Top 5 Motorcycle Trips Near San Jose, California

Sep 18, 2021

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Exploring the Redwood forests on a Ducati motorcycle.

The San Francisco Bay Area is an icon in its own right. To outsiders, the name brings scenes from American movie masterpieces. Gorgeous technicolor photography of San Francisco in Alfred Hitchock’s Vertigo; idle wanderings through Berkeley’s bookstores and cafes in The Graduate; the birth of Palo Alto-based Facebook in The Social Network

But behind the fame and celebrity of the region, there’s a different side to the Bay Area. For the motorcycle enthusiast, a visit to San Jose doesn’t have to end in an inevitable trip to the Golden Gate Bridge. Mt. Diablo and Mt. Hamilton tower far above the giants of Silicon Valley’s burgeoning tech industry, and California’s impressive state parks cover immense swaths of the Bay Area. Best of all, exhilarating motorcycle routes full of switchbacks and blind turns run through, over, and around all of them. Interested in renting a motorcycle? Learn how in the How to Rent a Motorcycle in California article. 

Make your next trip to San Jose an opportunity to experience the other Bay Area. This region includes redwood forests, mountain observatories, and unforgettable rides. To save you time, we’ve listed five routes. Don’t forget to make Riders Share your go-to when it comes to renting a motorcycle in San Jose; you’ll find the best rides at the lowest prices, from owners and enthusiasts like you. Need more trip ideas? Read the Best San Francisco Motorcycle Riding Routes and Top-5 Motorcycle Routes Near San Francisco articles. 

1. Mount Hamilton Loop

One-day trip — 100 miles

The Mount Hamilton Loop offers the best views of the Bay Area opposite San Francisco and shouldn’t be missed by any road-riding visitor.

Going up and over a mountain with a 4,196-foot peak has its perks. You’ll survey every kind of landscape the Bay Area has to offer, including meadows, forests, and farmland. The views themselves are to die for. Go on a clear day to see all across the Bay, or wait until the evening to go stargazing near James Lick Observatory. The Observatory’s visitor center and displays could eat up a whole afternoon!

This route is a real mountain road, so expect lots of switchbacks and blind turns. Road quality along this route is good, although there are a few mount-related hazards. The section of the route going up the mountain is windy, while the portion coming down gradually levels and smooths out, with some amazing sweeping radius turns. Fallen rocks and gravel aren’t unheard of on this route, so be aware. The same goes for potholes, which are harder to spot. Also be mindful of bicyclists going up and down the mountain, and the occasional cattle guard crossings. Squirrels and deer are a common sight.

If you’re hungry, the Mount Hamilton Loop doesn’t disappoint. A Bite of Wyoming coffee shop and restaurant in San Jose, is a great way to start the route if you’re up early in the morning. The Junction Bar & Grill on Mines Road is another delicious stopping point. If gas is what you’re looking for, you’ll have to fill up in San Jose—there aren’t any gas stations on the loop. 

2. Sierra Road Loop

One-day trip — 12 miles

San Jose’s surrounding motorcycle routes are a convenient way to explore the redwood-covered landscape of the South Bay. The Sierra Road Loop is one such motorcycle trip.

Be prepared for sweeping views of the South Bay—you’ll get exactly what you came for. Sierra Road climbs west uphill. After five miles, you should be able to see a Vista Point parking lot on your right. Park your motorcycle and enjoy the incredible views. Go for a hike on one of the trails. You can see the Santa Cruz mountains and the Calaveras Reservoir on the other side. Felter and Calaveras Roads will take you back down again, into the foothills.

Aside from the views, you can release some steam on several of the twisties and sweeping turns. Road quality is good for the most part, although the initial straightaway climb up Sierra Road has some potholes. A mile-long portion of the route is restricted to a single lane, so make sure you ride it at a lower speed.

If you need gas, the intersection of Sierra and Piedmont Roads in San Jose is as good a place as any. Otherwise, finding amenities outside San Jose will be difficult.

