Nearly a quarter of a million members of the AMA voted in 2018 for the best motorcycling roads in the United States with entries via the organisation’s website. I’ve filled out the information about the 15 winners with details from other sources and my own experience. See what you think.
- Washington Route 129 and Oregon Route 3, Clarkston, Wash., to Enterprise, Ore.
State Route 129 (SR 129) is a state highway in Asotin County, Washington. Leaving Clarkston, Washington, it climbs rapidly up a series of switchbacks with a track-quality surface and many open curves – sort of a warm-up for the more serious stuff to come. Once on the plateau, it races straight ahead through farm country to the 4,500 ft Rattle Snake Summit, from which the descent is through technical turns and sweepers to the valley floor where it crosses the Grande Ronde River, races across the valley floor, and ascends to the plateau through another series curves and switchbacks. Back on the plateau, it courses through fir forests and open range grazing lands, ending in Enterprise, Oregon. There is no gas for 77 miles between Clarkston and Enterprise.
- Ohio Route 170, Calcutta to Poland.
The best section of this road starts going out of Calcutta, Ohio. It is a state route that has excellent surface and the turns give this an almost gives a ‘tail of the dragon’ feel, and in the fall, the foliage is great! Its curves are mainly of the sweeper variety. You will eventually run into some railroad tracks; a dual set of tracks “will put a hurtin on a bike if hit fast”. Be aware that Poland is notorious for being a speed trap.
- California Route 58, McKittrick to Santa Margarita.
This is a highway across the California Coast Ranges, the southern San Joaquin Valley, the Tehachapi Mountains, the southern Sierra Nevada, and the Mojave Desert. Light traffic, great roads, cool views and good food at both ends make these 71 miles of Highway 58 a ride not to be missed. The asphalt is not at great state but do not become disappointed. Traffic is non-existent. The road was built in the 1930s. Avoid the part east of McKittrick.
- US Route 33, Harrisonburg, Va., to Seneca Rocks, W.Va.
US Route 33 runs for 709 miles from northern Indiana to Richmond, Virginia, passing through Ohio and West Virginia. It has been compared to the Tail of the Dragon by those who have ridden it, for its twists and turns, amazing switchbacks and blind corners. This ride is great for cruisers but even better for sport bike riders. Traffic on Route 33 is often light, but it’s best to ride in the early morning. Not recommended in the rain as it can be dangerous due to rocks and dirt washing up on the roadway.
- Natchez Trace Parkway, from Natchez, Miss., to Nashville, Tenn.
The Trace is a 444-mile drive through exceptional scenery and 10,000 years of North American history. One of the easier and more leisurely rides on our list, it follows a centuries-old pathway through the woods of Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee that was originally used by prehistoric animals, then Native Americans, and, eventually, settling Europeans. A more serene ride is hard to find, and trucks are banned, as is advertising.
- Angeles Crest Highway, California Route 2.
The road straddles Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. It is one of the most scenic drives in the USA. The road is totally paved and two-lane all the way. The road is 64 miles long through the San Gabriel Mountains, running from La Cañada Flintridge to State Highway 138 east of Wrightwood. Along the way you can enjoy pure Alpine scenery just minutes from downtown Los Angeles. The scenic byway winds its way through the Angeles National Forest, through chaparral, and montane forest habitats, along the highest and most scenic ridges of the San Gabriel mountain range. The road is in excellent condition and much of it is new, but it can be treacherous. Lots of twists, sweeping curves and switchbacks. It is normally closed in winter from Islip Saddle to Vincent Gap due to rockfall and avalanche hazards.
- US Route 12, Lolo Pass, Idaho and Montana.
Lolo Pass is a high mountain pass with an elevation of 5,242ft on the border of Montana and Idaho. Set high in the Bitterroot Range of the northern Rocky Mountains, the road is totally paved. It’s called the Lewis and Clark Highway. There is little traffic and excellent road surface on this two-lane highway with speed limits 50 miles-per-hour or less with few turnouts and limited opportunities to pass. The pass road is 134 miles long, running east-west from Lolo (in Missoula County) to Kooskia (in Idaho County). There are very few services along this route.
