Ten Great Places to Ride in the US

There is no shortage of great roads for motorcycle riding. While everyone has their favorite, we put together our list of ten great rides from coast to coast. Starting with the Pacific Coast Highway and ending in the Catskill Mountains, here’s a look at what this great country has to offer.

Pacific Coast Highway

Whether you ride the full 655 miles or smaller segments, California State Route 1 is a ride you don’t want to miss. Also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, this route is designated as an All-American Road and is a major attraction for riders and tourists alike.

Bixby Bridge, Pacific Coast Highway

CC image courtesy of reverie_ramblr on Flickr

Riding the California coastline is an all-time favorite for many reasons. The twists and turns are what motorcyclists live for. The scenic views are plentiful, and will offer you an abundance of photo opportunities. And for the most part, weather is conducive for riding year-round.

“Must see” spots include Big Sur, the beaches in Half Moon Bay, and the Redwoods near the northern terminus of Leggett.

Beartooth Highway

From the northern point of the Pacific Coast Highway, we head east to the Beartooth Highway. Claimed as the #1 motorcycle road in America, On The Road correspondent Charles Kuralt called Beartooth Highway “the most beautiful roadway in America.” These claims are well founded.

Beartooth Highway, South Dakota

CC image courtesy of Alex 1961 on Flickr

Although Beartooth Highway is only 69 miles, the road packs a lot of excitement into a short distance. The elevation rises from 5,200 feet to 10,947 feet in Beartooth Pass. During the ride, you’ll encounter twists, turns, switchbacks and mountain views.

When riding the Beartooth Highway, the “must see” spot is Yellowstone National Park.

Needles Highway

Continuing eastward, the next great road on our list is Needles Highway in South Dakota. Mentioned in our post about the 10 Best Places to Ride During Sturgis Bike Week, SD Highway 87 is a National Scenic Byway.

Needles Highway Arizona

CC image courtesy of Barely on Flickr

Before it was built in 1922, Needles Highway was considered “impossible to complete.” SD Highway 87 runs through Custer State Park and offers motorcycle riders almost 38 miles of sharp turns and low tunnels.

A “must see” along this road is Custer State Park. And it truly is a must see – Needles Highway runs through the park, and requires an entrance license (admission fee.)

San Juan Mountain Skyway

Turning south and westward, you can start your ride on the San Juan Mountain Skyway in the city of Durango Colorado. Another All-American Road, the San Juan Skyway forms a 233-mile loop through the heart of the San Juan Mountains.

San Juan Mountain Skyway Colorado

CC image courtesy of Kent Kanouse on Flickr

It might only be a 233-mile loop, but many riders turn this into a two-day journey. With all the hairpin turns, switchbacks, and climbs to over 10,000 feet, the going can be slow at times. With the exceptional Rockies as background, you’ll find yourself stopping quite often.

“Must see” places along the San Juan Mountain Skyway include small towns such as Silverton and Ouray, as well as the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Coronado Trail

A National Scenic Byway can be found further south. The 123-mile Coronado Trail runs between the Arizona towns of Springerville and Clifton. Featuring 460 curves, the Coronado Trail isn’t built for speed.

Coronado Trail Arizona

Back in 2011, a forest fire torched over 500,000 acres surrounding the Coronado Trail. The forest is slowly growing back; and there is an abundance of scenery and wildlife at other spots along the road. Fuel stops are limited, so it’s recommended to stop and fill up in Alpine.

A “must see” on the Coronado Trail is the Hannagan Meadow Lodge, originally built in 1926.

The Three Twisted Sisters

For the most part, Texas is as flat as people think it is. But slightly northwest of San Antonio you’ll find the Hill Country. And there you’ll also find the Three Twisted Sisters.

Three Twisted Sisters in the Hill Country of Texas

Also known by riders as the Three Sisters, this Top 10 Places to Ride is a mecca for Texas motorcyclists. Full of twists, turns, and yes, steep drop-offs, the Three Sisters is a 131-mile loop between County Roads 335, 336 and 337.

A “must see” when riding the Three Sisters is the Frio Canyon Motorcycle Shop – a great place to eat and swap stories about surviving the Twisted Sisters.

