The great, big open roads of the US make it the perfect destination to head to if you are a keen motorcyclist looking for a chance to blow away the cobwebs and get some decent mileage under your belt while on two wheels. Here, in this guide to the top 10 motorcycle rides in North America, we look at the best places to head both in terms of breathtaking scenery, great stretches of highway, and parts of road that really challenge a driver’s skill. All will make for a fantastic experience, the only hard part will be deciding which drive to go on first.
Route 101, California
This is the classic West coast motorcycle ride that even non motorcyclists will have heard about. This is for good reason, bearing in mind that the part that runs from Carmel to Morro bay, stays glued to the side of the coast with its expansive views of the Pacific while crossing over some pretty steep ravines on classic bridges that are often seen on postcards advertising California as a holiday destination. This section of road is known as the Big Sur portion of route 101 and while it is popular in the Summer months, it is fairly quiet off season, yet the driving conditions can be perfect.
If this stretch of the road, which is about 120 miles long, is not enough for you, it is very easy to extend your journey as route 101 goes almost as far as the Californian coast itself. While its not short of twists and turns, and speeds should be kept down to an appropriate level, its an easy enough road to follow and will definitely tick off something on your bucket list.
Going to the Sun Road, Montana
Montana may not be a particularly well inhabited state, but it does provide some of the prettiest scenery you can find in the States, if not the world. This Montana road is quite remote, so it may not be for everyone, but for people who want to get away from it all and barely see another person when they get on the back of their bike, it is a perfect option. While it is only available in the Summer months, the 50 mile stretch is well worth a visit.
It twists and turns throughout the short stretch of tarmac but it manages to pass some breathtaking sights in that short space. If you choose to follow the Going to the Sun road, you’ll see Glacier National Park, Lake McDonald and a view at Logan Pass that will make you think you are on top of the world. Logan Pass sits at 6,646 ft above sea level so it’s a big climb. You can also stop in at Jackson Glacier where you may be able to see bighorn sheep or mountain goats if you are lucky.
Coastal Highway 1, Maine
Maine may be the most North Easterly state, but it sure has its fair share of stunning coastline which makes it perfect for those looking for East Coast motorcycle rides. The particular stretch of highway in question here is the 170 miles from Kittery to Bucksport, but it is an easy enough road to make many a worthwhile detour on due to the huge amount of quaint little towns there are, full of interesting little boutiques and antique shops. Plus, those that love Lobster will want to stop every time they pull up to a new town, given the amount of lobster shacks dotted around.
What is great about this part of the world for motorcyclists are all the peninsulas that are far more easy to explore on the back of a motorbike than they are in car, plus, riders can even chance their hand at taking a ferry to Nova Scotia, should the fancy take them.
Peak to Peak Highway, Colorado
Colorado is another state known for its beauty due to what seems to be supersized type scenery, but this stretch of road is only short. In fact, it is not even 60 miles long. However, in that short distance, riders will be challenged by all the twists of the road while also being entertained by some of that classic Colorado scenery that will make each rider want to get off their bike at every turn to take in the new viewpoint that they have been afforded.
Part of those views are the awe inspiring Rocky Mountains which can be seen when passing the Continental Divide before entering the very heart of Rocky Mountain National park. This in itself is reason enough for starting this trip, but the road also passes through valleys created by glaciers as well as going past some alpine meadows that explode with color in the Spring. Moose and elk are quite common here, so riders should keep their speeds as low as possible to prevent any nasty accidents.
River Road, Texas
Choosing a road in Texas is hard owing to its colossal size, however, the section of Highway 170 that is called the River Road, is hard to beat. It runs between Candelaria and Presidio and it is aptly called the River Road as it closely follows Rio Grande right through the desert. It makes for pretty spectacular viewing, even though most people immediately think that lthe top motorcycle trips in the US are either East coast motorcycle rides, or a West coast motorcycle trip.
This does, however, make it less well known and therefore far less frequented which can make for some fantastic riding conditions if you go before the Texan sun gets too hot in the Summer. There are some great attractions to see along the way like the Contrabando Movie set, or the ghost town called Terlingua. There is also the spectacular Closed Canyon that is well worth a look.
