Are you one of the many motorcycle enthusiasts who dream of riding across the country on Route 66? This iconic ride is something everyone should do at least once in their lifetime. But the question remains: What do you do when you finally reach the Pacific Coast? Don’t worry. Your epic ride doesn’t have to end when you see the ocean. In fact, some of the best motorcycle routes in the country are scattered throughout the western United States. Are you ready to gear up and ride off into the sunset? Whether you’re riding with your significant other, your closest friends, or making a solo journey, we’ve got you covered.
In this post, we’ll reveal the best motorcycle rides in each of the three west coast states–California, Oregon, and Washington.
Best California Motorcycle Routes
Did you know that California has almost double the number of motorcycles of any other state? With over 842,000 registered motorcycles, you know the riding options have got to be good! Here’s our pick for the five best riding routes in the Golden State.
1. California State Route 1 (Pacific Coast Highway)
California’s Pacific Coast Highway is another bucket list for many motorcyclists. If you’re going to spend any time on the west coast, it would be a crime not to include at least part of this stretch on your itinerary. Stretching over 650 miles along the California coast (and into Oregon), you can’t beat the views on this epic oceanfront highway. Crashing surf, breathtaking cliffs, and beaches lined with seals and other wildlife await you. What if you don’t have time to ride the whole highway? We recommend the Big Sur stretch from Carmel to Morro Bay (120 miles). Or, if you’re a bridge enthusiast, start in Santa Cruz at the beautiful Bixby Creek Bridge. Head north 138 miles and complete your ride by crossing the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
2. Death Valley National Park
You may envision nothing but wasteland and vultures when you hear “Death Valley.” But the reality is that this national park offers some of the most unique scenery on the planet. Imagine hour after hour of cloudless blue skies and barren desert mountains. You won’t find any forests or water here–just a few hearty bushes and a burst of wildflowers in the springtime. You’ve got a few different options for reaching Death Valley:
Highway 395 (from the east)
I-15 (from the south)
Off NV 95 (from the north)
Because summertime temperatures can be extreme, we recommend riding through Death Valley during the fall, winter, or spring.
3. Highway 38 to Big Bear Lake
What if you’re more into mountains than deserts or coastal roads? This ride is sure to satisfy you!Great if you have limited time but still want fabulous scenery, this ride is only about 60 miles out of San Bernardino. It winds through the delightful San Bernardino National Forest, passing several scenic overlooks along the way. The final leg of the journey winds around Sugarloaf Mountain and dumps you out at pristine Big Bear Lake. To make the return trip, take Highway 18 back towards LA and enjoy the spectacular drop-offs along the way.
4. Montezuma Valley Road (Ranchita to Borrego Springs)
This is another short ride that’s well worth your time if you’re in the area. Start in Ranchita and head east through the stark but beautiful Montezuma Valley. Desert panoramas and endless blue skies await as you traverse the 13 miles across the valley. You’ll descend over 3,000 feet in elevation along the way, with plenty of tight turns to keep you on your toes. Keep your eye out for the Borrego bighorn sheep that like cling to the rocky mountainsides.
5. Woodlake to Sequoia National Forest
For more hairpin turns–and the world’s largest trees–plot a route towards Sequoia National Forest. Start your ride in Woodlake, about 50 miles southeast of Fresno. Take Highway 245 into the park until it merges with Highway 180. Enjoy the scenery as the desert landscape gives way to majestic Redwood forests. Be sure to include a stop at General Sherman, the world’s largest tree (by volume). This 2,000-year old giant stands a staggering 275 feet high and has a base diameter of more than 36 feet!
Best Oregon Motorcycle Routes
Oregon may not be as big or as popular as California, but it has plenty to offer in the way of scenic motorcycle routes.
