Top 5 Motorcycle Routes Near Sacramento, California

Sep 25, 2021


Motorcycle ridden in northern California.

To the sports jockey, motorcycle enthusiast, and all-around adrenaline-junkie, Sacramento isn’t only California’s capital—it’s the ticket to world-famous natural and artificial playgrounds. Ride through densely-packed forests and mountains to the Nevada border. You’ll also be welcomed by the flashing lights of Lake Tahoe and Reno’s glitzy casinos. If gambling isn’t your thing, hunker down in a cozy cabin by the water or take a ski lift high above and hit the slopes. Sacramento is the gateway to northern California’s epic escapades.

But let’s not forget: the journey just might be more important than the destination. If you’ve got a deep love of the natural world, the motorcycle routes around Sacramento will take you into the iconic wilderness of northern California, an experience not to be missed. Here are five of northern California’s best motorcycle routes. Need a motorcycle? Check out Riders Share. If you’re in Sacramento, they’re the best way to rent a motorcycle on short notice.

1. Mosquito Ridge Road

One-day trip — 30 miles

One of the Golden State’s greatest rides takes you away from the congested roads around Sacramento right into a canyon on the legendary Mosquito Ridge Road.

Mosquito Ridge Road is a guaranteed ticket to nowhere, and that’s a good thing. Out here, you won’t find a single crossroad or driveway. You’re the only motor traffic. Prepare for breathtaking views of the snow-capped Sierras as you wind your way right and left through the canyon. This 30-minute ride can stretch for hours, depending on how many times you want to stop for pictures. Take a quick swim at the reservoir near the end of the route, or, spend the night camping at Black Bear. It's located past the McGuire Boat Ramp Exit.

Mosquito Ridge Road is tight and a very twisted road. There are many narrow shoulders and turns, you’ll start wondering whether they’ll ever end. This route is in good shape overall. A few sections of the route are covered with rocks and loose debris since the road hugs cliffs in a few short sections. There are a few potholes in the road too. Ride within your limits and keep your eyes on the road. All the other outlet roads branching off from Mosquito Ridge Road are of lower quality or turn into dirt. 

This route has no shops, restaurants, gas stations, or hotels. So we recommend that you fuel up before leaving Foresthill or once you hit Auburn. You can stop at the Red Dirt Saloon in Foresthill, a popular spot for motorcycle enthusiasts to grab a beer and cool off. You can also stay at the lodge or visit the museum in Foresthill. 

2. Salmon Falls Road

One-day trip — 15 miles

Motorcycle enthusiasts craving a short, twisty route worth repeat riding ought to check out Salmon Falls Road. This route is short, so you can loop back and forth on it a few times.

This route features rolling hills populated with ranch-style properties. Salmon Falls Road will also take you past a section of the American River, providing views of Folsom Lake. Stop at the Folsom State Recreation Area along this portion of the route. 

The first third of this ride from Pilot Hill/Highway 49 to El Dorado Hills, is technical. There are plenty of inclines, and very tight turns with blind corners. Road quality is good, aside from the occasional debris near the road’s shoulder. Salmon Falls Road is popular with sportbikes, so keep this in mind when renting a motorcycle. Avoid weekend warriors by riding during the week.

The length of Salmon Falls Road is devoid of gas stations and roads. You’ll have to grab some food and fuel at the beginning or end of the ride.

3. Highway 26 Out of Stockton

One-day trip — 58 miles

If you're tired of looking at the Sierras from afar, plunge into their thickly-forested foothills with the Highway 26 Out of Stockton trip.

This route begins in Stockton, California, less than 50 miles south of Sacramento via I-5 S. It takes you out of the Central Valley and into the Sierra foothills. Forget long stretches of flat farmland—instead, you’ll be treated to pine and redwood forests. As you go up- and downhill, expect plenty of curves and twisties. Luckily, you won’t find gravel or debris on the roadway. At most, you’ll have to watch out for deer or other wildlife crossing the road.

A fair warning: there aren’t many gas stations or restaurants along this route. Most of the time it’ll just be you, your motorcycle rental, and the road ahead. Top off your tank and your belly in Stockton beforehand. If you want to hold off until later, Lockeford is an excellent place to get gas and food—it’s also home to Lockeford Meat and Sausage. The food there is so good, there’s often a line outside the door. You’ll have to wait until you pass Jackson to find more amenities.

