Top 10 Winter Motorcycling Destinations in America
Winter can be a dodgy time for motorcycling. There are places where the thought of rolling out on two wheels is an absolute impossibility.
That said, there are a host of routes that you can enjoy even in the winter months. It may entail some planning and even require you to—heaven forbid—trailer your machine(s) to get within an appropriate ride zone, but a wintery ride may just be worth the effort. Here are 10 ideas for unforgettable winter motorcycling.
Pacific Coast Highway
Between Hearst Castle and Carmel, CA, is perhaps the finest 90-mile stretch of motorcycling to be found. The Pacific Coast Hwy is a curving, scenic splendor of good pavement and non-existent cross traffic.
Wintertime is generally free of slow moving motorhomes and rental cars. Although it can get cold, ice is extremely rare here. You may even get lucky and have warm weather—it’s anybody’s guess. Either way, the ride is a must-do, rewarding with the restaurant and hotel heaven of Carmel Village.
Hill Country, Texas
Beautiful, with some surprisingly motorcycle-friendly roads, the hill country of Texas offers charm and diversity. However, the weather can change on a dime and the region is not immune to freezing, face-aching cold in winter. On the other hand, track the weather and you can be pleasantly rewarded with mild temperatures to explore the region’s rich history.
Hill country is home to a number of early European immigrant populations whose language, food, and customs are still present, preserving their colorful cultures alongside those of the Lone Star State.
Daytona Beach, Florida
The environs of Daytona Speedway are famous for a reason. In March, Speed Week offers a full schedule of racing events and cruising, which lead up to the grand finale—the prestigious Daytona 200 Road Race.
In the ramp up to the big event, the city is drenched in the sound of lumbering straight-piped V-twins and sportbikes on the rev limiter. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s certainly a “happening.” Speed Week offers a plethora of motorcycle-related nuttiness. Riding will be mostly of the boulevard sort, with plenty of attitude and posing on display in terms of bikes and people.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Evel Knievel’s famous crash in 1968 while attempting to jump the Caesars Palace fountain notwithstanding, Las Vegas has a history as a fun motorcycle destination. Surprisingly, there are some good riding roads here once you venture beyond the strip.
Red Rock Canyon is the most rewarding ride, offering a mix of curves and dramatic scenery. Journey out into the surrounding desert or ride out to see Hoover Dam. Even if you’re not a gambling sort, it’s fun to wander through the decadent excess of the casinos. Over the years, the town has upped its stature substantially with regard to eateries and good hotels can be secured for bargain prices with some searching.
Sedona, AZ, is a center of mysticism that attracted the architect Frank Lloyd Wright to design a church that melds into one of the area’s famous red rock ledges. There are a number of decent motorcycle routes that stream out through the surrounding mountains and deserts, all possessing a deep, rich red color. There is something unique about the air in Sedona. A serenity can be found by those who dare to venture beyond the reach of tourist stops.
Big Bend, Texas
Skirting the border between the U.S. and Mexico, following the twists and turns of the Rio Grande, FM 170— also known as the River Rd—offers a moving tableau of the dramatic and beautiful, yet sometimes inhospitable landscape of southern Texas, which leads to Big Bend National Park.
Virtually unknown to the public prior to 1944, the park was established and roads created to allow visitors to experience the vistas where the Chisos, Mescalero Apache and Comanche tribes once hunted, farmed, and battled.
Baja California, Mexico
A bastion for those escaping the cold climes of the north, Mexico has a long history linked to motorcycles. That history is primarily of the off-road sort (think Baja 1000 and other notorious races) and the region is rich with off-road riding options.
The Baja Peninsula provides routes from easy to challenging. The Pacific Ocean is pleasantly close on the west side, and the Gulf of California on the east. Barren, rugged, and beautiful, Mexico offers a wide range of accommodations, from bare bones camping on the beach to high-end hotels and everything in between.
San Diego, California
At the southern end of California, benefiting from the Southwest state’s mild climate, San Diego presents a great winter riding opportunity. What Californians tend to call cold, the rest of the country calls summer.
As a base, San Diego is a vibrant city, with electrifying nightlife, restaurants galore, museums, maritime displays in the harbor, and one of the country’s best zoos. Surrounding the city are a host of riding routes that provide an escape into the surrounding hills and out to the edges of the deserts that spread out dramatically with rocks, mountains, and sand dunes.
Las Cruces, New Mexico
As a base to explore the vast open spaces of southern New Mexico, Las Cruces has all the amenities of a large city. Yet, it sits on the edge of the desert, allowing easy escape to the natural wonders.
Perhaps the most famous and alluring sight is White Sands National Monument. At times surreal, White Sands provides a palette of contrasts, the sandy environs muting down the sounds to a strange silence. The distant mountain ranges undergo a mystical transformation as you ride through this wide open, uncluttered region, which changes dramatically as the sun passes over, culminating in sunsets of deep colors.
With the Big Easy as a start point, venture east on US 90 into the fishing camps, swamps, and bayous. They take you through the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge and on to the white sand beaches that line the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
The easily navigated, straight US 90 takes you through Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, and into Biloxi, MS, where the historic Jefferson Davis’ House and Presidential Library make for an engaging stop. The Gulf Coast is home to a number of casinos for entertainment and lodging.