I’m not ranking these in any particular order. I’m not using any special scoring system to say one is better than the other. These are great rides and stand on their own as beautiful road for riding and/or enjoying the scenery. They are rides I recommend.
The first ride on my list may be one of the most boring. It’s a simple straight line through the beautiful Florida Keys to Key West. You have to do it. It is amazing as you cruise over the water with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. Seven-mile bridge is beautiful with turquoise and blue waters surrounding you. Key West has it’s own charm and includes the southern most point in the USA. You won’t regret this tropical adventure.
The Cherohala Skyway is a choice of many riders. It combines incredible scenic beauty with twists and turns that rival the Tail of the Dragon. It is easily one of the most beautiful rides in eastern USA. Plan on stopping at one of the many parking areas to enjoy the views.
While we’re in the neighborhood, put the Blue Ridge Parkway on your list. Doing the entire parkway will take two or three days, depending on how much fun you have at the stops. Asheville is a must and Roanoke is another great location. If you want side trips, there are lots of local adventures including caves to explore. Many riders make this a week-long vacation to enjoy all the side roads that compete for beauty and riding.
This area has many great areas to ride. On the Blue Ridge you end in Waynesboro heading north. Coincidentally, that’s where you can begin the Shenandoah Skyway all the way to Front Royal. This beautiful National Park has great riding and vistas that make you forget you’re still in eastern USA. Another great vacation concept, you can scoot over to Washington, DC from the north end in just an hour.
Before we leave these mountains, we have to mention the Tail of the Dragon. More of a riders’ road, it is one that every rider wants to say they have completed. Speed limits have made this a much tamer, safer ride (much to the sorrow of speedsters), but it has saved a few lives. 318 curves in just 11 miles means you are paying more attention to the road than anywhere else. It’s a sort of bucket list thing you have to do to say you did it.
The Coudersport Pike runs from Lock Haven to Coudersport in Pennsylvania. It’s a great mountain road that rides up the center of the state and is among many rides that you can enjoy. Growing up in Lock Haven, I had the opportunity to ride some of these, but there are more I’d like to explore, too.
We did a lot of riding out west, but the one road we spent the most time on was the Pacific Coast Highway from just south of San Francisco heading north. We love this road as it goes through varied topologies, but mostly twisting cliffs along the Pacific Ocean that compete for your attention to the road. This is required riding for anyone’s bucket list. The turn off roads to head east are many and all fantastic. Our two favorite east west roads would be Old La Honda (just west of Mountain View) and Mountain View Road north of Point Arena. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Page Mill Road, too. Again, there are so many roads in this area that you can ride every day and not do the same adventure twice.
Heading south on the PCH, you enter Big Sur. Absolutely beautiful if it’s not dark or foggy. I’ve been there and done that. The road winds along the coast through dense forest with beautiful views. One of my favorite side roads here is Nacimiento-Ferguson Road. This road will twist your mind all the way to the top where you can overlook the ocean over a thousand feet below. Watch the video from about 1:00 until we get to the top. Unbelievable and the view is awesome!
Take the roads you choose to get there, but visit Crater Lake. The area is fantastic for riding and the lake is the most spectacular blue you will ever see. The road around the crater is nice and full of pull-offs to look at the lake. Your choice of routes to get there is endless. There are so many great rides in this area.
This is a double treat opportunity that I’ve done at least four times. I’ve always called it my Top of the World Triple Play. We start in South Tahoe on the lake. Yeah, that’s a bucket list by itself and taking US 50 from Sacramento is a pain until you get out of the city and then it’s pure beauty on US 50. Riding north from South Tahoe into Nevada (almost 3 miles), you turn right onto Kingsbury Grade. This road goes practically straight up until you reach the top and look over many miles of glacially created valleys. At the top you start switchbacks down and notice the mountain next to you has the same format… and then you end up there! It’s a fantastic start, but then there’s more.
Riding south we find CA89. This is easy to miss so pay attention. The road meanders along a creek for miles and you don’t notice you’re changing elevation until your round a curve and say OMG!!! Again, you’re up in the air on top of the world looking 80 miles in each direction. The first time I did this there were thunderstorms crossing the snow-capped mountains at least 50 miles to the west. It’s stunning!
Finally, we continue south on US395 to Lee Vining. Just past one of our favorite restaurants there, you find a right hand turn that takes you directly into Yosemite National Park. After riding several miles, you hit the park entrance. The views on the way in are great. After entering the park, you ride a few miles and there will be a parking area on the left that is so high in the mountains that you can easily see El Capitain and Half Dome. That’s your third top of the world experience before descending to places like Angel Veil Falls.
Another Triple-Play ride that I like is out west. In fact, I think this one is hard to beat. We start our ride in Buffalo, WY, a beautiful small town that we enjoyed greatly. We got out early and rode north on I-90 to US-14 for Dayton. We enter the first section as we ride Bighorn National Forest. This has some great riding at both ends and a vista that stretches as far as you can see on the west end.
Heading west, you drive across Bighorn Lake on an earthen bridge. We leave Alt-US-14 at WY-294 west of Ralston, onto WY-72 for Belfry and then WY-308 headed to Red Lodge. I recommend you eat something there as you won’t want to stop for food for the rest of the ride. Red Lodge is the east end of America’s Most Beautiful Highway, Beartooth Pass. This road has it all. Spectacular switchbacks and vistas the challenge any Alpine ride in the USA. While it has all the markings of a challenging ride, the road is paved and well maintained. The switchbacks aren’t competitive and in reality, any rider with a few years experience can easily do this ride. It is a section of road you will talk about for the rest of your life. It is amazing!
Coming down the west end of Beartooth Highway, it flattens out as you ride into Cooke City. US-212 then enters Yellowstone National Park! Like WOW! This is a one-day ride!!! Now, we don’t explore a lot of the park on this day, but you will love the ride past Tower Junction heading west on Grand Loop towards Gardiner, you stop at the end of the day. You’ll have time to clean up and dine out before turning in. You’ll have the most incredible day of riding to talk about and photos that you will actually print to put on your walls. This is the best one-day Triple-Play ride I’ve ever planned.
These are a few of my top rides. I’m sure over the next 40 days of riding I’ll discover a few more that are immeasurably fantastic! There should be some honorable mentions for places like Milner Pass, Flaming Gorge, Grand Tetons, Carson Pass, Sequoia National Forest, Avenue of the Giants, and countless side road features like Natural Bridge and countless waterfalls. This is your country and it is beautiful by motorcycle. Get out and ride. Take a look as our upcoming planned rides, too.