night. The town serves as a gateway to the Methow Valley, known for its outdoor recreational opportunities and stunning scenery.

 

leavenworth village waLeavenworth

 

As the loop continues southward, it passes through the fertile orchards of the Wenatchee Valley, providing a stark contrast to the alpine landscapes of the North Cascades. The town of Leavenworth, with its Bavarian-themed architecture and vibrant atmosphere, is another must-visit destination along the route.

Riding Experience and Tips

The Cascade Loop offers a diverse riding experience, with varying road conditions and elevations. The North Cascades Highway, in particular, features tight curves and steep grades, providing a thrilling ride and a test of skill for motorcyclists.

Important to note that the North Cascades Highway is closed during the winter months due to heavy snowfall, so riders should plan their trip between late spring and early fall to experience the full beauty of the route.

With its stunning scenery, diverse landscapes, and thrilling riding experience, the Cascade Loop stands out as one of Washington’s premier motorcycle routes. Whether you’re seeking adventure, natural beauty, or a peaceful escape, this scenic byway delivers an unforgettable journey through the heart of the Pacific Northwest.

Dining: The Watershed Café in Leavenworth offers farm-to-table dining.

Accommodations: Mountain View Lodge near the shores of Lake Chelan offers a comfortable and convenient base for exploring the Cascade Loop and the surrounding areas.

 

7. Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

Route Overview

The Hana Highway, also known as the Road to Hana, is a captivating journey through the lush landscapes of Maui, Hawaii. This 64.4-mile stretch of road takes riders from the bustling town of Kahului to the tranquil town of Hana, offering a unique and unforgettable riding experience.

As motorcyclists navigate the Hana Highway, they are treated to a visual feast of tropical rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and panoramic ocean views. The road itself is a challenging ride, with over 600 curves and 59 bridges, many of which are one-lane, requiring careful navigation and attention to the road.

Highlights and Must-See Stops

One of the must-visit stops along the Hana Highway is the Garden of Eden Arboretum, a lush botanical garden that offers a chance to explore the diverse flora of Maui and take in stunning views of the coastline.

The Twin Falls, located near the beginning of the Hana Highway, provides a refreshing break and an opportunity to swim in the cool waters of the falls. Further along the route, the Waianapanapa State Park offers black sand beaches, sea caves, and hiking trails, showcasing the unique geological features of the area.

 

Twin Falls Maui flickrTwin Falls

 

As riders reach the town of Hana, they are welcomed by a sense of tranquility and a slower pace of life, providing a stark contrast to the bustling towns of Maui’s north shore.

Riding Experience and Tips

The Hana Highway is renowned for its challenging riding conditions, with its tight curves, narrow bridges, and varying road surfaces. Riders need to stay alert and focused, taking their time to navigate the road safely.

Due to its popularity, the Hana Highway can become crowded, especially during peak tourist seasons. To avoid the crowds and fully enjoy the ride, it’s recommended to start early in the day and take your time exploring the various stops along the route.

With its stunning scenery, challenging ride, and unique tropical setting, the Hana Highway offers motorcyclists a one-of-a-kind adventure, providing a chance to experience the beauty and diversity of Maui’s landscapes. Whether you’re seeking adventure, natural beauty, or a peaceful escape, this iconic road delivers an unforgettable journey through the heart of Hawaii’s tropical paradise.

Dining: The Hana Ranch Restaurant offers local Hawaiian cuisine.

Accommodations: Hana Maui Resort provides a luxurious stay in the heart of Hana.

 

These seven scenic motorcycle routes offer a unique and unforgettable riding experience. Each route has its own character, challenges, and stunning scenery, proving that sometimes, the journey is the destination.

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