California is hands down one of the best places in the world to ride a motorcycle. We love it so much that we’ve actually written about it before. But this land of forests, deserts, mountains, and beaches has so much to offer that there was plenty that we couldn’t get to.
We know that California’s varied terrain offers a wealth of adventure for offroad bikers, and the same holds true for its scenic highways and vistas. Here are seven of our picks for the best motorcycle rides in California, from the ancient redwood forests to the sweeping desert plains.
1. Redwood Ride
Though most probably imagine beaches and Los Angeles when they think of California, in many ways you could say that the heart of the Golden State rests up north.
Take Highway 101 west to Highway 1 from the town of Leggett and you’ll find yourself riding alongside the Pacific Coast. Along the way, you can take in a view of the sea unlike any other, and if you’re so inclined, the road is lined with public access points to the beach. At this point in the ride, you’ll be traveling under nothing but clear blue skies with nothing but the pacific.
While that would be pleasant enough on its own, it’s nothing compared to what awaits you once you turn onto Highway 20.
Here you’ll be passing through Jackson State Forest. Mighty redwoods grow in abundance here, shading the road from the California sun. Eventually, you’ll curve back around to Highway 101 to complete the ride.
The route proper stretches about 123 miles. However, there are ample opportunities for detours, to budget at least several extra hours to complete it.
Along the route, you’ll pass through Fort Bragg, which is an excellent place to stop. In particular, the city prides itself on its food culture, so stopping here for a bite is practically mandatory.
2. Sequoia National Forest by Way of Woodlake
The previous ride is more intended for cruising. So if you’re interested in something a little more challenging, you might consider taking Woodlake in Sequoia National Forest. This 25-mile ride is full of sharp turns carves its way through giant sequoia trees and includes passages over desert patches.
Start off in the town of Woodlake, which is just 52 miles southeast of Fresno. From here, you’ll head up Highway 245 until it merges into Highway 180 within the forest.
The scenery of Sequoia National Forest is unparalleled, and in between taking hairpin turns there will plenty of opportunities for you to get off along the way. The forest is full of hiking trails, crystal caves, and campgrounds.
You a little ways off the beaten track here, so there’s not too much in the ways of accommodations out there. Probably your best bet would be Badger Moutain House, previously known as Sister’s Moutain House. It’s a good, biker-friendly bar and restaurant.
All the same, if you’re touring the forests of northern California, then getting away from the beaten track is more of a pro than a con.
3. Angeles Crest Highway
One of California’s greatest strengths is that, even in the cities, you’re rarely ever far from the countryside. Case in point: The Angeles National Forest comprises some 700,000 acres of wilderness in the Los Angels metro area. And the Angeles Crest Highway runs right through it.
This alpine area is only a few minutes away from downtown LA, but you’d never know to look at it. Development along Angeles Crest is pretty scarce, so you can expect to see a lot of forest and mountains along the 60-mile stretch. And at their peaks, some of these roads reach an elevation of 7,000 feet, giving you an enviable view.
As a bonus, the construction is all still fairly new, so the road conditions are excellent. And for LA, the traffic is about as scarce as it gets, being mostly just sightseers and locals.
The route starts in La Canada and runs east on Highway 2 into the mountains until it reaches its endpoint in Wrightwood. Much of the trail travels through the Los Angeles Basin, and there are plenty of opportunities to stop along the way.
Visitors can do anything from horseback riding to hiking to watersports. And of course, it’s just outside of LA proper, so once you’re done you can always head back into town and spend the evening at the legendary Rainbow Bar and Grill.
4. Dante’s View Road
If forests and coastlines don’t really do it for you, then this might be the ride for you. Resting about 140 miles west of Las Vegas, this stretch of road is aptly named as a tour along Dante’s View will offer you some of the best vantages of Death Valley you can find.
Start out at Highway 190 and ride southwest on Furnace Creek Road until you come to Dante’s View Road. From here, it’s about five and a half miles to the peak. Here, at an elevation of 5,476 feet, you’ll be able to see for miles around. On clear days, you can even see all the way to Nevada’s Mount Whitney.
You wouldn’t know it by its reputation, Death Valley has some of the most incredible landscapes on the planet. Though you won’t find a single thing that grows higher than your knee, the desert landscape will nevertheless be indelibly etched into your memory. The elegant mountains vary between reddish-brown and blonde, and desert wildflowers take over the plains in the springtime.
Plus, Death Valley has some of the darkest nights, making it one of the best places to stargaze.
5. Highway 74
Highway 74 is a 50 mile stretch of road that will take you through San Bernardino National Forest and across the dunes of the Palm Desert. Start in Hemet and follow it all the way to Indian Wells for a twisting, turning tour that really shows of the differing landscapes of the Golden State.
The path is dotted the whole way with attractions, and you’re never too far from a place to make a quick stop. The Paradise Valley Cafe sits about halfway through the ride and is a well-known biker-friendly spot to stop.
6. Montezuma Valley Road
Montezuma Valley Road sits 75 miles north of San Diego and has consistently been a favorite patch of road for bikers. Start your ride in Ranchita and head east to Borrego Springs. The 13-mile trip is a classic Southern California tour.
As the name implies, this road sharp curves carve their way through the Montezuma Valley. With the rocky landscape surrounding you on all sides, the road will take you on a dive some 3,000 feet down into the desert. Just keep your eyes open; Borrego bighorn sheep have been known to wander near the road here.
You’ll know that you’ve made it to Borrego when you start seeing the huge metal sculptures that line the sides of the road. There’s about 130 of them in all, designed and built by artist Ricardo Breceda. Out of them, a 350-foot serpent and a giant dinosaur tearing across the desert are probably the two that stand out the most.
7. Conzelman Road
Probably saving the most visible and recognizable one for last, Conzelman Road runs right through the Golden Gate Recreational area. It’s only a four-mile trek, but it takes you across some of the best vistas that San Fransisco has to offer.
Start the trip by crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and take Conzelman Road westward, heading towards the coast. This cliffside patch of road will take you over coastal views that you’ll never see replicated anywhere.
It’s a short trip to be sure, only lasting about 15 minutes. But if you find yourself in Northern California, it’s almost essential to take this ride. Not to mention that you’ll be in San Fransisco, which will offer myriad diversions of its own.
These Are Just a Few of the Best Motorcycle Rides in California
California runs nearly 800 miles from north to south, and in that span, you can travel from the high mountains to the side of the sea. In all that territory, there was no way that we were going to list every great ride here.
That why bikers have always loved this state, and why someone will always be heading out onto the road looking for the next best motorcycle rides in California.
But as much as we love the Golden State, we wouldn’t limit ourselves to just one part of the country. And we don’t expect that you would either. So if you’re looking for more ideas for your next great ride, check out our list of the top six best motorcycle roads in the United States.