Top 5 Motorcycle Trips you Must Take: Essential Rides for Every Skill Level|
You don’t have to own a motorcycle to dream about the top 5 motorcycle trips you must take, but it certainly helps.
An epic motorcycle trip requires a couple of must-haves: scenic views and challenging curves. And boy, do we have those for you listed below!
Our list touches on five of the best motorcycle trips and roads in the United States, along with the time you might spend, some side trips worth the effort, and the recommended skill level you should possess.
Can you guess what journeys we picked from these states?
Texas: Three Sisters, or Twisted Sisters
|Route(s)||FM 335,336 and 337|
|Starting Point||Bandera or Medina, TX|
|Pros||Scenic beauty, Advanced ridership|
|Suggested Rider Ability||Advanced|
|Highlights||Devil’s Sinkhole, Lost Maples State Park, Leakey, Camp Wood, Lone Star Motorcycle Museum in Vanderpool, Stonehenge II, Kerrville, San Antonio|
Known either as the Three Sisters or the Twisted Sisters (or even the Three Twisted Sisters), the sisters are in fact a trio of country ranch roads in the Texas Hill Country, northeast of San Antonio. The roads are labeled FM (Farm to Market, we had to look it up) 335, 336 and 337. Three Sisters is home to several steep canyons, multiple corners, cattle guards, and occasional livestock or wildlife, the route is definitely suited for advanced riders.
The general route takes you west on 337 from Medina to Vanderpool, then north on 336 from Leakey to Hwy 41. Head west on 41, then south on 335 toward Barksdale and Camp Wood, then east back onto 337 toward Leakey again.
While most riders complete the trip in a single day, the trip can easily be expanded to multiple days by camping or renting a motel room along the route. Part of the allure of the trek includes some of the stops along the way, including the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum in Vanderpool, the Devil’s Sinkhole in Rocksprings, and of course some good ol’ Texas Bar-B-Que at Keese’s in Medina.
California: State Route 1, a.k.a. Pacific Coast Highway
|Route(s)||State Route 1|
|Point A||Leggett, CA|
|Point B||Dana Point, CA|
|Time||3 to 5 days|
|Pros||Beautiful scenic coastal ride, lots of gentle turns, great attractions along the way|
|Cons||Length of ride, weather, detours, some high-traffic areas|
|Suggested Rider Ability||Beginner|
|Highlights||Golden Gate Bridge, Big Sur, Santa Monica Pier|
“Pacific Coast Highway” can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people: A song, a state of mind, a road trip.
But when riders talk about the Pacific Coast Highway, what they are typically referring to is California State Route 1, a 655-mile highway that runs along the Pacific coastline from northern California to Los Angeles. Construction on SR 1 started in the 1930s, and by the 1960s, the official route was established from Leggett in the north to Dana Point in the south.
Riders can jump on SR 1 any time of the year, but fall is a preferred season as the weather is typically more stable, especially in northern California. SR 1 is suitable for beginner riders, but beware of changes in the weather, detours caused by landslides, and traffic in the bigger cities, especially San Francisco and Greater Los Angeles.
Plan on a minimum of three days and two nights for the San Francisco to L.A. portion of the ride. This will allow you time to take in some of the sights along the way, although most guidebooks recommend at least five days to get the full PCH experience.
Highlights along the route are almost too numerous to mention, but here are a few of the most notable: Point Reyes National Seashore, Golden Gate Bridge, Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Big Sur, Elephant Seal Vista, Santa Barbara, Malibu, The Getty, Santa Monica Pier, Dana Point.
Of course, there’s no rule about where you start or end your SR 1 adventures. Day trips of 100- to 150-miles are easily planned, especially if you already live in California. For instance, the 123-mile segment from Monterey to Morrow Bay was highlighted in National Geographic in 2010.
For those looking for a longer, once-in-a-lifetime adventure, several motorcycle tour companies offer a 1,700-mile, 11-day trek starting in Portland, OR, and terminating in Long Beach, with an average of about 150 miles ridden per day. These trips typically follow Highway 101 as well as SR 1.
Montana & Wyoming: Beartooth Highway
|Also known as||Beartooth Highway, Beartooth Pass, or Beartooth All-American Road|
|Point A||Red Lodge, MT|
|Point B||Cooke City, MT|
|Pros||Scenic views, great roads, little traffic|
|Cons||Closed seasonally, remote location|
|Suggested Rider Ability||Intermediate to advanced|
|Nearby||Yellowstone National Park, Custer Gallatin National Forest, Cody, WY|
One of the best get-away-from-it-all roads on our list is Beartooth Highway. How “away-from-it-all” is it? The epic 68-mile route starts more than an hour southwest of Billings, MT, and is closed during the winter.
The adventure kicks off in Red Lodge, MT on Highway 212. Follow it southwest for about 13 miles, before beginning a series of switchbacks that take you up to Vista Point at an elevation of 9,190 ft. Continuing, you’ll dip into Wyoming for half the trip, where you’ll want to take advantage of some amazing photo opportunities at stops along the way including Beartooth Pass Vista (a mere 10,947 ft. in elevation), Yellowstone Overlook and Crazy Creek Falls.
The trip requires careful planning and preparation because of its remote nature and potential for bad weather any time of the year. Road elevation on the trip ranges from 7,300 ft. to 11,000 ft., meaning snow is likely to be piled by the side of the road even into early summer. There are some shops and eateries along the way, so plan a full day of travel.
