Best Motorcycle Rides in California

Mar 10, 2024

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best motorcycle rides in california

With its diverse landscapes and winding roads, California is a motorcycle paradise. Here are some of the best motorcycle rides in California, catering to everything the Golden State has to offer. 

Motorcycle Routes in California Overview:

  • Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) 
  • Carmel-Cambra via PCH
  • Angeles Crest Highway 
  • Palomar Mountain Road
  • Redwood Highway (CA-101)
  • Sierra Heritage Byway (Route 168)
  • California Route 33
  • Feather River Scenic Byway
  • Joshua Tree National Park Ride
  • Death Valley National Park Ride
  • Yosemite National Park Ride

Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) - 656 miles

PCH motorcycle ride best motorcycle ride in CA

The Pacific Coast Highway, famously known as Highway 1, represents the pinnacle of motorcycle touring along the California coastline. Starting in Orange County at Dana Point and winding north to Leggett, California, this iconic stretch is immersed in natural beauty and cultural landmarks. Each turn includes ocean vistas, with the route dotted by charming towns and historical points of interest.

Key Highlights:

  • Drive-Thru Tree Park: The Chandelier Tree, located in Drive-Thru Tree Park in Leggett, California, stands as a magnificent coast redwood reaching up to 276 feet in height. A unique feature of this tree is the 6-foot-wide by 6-foot-9-inch-high tunnel carved through its base, permitting vehicles to drive through. The tree's diameter at breast height spans an impressive 16 feet
  • Golden Gate Bridge: An architectural marvel and the gateway to an unforgettable journey.
  • Point Reyes Lighthouse: A picturesque stop that offers a glimpse into maritime history among stunning scenery.
  • Big Sur: A stretch that combines rugged landscapes with the serene beauty of the Pacific.
  • Carmel-by-the-Sea: Known for its fairy-tale cottages and pristine beaches.

Heads Up!: One particular stretch of the PCH, south of Big Sur in the Cambria area (around 42 miles), is closed until late Spring 2024 due to erosion from a winter storm. 

Read more about this ride.

Carmel to Cambria via Highway 1

one of the best motorcycle rides in California- Carmel to Cambria, Bixby Bridge

This Pacific Coast Highway ride segment is a condensed version of the larger route, packed with dramatic cliffs, secret coves, and world-class golf courses. It's a journey that showcases the diversity of California's coastal landscape, from Carmel's artistic allure to Cambria's historic charm.

Key Highlights:

  • Pebble Beach: Not just for golf enthusiasts; the scenic beauty is unmatched.
  • Carmel Art Galleries: Immerse yourself in the local culture and perhaps find a piece to take home.
  • Big Sur Coastline: Even in this short stretch, the views are monumental and awe-inspiring.

Heads Up!: This route is closed due to road closures from erosion in late 2023. It is estimated that it will reopen in late Spring 2024. 

Angeles Crest Highway - 66 miles

angeles crest highway, one of the best motorcycle rides in California

Rising from the outskirts of Los Angeles into the heart of the Angeles National Forest, this route offers a dramatic escape from city life. The road is a challenging series of switchbacks and elevation changes, unveiling panoramic views of the San Gabriel Mountains and the vast Los Angeles basin below.

Key Highlights:

  • Mount Wilson Observatory: A detour worth taking for the views and a touch of astronomical history.
  • Chilao Recreation Area: Ideal for a rest stop, surrounded by natural beauty.
  • Newcomb's Ranch: A popular roadside diner that serves as a gathering spot for motorcyclists, cyclists, and car clubs. It's a perfect place to take a break, enjoy a meal, and socialize with fellow travelers.

Palomar Mountain Road - 31 miles

palomar mountain road, best motorcycle rides in CA

The ascent up Palomar Mountain presents an exhilarating challenge with its twisty road, leading to one of Southern California's prominent landmarks, the Palomar Observatory. The road rewards riders with expansive vistas of valleys, the desert beyond, and a closer look at celestial wonders.

