Top 10 Motorcycle Rides: California

February 16, 2017 4 min read

Top 10 Motorcycle Rides: California

Riders in California are really spoiled for choice.

I mean, the Golden State has something for everybody. Dense, foggy forests. Misty mountains. Endless, winding coastal roads. Barren deserts. Some of the most dense, sprawling cities in the country.

And of course...Bigfoot.

No matter where you are, there's a ride waiting for you. So next time you're ready to saddle up, hit one of our top 10 motorcycle rides in California

Now we admit we are a little bit biased, but in our humble opinion we reccomend snagging a pair of protective jeans at the very least to add to the helmet you should be wearing already for protection.

Have fun and stay safe.

Northern California

1. Emigrant Trail Scenic Byway

Lakeview, Oregon—Tulelake
140 Miles

Forget what you knew about California. This ride is all about unspoiled forests, meadows, volcanic lava flows, lakes and mountain peaks. 

Once you hit Route 299, either head east to take a break in Cedarville, or continue west through the Modoc Forest. Either way, the ride ends in Tulelake, from where several other awesome routes are available.

2. Redwood Highway

Oregon border, US Route 199—Crescent City—Leggett
213 Miles

This one is a monster, and takes you all the way from the Oregon border down to Leggett. But it's a monster for another reason, too—all the towering Redwoods on your way down the coast.

Follow Route 199 from Oregon to Route 101 into Crescent City as it winds through Jedidiah Smith Redwood State Park. From there, follow Route 101 south all the way until Leggett.

Along the way, take in the massive trees, ocean views, beaches, and some of the most pristine landscapes this side of the Rockies.

3. Feather River Scenic Byway (CA-70)

Wicks Corner—Paxton
60 Miles

The Feather River Scenic Byway meanders along the Feather River Canyon, taking the middle fork of the river for most of the trip.

Whether you like natural spectacles or the man-made variety, the byway doesn't disappoint with a collection of waterfalls, the backdrop of the Sierra Nevadas, expansive rail bridges and 7 massive hydroelectric dams.

Central California

4. Big Sur Coast (CA-1)

Monterey—San Luis Obispo
130 Miles

Hope you're not tired of the ocean, because we're just getting started.

This ride heads south out of Monterey on Route 1, and stays on the same road until we finish in San Luis Obispo.

Along the way, drink in the rugged California coast—fog-smothered cliffs, lonely beaches, and the endless ocean. And if you're lucky (or here between November and February), you might just happen across a beach full of elephant seals.

5. Sierra Heritage Scenic Byway (CA-168)

70 Miles

Leave Fresno and enter the Sierra National Forest—get ready for more mountains and canyons than you can handle, and then a few more for good measure.

The byway is littered with alpine lakes along the way, offering a few places to stop and relax if you get tired of riding. Of course, that's what we're here for—so keep on pushing until you hit the Kaiser Wilderness area of Sierra Canyon, and leave the city behind for good.

6. Central Valley

Junction of I-5 and I-580 to Junction of I-5 and CA-33
55 Miles

Big, wide open views of the San Joaquin Valley and Coast Range.

Much of the ride runs parallel to the California Aqueduct and the Delta-Mendota Canal, both responsible for irrigating the nearly parched Central Valley.

Without those canals over there, this whole area would look more like a desert. Another marvel of engineering.

Southern California

7. Death Valley Scenic Byway

CA-190, West of Panamint Springs—Death Valley Junction
90 Miles

Death Valley, as in the hottest place in the country.

I don't really know what else to say about Death Valley. The byway is gorgeous in a sort of face-melting, back-scorching kind of way. At one point, you'll wonder if it's all worth it. Should you keep going, or turn back for civilization?

The answer? Yes.

8. Route 74

Junction of I-215 and CA-74—Palm Desert
68 Miles

More desert, but slightly more forgiving than Death Valley.

Odds are good the weather will be awesome year round, considering Route 74 only gets about 16 days of rain per year.

And don't worry, the endless desert isn't so endless—look for frequent oases and snow-capped peaks in the background as you ride along beneath the crystal clear sky.

9. Riverside Freeway (CA-91)

Junction of I-215 and I-10—Junction of CA-91 and CA-55
38 Miles

This being SoCal and all, we couldn't stay away from the city forever.

Follow the Santa Ana River through booming developments, mercifully broken up by patches of green vegetation as the highway threads the needle between two state parks halfway between Anaheim and San Bernardino.

If you're gonna do the city, at least do the city in style.

10. Angeles Crest Scenic Byway (CA-2)

Junction of I-210 and CA-2—Wrightwood
55 Miles

Stuck in LA, getting an itch for the fresh country air? Well, you're actually not SOL.

Angeles Crest is a short drive from Los Angeles, and offers fantastic views from the San Gabriel Mountains of the Mojave Desert and both the Pomona and San Gabriel valleys.

If the planets align and you get a once-in-a-lifetime clear day in Los Angeles, be sure to stop by the Mt. Wilson Observatory and check out what Tinseltown looks like from above.

California the Great

California sometimes seems like its own country, and these rides prove it. No other state offers the same incredible variety of scenery that California does—from the Sierra Nevadas in the east to the Redwoods in the north to the Bay Area to the southern deserts.

That said, we couldn't possibly hope to touch on everything CA has to offer dedicated riders.

If you know any awesome routes we missed, let us know!

Until then, see you on the road.

Gear you Need

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