There’s something about motorcycle rides that just isn’t quite the same in a car — the unobscured views, the closeness to nature, the exhilaration of a ribbony mountain highway. Motorcycle rides can take you to places you’d never reach without your own two wheels. In a country like the US, which was made to be explored on the open road, the payoff for that spirit of adventure is highly rewarding.
With over 400 million annual visitors to HotelsCombined, we’ve stacked up a definitive list of the top motorcycle rides in the US. Snaking out across deserts and through mountain ranges, these scenic highways showcase America’s wild back-country beauty, from quiet New England coastal roads to cliff-hugging cruises through the Southwest. Along the way, we’ll point out the desolate ghost towns, astonishing wildlife, and retro-fifties diners that will turn this American road trip into the motorcycle rides of your life.
1. Route 66: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California
Stretching over 2,000 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles, the Mother Road continues to be one of the most well-rounded tours of America’s interior. We’ve discussed the highlights of a Route 66 road trip at length, and you can read a full breakdown of it here. Tracing it from tip to tail could easily take you over two weeks. If you’re pressed for time, though, concentrate your adventure to Arizona’s stretch of the road. Tearing out across the desert past red-rock mesas, this jaw-dropping drive takes you right past Petrified Forest National Park and, of course, the Grand Canyon. To top it all off, there’s plenty of kitschy diners and gloriously tacky tourist traps to entertain you along the way.
- Palo Duro Canyon State Park: Amarillo, Texas: At 120 miles long, this colossal canyon is a must-see in the Texas panhandle, popular for its rust-colored scenery and magnificent rock formations.
- Meramec Caverns: Stanton, Missouri: The biggest cave in the Cave State, this ancient cavern astonishes with its caramel-colored stalactites and pre-Columbian heritage.
- Rialto Square Theatre: Joliet, Illinois: An exuberant display of baroque design, this decorous theater is located just outside of Chicago. Stop by for musicals, plays, and stand up comedy.
Where to Stay: La Posada Hotel
An old pearl of Route 66 history, La Posada has been on an epic journey of its own. Originally designed as the residence of a wealthy Spanish landowner, it was converted into a hotel following the Great Depression. Later gutted and used as the offices of the Santa Fe Railway, the colonial-style property was saved from demolition in 1994 and lovingly restored to its original grandeur. Today, its design pays homage to the heritage of its former owner and the Navajo land on which it stands. Expect warm, rustic accommodation, with hand-carved headboards, patterned rugs, and terracotta tiling. Dine-in at the storied Turquoise Room, a regional restaurant inspired by the private dining car of the same name once favored by Hollywood A-listers traveling between Chicago and Los Angeles.
Star Rating: 3*
Price: USD 144 – USD 188
Guest Rating: 9.0
Address: 303 E. Second Street (Route 66), Winslow, AZ 86047, United States
2. Blue Ridge Parkway: Virginia and North Carolina
Dissecting back-country Virginia and North Carolina, Blue Ridge Parkway traces the history and gorgeous landscapes. There’s a 45-mile-an-hour speed limit here, meaning that you can roll on lazily as you revel in all the route has to offer. North to south, it takes you past civil war sites, before rising into the Great Smoky Mountains. Crossing into North Carolina, the twists and turns become more pronounced as you snake along an elevated stretch through Grandfather Mountain State Park. Motorcycle rides through this section are particularly beautiful during the fall when the countryside is dappled with warm auburn hues.
- Natural Bridge, Virginia: A striking limestone formation which has been admired and revered for centuries. It was once a sacred site of the Monacan Indian tribe and was later purchased by Thomas Jefferson, who built a cabin retreat nearby.
- Blue Ridge Music Center, Virginia: Right on the North Carolina border, this venue is the place to go to hear the twang of a banjo with regular performances of bluegrass and old-time music.
- Chimney Rock, North Carolina: Stop off at milepost 385 to make strenuous the 500-step ascent to this jaw-dropping lookout point.