Key Highlights:

  • Palomar Observatory: A window to the stars, nestled atop the mountain.
  • Panoramic Vistas: The lookout points offer breathtaking views across the horizon.
  • Palomar Mountain State Park offers a variety of hiking trails that wind through dense forests, open meadows, and streams. 

Redwood Highway (CA-101) - 350 miles 

redwood highway california best motorcycle rides

Drive through the Redwood Highway to explore forests that have been around for centuries. It's a straightforward journey filled with nature's best, from giant redwoods to the rugged coast of Northern California, perfect for some quiet time and exploration.

Key Highlights:

  • Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park: Walk through this forest and see some incredible trees up close.
  • Avenue of the Giants: Take a side trip to meet some of the world’s tallest trees.

Sierra Heritage Scenic Byway (Route 168) - 60 miles

sierra heritage scenic byway best motorcycle rides in CA

Embark along Route 168, the Sierra Heritage Scenic Byway, which weaves through the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains over 60 miles. This scenic drive is a gateway to natural wonders, offering an array of outdoor adventures against a backdrop of breathtaking landscapes. From shimmering lakes and towering trees to serene hot springs, Route 168 invites travelers to explore the heart of California's wilderness with simplicity and awe.

Key Highlights:

  • Shaver Lake: A vibrant spot for enjoying water activities, fishing, or simply soaking up the serene lake views. It's an ideal place for a family picnic or a leisurely day by the water.
  • Dinkey Creek: Known for its inviting swimming holes and the remarkable Dinkey Creek Bridge, this area is a perfect base for exploring nearby trails or enjoying a day of fishing in a peaceful setting.
  • McKinley Grove: Wander through this secluded grove of giant sequoias, where you can walk among some of the Earth's most majestic living beings. The grove offers gentle trails that allow you to immerse yourself in the tranquility of these ancient forests.
  • Kaiser Pass: As you climb higher, Kaiser Pass presents expansive views of the High Sierra's peaks and valleys. This high point is your gateway to wilderness adventures, offering access to remote hiking trails and natural beauty.
  • Mono Hot Springs: Mono Hot Springs is a hidden gem for those seeking relaxation amidst nature. Natural hot springs in a remote mountain setting provide a unique opportunity to unwind and rejuvenate.

California Route 33 - 290 miles

CA highway 33 best motorcycle ride

Drive California Route 33 for a journey that takes you through some of the state's most diverse and stunning landscapes. This road winds from the outskirts of Ventura, climbs through the rugged Los Padres National Forest, and stretches into the Central Valley. It's a route that promises scenic views and a real adventure for anyone who loves to explore the less traveled road.

Key Highlights:

  • Ojai: A quaint town famous for its boutique shops, art galleries, and serene vibe. It's a great starting point for relaxation and exploration.
  • Los Padres National Forest: Drive through this massive forest area, enjoying mountain views, hiking opportunities, and some wildlife sightings.
  • Taft: This small town marks a shift in scenery from the forested mountains to the open landscapes of the Central Valley. It's a slice of California's oil-producing history.

Feather River Scenic Byway - 130 miles

feather scenic byway best motorcycle routes in california

Ride on the Feather River Scenic Byway, stretching 130 miles through the Sierra Nevada in Northern California. This route is more than just a drive; it's a journey through diverse landscapes, from the lush Sierra Valley down the canyon alongside the Feather River and through dense forests. It's perfect for anyone looking to enjoy nature, history, and adventure.

Key Highlights:

  • Lake Almanor: Kick off your journey with scenic water views and outdoor activities.
  • Feather River Canyon: Enjoy breathtaking canyon views, with several spots for hiking and photography.
  • Portola and the Western Pacific Railroad Museum: Conclude with a touch of history and the chance to explore old trains.

