A pandemic trip on a motorcycle around the United States is ideal. Motorcycle touring, after all, is the pinnacle of social isolation. It’s also a lot of fun when you open the throttle and sweep over the curves, turning a road trip into a dopamine-fueled adventure. Plus, from inside a car, you’ll never feel such a feeling of independence and greater awareness, or be so near to nature.
All you need is a fantastic set of wheels, the proper protective road gear, and a little forethought. To get you going, we’ve compiled a list of some of America’s most beautiful motorcycle road trips, ranging from one-day excursions to multi-day adventures, from coast to coast. The majority of the routes mix breathtaking landscapes with roller-coaster twists, turns, and troughs. Others take you on tours of American history, with plenty of smooth hardtops where you can relax or even rev up the engine.
1. Maine’s Coast Highway 1
This 260-mile, forest-fringed, two-lane coastal route connects Portland to the Canadian border town of Calais, winding through classic New England landscape. The low-lying coast is rarely visible, but the thrill of this journey comes from the scores of little picturesque loops along US Route 1. Each one winds its way around slim peninsulas dotted with old lighthouses and beautiful beach villages. Stops for whale watching and boating activities are equally tempting as lobster shacks dot the sandy shores, emitting delectable smells of crustaceans. Cadillac Summit Road in Acadia National Park swirls up to the highest point on the eastern shore, mixing exhilarating curves and twisties with breathtaking vistas from the top. The coast highway can be congested with automobiles and RVs on summer weekends when city inhabitants escape the city heat, so spring and autumn are the best times to come.
2. Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia
Even just thinking about cruising this renowned ride will make you smile, though not necessarily for adrenaline addicts. The virtually faultless, narrow two-lane highway snaking southwest approximately 500 miles along the crest of the Appalachian Mountains (from Afton, VA, to Cherokee, NC) has a 45-mile-per-hour speed limit. Sluggish down, accept the slow pace and relish the kaleidoscope Kodak moments as you take in the breathtaking views. On the BRP, there are approximately 200 pull-offs and overlooks where you can safely exclaim. Motorcyclists will enjoy the sweeping bends, though the several declining radius curves will require caution. Also, be wary of deer and other wild creatures, as well as slick wet leaves in the autumn. Your ride begs to be extended into a multi-day tour, connecting the gateways to Great Smoky Mountains National Park (south) and Shenandoah National Park (north), as well as the Civil War battlefields of Virginia.
3. Natchez Trace Parkway, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi
The Natchez Trace Parkway, at 444 miles long, is a National Scenic Byway and an All-American Road with good cause. The “Old Natchez Trace” winds from Nashville, Tennessee, to the Mississippi River at Natchez, Mississippi, passing through a cypress swamp, rolling farmland, and a national forest. The sinuous two-lane (part of the National Park Service) was finished in 2005 and largely follows an old traffic path. Riders transverse sections of the old Natchez Trace Indian Trail, which was previously utilized by the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez Native Americans, as well as American traders, before Mississippi steamboats arrived.
On a slow, bucolic voyage through time, 90 indicated stops urge you to gaze at beautiful waterfalls, Civil War locations, and Indigenous archeological sites. Even better, there are no trucks or even a single stop sign along the entire length of the road. Put your cruise control to 50 mph (the speed limit) and enjoy the Zen atmosphere.
4. Going to the Sun Road, Montana
This spectacular only-in-summer ride is short, sweet, and silky smooth, attracting serious travelers seeking the Holy Grail of mountain roads. The 50-mile two-lane causeway writhes up and over the Continental Divide to the 6,646-foot summit at Logan Pass, then augers down 3,000 feet to Lake McDonald, making it one of America’s most epic alpine roads. It has more twists, turns, and thrills than a James Bond film along the way. However, drive slowly; the speed limit is 45 mph at lower levels and 25 mph higher up. That’s just fast enough to take in the breath-taking panoramas of glaciers and jagged mountain ranges. The route, which ends in windswept alpine tundra, is lined with scenic pullouts. Depending on weather conditions, the route is usually open from late June until late October. Before going out, check the weather (which can be fickle). Ride the road in both ways to get twice the fun.
5. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah
Scenic Byway 12 in Utah outclasses all others for sheer geological overload in a location where nearly every route is a no-brainer. This All-American Road worms its way through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument — a 1.9 million-acre desert wonderland of multi-hued pinnacles, arches, and cliffs, bookended by Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks — for 130 miles of sheer driving delight. Between Panguitch (on US 89) and Torrey (on Utah 24), the road climbs from 5,223 feet to 9,636 feet, with tight, exhilarating twisties and hairpins notably plentiful along the vertiginous “Hogsback” portion around Boulder. Take a side excursion to Bryce Canyon and the short Escalante Petrified Forest. Hole-in-the-Rock Road, for example, is an unpaved location where dual-sport bikers may have some off-road fun. The route is open all year, however, heavy snow can temporarily close it until it is plowed.