At the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains is this historic Tudor-style hotel. Running since 1882, Hotel Roanoke has enjoyed long-running standing as the heart of the city’s cultural and social scene. This prestige is all too evident in the glamorous Regency Room, an upscale restaurant specializing in French-inspired Southern cuisine. After dinner, you’ll get a restorative night’s rest in its large and traditionally appointed guest rooms, some of which have mountain views. If you’re feeling stiff from your motorcycle rides, make an appointment at the onsite spa, whose massages are particularly popular with road-weary guests.
Star Rating: 4
Price: USD 163 – USD 549
Guest Rating: 9.3
Address: 110 Shenandoah Ave NE, Roanoke, VA 24016, United States
3. Pacific Coast Highway: California
If you haven’t much time for your road trip, the bracing 120-mile Big Sur section of this epic highway is an easy two hours out of San Francisco. The returns on this relatively short ride are substantial, however. Vertical ribbons of asphalt wriggle south from Carmel, leaping across a valley at Bixby Creek Bridge past coves and inlets all the way to Morro Bay. Got a little more time to spare? Continue south to watch surfers rip across waves at Pismo Beach and seals slump in their masses around San Simeon. Book in advance to contemplate the extravagance of Hearst Castle, in Cambria. And of course, there’s Point Sal State Beach, one of the US’s top secluded beaches.
- Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park: Cool cerulean waters and perfectly pristine sands await at this beguiling beach not far from the town of Big Sur.
- Old Coast Road: Diverging just before Bixby Bridge, this unpaved 10-mile road climbs up through hills and forests to astoundingly isolated views of the Pacific. Bring your hiking boots, though; your bike will struggle with the terrain.
- Garrapata State Park: Just south of Carmel, this rugged area is distinguished by unspoiled inlet beaches and a population of cheeky sea otters.
Where to stay: Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort – Adults Only
With all of Big Sur’s desolate beauty, you would think it difficult for local accommodation to do the region justice. Yet Ventana hits the mark. Set in a thickly forested canyon, this secluded resort allows you to get closer to one of the Pacific Coast’s most unspoiled stretches while being afforded every luxury. Glamp out beneath stars in a safari-style tent, toasting smores over your fire pit and sleeping soundly on premium linens. Or afford yourself every extravagance with a stay in the 1,300-square-foot Coast House, featuring two superior hot tub suites. After a creative local meal at the Sur House, book a couples spa treatment for you and your companion — the setting for which is a forest-viewing outdoor cabana, sweet with the scent of the surrounding redwood trees.
Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 2,001 – USD 4,519
Guest Rating: 8.2
Address: 48123 Highway One, Big Sur, CA 93920, United States
4. Beartooth Highway: Montana and Wyoming
With barren mountaintops, sweeping valleys, and jaw-dropping national parks, Montana and Wyoming don’t lack for epic motorcycle rides. Especially dramatic is this 68-mile summer road, which dips across state lines to astounding scenery. Starting at Red Lodge, Montana, the road makes a series of steep switchbacks to the lofty Beartooth Pass — at 10,947 feet. From there, it’s a hair raising ride through tundra-like landscapes to Custer and Shoshone National Forests. Dress warmly and check with the Red Lodge Chamber of Commerce or the Beartooth Ranger District before your trip. Even in summer, Beartooth Highway sees strong winds and snowstorms.
- Rock Creek Vista: Hit this lookout for breathtaking views of Rock Creek Canyon and Hell Roaring Plateau.
- Island Lake, Montana: Fringed by hardy pines and steeply rising mountains, this elevated lake acts as an enormous mirror to its surroundings. You can camp here during the summer months. Seriously consider doing so — the stargazing is astonishing.
- Clay Butte Fire Tower, Wyoming: At an elevation of 9,811 feet, this lonely lookout in Shoshone National Forest offers a spectacular panorama of the surrounding mountains.
