Top 5 Motorcycle Rides near Salt Lake City, Utah

Aug 23, 2021


Riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in Utah.

Utah is known as the “Beehive State” because of its original founding by, and intimate connection with, members of the Church of Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The Mormons settled the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. In 1849 it proposed a government under the name of the “State of Deseret.” The term “Deseret” derived from their holy book, the Book of Mormon, and roughly translates to “honeybee.” More broadly the honeybee represents industriousness and hard work, and to this day a beehive can be found on the state flag and seal.

Today Utah isn’t all about work—it’s brimming with top-tier ski resorts where skiers visit for fun and relaxation. And while the architecturally-stunning Salt Lake Temple and world-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir are both located in Salt Lake City, a trip to Utah doesn’t have to center around these attractions.

There are plenty of motorcycle routes near Salt Lake City that offer unbridled access to ski resorts, mountains, canyons, and state and national parks. If you want to make your next vacation to Utah a truly epic one, rent a bike from Riders Share and check out these five motorcycle routes.

1. Back Roads Route From Ogden To Salt Lake

One-day trip —  81 miles

Hungering for epic views the likes of which might be seen in a John Ford Western? Take the Back Roads Route From Ogden To Salt Lake for a feast for the eyes and spirit.

To wind through the Wasatch Mountains on the secondary roads around Salt Lake City, the first thing you have to do is leave the city and head a mere 46 miles north to North Odgen. This route avoids major highways in favor of side roads and the small towns, reservoirs, and mountain valleys and passes along the way. The route’s beginning at North Ogden is a very twisty two-lane road which goes across a mountain pass to Ogden Valley, before winding through small towns and farmland around the Pineview Reservoir. Then it climbs over another mountain and throws you right onto Trappers Loop Highway. 

This will take you to Weber Canyon—all you have to do is make sure you avoid Interstate 84 and stick to the back routes (which will take you through rural Morgan Valley). Another canyon lies ahead, and then East Canyon Reservoir. After this, you’ll simply climb over the top of Big Mountain and then down Emigration Canyon to Salt Lake City. If you’d like to start in Salt Lake City and finish in North Ogden, this route can easily be reversed. You can find detailed directions here.

Take this route primarily for the stunning views of the Wasatch Mountains. In particular, the portions of the route which run through Emigration Canyon and East Canyon present some truly awesome views. East Canyon even offers some fantastic twisties you won’t soon forget! 

And for those of you willing to make a slight modification to the directions above: if in the town of Morgan stay on 100 East, cross under the highway and head northeast. Stop by Kelly’s Roadhouse, one of the best biker pubs in the state.

Road quality along this route is consistently good—everything is paved all the way through. The only thing you’ll want to consider is the fact that this route consists of multiple roads of different types. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself on a two-lane highway one moment and then a single-lane backroad the next.

Don’t worry about fueling up before the ride or running out of gas if you forget to—there’s enough small towns in Pineview Reservoir and Morgan Valley chock-full of gas stations and restaurants to keep your bike and body fuelled all the way through.

It’s important to note that you won’t be able to complete this route during winter: the high-mountain pass over Big Mountain is closed until June due to snow.

2. Wanship To Orem Lakes Ride

One-day trip —  54 miles

A little less impressive but no less beautiful is the Wanship To Orem Lakes Ride. It goes through some of the best rural and small-town scenery Utah has to offer.

This route actually starts at the I-80 and State Road 32, so all you’ll have to do is take State Road 32 south past Rockport and Jordanelle Reservoirs.

The defining feature of this ride is its sheer variety—you’ll see wooded areas, recreational reservoirs, the beautiful cliffs and epic waterfalls of Provo Canyon, and small-town and rural scenery to boot as you pass along the Provo River. If you're willing to part with your bike, you can check out the historic Heber Valley Railroad where they offer scenic “adventure-style” railroad tours using diesel and classic steam engines. 

This ride isn’t the twistiest or the emptiest in Utah, but it is relaxing. Provo Canyon is a fairly busy though well-paved freeway, so you may have to share the road for a bit. Otherwise, you’ll be as free as a bird—the rest of the route is mostly old-state highway two-lane blacktop.

Gas and food are plentiful along this route, and there are ample opportunities to have a nice picnic at one of the many reservoirs along the way. Kamas and Heber are towns featuring particularly “local” restaurants. This route ends at the back end of Orem.

3. The Alpine Scenic Highway

One-day trip —  25 miles

Looking for a beautiful, winding mountain road in the heart of the Beehive State? The Alpine Scenic Highway is an answer.

The Alpine Scenic Highway is a must if you’re looking for great views of Provo Canyon, or if you want to hit the slopes at the world-famous Sundance Ski Resort. If you go south on the 189 from the Sundance Side, you can get a fantastic view of the Bridal Veil Falls––a great place for a photo. Combine this route with Guardsman Pass and Pine Canyon Road out of Midway for an afternoon ride to Thanksgiving Point, if so inclined. You can also make an optional side trip to Cascade Springs past the Aspen Grove campground! Beautiful fall colors are guaranteed in late September and October.

