4 Bucket List Motorcycle Rides in the West

Genevieve’s favorites!

By Genevieve Schmitt, WRN Founder

Over the course of my 25 years riding a motorcycle, I’ve traveled a lot of amazing roads in the western part of the U.S. My favorites have one thing in common: they all encompass that magical formula of incredible scenery combined with pavement that twists and turns enough to keep a motorcycle rider excited, and a photographer in their glory!

I’m often asked which roads are my favorite to ride on a motorcycle. Well, here are four that I recommend you do sometime in your motorcycling life. Take my advice and add them to your bucket list if you’ve not done so already. I’m a scenery gal so these are rated in order by which has the most incredible vistas witnessed from the motorcycle saddle. Hold on and pay attention to the road though!


1. Going To The Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana
4 Bucket List Motorcycle Rides in the West Going to the Sun Road

This is an example of some of the captivating views you’ll see along the Going to the Sun Road, the main thoroughfare through Glacier National Park. I stopped to get a roadside photo in the wildflowers, as I always like to do.

4 Bucket List Motorcycle Rides in the West glacier national park
This shot is quintessential Glacier National Park. You can see the Going to the Sun Road cut across the slope of the mountains.
2. Million Dollar Highway, U.S. Route 550
between Silverton and Ouray, Colorado


4 Bucket List Motorcycle Rides in the West million dollar highway motorcycles
I was in awe the first time I traveled the 25-mile stretch of Highway 550 between the towns of Silverton and Ouray in Colorado, back in 1996. Betsy Huelskamp of WRN’s Backroads with Betsy, and I (far right) met these guys along the scenic route and ended up riding with them for awhile.


4 Bucket List Motorcycle Rides in the West million dollar highway
I can’t promise you cute motorcycle guys or girls on the Million Dollar Highway, but I can guarantee million-dollar views like this one along what is also called the San Juan Scenic Byway.
3. Pacific Coast Highway, California


4 Bucket List Motorcycle Rides in the West pacific coast highway
Pacific Coast Highway runs nearly the whole length of the state of California, but the part that has those signature jaw-dropping views runs from Carmel down to Morro Bay, about 145 miles. There’s nothing like riding along the edge of a mountain as it drops straight down into the Pacific Ocean.


4. Beartooth Highway, Montana


4 Bucket List Motorcycle Rides in the West Beartooth Pass
The Beartooth Highway is a 68-mile stretch of scenic byway that runs through the Beartooth Mountains in south central Montana. You feel like you’re on top of the world with how far and wide you can see on a clear day. WRN contributor Tricia Szulewski (also art director/writer for Motorcycle magazine) took this photo on one of those days. Can you spot the two motorcycles in the photo?


4 Bucket List Motorcycle Rides in the West beartooth highway
Taken from the saddle of Tricia Szulewski’s motorcycle, this photo shows how high you are on the Beartooth Highway as you climb and switchback your way to the 10,947-foot high Beartooth Pass.


Now that I've shared mine, what are your favorite western roads to ride? Or share your experiences on these roads. Tell us in the comments section below!

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40 thoughts on 4 Bucket List Motorcycle Rides in the West

  1. Beartooth is a great road, as is Chief Joseph Highway and the Big Horns.All mouth-open views. All must-do roads.

  2. Oregon’s Highway 3/WA 129 (Rattlesnake Grade) is pretty much the greatest ride I’ve ever been on.

  3. Great list. Living just about an hour’s ride from the Beartooth Highway, it’s a favorite ride of mine. Made it up on opening weekend this season (it’s only open four months out of the year). It starts about 5,000 feet above sea level and goes to around 11,000 feet. Designated an All American Road. To have this, the road itself is your destination. Many more great rides out there. Here’s some pictures of opening weekend. Once you got up to snow level, temp dropped about 35 degrees.

  4. There isn’t any ride in the country like this one. Pure eye candy and motorcycling heaven. From the Olympic Rain Forest in Port Angeles to Oregon’s Gold Coast and then the Redwoods, to San Francisco and the Golden Gate, to Big Sur and Monterey and then Morro Bay, south to Pismo and Shell Beach, and down all the way to San Diego, across the bridge to Coronado and along the strand, this ride is amazing in its diversity, colors, breathtaking scenery, even with a Redwood tree to put the bike in and take a picture. If you add in Hwy 36 from Fortuna, Calif. to Red Bluff and back, you have one great ride.

  5. Me and my two buddies are heading to Kalispell, Montana, June 11. We have three brand new Kawasaki KLR 650s waiting at a dealership for us and are getting ready to do some aventuring. My friend just sent me your thing on Facebook. One of my friends has done this trip before. We plan on taking about two weeks and then riding back to Richmond, unless we decide to live there, haha. Another friend of mine told me about Going to the Sun Road. She said it is all of that and then some. We might come up into Canada. My two friends are trying to get their passports squared away in time. If not I’m sure we’ll find plenty of cool places on this side of the border. If you have any suggestions drop me an email. I don’t do a whole lot of emailing but I can find my way through it. Sure looks beautiful from what we’ve seen. Thanks for sharing what you’ve seen.

