When it comes to experiencing your surroundings, nothing beats riding a motorcycle. It’s hard to cover much ground on foot, and cars impose a layer of metal and glass between you and the environment. But motorcycles offer the best of both worlds: speed, convenience, and nothing between you and your surroundings but the clothes on your back. And nowhere in the world has more landscapes worth taking in on a bike the United States of America.
If you’re a rider in America, you’re lucky enough to have access to some of the most spectacular rides on the planet. Here’s our list of 10 of the best motorcycle roads in America to get you started on the journey of a lifetime.
1) Beartooth Highway, Montana & Wyoming
A National Scenic Byways All-American Road that was voted the top route in America by the American Motorcyclist Association back in 2011, the Beartooth Highway is the absolute best the Western frontier has to offer. Running from Montana to Northern Wyoming, the 68-mile stretch of the highway known as the Beartooth Pass runs through stunning mountain landscapes before bringing riders to the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. As amazing as the Beartooth Highway is, though, it’s not for beginners; the road features numerous sharp turns, hairpins, and steep elevation changes – often on the edges of even steeper mountain cliffs.
2) Three Sisters, Texas
Known to some as the “Twisted Sisters,” Ranch Roads 335, 335, and 337 in Central Texas’s Hill Country offer riders wide-open views of rolling hills, blue skies, crystal-clear rivers, and postcard-perfect Texas ranches. Get to the Three Sisters via U.S. 83 in Leaky, TX to get to RR336. Pick up Texas 41 westbound to reach RR335 and RR337. 337 connects with U.S. 83, making the loop to be ridden again and again.
3) Needles Highway, South Dakota
Located in South Dakota’s scenic Black Hills, the Needles Highway (also known as South Dakota Highway 87) is popular among riders who visit the yearly Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August. Starting from the city of Custer, SD on SD State Highway 89, you’ll be able to see Mount Rushmore in the distance – pick up 87 to head east toward Sturgis on the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway.
4) New England Lake and Forest Route, Vermont
Take in a little New England scenery on this route through Northern Vermont’s resort country. Head north on VT-100 from the town of Waterbury (passing local landmarks like the Ben & Jerry’s factory and Cabot cheese shop), to find yourself at Lake Eden. Lake Eden is a popular tourist destination – and with good reason. Feel free to stop to take in the scenery or even go for a dip. For more classic New England views, continue past the lake to pick up VT-58 through Hazen’s Notch State Park, a dense forest that’s especially worthwhile when the leaves are at their peak in fall. Pick up VT-118 to head back south, taking in some of Vermont’s most beautiful farmland along the way.
5) California State Route 1, California
Maybe no other road is on as many “best of” lists as California’s State Route 1. An All-American Road that runs the length of the Pacific Coast from Southern California through Washington State, this is a route that offers scenery like nowhere else in the world – especially along the Central Coast and Big Sur. If you want to take the highway from start to finish (it’s on many a bucket list), be warned that you’ll be running through a wide variety of elevations, temperatures, and climates. Take the proper precautions and make sure you’re prepared for such a long-distance ride.
6) San Juan Skyway, Colorado
A list of the best rides in America would be incomplete without a nod to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The San Juan Skyway is a 233-mile loop in Southwestern Colorado that cuts through the San Juan range of the Rockies. Comprised of U.S. Highway 160, State Highway 145, and State Highway 62, the San Juan Skyway offers breathtaking mountain scenery along with opportunities to stop at historic Old West locations like Cortez, Durango, and Silverton. Also of note – the “Million Dollar Highway,” a 25-mile stretch of the loop with a reputation as the most beautiful stretch of road in the country.
7) Tail of the Dragon, North Carolina
A part of the Deals Gap mountain pass on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, the Tail of the Dragon is an 11-mile stretch of U.S. 129 with a whopping 318 curves, hairpins, and switchbacks. The Tail of the Dragon isn’t for amateurs or for the faint of heart, though – accidents are so common that locals have adorned a “Tree of Shame” with motorcycle parts from those who tried and failed to conquer the Dragon. Not up for the challenge? There’s plenty more to ride in the area.
8) The Tunnel of Trees, Michigan
With respect to New England, some of the finest foliage in the country is found along Michigan’s state route M-119, also known as the Tunnel of Trees. Lined with shops, farms, vineyards, and dense trees that create a virtual roof of leaves and branches, the Tunnel of Trees route offers the total package: plenty to see and do. Start your journey in the town of Harbor Springs to pick up M-119 northbound. From there, simply stay the course and enjoy the ride.
9) Grand Tour of the Catskills, New York
A great ride for Northeasterners who want to get away from the bustle of the I-95 corridor, this trip brings riders through Upstate New York’s famous Catskills, with gorgeous views of forests, lakes, and rivers. Start in the city of Kingston and head west on NY-28 along Kenozia Lake. Turn onto NY-42 for a quaint detour through the small towns of Prattsville, Grand Gorge, Davenport, and Oneonta, or stay on NY-28 to head straight to Oneonta. From there, take NY-357 W to Franklin-Walton Road, heading south toward the scenic foothills of the Catskill Mountains. We recommend exploring the backroads yourself to make the most of this classic slice of Americana (with a GPS handy just in case).
10) The Grand Canyon, Arizona
As amazing as these other nine rides are, nothing comes close to the Grand Canyon. Possibly the only natural wonder on Earth that one truly has to see to believe, the Grand Canyon also makes for one heck of a road trip. Start 80 miles southeast of the Canyon in the city of Flagstaff, then head north on US-89N. Take in the sights of Arizona’s richly-colored desert, then take AZ-64 westbound to get to the Canyon. After about 30 miles on AZ-64 you’ll reach the East Entrance of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. There’s a $25 entry fee for motorcycles, but it’s worth every penny. Once in the park feel free to explore – there are numerous museums, lookout points, and scenic roads to occupy your time.