The Alpine Scenic Highway motorcycle route is not one for beginners—it requires above average riding ability. This route is generally paved, but it’s fairly narrow and curvy in some parts, and often brimming with traffic in the afternoon. For easier riding, tackle this route in the mornings when traffic is low.

It goes without saying that you can find all the restaurants and lodging you’d ever want at the Sundance Ski Resort. This is a summer/fall ride only. The road itself is only open from late May through October.

4. Guardsman Way To Pine Canyon Drive

One-day trip —  13 miles

A shorter and less-challenging ride through the canyons, mountains, and forests of Utah is also available: the Guardsman Way To Pine Canyon Drive.

Start out in Big Cottonwood Canyon, only 30 miles away from Salt Lake City (simply take the I-15 South and then the UT-190 East). The beginning of this route features a winding road that climbs the canyon wall. Along this section you’ll get several switchbacks and excellent views. 

Once you reach the top of the canyon, the road becomes gentler and follows along the tops of the hills and mountains. Here you’ll see plenty of open grassland and get plenty of sun. Off of Guardsman Pass Road and onto Pine Canyon Road, you’ll enter a gorgeous aspen forest. The road eventually winds to the other side of the mountain and into Midway.

This road isn’t terribly challenging. It’s all newly-paved until the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon; the rest is rarely maintained. Keep an eye out for the occasional pothole. Additionally, there are a few extreme corners and non-stop turns down the hill, in addition to some traffic, so this route can be dangerous to those who don’t pass at slow speeds.

This route doesn’t have any places to stop for food and fuel so look for food in town. Luckily, you’ll never be more than a few miles away from a town the whole length of your ride. The route ends in Midway, Utah. Like some of the other routes we’ve mentioned here, this one is also closed during the winter months, so plan accordingly.

5. The Pony Express

Two-day trip —  812 miles

No list of motorcycle routes near Salt Lake City would be complete without a tip of the hat to “the loneliest road” in the U.S.—historic Highway 50, otherwise known as the Pony Express. This route is perfect for the motorcycle enthusiast who’s looking for a good, long, solo ride without the hustle-and-bustle of ski resorts or the danger of mountain roads.

It’s also ideal for those wanting to visit the San Francisco Bay Area after hitting the slopes in the Beehive State; this ride will give them both. You can complete the Pony Express in a single day if you ride 18.5 hours without stopping. Though we recommend stopping in Austin, Nevada for the night to recharge your batteries. 

The Pony Express offers so much to see, it’s hard to put together a comprehensive list of sights and wonders along this route. The portion of Highway 50 which runs through Utah goes by the gorgeous western Edge of Utah Lake. After this, UT-67 and Route 6 will take you through a few ghost towns and smaller mountain ranges. 

Past Delta, you’ll see the mountains surrounding the Great Basin National Park (a great detour if you have the time). In Nevada, Highway 50 really lives up to its moniker of “the loneliest road” in America, stretching nearly 400 miles across Nevada and linking only five small towns together. Here you’ll find the most stunning views along the entire route, with small mountain ranges running from north to south. 

Upon reaching Carson City, Nevada, go through a mountain pass which goes past the southern end of Lake Tahoe. This puts you at the state line bordering California, and begins the most entertaining leg of the tour. You’ll go through approximately 150 turns within the span of 40 miles on the mountain roads leading away from Tahoe. After passing through the pine and eucalyptus forests, you end up on a straight shot to Sacramento, and then to San Francisco.

In terms of road quality, Highway 50 is (pardon the pun) middle-of-the-road. The sections of the route going through major cities are usually better maintained than those long stretches out in the middle of nowhere. Even then, Highway 50 generally doesn’t have a lot of potholes. The main concern is the at times excess amount of gravel along the road, especially when going through the mountains of Austin, Nevada.

Living up to its nickname, the Pony Express doesn’t offer much in the way of food, gas, lodging, roadside assistance, or even cell service. Amenities, when they do pop up, are few and far between. Avoid running out of gas in between stops by bringing a spare gallon or two with you. Also consider renting a bike with a windshield and a larger fuel tank. Also bring clothes amenable to all types of seasonal weather (you’ll be crossing the lengths of Utah, Nevada, and California at different elevations, so you may find yourself on sunny plains and snowy mountains in a single trip). The wind is especially powerful along this route, including Austin.

These motorcycle routes prove there’s more to Utah than its busy capital city. Riders Share has the ride that will meet your heart’s desires, whether it’s a motorcycle with a windshield for a long ride along the Pony Express, or a bike suited to the rougher roads along the mountains of Utah.