3. Morgan Territory Road

One-day trip — 15 miles

Explore the Bay Area’s wealth of nature preserves and farmland by taking Morgan Territory Road.

The first section leaving Livermore samples California’s charming farmland. The second half plunges you into the dense forests of Morgan Territory Regional Preserve and around Mt. Diablo, an imposing fixture in the Bay Area horizon. If it’s open, drive into Mt. Diablo State Park—it’s rife with opportunities to go rock climbing, hiking, and camping.

Morgan Territory Road is 15 miles of single-lane road with a ton of blind corners in its middle section. The first and last four miles of the route are a blast. Although the middle portion is a ton of fun to ride too, it isn’t well-maintained. Keep an eye on your speed and watch for hazards.

Take this route if you want to unplug. For all intents and purposes, you’ll be in the middle of nowhere. While not having cell service in Silicon Valley is ironic, it’s not always a bad thing to turn away from the digital world and get back to nature.

4. Castro Valley to Berkeley

One-day trip — 23 miles

Visit the best public university in the world and see some of the greatest views in the Castro Valley to Berkeley motorcycle route.

The first thing you’ll want to do is ride 33 miles from San Jose to Castro Valley. Redwood Road is fairly scenic and lined with ancient trees, but things really pick up once you reach Berkeley. Grizzly Peak overlooks all the San Francisco Bay, including some of its lushest forests and most beautiful mountains. On a clear spring or summer day, you’ll be treated to an all-encompassing panorama: San Francisco, Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley, the Bay Bridge, the Campanile, the University of California—you name it, and you’ll see it.

This route features a bevy of turns, twisties, and elevation changes. The road gets narrow in some places, but you’ll get a mix of slow- and medium-speed corners. Although road quality is generally good, a few places are rough and need some maintenance. You should pay attention to any sand and rocks on the road from the cliffs above. Luckily, you won’t find much gravel or oil on the road.

Although this ride isn’t long enough for you to stock up beforehand, you can get gas at two places; both are located north of the Redwood exit off 580. Once you get to Berkeley, you’ll have a blast. Visit the university’s massive aboveground and underground libraries. Take a stroll across verdant Memorial Glade and lie in the sun; listen to the chatter of the students and the tinkling of UC Berkeley’s Italianate bell tower, the Campanile. Street parking can be a hassle, so we recommend picking one of the several parking garages surrounding the campus. Bring a few bucks for parking, too.

5. Palomares Road

One-day trip — 17 miles

To conclude our list of motorcycle routes near San Jose, we recommend working Palomares Road into your itinerary. This idyllic East Bay back road is an ideal escape from the frenetic pace of Silicon Valley and the wider San Francisco Bay Area.

The only companion you’ll have for the duration of this route will be a positively picturesque creekbed. It’ll follow you up and down as you traverse a tight, twisty, verdant canyon.

Road condition is great—the roads are well-paved, and the center lines are very visible. Rain sometimes washes dirt, mud, and gravel onto portions of the road. Motorized traffic is sparse, but you’re likely to pass plenty of bicyclists along the way.  

Because this is more of a nature-trek than anything else, amenities are in short supply. However, there are some roadside attractions. Check out the Holy Cross Orthodox Monastery for a taste of real seclusion, or visit the nearby Chouinard Winery. Under normal circumstances, they offer tours and wine tasting on weekends between noon and 5:00 pm. 

Once you’ve exhausted all the fun to be had in the city, break away from San Jose to any of the above motorcycle routes for a change of pace and scenery. Northern California’s natural beauty is unsurpassed in much of the United States, and the Bay is no exception.

If you breeze through these, don’t worry about running out of motorcycle routes—there are additional rides in the Bay Area. We here at Riders Share let you rent a motorcycle at the price you want, because we don’t want you to miss a minute of the Golden State’s best motorcycle riding.