Natchez Trace Parkway

From Texas we continue our journey eastward, to the Natchez Trace Parkway. Yet another All-American Road, the two-lane Parkway runs 444 miles from Natchez Mississippi to Fairview Tennessee. The lack of commercial traffic makes this scenic journey all that more enjoyable.

Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi to Tennessee

CC image courtesy of Visit Mississippi on Flickr

The Natchez Trace Parkway is more than a beautiful ride. Riders will find several great historical sites along the Parkway, including the Meriwether Lewis Museum and two Civil War battlefields (The Tupelo National Battlefield and Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Site.) In addition to Civil War history, the Parkway also features Emerald Mound, which is the second largest Native American ceremonial mound in the US.

Two “must see” stops for riders are the birthplace of Elvis in Tupelo, and the Loveless Motel and Cafe in Nashville.

The Cherohala Skyway

Starting or ending the Natchez Trace Parkway in Tennessee, the next great place to ride on our list also starts or ends in Tennessee. The Cherohala Skyway is a scenic 43 miles between Tellico Plains Tennessee and Robbinville North Carolina. This National Scenic Byway passes through two National Forests – the Cherokee and the Nantahala.

Cherohala Skyway - Tennessee and North Carolina

Given the fact that the Cherohala Skyway is tree-lined, fall is perhaps the best time to experience the Skyway. For those inclined to get off their motorcycle, stretch their legs and commune with nature, the Skyway provides access to several hiking trails and recreational areas.

A “must see” when riding the Cherohala Skyway is a ride every motorcyclist must do at least once in a lifetime – the Tail of the Dragon. Deals Gap, North Carolina is only 19 miles from Robbinville.

Blue Ridge Parkway

North Carolina is home to many great places for riding, including the southern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Running 469 miles between North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, the Blue Ridge Parkway is yet another All-American Road on our list.

Blue Ridge Parkway - Virginia

CC image courtesy of Jerry and Pat Donaho on Flickr

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the “long and winding roads” that fulfill the quest of many riders for “wind therapy.” Similar to the Cherohala Parkway, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers an abundance of hiking and other recreational activities, and fall riding is spectacular. If you camp during your multi-day rides, you have your pick of nine campgrounds lining the Parkway.

A few “must sees” while riding the Blue Ridge Parkway are the Luray Caverns, Shenandoah Caverns, and the Bristol Caverns.

Catskill Park

Wrapping up our Ten Best Places to Ride list is the Catskill Park in the Catskill Mountains of New York. This ride is a 100-mile loop beginning and ending in Catskill New York, which itself is 100 miles northwest of New York City.

Catskill Mountains, Catskill NY

CC image courtesy of Ken Lund on Flickr

This is another ride that is best done in the fall. Riding in the northeast when the leaves are changing color is an experience like no other. And while the ride might be a short loop, the scenery combined with the twists and curves makes the trip north well worth it.

A “must see” visit during this ride is the town of Woodstock. Famous for the 1969 Woodstock Festival, the town is a musical and arts haven that offers a wide range of interesting experiences.

There we have it – our Ten Best Places to Ride in the US. Get out there, take one (or more) of these rides, and let us know what you think. Be safe!

 

 

 

2016-08-30T10:10:57+00:00 By |Riding Tips|2 Comments

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  1. Lee August 30, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    Good article Joe! Lots of good advice and photos. You mention the Blue Ridge Parkway has 9 campgrounds, don’t know if you mean National Park campgrounds or m/c campgrounds. Just want to point out that just north of the NC VA line in Meadows of Dan is a m/c only campground called Willville, stone throw from the parkway, soft grassy meadow with a creek running by for tents and a bunkhouse for non-tenters.

    Bikers love curves and many discussions of curves include switchbacks. A friend of mine is a railroad buff and pointed out that switchbacks are for trains, hairpins are for highways. There are no highway switchbacks because a switchback involves a train backing up a hill.

    • Joe Peek August 30, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      Thanks Lee! I respect what your friend has to say; and while Google is not always correct, when you enter the word “switchback” one of the results is this definition – “a 180° bend in a road or path, especially one leading up the side of a mountain.”

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