There is no better state than California to take your motorcycle out for a ride. Whether you go out for the day, a week or longer, there is a breathtaking variety of terrains and entertainments both on and off the beaten path.
Here is a sampling of five of the best California motorcycle tours.
1. Pacific Coast Highway
One of the most spectacular road trips in the entire United States, the Pacific Coast Highway runs all along the state’s picturesque shoreline from the Oregon border to the Mexican border. While it is awe-inspiring in a car, it is even better on a bike.
If you start in the North at San Francisco, you can get started with a drive through that famous bastion of the sixties’ counter culture. Now a hotbed of tech giants and real estate, the city still holds its bohemian charm with lovely parks, an active street life, and music everywhere.
Continue south of the city towards Silicon Valley, and you can stop at San Jose to see the infamous haunted Winchester Mystery House. Built by an eccentric member of the wealthy gun making family, the estate has over 150 rooms, with lots of architectural curiosities like dead-end hallways, and staircases that run up to the ceiling.
No trip down Route One would be complete without seeing Monterey. The road is challenging for a motorcycle, with lots of curves along steep, craggy cliffs. Be safe and stop on a lookout point to observe the crashing surf, majestic rocks, and seals along the coastline.
Take a detour to Big Sur, and camp under the stars in this arty, hippy-like community. Indulge in a nude dip in the natural hot spring baths at the Esalen Institute to soothe sore muscles from your ride.
Continue South to Southern California, soaking in the sun and sights at such hot spots as Santa Barbara and Malibu. If you go off the beaten track in Orange County, you may stumble upon one of the country’s most famous biker bars, Crook’s Corner in Trabuco Canyon.
You can keep going to San Diego, and – if you have your passport- continue right on through to Tijuana.
This is an over 500-mile drive, so take your time and plan out places to camp along the way to really sample the freedom of the wild, wild west.
2. Mulholland Drive
If you can only do a day trip on your chopper, Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles is one of your best bets for an exhilarating experience.
This well-known blacktop winds through the Santa Monica mountains and is the home of the notorious stretch of road called “the Snake, ” otherwise known as the most-crashed corner in SoCal.
Hollywood types in fancy cars crowd this stretch of highway ever since Steve McQueen made it cool. But motorcycle aficionados have a special love/hate relationship with it, mostly due to the 180-degree hairpin which attracts all kinds to test their prowess.
Considered a “skatepark for motorcycles,” many inexperienced riders crash along the Snake (otherwise known as Edwards Corner). It’s not that hard if you do what the good riders do: lower your speed before the turn, lean in, and roll on the gas after the apex. The hot doggers who hit the corner way too fast tend to slam into the guard rail.
Despite the thrill- or maybe because of it?- many bikers put Mulholland on their bucket list. Just don’t forget your own bucket- a helmet is required by law in California.
3. Far From the Maddening Crowd
A mid-length motorcycle trip which will take you beyond the big cities is to follow Highway 1 from San Francisco to Fort Bragg. You will be struck by the awesome natural beauty, the sleepy little beach towns, and the cool vibe of the people in the northern part of the state.
Cross the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito and Marin County, still a hippie haven. Take some time to hike into the Muir Woods and see the massive redwood trees.
Continue north along dramatic cliffs and check out the beaches of Point Reyes National Seashore. You can find lots of quirky towns like Inverness, which boast art galleries and old style Western saloons.
Speaking of saloons, not far from this neck of the woods lie the vineyards of Napa Valley and Sonoma. If you are going to drink, make sure you leave your bike at the campgroundsand get a ride back.
Other cool sights on the way to Fort Bragg include the charming town of Mendocino, MacKerricher State Park where you may catch a glimpse of a migrating whale, and Glass Beach, which looks like it’s covered with jewels.
4. Joshua Tree
Maybe you like the desert more than the coast or the forest. Then you should check out Joshua Tree, located about an hour from Palm Springs and about two hours from Los Angeles.
The park is amazingly beautiful and you can access a lot of it from paved roads. You can also find campsites and hiking trails, plus cools places to eat, drink, and spend the night.
From LA, it’s mostly freeway riding – and you know, there is often a lot of traffic in the LA area, so be patient. Then you get off on the 62, which takes you almost to the park gate. Inside the park, you will find a two-lane road with limited passing and low-speed limits.
Motorcyclists love Joshua Tree because of all the paved roads which give you great views of the desert and mountain vistas. The park is open all year round.
Note that there is no cell service in the park area and no services or facilities in most places. You should also be prepared for extreme weather and changes in temperature: there may be snow at the higher elevations in the winter. Under the summer sun, on the other hand, it can get up to 120 degrees!
If you don’t want to camp, stay at the Joshua Tree Inn Motel. If you would rather have a swimming pool to dunk into after a long dusty ride, there is a Best Western. You can also find a lot of private homes on Airbnb along the road leading to the park or on its border.
Pioneertown is an old movie set made to look like an old fashioned Western town. There you can find Pappy & Harriet’s, a fun roadhouse bar. You might also want to check out The Joshua Tree Saloon to wet your whistle.
5. LA to Las Vegas, Via Death Valley
Although the fastest way to get from Southern California to Las Vegas is via Route I:15, the most scenic way will take you through God’s most forsaken landscape, Death Valley.
It may take five hours and it goes below sea level. Be warned, you may need cooling suits because the temperatures here can rise way beyond any human comfort level.
There are all sorts of fun things to check out along the way, from funky diners to ghost towns. You can cool off in Panamint Springs at a motel or the saloon with a bar made out of a giant redwood burl.
In Death Valley, you can zoom past sand dunes, rock formations, and places like the Funeral Mountains and the Devil’s Cornfield. Furnace Creek is another place to stop and cool off at a cheap roadside motel or the elegant Furnace Creek Inn, which boasts a swimming pool fed by natural warm springs.
From Death Valley Junction, heads towards Vegas through Pahrump, where you can check out the laundromat owned by “Madam to the Stars” Heidi Fleiss. The infamous Chicken Ranch is not too far from here either.
From Pahrump, you are an hour away through the mountain roads to Vegas, baby. This route takes you through the dramatic moon-like natural landscape past some of humanity’s most unusual specimens.
California Motorcycle Tours: Hit the Road and See It All
California motorcycles tours are a great way to see one of the nation’s most diverse and amazing states. From the beaches of Southern California where the stars hang out through deserted mountain towns, a trip on a motorcycle will expose you to sights and experiences beyond your wildest dreams.
Make sure you have the right equipment, clothing, and provisions for whatever ride you choose. Keep your bike in tip-top condition, and learn how to perform basic maintenance so you don’t break down in a desolate area far from assistance.
Seeing the world on a motorcycle, whether with your better half, your friends, or by your lonesome, is an incomparable way to rediscover your connection to the land and the road. Feel free and fast as you experience the road under your wheels and the wind in your face. You will never forget it.
For information on buying a bike and keeping it in running order, plus tips on the best rallies, routes, and motorcycle-related products, plus the latest legal developments impacting motorcyclists, check out our site. We’ve got everything you need to ride and to live free.