Best Motorcycle Destinations Between San Francisco and Salt Lake City Near Interstate 80

Jan 3, 2022

Tags:rentertravelsan franciscosalt lake city

Motorcycle ridden in the Nevada desert.

Aside from the “Loneliest Road in America,” Interstate 80 is the cross-country traveler’s most direct means of getting from the salty seashores of San Francisco to the also salty lakeshore of Salt Lake City. Interstate 80’s charm lies in its convenience; a good portion of the route runs through northern Nevada, much of which is desert. Although it isn’t the most scenic route between San Francisco and Salt Lake City, it is the quickest. A hard core rider can travel the entire 750-mile length in 11 hours. 

Motorcycle enthusiasts will appreciate Interstate 80’s passage through California wine country and its relaxing, no-frills ride through the Nevadan desert. They’ll also be impressed by the places they can visit and the things they can do along the way. Golden Gate Park offers just as many things to do as the city which surrounds it, including art museums, animal exhibits, and paddle boating. Head northwest and visit the nearly century-old Sacramento Zoo to see more wildlife than you could catch roaming the forests of Yosemite. After visiting the National Automobile Museum in Reno, conclude your journey with an invigorating hike at the Rye Patch State Recreation Area and a natural spa treatment at 12 Mile Hot Springs.

Read up, gear up, and get ready for a road trip you won’t soon forget. Save yourself the time and rent a street bike with Riders Share. Once you’ve secured a trusty steed, you’re set for a ton of fun west of the Rockies!

1. Golden Gate Park — San Francisco, California

After renting a motorcycle in San Francisco, the easiest way to begin a cross-state journey is by exploring the city a bit before bidding it farewell. Golden Gate Park is San Francisco’s answer to Central Park on the East Coast and perhaps the most scenic spot in town. It covers over 1,000 acres, with grassy knolls and windswept trees as far as the eye can see. Add to that dozens of activities, and you can understand why Golden Gate Park is a huge draw.

There’s also the De Young Museum and the Legion of Honor. The former houses halls upon halls of art from non-Western countries, while the latter focuses exclusively on European masterpieces. After you’ve had your fill of man-made art, discover nature’s creations by visiting the Strybing Arboretum, home to over 7,000 different species of flowers. There’s nothing more romantic (or aromatic) than walking through the white-latticed greenhouses and smelling the roses. The Japanese Tea Garden also makes for a meditative excursion superior to any garden-variety park experience. If you’re tired of looking at flora, there’s plenty of fauna housed in the California Academy of Sciences. Top off an afternoon in the park with a paddleboat ride on Stow Lake. In the middle of the lake, you’ll enjoy a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Because Golden Gate Park lies in the center of San Francisco, your starting point, you won’t have to worry about directions or amenities. However, it’s helpful to look up the admission prices and hours of its various attractions beforehand, so plan accordingly. Have some extra time to spend in northern California? Read the Top Motorcycle Events in Northern California article for more trip ideas.

2. Sacramento Zoo — Sacramento Zoo, California

If you were impressed by the wildlife at the California Academy of Sciences, you’ll be blown away by the variety of animals on display at the Sacramento Zoo. This isn’t any zoo—it’s California’s premier zoo, having been open for almost 100 years within William Land Park. Since its founding, the zoo has quadrupled in size and features wild animals including lions, zebras, giraffes, hogs, and various primates. Additionally, visitors will see fish, birds, and everything in between, including amphibians and lizards. But like Golden Gate Park, there’s more to do than just enjoy nature. 

Play a few games on the zoo’s golf course or eat at any of the restaurants within the zoo’s boundaries. You could easily turn your visit to the Sacramento Zoo into an hours-long affair before moving on to the sights and sounds of Nevada.

The journey from San Francisco to Sacramento via I-80 is a piece of cake, spanning about 90 miles and around 90 minutes of time.

3. National Automobile Museum — Reno, Nevada

Renting a motorcycle for a trip down Interstate 80 is a sign that you’re a motorcycle enthusiast. Inaugurate your visit to the Silver State by brushing up on your automobile history with a visit to the National Automobile Museum on the banks of the Truckee River in Reno, Nevada.

Recognized as “One of America’s Top Ten Automobile Museums,” this spot is right out of a motorist’s dream, fitting 200 vintage vehicles within 100,000 square feet of indoor space. These classic cars look as new as they did when they first came out of the factory, pristine, waxed, and ready for an auto show. 

The museum also recreates authentic street scenes and sounds—including an old hardware store and movie theater facades—so you can see the cars in their proper historical context. You’re guaranteed to come away having learned something about these cool cars: the museum offers various educational programs, theater presentations, galleries, and exhibits designed with visitors and educators in mind. And if you’re tired of exploring the past, why not jump into the future? You can check out the Nevada Space Center while you’re at it (it’s located within the National Automobile Museum) Lovers of space travel won’t be disappointed. You’ll reach Reno from Sacramento after 130 miles or two hours of riding along I-80.

4. Rye Patch State Recreation Area — Lovelock, Nevada

Park your motorcycle and hike to your heart’s content in the desolate wilderness of the Rye Patch State Recreation Area in Lovelock, Nevada. Even though it’s 2,400 acres lie in the heart of the desert, hiking, fishing, and mountain-biking are all on the table for dedicated visitors. If you wait out the heat of the midday sun and stay the night, you’ll experience an unrivaled view of the stars above. The Rye Patch State Recreation Area’s distance from civilization means there’s no light pollution, making it perfect for prolonged stargazing. Just make sure you bundle up—deserts are just as cold during the night as they are hot during the day. From Reno, the Rye Patch State Recreation Area is an 1.5 hour ride on Interstate 80. 

5. 12 Mile Hot Springs — Wells, Nevada

12 Mile Hot Springs, located in Wells, Nevada, is the perfect place to stop before rolling into Salt Lake City. True to its name, 12 Mile Hot Springs, also known as Bishop Creek Hot Springs, is a naturally-occurring hot spring located 12 miles north of Wells. The hot springs themselves are contained in man-made concrete pools 40 feet long and three feet deep with gravel bottoms. 

After a long day of hiking around the Rye Patch State Recreation Area, take off your boots and soak in the heated, bubbling waters, which average about 100 degrees Fahrenheit (the source of the waters are around 10 degrees hotter). The springs are free and open to the world-weary public. As an added bonus, you can check out the native wildlife before or after your therapeutic bath. Without a doubt, this is the best way to end your Interstate 80 travel before concluding your western adventure.

The last leg of your journey, from Rye Patch State Recreation Area to 12 Mile Hot Spring, will be your longest. Set aside around four hours to ride the 240 miles between the two locations. The roads to 12 Mile Hot Springs, though paved, are rough and contain potholes. Keep in mind that while there is a parking area, there are no signs for either the springs or the parking area. If you choose, you can hike between the two in one hour (two miles). The nearest amenities are located 11 miles away.