Top 5 Motorcycle Rides in Southern California

Oct 20, 2021


Suzuki motorcycle ridden in Southern California.

Located only 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, Ontario is a hub of national and international shipping. In terms of cargo carried, Ontario International Airport is the 15th busiest airport in the United States. Ontario also sees the bulk of freight traffic between the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and the rest of the country. But for motorcycle enthusiasts, Ontario isn’t just a channel for transferring cargo and freight—it also serves as a gateway to the rest of Southern California. 

Southern California is a land of extremes. Stick to the Angeles National Forest and the San Gabriel and Sierra Pelona Mountains, and you’ll encounter thick forests, vast canyon vistas, and snow-capped mountains. Descend from those lofty Alpine heights, head south of Los Angeles, and you’ll see the scorched scenery of the Anza Borrego Desert and the sandy beaches of Carlsbad. Although diverse in topography and scenery, all these motorcycle roads have one thing in common—they’re full of twisties and exciting changes in elevation.

We’ve put together five routes around Ontario that give a sample of Southern California’s varying landscapes. Choose a few to ride, select a motorcycle on Riders Share (read the How to Rent a Motorcycle in California article), and you’re ready for an adventure. Need more SoCal trip ideas? Read the The Best Motorcycle Events in Los Angeles and Top-5 Motorcycle Riding Trips in San Diego articles. 

1. Glendora Mountain Road to Mt. Baldy

One-day trip — 22 miles

One of the most unique motorcycle roads in all of California sits just outside Ontario, right in your backyard. It’s the Glendora Mountain Road to Mt. Baldy motorcycle route.

This route offers truly majestic views—thick forests, vast canyon vistas, and snow-capped mountains during the winter months. Because it goes through the Angeles National Forest, it’s an excellent way to escape the smog of the city in favor of the clean air of the mountains. The foliage will add a pleasant aroma to your ride.

This route is a twisty one, making it a favorite of motorcycle enthusiasts who like technical riding. Expect to see a fair amount of fellow riders, usually those on sports bikes. This route is well-maintained throughout, although Glendora Mountain Road lacks a center stripe to distinguish north- and south-bound traffic. Keep this in mind, and pay heed to the upcoming traffic when riding through blind turns. 

This route is short enough that you won’t have to worry about running out of fuel or food, but there are a few places you might want to stop. Mount Baldy Lodge in Mount Baldy Village serves some great hamburgers and brew, and the little country store on Highway 39, by the river, is very convenient.

2. San Gabriel Canyon Road Hwy 39

One-day trip — 30 miles

Glendora Mountain Road’s twin motorcycle route is located just west of Glendora in Azusa. San Gabriel Canyon Road Hwy 39 is guaranteed to get you just as many eye-popping views and heart-throbbing twisties as Glendora.

You’ll get to see San Gabriel Canyon and the Morris Reservoir. Don’t let any good view go to waste, you can stop along any of the vista spots along the way; they overlook much of Southern California. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

This route is full of sweeping turns, ideal for enjoying the amazing views along San Gabriel Canyon. Aside from these, you’ll also encounter some technical spots that require real heads-down participation. All in all, this route is a blessing for lovers of views and devotees of skill.

This route is lacking in amenities. You’ll need to fill up your motorcycle rental and your belly before you head out on this one.

3. Angeles Crest Highway

One-day trip — 60 miles

The Angeles Crest Highway is a favorite section of Southern California pavement. Its a quick fix for anyone looking for pure alpine scenery only minutes from smoggy downtown Los Angeles. The views are phenomenal. If you ride it at midday, the zigzagging ridges of the mountains will cast long shadows and cover you with their shade, a welcome reprieve from intense sunlight. Mountains, blue skies, fresh air—need we say more?

This route has got plenty for the sightseer and the experienced rider. Angeles Crest Highway consists of twisting mountain roads, sweeping curves, and switchbacks climbing up to approximately 7,000 feet. Road quality is fantastic. Most of it consists of two lanes. Traffic is minimal on the weekends, and this route is less popular with motorcyclists than the roads near the coast.

If you’re looking for food, try stopping at Newcomb’s Ranch in La Cañada Flintridge. They’ve got great BBQ, and there’s always classic and contemporary motorcycles parked in the lot. This is definitely a motorcyclist-friendly spot and a nice break from all the technical driving it took to get there.

4. Hemet to Borrego Springs

One-day trip — 105 miles

If you’re tired of the high elevations of the mountains east of Los Angeles, but still seeking stunning views, the Hemet to Borrego Springs will give you a tour of the Anza Borrego desert and its mirage-filled vistas.

This route is a marvelous mash-up of stunning scenery all the way. The landscape south of Hemet changes from chaparral-covered slopes to a mix of oaks and pines as the elevation increases over and past Warner Springs Ranch. From here on out, you’ll get long ranch vistas. Once you drop down into the Anza Borrego Desert, you’ll get dry desert vistas. The desert flowers are particularly beautiful and noteworthy during the early spring months.

Twisties begin south of Hemet and continue uninterrupted except for a long straightaway as you ride down through Scissors Crossing. Montezuma Grade is especially rife with twisties. Road quality is great across the entire route.

As far as food is concerned, you’ll want to eat lunch in Borrego Springs; there are a few good places to dine.

5. Murrieta to Carlsbad - Mountains to Beach

One-day trip — 45 miles

Leave the Inland Empire behind and put your toes in the sand with the Murrieta to Carlsbad - Mountains to Beach motorcycle route. This route has such a variety of scenery and topography, it never gets old.

This trip takes you along a rise from the freeway and up through the Cleveland Forest, before depositing you down a very steep hill full of winding roads. You’ll pass a series of orchards and ranches until you reach Fallbrook. Between Fallbrook and Carlsbad, you still get the same winding roads, but with a lot more hills and trees overhanging the roads. 

Past the drop, the riding becomes more technical, due to the winding nature and steep incline of the road. Expect lots of dips and twists. This route is well-maintained and generally free from dirt and gravel. Although traffic is light on the first section of the road, watch out for drivers backing out of their driveways during your descent. 

You’ll have to wait until you reach Fallbrook for any real amenities. The rest of the route is pure country and devoid of food and fuel.

Reading through these motorcycle routes, you might feel as if you’ve seen all possible Southern Californian terrains and roads. But in fact, you’ve only scratched the surface. Riders closer to Irvine can try any number of daringly mountainous motorcycle roads, while those in Los Angeles will be treated to numberless coastal and inland excursions. Even the San Diego rider has several world-class motorcycle roads to choose from.

Wherever the motorcycle enthusiast decides to ride, he should at least know where to rent a motorcycle in the Golden State. Riders Share makes renting a piece of cake. Search for your city, scroll through the available motorcycle rentals, and rent from a real motorcycle owner. There’s nothing stopping you from dominating Southern California from the mountains to the coast.