4. Wentworth Springs Rd-Ice House Rd-Placerville

One-day trip — 90 miles

The area around Placerville, 44 miles east of Sacramento, is home to the Wentworth Springs Rd-Ice House Rd-Placerville motorcycle route, one of the best California has to offer. Play in the backyard of iconic Lake Tahoe, replete with massive reservoirs, snow-capped mountains, and twisty mountain roads.

The section of road leaving Placerville eventually heads into the mountains and along a ridge which overlooks Sonora, California. This route, lined with new-growth pines and cedars, begins to follow the American River and gives you spine-tingling views of the American River Canyon as it heads north. Past the ridge we mentioned earlier, you’ll hit dense, old-growth forest.

From here you’ll have easy access to the area’s many reservoirs. (Try visiting Lake Loon at the northwestern edge of Desolation Wilderness by sticking to Ice House Road instead of making a left to Georgetown—you’ll see lots of granite at an elevation of 6,300 feet.) You’ll continue to see forest along the route, but the scenery changes once reaching Georgetown. From here on out it’s rolling hills and ranches. If you’re willing to take Highway 193 right (north) out of Georgetown, you can stretch your legs at the Gold Rush discovery site, Coloma. This detour also follows the American River.

The start of this ride is a well-maintained, smooth, curvy ascent up a hill which soon turns into a slow descent into American River Canyon. Once you’re on Ice House Road, you’ll switch back to going uphill, but this time on a windy, two-lane road. At the very end of the route, things mellow out while remaining curvy. While all the roads on this route are clean and in great condition, Wentworth Springs Road deserves special praise—it's smooth, fast, and worth opening up the throttle. Just make sure you look out for ice on Wentworth Springs Road, especially during winter months. Traffic is most intense during weekends. Riding through forested areas, you’ll want to watch for squirrels and other wildlife.

Leave Placerville with a full gas tank and some water—summers can be hot, even in the forest. Fuel is also in short supply and rather unpredictable. If you’re parched, you can stop at a few watering holes on the way, just look for the signs. Georgetown and Cool (off Highway 49) are sure bets for beverages and fuel.

5. Yuba River Ride; Hallelujah Junction to Emigrant Gap

One-day trip — 120 miles

Twisties, sweepers, the American River Canyon, and the Tahoe National Forest? The Yuba River Ride; Hallelujah Junction to Emigrant Gap motorcycle route might just become your favorite ride in all of northern California. You have a choice between starting at Hallelujah Junction or Emigrant Gap. The easiest way would be to start from Emigrant Gap, 74 miles northeast of Sacramento via I-80 E. 

Get a taste of the Yuba River by riding through the bottom of the canyon which surrounds it. You’ll be cruising along a windy road, past the north fork of the river, but you’ll be exposed to excellent scenery and gorgeous vistas. This isn’t a dry-as-bones desert-floor canyon—it’s full of water, trees, and life. Because you’ll be riding through the Tahoe National Forest, the opportunities for outdoor recreations like camping and hiking are nearly unlimited.

As mentioned before, this road is a windy one, with plenty of tight twisties, sweepers, and hills to traverse. The middle portion of the route is especially curvy, but good visibility means you can cut loose whenever you’d like. A few straightaways a mile past Sierraville break up the monotony, so you’ll get a little bit of everything on this one. The pavement is fantastic, aside from a few patches. Head out in the mornings to avoid traffic. This route is cooler and less crowded in the fall.

As for amenities, you needn’t worry. Although you’ll mostly be surrounded by trees, there’s a fair smattering of tourist rest stops and gas stations along the way. Downieville is a little town with great places to grab lunch; the same goes for Sierraville. Nevada City is another place to check out; park your motorcycle and soak up some of its old-town atmosphere.

After reading about these motorcycle routes, you’re probably rearing to see those snow-capped mountains in person and plunge into their thickly-forested foothills. We won’t stand in your way. In fact, we’ll give you one last recommendation for renting a motorcycle in California.