    1. Thanks for sharing about your upcoming trip, Scott. Hope it’s blast! I know it will be because you’ll be in Montana — and on one of the most amazing roads in the world. All the best to you,

  6. Have ridden all but the Silverton Hwy in Colorado. Another great motorcycle road is the Sullivan Pass from Rexford/Eureka to the Yaak, in northwest Montana.

  7. Montana and the Going to the Sun Highway sits number one on my bucket list. Also want to go to LoLo Pass in Montana and once again to the Chief Joseph Byway in Wyoming, which is incredible. Other favs in the west would include Needles Highway in South Dakota, Jerome, Arizona, Route 66, south entrance to Grand Canyon, and Zion National park would be right up there as well. I am so fortunate to have four seasons and fabulous rides here in the northeast, but love riding the west and touring every national park. Glacier, I am coming — maybe even go north to the Canadian Rockies and Banff, Lake Louise, etc.

  8. I got to ride 101 (Pacific Coast Highway) from San Francisco to Big Sur. Such a beautiful and amazing ride! Gotta love all the (ocean) cows, cows that live on farms literally right next to the Pacific Ocean. If you’re ever in Calif., take Highway 1 no matter where you can pick it up. You won’t be sorry, I promise!

  9. I’ve ridden all of these except Beartooth. I hope to do that one this year. The Road to the Sun was exceptional and a bit challenging. Be careful on this road. They were doing construction when we went up to it. But the view was something else. Ride safe and be smart!

  10. I do a lot of rides from Morro Bay To Big Sur Highway. That’s one great ride.

  11. The Pacific Northwest is home, but I have ridden many many states, highways, back roads, and regions (Daytona – Key West, Canadian Rockies, Sierra Nevada mountains, Colorado, Tail of the Dragon, etc.) I have to vote to include Highway 20 over the North Cascade Highway in Washington state. It is truly one epic vista-laden road with many twisties. Definitely a bucket list road.

  12. My hubs Steve has done all of these rides, and even though I’ve been to 34 states on my motorcycle, I still haven’t been to Montana! So I am hoping to go next summer. These rides are on my list! I had a dream right before we left on our Road Pickle trip, and in the dream my father told me to go to the Bear’s tooth. I didn’t know what that meant at the time. I’ve figured it out now.

  13. All four are great roads and being from the UK, I am lucky to have ridden them all. My favorite western US roads are (in no particular order) 1. Moki Dugway, in the southeast corner of Utah because it is a gravel road that has switchbacks. 2. Skyline Drive, near Canon City in Colorado, because the road drops off on both sides at the same time. 3. Beartooth Highway, because of the views and 4. Any road that takes me to see remote and isolated America because the welcome I get is fantastic almost everywhere I have ridden. I once did a road trip on my Harley-Davidson, which I flew over from London and did 21,000 miles in 4 months and went to 27 states. I loved it so much I wrote a book about the trip called France In America. You Americans are lucky that you live in such a diverse country! Check out my video.

  14. Thanks for your efforts in supporting the motorcycle activities, especially for women. This is my first read of your site and have enjoyed it immensely.

  15. The Going to the Sun Road was just unbelievable. I’ll always remember getting splashed with freezing cold water from snow melt running down the rock wall as we road down the mountain. Route 12 from Lolo Pass across Idaho to Walla Walla, Washington, was amazing. On the same trip, we road on out the Columbia River Gorge to the coast and down the Oregon and Northern California coast on 101. The coast was different than I ever imagined. Seeing the ocean, the morning fog, the giant trees and the watch for elk” signs all in the same view was crazy! The morning we left Brookings, Oregon, it was a very cold 40 damp degrees. We headed south to near Eureka, Calif., before heading east. By noon, it was 109 degrees. Riding across the Trinity mountains, Rt. 299 we saw an eagle gliding along the river about a foot above the water! This was pretty rugged riding. Have to say, it was hard to keep eyes on the road. Loved it! Beartooth Pass is definitely on my bucket list! We have some beautiful riding here in the Eastern U.S. also!

  16. Agree, all 4 of those are epic roads in the West. I’d also add my support for the North Cascades Hwy (Hwy 20) in Northern Washington, from which you can get to Glacier Park on a truly epic ride, if you’ve got the time. Bonus? Almost zero traffic until you get to Going to the Sun Rd.Also great in Colorado are 149 (west of Gunnison – passes Creede, and if you take enough time, you can connect through Pagosa Springs to the Million Dollar Hwy, or take NFS road shortcuts), as well as the upper portion of Hwy 114 past Cochetopa Dome. There are also easy forest service road connections across from 114 over to 149. We are in love with Ouray, and keep going back there. There is mind-boggling offroad riding, too, in that area. Happy Trails!

  17. Those are beautiful roads and will definitely have to try them sometime. There are a couple of roads that I would highly recommend as well. My girlfriends and our husbands took an eight-day trip through New Mexico, California, Arizona and Nevada. The two roads I would definitely say to do are 89A out of Sedona, Arizona, and the Coronado Trail road 191 from Eagar to Wilcox (Apache-Sitgreaves Nat’l Forest.) Lots of twisties and switchbacks and beautiful scenery. Amazing is all I can say. We had a great time and rode 3,000 miles on our trip.

