Top 6 US Motorcycle Trips
Have you always wanted to plan out a big trip on two wheels? Perhaps you’re a seasoned vet looking for an adventure you haven’t yet experienced? Or you’re new to motorcycle riding? Either way, we’ve compiled a list of our top six motorcycle trips across the United States.
6. Tunnel of Trees
Located in Michigan, the Tunnel of Trees is a 22-mile stretch of M-119. The southern entrance is in Harbor Springs. Traveling north along the coast of Lake Michigan, the route ends in Cross Village.
You’ll enter what is quite literally a tunnel of trees, as the dense forest completely surrounds you. You will see old summer cabins and cottages through the thick of the woodlands. On the opposite side, you may catch quick glimpses of the lake shoreline.
The road also has some tight curves and twists. You’ll want to exercise caution while enjoying the sights. About halfway through the route, the forest opens up on one side. The opening gives way to pastures full of grazing deer and hillside vineyards.
Toward the end in Cross Village is Legs Inn. The old-style cabin restaurant with warm lighting is a great place to stop for food and drink. They specialize in Polish food, but also carry a full menu. A garden with superb lake views sits in the back as well.
Since this trip is only 22 miles long, it can serve as a single day’s adventure. It’s possible to get through in under 60 minutes, but you are able to spend a few hours to stop and see the sights if you feel inclined.
We recommend visiting the Tunnel of Trees in the fall. Beginning in October, the forest begins to turn from green to red and gold as the Great Lake State shifts into autumn. However, that’s what we think makes this trip so great. Not only are you immersed in nature inside the tunnel — it can look vastly different depending on what time of the year you visit.
You may even decide to return in the same year!
5. Going-to-the-Sun Road
Within the Rocky Mountains lies Glacier National Park, based in Montana. Located within this park is a 49-mile stretch named Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Running somewhat diagonally, the road begins in West Glacier. Traveling mostly northeast (save for The Loop before Logan Pass), you will end your run in Saint Mary.
There are various breathtaking views on this journey, as this road has it all. You’ll pass towering glaciers, sky-high mountains, open valleys and running waterfalls.
As you continue, you’ll rise to 6,646 feet at the previously mentioned Logan Pass. This route also features tight turns and steep drop offs, so a certain level of caution and awareness is an absolute must.
If you’re an animal fan, all the better. This road features sights of grizzly bears, white-tailed deer, moose, elk, sheep and mountain goats.
There are numerous places to stop and do some hiking, enjoy cliff overlooks or simply just to rest. There are several visitor centers along with Apgar Village toward the beginning of the trip. Not only does Apgar Village feature restaurants, cabins and gift shops, but it also gives you access to Lake McDonald.
This stretch can be completed in about two hours if you are short on time. It’s very easy to make a full day out of it with stops to take it all in, though.
The best time to visit is late June through early October. Since the road is far north in Montana, winter conditions can get so intense that many portions of the road are closed outside of this window.
We love Going-to-the-Sun Road for its variety. The plethora of stunning features that hug the road combined with the sprawling wildlife and elevation truly make it a sight to behold.
4. Pacific Coast Highway
Formally known as California State Route 1, Pacific Coast Highway is a major state highway that runs north-south along the coast of the Golden State. Beginning in the south end, the route starts in Dana Point, slightly south of Los Angeles. Heading north, the 656-mile stretch ends in Leggett, just above San Francisco.
Because this route hugs the coastline, you will see no shortage of beaches on your journey. You’ll pass both Laguna Beach and Long Beach pretty early on. If you’re a golf fan, make sure to check out famous Pebble Beach along the way as well.
If you have plenty of time and are looking for some entertainment along the way, spend some time in Santa Monica. The city’s world-famous pier has its own amusement park, restaurants, and great spots for fishing and sightseeing. Nearby Santa Barbara also features some unique Spanish Colonial architecture that’s worth checking out.
In addition to beaches, you will also witness several mountains on this adventure. As you head past Hearst Castle, elevation rises to 3,280 feet above the Pacific Ocean. You’ll arrive at a rugged section of mountains named Big Sur around this point. Tropic of Cancer famed author Henry Miller described Big Sur as “a place of greatness and eloquent silence.”
There are some neat lighthouses worth exploring on the latter end of the trip if you have the time. Because the very end of the route can move pretty slowly, many riders like to conclude their expedition after riding through San Francisco’s very own Golden Gate Bridge.
Since this trek is quite long, it can’t be completed in a single day. We would recommend at least four days, but you will be able to get the most out of it if you spend a full week. There are plenty of lodging and dining opportunities along the route, so look for what interests you once you know how many days to allow yourself.
Journey out to the Pacific Coast Highway between late spring and early fall. Early spring, late fall and winter can all bring cold and rainy conditions, and possibly even snow in some parts.
Riding the Pacific Coast Highway is a great way to go on a true motorcycle adventure. This gives you the opportunity to see a collection of diverse views and even seek out some entertainment options across an entire week.
3. Three Sisters
Also referred to as “Twisted Sisters,” the Three Sisters are a trio of Texas county roads that connect to form a 100-mile loop. The featured roads are Ranch-to-Market (RM) Roads 335, 336 and 337.