Highway 12, Utah
This particular ride concerns the 124 miles between Bryce Canyon National Park and Capitol Reef National park. It’s a must see for any motorcyclist owing to the dream like sandstone rock formations, immense canyons, expansive lakes as well as pine forests that go on forever. It really does tick many a box for people who like their scenery big and bold. The specific sights you will see are the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Red Canyon in Dixie National Forest and, of course, Boulder Mountain.
For those that always want to hug the coasts on their drives, this is the ride that will change their mind. The scenery is awe inspiring and the roads are fairly easy to traverse, though there are enough technical parts that will keep experienced riders interested. Plus, it tends to be a less well travelled road than some other highways that bridge National Parks. It’s a good one to get your teeth into.
Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia
This mountain lined stretch of road has to be seen to be believed, plus if you are keen Civil War fan, it will go past a number of different battle sites that were part of the war in the Virginia section of this must do ride. When motorcyclists get further south, and start to approach North Carolina, the Great Smokey mountains appear and the road then climbs them. The road has many twists and turns in this section of the ride, but the slower speeds that these turns require are not only necessary, they also provide opportunity to take in the scenery, which is nothing short of heavenly. In fact, the powers that be have installed a 45 mile per hour speed limit so that everyone, even those who know the road well, slows down. The peak of this section of the drive is at Asheville in North Carolina.
However, the ride can be continued if you would like as there is a long 105 mile ride through Skyline Drive which is part of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
Tail of the Dragon, North Carolina and Tennessee
This is one of America’s most famous routes given that it has been the center of so many films or TV series over the years. Starting in North Carolina and moving off into Tennessee, so not quite a West coast motorcycle trip, but stunning all the same, riders keen to go on the Tail of the Dragon journey will find it mapped out as US 129. This particular part of highway 129 is just 11 miles long, but in that short distance it manages to fit in a massive 318 turns. It is definitely not, therefore, one for the faint hearted. In fact, the turns are so tight, that trucks are not allowed on this stretch of road.
However, those with enough bravado will love how the road tests their motorcycling skills as well as the chance to say they have ridden the Tail of the Dragon which spans Deal’s Gap which is at the border of Tennessee and North Carolina.
Beartooth Highway, Montana and Wyoming
Beartooth Highway is a truly stunning, once in a lifetime type motorcycle bike ride that every avid cyclist should attempt. It is on Highway 212 and the best bits start in Montana at Red Lodge. It then takes all drivers and riders up an exceedingly scenic route that climbs to almost 11,000 feat. It is full of twists and turns, hair pins and switchbacks. Those that do not like constantly zig zagging on their motorbike, should perhaps look for another route.
This would be a great shame however, as the views that those who do choose to take this route are spellbinding. Riders will go across the Custer as well the famous Shoshone National Forests. The high altitude means that riders eventually even go above the tree line where they will be able to see snow capped mountain tops that are beautifully reflected in many lakes.
The route eventually ends in Cooke City, having taken a southwesterly direction which is just about where Yellowstone National Park can be entered.
Top of the World Highway, Alaska and Canada
While not all of this trip is in the US, the part of Alaska that it does span is spectacular, as is the Canadian section of the trip. It is only 79 miles long, but well worth the visit North to see this road entitled Top of the World highway which will challenge a motorcyclist, though the result is well worth it. It is a quiet stretch of road so there is a feeling of having America’s biggest state almost all to yourself.
A good place to start the ride itself is on the Canadian side of the board in Dawson city. By the end of almost 80 miles, you will have ended up at Chicken, Alaska and will be very much in need of a break. However, it is possible to keep riding for another 80 miles to Tok, which is further south.
The ride has no shortage of hills that afford breathtaking vistas and it really does make you feel like you are on top of the world. It is probably best to choose this route in the Summer months.
The Bottom Line
So there you have it, the our top rated, top ten motorcycle rides in North America. Ticking them all of your to do list may take a while but no motorcyclist will regret going on that West coast motorcycle trip or repeatedly holidaying by taking part in the beautiful East coast motorcycle rides that the US has to offer. America really is a fantastic and ideal destination for motorbike lovers that are constantly looking for the opportunity to improve their riding skills against some memorable backdrops at the same time.