  18. My easy first place west ride is route 12 and peripherals through Utah. Multiple national and state parks, forests, and monuments. Just the Grand Staircase is worth the ride.

  19. Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park may not be quite as spectacular as these four but it’s close. Besides some great scenery, you usually see elk and Rocky Mountain Sheep. (Although I rode right by three sheep on the side of the highway in Big Thompson Canyon on the way to Estes Park over Labor Day weekend.) Two cautions: it’s better to ride it during the week if possible due to heavy traffic on the weekends, and watch where you’re going as there are places with vertical drops of several hundred feet and no guardrails. There are scenic pullouts where you can stop to take in the view and take photos.

  20. Love riding the Great River Road! Head south from LaCrosse, Wisconsin, on Highway 35, cut across at Dubuque, Iowan, take the GRR back north on the Iowa side to beautiful Minnesota Highway 16 west to Lanesboro! Perfect day trip!

  21. Spectacular choices. They are all incredible rides! I’d love to add Needles Highway in the Black Hills of South Dakota, near Mount Rushmore. Would love to see your top 4 (or whatever number you have) for the Eastern USA too.

  22. Washington’s North Cascades in the beautiful and scenic Methow Valley! Only open for a short period, usually late June, July, and August.

  23. Oh my! These places look awesome. I have not had the pleasure of riding any of them, but your pictures make me feel a part of them. I am a bit afraid of heights (silly I know) when looking down, but once on a ride I don’t think of it too much, as I am having to think of the curves that are upon me. Ride safe! Love your journeys for sure. And I know I would be stopping and taking many pictures and marveling at God’s awesome work.

  24. There are so many more! If you do PCH up above San Fran it turns into the Redwood Hwy, and there is a little town called Shelter Cove. It is a 20-mile road from PCH to the town and it will take you about two hours. Up and down several mountains with 10mph corners through huge trees. Makes you feel like your riding in a fairytale. You can stay in a hotel right on a small cliff over looking the ocean. Well worth the ride.

  25. Great memorable rides all! I am lucky enough to live 30 miles from Glacier so I zip up there every chance I get. Thanks Gen for all you do for the women riders community!

  26. Maybe for some, but the Dragons Tail and Hell’s Backbone should be on the top.

    1. Good recommendations, but clearly they don’t match our criteria for this list, which are “motorcycle roads in the west.” Dragon’s Tail is in the east, in Tennessee, and Hell’s Backbone in Utah is a gravel road, not ideal for most street motorcycle riders.

  27. Not the most beautiful, but a lot of fun is the loneliest road, Highway 50 in Nevada. Get your passport and sign in at the different towns and get your medallion and certificate that you rode the loneliest road in America.

  28. Those roads should certainly be on everyone’s bucket list. They are on mine. I have two of them checked off already, Million Dollar Hwy and Beartooth Pass. As long as you are doing Beartooth, continue on to Chief Joseph Hwy and make the loop. To add to your recommendations, just before going up on Beartooth, tell your readers to stop in Red Lodge, Montana, at Bull and Bear Saloon for the freshest, best tasting hamburger they will ever eat. What is the best time of the year to ride the Going to the Sun Road? I have heard that it is snow covered most of the year.

    1. Since it is still possible to see snow in June in Montana (heck, it can snow any month of the year in Montana!) you can pretty much expect a nice, dry summer day in late July and early August. But even this year, the first snowfall of the season happened August 23 all over most of the Montana, and higher elevations like Glacier National Park and the Beartooth Highway experienced frigid temperatures and wet slushy snowy conditions. Many vacationers of all kind were caught off guard. I remember saying a prayer for every motorcyclist I saw trudging through the freezing rain and, what I call “styrofoam” snow (the flakes that resemble little pellets), on Interstate 90 that we experienced at lower elevations hoping they’d get their destination safely.That’s Montana for you!

  29. I have done all four of these rides and they are each fabulous in their own way. I think the coast is probably my favorite. The blue waters, the cliffs, spectacular views, whales, sea lions, and dolphins make it difficult to ride it without stopping often.

  30. I’ve been blessed to have ridden Beartooth and the Million Dollar Highway. Now I just need to ride the other two. Maybe in the next couple of years.

  31. I have two favorite areas I like to ride, the Jasper Disaster in Arkansas through the Ozarks and Canaan Valley, West Virgina. Rt. 72 is one of the most picturesque with winding roads, creeks and mountains.

  32. Thanks for the article. I am planning on heading to Sturgis in 2015 for the 75th Anniversary (crazy, I know) and have planned for extra days to “see” parts of the West. Might have to see if Montana and Colorado can become a part of my travel plans.

  33. The ride from Ouray to Silverton was life-changing for me. I love Going to the Sun and Beartooth as well. I still need to get to the Pacific Coast Highway, but it’s definitely on the list. Good list!

  34. All four are great choices Gen. I’ve ridden them all and agree that they all go on the bucket list. Off the top of my head, I’d add the Cherahala Skyway in Tennessse/N.Carolina, and the now all paved Pikes Peak Highway near Colorado Springs.

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