This campaign begins on RM 337 in Medina, slightly NW of San Antonio. You’ll head west towards Leakey, where the loop begins. Go north on RM 336 until you reach Route 41, and you’ll soon find RM 335. Head south towards Camp Wood, then slightly east back towards Leakey to complete the loop.
The sisters boast just about all that Texas has to offer when it comes to scenery. You’ll pass rivers, canyons, hills, cliffs and even real Texas ranches. Not only can you see free-range cattle, deer and wild pigs roam the ranches; you may find them venturing out towards the roadways as well.
You should always be aware and cautious on a motorcycle, but especially so here. The sisters feature many tight, twisted curves (65 in one 15-mile section), plus steep cliff drop offs. The previously mentioned animals interfering with the roadway is no joke, either. You will see warning signs informing you of rider fatalities on this road — take them seriously.
The length of this adventure can vary depending on your preference. If you want to be done after completing the loop in Leakey, you will travel about 130 miles. If you wish to return to Medina where you started, your total journey will run about 170 miles.
The sisters do offer some lodging opportunities, most notably in Leakey, Lakehills and Rio Frio. The Lone Star Motorcycle Museum in Vanderpool featuring over 60 bikes is also worth exploring.
This odyssey is able to be completed in about four hours without stopping, but you can easily spend two or three days if you choose a slower pace with an overnight stop or two.
The sisters are located far enough south in Texas that the ride is manageable year-round. However, winters can still be chilly, and summers will be hot and very possibly muggy. Either spring or fall are your best bet.
We appreciate the challenge that the Three Sisters present to riders. Not only do the tight twists and turns raise awareness, but so do the presence of live animals in your path. The Texas atmosphere and landscape are also remarkable.
2. Route 66
An original highway in the US Numbered Highway System, Route 66 is the longest trip on our list. The “Main Street of America” begins in Chicago, Illinois and stretches 2,278 miles all the way to Santa Monica, California. The road also travels through an additional six states.
There are an abundance of sights to see along this cross-country voyage. You will pass plenty of unique accommodations along the way. Some of these include sleepy motels with neon signs, family-owned diners and old-school gas stations.
Additionally, you will still receive some scenic views of nature. Cornfields, canyons and national parks can be seen along your way, including Petrified Forest National Park in NE Arizona. Among many other offerings, this park features displays of 225-million-year-old fossils.
If you’re more interested in seeing landmarks instead of parks, Route 66 provides a good deal of those as well. The 630-foot-tall Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri can provide a possible stop along your journey.
As you head into the southwest states, you’ll enter some Native American communities in their indigenous homelands. In Arizona, most notably the city of Oatman, the streets are filled with wild burros and donkeys, too! Most of them are friendly, but typically hungry. If you’re interested in feeding and interacting with them, some shops around town sell burro food at an affordable price.
Since you travel well over 2,000 miles and through eight different states on Route 66, it would be ideal to give yourself about two weeks to complete the trip. It’s possible to complete it sooner, but you would be missing out on much that this historic road has to offer.
The best seasons to ride Route 66 are spring and fall. Winter can cause severe conditions that require partial shutdowns along the route. Summers can carry intense heat waves, lots of rain and potential flooding. Spring and fall consistently provide much better weather quality.
In addition to all that can be seen and experienced along Route 66, we especially love the rich history embedded in it. Hundreds of thousands of Middle Americans affected by the Dust Bowl in the 1930s migrated west on Route 66 to start new lives. Author John Steinbeck labeled Route 66 as the “Mother Road” in his 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath.
1. The Dragon
Also known as “The Tail of the Dragon,” our no. 1 trip on this list is also the shortest.
The Dragon starts in Deals Gap at the North Carolina/Tennessee state border. Traveling 11 miles north on US Highway 129, your quest ends at Chilhowee Lake in Tennessee.
Situated within the Smoky Mountains, The Dragon does give way to some splendid views of mountains, rivers and a hydroelectric dam built around 1930. You may also encounter some wild boars, bears, turkey and deer.
It would be nice to focus all of your attention on the landscape and creatures, but you will need to pay very close attention to the road the entire time. Despite The Dragon being just 11 miles long, it presents 318 curves and turns of all shapes and sizes. It is intense the entire way.
It will take you about 30 minutes to conquer The Dragon. The speed limit is 30 miles an hour, so it should be enjoyed rather than rushed. To extend your trip to The Dragon, consider a stop at the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort at the North Carolina end. Within the resort are rooms to stay in, a restaurant, gas station and a campground.
Right across the street is the Tail of the Dragon Store, where you can purchase clothing and other souvenirs. You can’t miss it, as a gigantic metal sculpture of a dragon crushing a motorcycle with its tail stands out front.
April through October is the most optimal time to attempt The Dragon. The road can be too dangerous at times during the winter.
The Dragon may just be the most exhilarating motorcycle ride you’ll ever take. Some have even claimed it’s more thrilling than a roller coaster! There are no stop signs, traffic lights or intersections to clutter up The Dragon. Just you, your motorcycle and open road.
Which trips are more appealing to you? Short, intense roads? Or long journeys with much to see and experience over several days?
Have you traveled along any of these roads before? Did one of these entries spark your interest to take a trip? Are we missing one of your favorite adventures?
Let us know in the comments below!
If you’ve thought about getting into motorcycles for a certain destination or want to upgrade your current ride, it never hurts to take a look at what’s out there.