Where to stay: Rock Creek Resort
With its location just outside Red Lodge, Rock Creek is an ideal base for both exploring Beartooth and hitting up the 65-run Red Lodge Mountain Ski Resort. It’s a rustic cabin-style accommodation with 84 guest rooms, many of which can be adjoined. For a really sweet mountain escape, request the log-built Stony Cabin. Independent of the main buildings, it features a fireplace, romantic two-person Jacuzzi. Regardless, you’ll be able to make use of the hotel’s ample amenities, which include a heated indoor pool, sauna, and the Old Piney Dell, which serves comforting local fare in a 1920s homestead.
Star Rating: 3*
Price: USD 114 – USD 121
Guest Rating: 8.6
Address: 6380 US Highway 212 South, Red Lodge, MT 59068, United States
5. Coastal Route One: Maine
While the popular Pacific Coast is a wriggle of switchbacks and hairpins, America’s lesser-explored Atlantic front falls within a different genre of motorcycle rides. Here, riders are rewarded with craggy coastal scenery and quaint seaside towns. Especially charming is Route 1 from Machias to Brunswick. Along the way, you’ll glimpse moose and lovely old lighthouses, and the two-lane road feeds into numerous scenic detours. Stop off in antique hawking Ellsworth or peruse creative artisanal finds in Rockland’s Archipelago. Hiking enthusiasts will want to strap on their boots at Mount Battie, with its photogenic views of Penobscot Bay. Further south, you’ll be treated to numerous charming beach towns, including Ogunquit — one of America’s best small-town LGBT destinations.
- Bath Maritime Museum: Stop by for a fascinating look into Maine’s seafaring history and a cruise aboard a lovingly restored sailboat.
- Bailey’s Island: A short drive south of Brunswick, this slender island in Casco Bay is known for its coastal walks, cozy inns, and picturesque beaches.
- Acadia National Park: Dominated by woodland, granite rises, and rocky beaches, this stunning area is a must-see destination along the north-Atlantic coast. Linger for a day or two and you might spot moose, bears, or even whales!
Where to Stay: Anchorage by the Sea
With its Victorian leaning architecture, french gray slats, and wraparound verandas, Anchorage by the Sea has all the trappings of an authentic Maine experience. Fitting, because that’s exactly what they claim to provide. Inside, you’ll be treated to contemporary gorgeous coastal inspired accommodation in clean whites and duck egg blues. After a lengthy snooze, rise to views of the Atlantic Ocean and take in the sea air from your private balcony. You’re only steps from the beach, but you can lounge just as lazily by the resort’s spacious free-form pool. The outdoor jacuzzis, meanwhile, are an equally inviting place for a dip. At dinner, Surf Point serves butterfly lobster rolls and local fare in a delightful contemporary setting.
Star Rating: 3*
Price: USD 152 – USD 283
Guest Rating: 8.9
Address: 125 Shore Road, Ogunquit, ME 03907, United States
6. Grand Staircase: Utah
With its jigsaw landscape of burnt red mesas, Scenic Byway 12 easily tops out most scenic motorcycle rides in the US. This otherworldly drive takes you 124 miles from Panguitch to Torrey, twisting and hair-pinning its way through the saffron shaded terrain of Bryce Canyon National Park. In theory, you could complete the drive in less than three hours. Plan on taking much longer, as you stop time and time again to gawk and gasp at sky-reaching hoodoos — towering spires of rock that Native Americas believed were ancestors that had turned to stone. Aim to spend the night on this spellbinding stretch. That way, you’ll catch the evening colors at Sunset Point, when Grand Staircase saturates to an enchanting extreme.
- Capitol Reef National Park: Toward the Torrey end of Byway 12, you’ll find this bizarre landscape of arches and spires. In particular, monuments like Chimney Rock pillar and the white sandstone domes of Capitol Reef.