1. US 101 (Pacific Coast Highway)
If you’re riding the Pacific Coast Highway north out of California, you’ll end up on US 101–Oregon’s coastal gem. From Cannon Beach to Florence (158 miles), this oceanfront road offers spectacular views and much less traffic than its southern counterpart. Enjoy the massive sand dunes and windswept landscape of Nehalem Bay State Park–a perfect spot to camp for the night. Don’t miss the iconic Haystack Rock, too, a prehistoric monolith that towers 235 feet over Cannon Beach.
2. Blue Mountain Scenic Byway
Remote mountain roads, high scenic ridges, and thick temperate forests await you on the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway. Stretching between the towns of Baker City and Condon, this 186-mile stretch of road is perfect for those who want to get away from it all. On the way, you’ll ride along a ridge that sits 2,000 feet higher than the surrounding landscape. There’s also a historic steam train and old gold mines if you feel the urge to stop and explore.
3. Wapinitia Highway
This highway makes a big loop around Mount Hood, offering amazing vistas from all sides. Our favorite part of the ride, though, is the 26-mile cut-through between Highway 26 and Highway 97. The road is kept in pristine condition and is fairly straight, with just a few gentles turns along the way. You’ll marvel at the changes in scenery in such a short amount of time. Thick conifer and pines forests give way to the very different look of sage and juniper trees in the high desert plateau.
4. Oregon Outback Scenic Highway
With “outback” and “scenic” in its name, you know this highway has a lot to offer any motorcycle enthusiast.This 175-mile ride begins in the charming town of La Pine, Oregon. Take Route 31 south until you hit Highway 395. If you like, you can follow this road down into California and end up at Goose Lake State Recreation Area. Because it’s located on the “dry” side of Oregon, expect good-quality roads and plenty of high desert scenery. Keep an eye out for antelope, turkey, deer, and even wild horses.
5. Route 218
If you can’t get enough high desert scenery, take the road from Shaniko to Fossil. This 48-mile stretch passes through land riddled with sagebrush, antelope, and deserted “ghost towns.” You’ll also be surprised to see some red rock formations and hidden green valleys reminisce of New Mexico or Arizona.
Best Washington Motorcycle Routes
If you’ve made it all the way to the Great Pacific Northwest, welcome! You’re sure to find delight in exploring these scenic routes.
1. Highway 20 Washington Pass
This is an 87-mile stretch of road between the towns of Marblemount and Winthrop. You’ll find the starting point about 100 miles northeast of Seattle. This is a very twisty, winding mountain road best suited for experienced riders. As you pass through North Cascade National Park, you’ll gradually climb from sea level to well above 8,000 feet. One important note: This pass is only open from April to October.
2. Mount Rainier Ramble
This 70-mile ride will bring you up close and personal with the impressive peak of Mount Rainier.Start in the town of Elbe and head east, following the signs for Sunrise Park. Enjoy the spectacular views of the 14,411-foot peak to your north as the road winds past thick forests and glacial lakes. Although the roads are well-maintained, this ride is best enjoyed in the summer to avoid potentially icy conditions.
3. WA Route 542
If you’re in the coastal town of Bellingham, hop on WA Route 542 and follow it east. Enjoy the view of Mount Baker rising in front of you as you ride the 57-mile stretch of highway. Eventually, you’ll pass north of Mount Baker and end up at a scenic overlook near Mount Shuksan. Aside from the beautiful scenery, experienced riders will enjoy all the hairpin turns along this sweeping route.
Motorcycle Riding Routes and More
There’s nothing like the freedom of the open road. If you’re used to the crowded roadways of the east coast, you’re in for a real treat when you head west. Endless sunshine, salty sea air, and miles of unspoiled scenery await you on these scenic west coast motorcycle routes. But why stop at the west coast? There’s a huge world out there waiting to be discovered–and one of the best ways to do so is from the back of a motorcycle.
Check out our recent post on the world’s best motorcycle routes. From Australia to Norway and Nepal to South Africa, there’s a riding adventure out there with your name on it. Which destination will call out to you?