In total, the route takes you past 20 peaks higher than 12,000 feet. With multiple hairpin curves, sheer drop-offs, and guardrails that seem underqualified for the job, it can be a harrowing ride in parts. Most guides indicate an intermediate to advanced skill level is recommended.
Virginia and North Carolina: Blue Ridge Parkway
|Point A||Afton, VA|
|Point B||Cherokee, NC|
|Time||3 to 7 days|
|Pros||Great scenery, good roads, no trucks|
|Cons||45 mph speed limit, popular, blind curves|
|Suggested Rider Ability||Beginner|
|Nearby||Shenandoah National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park|
From the highest highs to the deepest depths to staggering beauty, the Blue Ridge Parkway has rightly earned its nickname of “America’s Favorite Drive.” This 469-mile route spans the southern and central Appalachians and effectively connects Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Did we mention the whole route is 469 miles? As with the PCH, the length of your trip will depend largely on how much time you’re willing to explore and how much seat time you’re able to endure. The Blue Ridge Parkway Association breaks the parkway into sections, each averaging about 3 hours of actual seat time. Plan on no less than three days or up to seven days to travel the entire length of the parkway.
The sweeping corners and amazing vistas are almost non-stop. In fact, there are approximately 200 overlooks along the way. The parkway also passes some of the most impressive geography in the east: Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in the eastern U.S., New River, the oldest river in North America, Linville Gorge, the deepest gorge east of the Grand Canyon, and Whitewater Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Rockies.
The two-lane road can be challenging simply because of the amount of traffic during the busiest times of the year, and the weather can be an ever-present hazard. Wildlife can also present issues, but lower speeds make accident avoidance easier.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is definitely motorcycle friendly, and there are plenty of tips for riders and all visitors on the BRPA’s website.
North Carolina and Tennessee: Tail of the Dragon
|Point A||Deals Gap, NC|
|Point B||Tabcat Bridge (Tennessee)|
|Time||1:15 to 1:45 avg.|
|Pros||318 curves, no intersections or driveways, like-minded riders and sports car enthusiasts|
|Cons||Often crowded, wrecks and fatalities, heavy law enforcement presence|
|Suggested Rider Ability||Advanced|
|Nearby||Cherohala Skyway, Blue Ridge Parkway|
Officially known as US-129, the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap is our choice for top motorcycle ride in the country.
Why is this road the perennial favorite of everyone who writes a blog about motorcycles? Quite simply, it’s where challenge meets scenery.
Tail of the Dragon packs in a whopping 318 curves into just 11 miles of scenic twists and turns, with no intersections or driveways to add to the already prodigious challenges at hand.
This road has long been a popular spot with motorcyclists of all types (touring, sports bikes, cruisers—you name it), as well as sports cars. While the road is open 365, it’s most popular once the temps hit 70 and above and the weekend riders (and drivers) flock to the area.
The Dragon, as many call it, crosses the North Carolina/Tennessee border. The Largest nearby cities are Chattanooga, TN (122 miles), Knoxville, TN (55 miles) and Asheville, NC (105 miles).
Tip: Never cross the double-yellow line.
What to Ride?
With so many amazing motorcycles on the market, it would be tough to choose just one. In the touring category alone, sports tourers like the BMW R1200RT or Yamaha FJR1300 definitely fit the bill for their blend of comfort, handling, and touring accessories. For some of the longer journeys below, a classic tourer like a Harley-Davidson Road Glide or an Indian Roadmaster would be ideal.
You probably won’t see us on our café racer, but who’s to stop you from saddling up one of the latest dual-sport/adventure bikes? Not us!
Whatever you ride, just make sure your bike is in great running order and that you’re prepared for the unexpected. After all, the best protection is preparation!
Tips for Planning a Motorcycle Trip
Even for the motorcycle trips mentioned above that are well-documented across the internet and elsewhere, there is still a significant amount of planning that needs to go into your trip.
There are a number of factors to take into consideration, such as how to get to your starting point, how many stops will you have to make along the way, what do you need to take with you, and so on.
Here are some of the things you’ll want to consider before you hit the road:
- Is your motorcycle in good shape?
- Pick a destination
- Determine your bike’s MPG
- Decide how long you can ride in a day
- Pick side trips or points of interest to explore
- Find places to eat and get gas
- Plan for sleep on longer trips
- Check the weather
- Share your itinerary
Many riders may think that these tips might spoil the fun of simply hopping on your bike and going. Fair enough. But for riders who are just getting into longer tours, it’s important to understand all the minutiae that goes into a successful trek. Eventually, these tips will find their way into your subconscious, and you won’t need to take notes on how many miles you can go on a tank of gas or estimate how much time you’ll need to take photos. It’ll just … HAPPEN!
Time to Ride and Go on The Top 5 Motorcycle Trips
What’s your favorite motorcycle trip? Did we touch on one of your bucket list rides or are you fuming that we didn’t mention Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi and Tennessee or the Tunnel of Trees in Michigan? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll weigh them in a future blog. In the meantime, happy riding!
When you’re off the road, check out how to store a motorcycle properly.
P.S. If you need storage for your motorcycle, keep us in mind. With affordable rates and month-to-month rentals, Store Space has your secure motorcycle storage solutions for those times you aren’t riding!
Writer who also enjoys cars, guitars and Mars bars.