- Hogsback: A spectacularly twisted stretch of the byway that will bring you to a halt several times so you can properly take in the view. If you’re lucky, you might also spot elk at its higher elevations.
- Hell’s Backbone: Another unmissable feature, this scenic motorcycle ride veers off the main route near Boulder. Riders will pass through dessert and thick pine forests before ascending to the contours above Death Hollow Wilderness Area. And yes, the views are remarkable.
Where to stay: Amangiri
The word paradise gets thrown around a lot in PR talk, but we’re struggling to find fault with Amangiri. Set flawlessly in caramel-colored Canyon Point, this remote luxury resort, Amangiri offers some of the most jaw-dropping views in the US. Choose between sleek accommodation in the main building and wildly romantic tented pavilions five minutes drive into the desert. Remarkably, “Camp” Sarika spares no comfort, offering private plunge pools, oversized terraces, and private fire pits. Though you might be in the desert, there’s ample dining on offer. The Dining Room, Amangiri’s primary sit-down restaurant, pays tribute to local Navajo cooking. If you’re not sure what order, try the inspiring ‘Spirit of the Journey’ tasting menu, which comes with excellent wine pairings. As if all of this wasn’t remarkable enough, you can also arrange for a private dining experience atop a monolithic rock formation.
Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 4,544 – USD 5,282
Guest Rating: No rating
Address: 1 Kayenta Road, Big Water, UT 84741, United States
7. River Road: Texas
The barren beauty of Big Bend National Park is enough reason in itself to visit this distinctive part of West Texas. But even without the Chisos Mountains and their dusty surroundings, River Road holds its own. This winding artery runs adjacent to the Rio Grande, taking you past rugged desserts and lush oasis. Among the stunning scenery, you’ll find cool and quirky stopovers, from ghost towns to a tiny settlement with a goat for a mayor.
- Lajitas: Presided over by a peculiar political dynasty, Lajitas’s mayor, Clay Henry III, is the latest in a line of beverage-guzzling goats. His grandfather, Clay Henry I, enjoyed beer. Clay Henry III prefers Gatorade.
- Terlingua: Founded as a mining settlement in 1903 and depopulated after production declined, Terlingua is well worth exploring for its weather-worn homesteads and eerie Day of the Dead celebrations.
- Fort Leaton State Historic Site: Originally a private residence, this adobe structure was converted into a fortress in 1848 when it became embroiled in the bloody scalping industry.
Where to stay: Lajitas Golf Resort
Miraculously, Lajitas’ unusual political system hasn’t stood in the way of this spacious countryside resort. Offering traditional, Spanish-leaning accommodation across several independent buildings, this ranch-style resort village flanks the Rio Grande. Explore the surrounding hills with family motorcycle rides through the equestrian center. Or alternatively, escape the heat at the outdoor pool. The world-class 18 hole golf course, squeezed in between desert hills makes for a stirring game. The only experience more exhilarating is zip-lining over the valleys on one of three hair-raising tours. You’re supposed to be in Lajitas as part of your motorcycle tour. But if you’re pressed for time, the hotel operates its own charter flights out of Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas.
Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 225 – USD 333
Guest Rating: 8.5
Address: 100 Main Street, Lajitas, TX 79852, United States
Still Stationary? Tear Out Onto These All-American Motorcycle Rides!
From twisted mountain byways to lazy coastal drives, the US’s open roads are as diverse as they are jaw-dropping. While these motorcycle rides are out favorites, those with the spirit of adventure will find even more excitement as they press further out along America’s asphalt arteries. Loop the South Dakota’s Badlands along the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway and check out the biking mecca of Sturgis. Speed past abandoned coal mines and rushing rivers along Colorado’s San Juan Mountain Skyway. With a road network long enough to reach the moon 17 times over, the adventure is quite literally endless.
Will you add any of these motorcycle rides to your wish list? Let us know in the comments below!