- California Route 36.
Stretching just shy of 250 miles east-to-west between Fortuna and Susanville this road leaves the coast out of the ride entirely, opting instead for a windy mountain route through California’s famous redwoods. It’s not the most difficult of motorcycle roads on our list, but the twists and turns along SR 36’s mountainous path are blind in some places and it can be easy to get distracted by the scenery surrounding the asphalt.
- Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina and Tennessee.
This 43-mile road connects Tellico Plains, Tennessee, to Robbinsville, North Carolina. It stands on its own as a great driving road and many folks like to tackle it as a stand-alone ride. But, if you really want to make the most out of a day’s ride atop your cafe racer or touring motorcycle, you can create a loop out of this road and the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap. It’s a full day – and a difficult one.
- Going-To-The-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana.
An engineering marvel that spans 50 miles of some of the best sights in northwest Montana. Even if Going-To-The-Sun Road wasn’t paved – which it is, smooth as silk – it would still rank amongst the best motorcycle riding roads in the entire world for one simple reason: it’s the only major paved road that goes through Glacier National Park, one of the most beautiful National Parks in the United States. But even if it didn’t go through the park, this road would still be an excellent ride with its smooth asphalt, decent number of fairly difficult twists and turns, and moderate length. It does get very busy; consider riding it early in the morning.
- California Route 1, Pacific Coast Highway.
Okay, we all know this one. It is famous for running along most of California’s coastline. It is both one of the most beautiful and heavily trafficked stretches of pavement in the entire world. It’s an extremely easy ride because of slower-than-average speed limits, the fact that it cuts through a great many small towns and bigger cities. Keep an eye out for your fellow motorists on this road. It’s also important to keep in mind that, while you don’t have to tackle the entire 656-mile stretch, even a short ride requires patience and a good deal of free time for proper enjoyment.
- Million Dollar Highway.
US 550 is one of the nation’s most spectacular rides. Heading south you’ll be on the “outside” with no guardrails. It is part of the San Juan Skyway Colorado Scenic Byway located in Southwest Colorado’s San Juan Mountains and connects Ouray to Silverton. It is a rugged road that can be scary with multiple avalanche paths coming down to road. Originally built in 1883 for use as a toll road, it was rebuilt in the 1920s as a two-lane road. Its three mountain passes of Coal Bank, Molas, and Red Mountain provide 25 miles of tight turns, sheer cliffs, and narrow lanes. It offers some of the most spectacular views in the world. The steep drop-off when you’re heading from Ouray to Silverton can be a bit intimidating, even for the most seasoned riders.
- US Route 129 -The Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap.
With 318 curves in 11 miles, this is often touted as America’s number one motorcycle road. Deals Gap is by far the shortest ride on our entire list, but also the most challenging. Unless you’re extremely experienced onboard a motorcycle, we’d suggest saving this ride for another time because, as you might imagine, this devilish collection of twists and turns can be violently unforgiving to any rider out of their depth (say the 230,000 AMA members).
- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina.
Runs for 469 miles, mostly along the famous Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains and nicknamed “America’s Favorite Drive” for a reason. The road starts right by Shenandoah National Park and ends at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Beside the gorgeous Appalachian scenery, the winding country road is dotted with numerous campsites, orchards, bars and restaurants. Like the Natchez Trace, it is free of advertising and trucks are banned.
- Beartooth Highway, Montana and Wyoming.
Beartooth Highway features breathtaking views of the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains and is the highest paved road in the northern Rocky Mountains. Not only does that mean it is a remote and smooth ride (nigh-untouched asphalt), but it also means it’s one of the best roads on which to lose yourself in the local scenery. Beartooth Highway is sadly closed for several months of the year due to heavy snowfall and freezing conditions. Still, when it is open from the spring through fall, this is definitely one of the most serene rides in America, if not the world.
There you have it. Do you agree? Would you like to add another road or delete one? Let us know