Joshua Tree National Park Ride

joshua tree national park motorcycle ride

Riding through Joshua Tree National Park is like entering another world where the Mojave and Colorado deserts meet. The landscape is dotted with the park's namesake Joshua trees alongside fascinating rock formations and a backdrop of clear, starry skies. 

Key Highlights:

  • Keys View: A vantage point offering views of the Coachella Valley and the distant Salton Sea.
  • Hidden Valley: Perfect for a short hike or a picnic amidst unique geological features.

Getting There:

  • Los Angeles: Approximately 130 miles (about 2-3 hours) to the park's West Entrance.
  • San Diego: Roughly 175 miles (around 3-4 hours) to the park's West Entrance.
  • Las Vegas, Nevada: Around 190 miles (about 3-4 hours) to the park's South Entrance.

Death Valley National Park Ride

death valley california motorcycle ride

Experience the extremes at Death Valley, the hottest, driest, and lowest national park in North America on the California/Nevada border. This ride is not for the faint-hearted, presenting both a physical and a mental challenge amidst stark beauty and solitude.

Key Highlights:

  • Badwater Basin: The lowest point in North America, surrounded by salt flats.
  • Dante's View: Offers a panoramic view of the valley from above, especially breathtaking at sunrise or sunset.

Getting There:

  • Los Angeles: About 270 miles (approximately 4-5 hours) to Furnace Creek Visitor Center.
  • San Diego: Around 330 miles (approximately 5-6 hours) to Furnace Creek Visitor Center.
  • Las Vegas, Nevada: About 120 miles (roughly 2 hours) to Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

Yosemite National Park Ride

yosemite national park motorcycle ride

Discover the awe-inspiring beauty of Yosemite National Park, a jewel of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This route guides you through iconic landscapes, from towering waterfalls to vast meadows and ancient giant sequoias. 

Key Stops:

  • Yosemite Valley: Start here to see famous landmarks like El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls. The Valley offers easy trails, stunning views, and visitor facilities.
  • Glacier Point: An essential stop for panoramic views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and the High Sierra. It's accessible by car from late spring to early fall.
  • Mariposa Grove: Home to over 500 mature giant sequoias, this grove is a must-visit for a walk among some of the largest living organisms on Earth.
  • Tuolumne Meadows: A scenic drive to this high-elevation meadow offers opportunities for hiking, picnicking, and wildlife viewing in a serene setting.
  • Tioga Pass: The eastern gateway to the park, this pass provides access to more remote areas, including lakes and trails less traveled by the park's many visitors.

Getting There:

  • San Francisco: About 170 miles (approximately 4 hours)
  • Los Angeles: Roughly 280 miles (around 5-6 hours) to the Yosemite Valley
  • Sacramento: Approximately 140 miles (about 3 hours) to the Yosemite Valley
  • San Jose: Around 200 miles (approximately 4-5 hours) to the Yosemite Valley
  • Fresno: About 95 miles (roughly 2 hours) to the South Entrance (near Mariposa Grove)

Motorcycle Rentals for Your Next California Motorcycle Ride with Riders Share

Planning your next motorcycle ride in California? Consider renting a bike through Riders Share, a motorcycle rental platform that connects owners with riders. Whether you're looking to cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway, explore the scenic routes of the Sierra Nevada, or zip through the vibrant streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles, Riders Share offers a variety of motorcycle rentals to match your next adventure. 

Wrapping Up

California's vast and varied landscapes make it a dream destination for motorcycle riders looking for their next dream route. From the coastal beauty of the Pacific Coast Highway to the historic charm of the Feather River Scenic Byway, the state offers routes that cater to every rider's fantasy. Whether it's the rugged beauty of the Sierra Nevada on Route 168, the desert mystique of Joshua Tree, or the extreme conditions of Death Valley, each ride promises a unique adventure. Remember that some routes, like the PCH near Big Sur, await reopening in 2024. For those looking to explore these routes, consider a rental from Riders Share to find the perfect motorcycle for your journey. Embrace the freedom of the road and the breathtaking beauty of California on your next ride.