The 5 Best Motorcycle Rides in California

The 5 Best Motorcycle Rides in California

By Mackenzie Hutson May 20, 2020

As communities across the world and in California mitigate health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are shifting our content focus and not encouraging any travel or social activities during this time. We will, however, continue to shine a light on and celebrate the many beautiful aspects of our State with the intention of being a source of inspiration and joy during this difficult period. Thank you for reading, and stay safe.

Winding mountainous roads, panoramic vistas, and moderate weather are what motorcyclists dream of—and are just a few of the characteristics that make California a coveted biking destination. If the coastline alone wasn’t enough to convince you to head out on a scenic ride, perhaps the expansive deserts, forested woodlands, and vast orchards will do the trick. 

From famous motorcycle roads to undiscovered gems, you’ll never run out of new riding experiences in the Golden State. Whether there’s fresh pavement, new detours, different weather conditions, or less traffic, it’s nearly impossible to have the same ride twice. So let the breeze blow through your hair, lean into the turns, and take in the scenery on the way to your next favorite California destination. 

Badwater Basin to Dante’s View

Ride through the stark landscape of Death Valley National Park to reach Badwater Basin, the lowest elevation point in North America.

If Death Valley National Park wasn’t on your bucket list, it ought to be now. A motorcycle ride through the hottest place in North America requires some planning, but is well worth it for the photos and memories. Since Death Valley is a remote destination, you might want to consider staying at the nearby Furnace Creek overnight before riding from Badwater Basin to Dante’s View. 

This motorcycle route is noteworthy for many reasons, but it’s primarily known for offering the opportunity to see Death Valley’s lowest point—not to mention some of the best vistas in the area. Sitting at 282 feet below sea level, Badwater Basin is the lowest elevation point on the continent and is a surprisingly beautiful sight. The ground is covered with a thick layer of salt, which mimics the appearance of fresh snowfall. After taking some time to admire this landscape, hop on your motorcycle to experience the valley from new heights. 

Unlike many of our other favorite rides, the path from Badwater Basin to Dante’s View is fairly straight, paving a horseshoe shape around the mountains and up to the vista point. From Dante’s View, you can see across the basin, over to the nearby mountains, and on a clear day, all the way to Mount Whitney—California’s highest peak. 

Spend another night at the campgrounds to stargaze and appreciate the rich beauty of the arid desert before heading back to the beaches, forests, deserts, metropolises, or mountains in California that you call home. 

Hollywood to the Rock Store

For a classic California motorcycle ride, grab a friend and cruise from the Hollywood hills to the Rock Store.

The Rock Store is one of the most common endpoints for a Southern California motorcycle ride, making it a quintessential rest stop on a bike tour of the Golden State. Whether you pop inside for a comforting meal or hang outside to look at the bikes and meet new friends, you’ll never regret the ride. 

Start your day with a refreshing Hollywood hike or some celebrity spotting outside L.A.'s popular restaurants before meeting up with your crew at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Hop on the 101 and ride until you come upon the Mulholland Drive exit. Then, turn onto Mulholland Highway—that’s where the real fun begins. Riding away from the busy freeway provides a calmer, rural view of the local beach towns as the roadway winds right up to the Rock Store. The one-way route takes under an hour to complete, so it’s an easy afternoon getaway. 

Pacific Coast Highway

Admire the iconic California coastline from your motorcycle while following the twists and turns of the Pacific Coast Highway.

The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), also known as Highway 1, is often considered the best motorcycle ride in California. There are endless possibilities on this road, thanks to its hundreds of miles of pavement stretching up and down the coastline. Much like any Pacific Coast Highway road trip, this motorcycle ride is best done over several days or in small increments to stay safe and not miss a thing. Ride from Dana Point to Long Beach, Malibu to Santa Barbara, or Big Sur to San Francisco for a small taste of what Highway 1 has to offer. 

The best thing about cruising along this road is that it forces you to go slow and take in the world around you. Plus, with plenty of places to pull off and rest your legs, wander around small towns, and enjoy the beach, there’s something new to experience around every blind turn, leisurely curve, and cresting hill. 

Venice Beach to Neptune’s Net

Stop by the famous Neptune's Net during a motorcycle trip along Highway 1 to enjoy scenic views and delicious food.

As one of the state’s most beloved seafood restaurants, Neptune’s Net is a worthy stop on any coastal road trip or weekend getaway, but it’s an especially popular spot to break on a motorcycle ride. The eatery sits along the Malibu coast, about an hour’s ride from the famous Venice Beach boardwalk, making it an ideal place to get some grub and look upon the stunning ocean. 

After riding around Venice, visiting the canals, and catching a glimpse of some well-known Los Angeles surf spots, it’s time to hit one of the best motorcycle roads in the state: Highway 1. Though you’ll only travel 13 miles on this incredible stretch, it’s the perfect way to relax into the ride; salty air and a jolt of energy always seem to accompany this roadway, evoking the vibe of a never-ending summer day. Just when it may feel like things couldn’t get any better, you’ll turn onto Mulholland Highway. That’s when you’ll realize you’re on one of the best motorcycle rides in Southern California.

The curves command attention, reminding riders why they love their bikes and the open road. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the novelty, but try to take it easy and enjoy every turn as it comes. Before you know it, you’ll be turning back onto Highway 1, riding past Leo Carrillo State Beach and one of the most underrated state parks in California, and driving up to Neptune’s Net. While the food is craveable and drool-worthy, perhaps the best part is knowing you get to take the winding road back home.

San Francisco to Point Reyes

For a bucket-list experience, ride your motorcycle across San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and make your way to Point Reyes.

What’s better than cruising across the Golden Gate Bridge during a motorcycle ride from San Francisco to Point Reyes? With challenging roadways and iconic landmarks dotting the route, this is a bucket-list ride. 

Start at the San Francisco Ferry Building and ride through the Presidio for an idyllic view of the city. Then, cross the majestic Golden Gate Bridge on your way north, passing by Marin and Sausalito before meeting up with Highway 1 near Muir Beach. Keep cruising until you reach your destination in Point Reyes, or change your plans and grab some oysters farther north. 

Looking for more great rides? Plan your own Route 66 motorcycle tours, stop by Four Aces Movie Ranch and Southern California’s other film sets, or find your windiest local road to explore. 

Have you discovered another noteworthy California ride? Let us know in the comments below.

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