Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The Top 5 US roads


I recently read a post on a the American Motorcyclist Association website about which roads in the US had been voted as the top biking roads in the US.

Here are the top five. I am very lucky to have ridden some of them.

Number 1 – The Beartooth Pass.




















On the Wyoming / Montana border, this is US Highway 212 which runs 69 miles between Red Lodge in Wyoming and Cooke City in Montana. Rising up to 10,947 feet / 3,337 metres, the road climbs and falls quickly. Even though I rode the Beartooth Pass in August, it was cold and very windy on the top of the mountains, so careful riding was a must. Snow was still on the ground and the temperature had plummeted thanks to the strong winds. The term windchill factor takes on a whole new meaning when you are exposed to the elements on top of a mountain.

Occasionally you hear people say they are “feeling on top of the world.” On Beartooth Pass, I truly felt it was – as the overall impression when looking down from a mountain upon other tall mountains is – quite literally, like being on top of the world. It is a remarkable feeling to stand and gaze out over so much land. The road surface was in tip-top condition and the overall feeling of riding the road was simple – wow. Just wow.

No wonder it was voted as number 1.



Number 2 – The Blue Ridge Parkway


















I haven’t ridden this road yet, but it is very close to the top of my list of those I want to do. The road is 469 miles / 755 kilometres long, mainly along the Blue Ridge mountain chain. The road connects the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Its construction started in 1936 and took 52 years to complete. Those who have ridden it tell me the scenery is wonderful and the bends sweeping. The parkway is often closed from November to April due to the harsh weather.



Number 3 – The Tail of the Dragon

Photo by Tim Vines




















From the longest road in the top five to the shortest. At just 11 miles long, you might not think this is much of a road, until you find out it has 318 curves in that short distance. The road is a section of the U.S. Route 129 along the Tennessee - North Carolina Border. Notorious in the biking community, this is one of those roads that people travel a long way to ride. I look forward to riding it one day.



Number 4 – The Million Dollar Highway

Part of US 550, the Million Dollar Highway runs between Silverton and Ouray in Colorado. As it cuts its way through the San Juan Mountains, the 23 mile / 37 kilometre road has many hairpin bends, narrow lanes and steep unprotected drop-offs, which is precisely why it is so exhilarating. There are very few guardrails. Cresting at 11,075 feet / 3,376 metres on Red Mountain Pass, the most exciting part of the road is at its Ouray end, where it passes through Uncompahgre Gorge and the roadway clings to the side of the mountain. One slip here and it would be curtains for sure. The scenery and views are dramatic, which adds to the effect and, of course, the thrill of this exciting road. My video of riding this road gives just a taste of what the road is like.







Number 5 - California State Route 1

I have ridden the main part of this road, between San Francisco and Los Angeles, twice. It is truly spectacular.



















Sometimes foggy, this road runs alongside the Pacific Ocean, right next to beautiful beaches and the stunning rocky coast.

 Very remote in places, some of the best parts are Big Sur, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel, Santa Barbara and many others. With so much to see and take in, this has to be one of the most relaxing, chilled out roads anyone could ever ride. The ocean has some of the best surfing waves in the world and there are plenty of opportunities to see surfers in action alongside the road.

These are some of the best roads in the USA.  Have you ridden any of these and what did you think of them?

28 comments:

Chillertek said...

Thats one sweet piece of road Gary. I think I would have turned around and riden it a couple of times.

Gary France said...

Chillertek - Did you mean the Million Dollar Highway, in the video? That road is so good, I did turn around and ride it again - in fact I rode its 23 miles five times!

Charlie6 said...

Happy New Year Gary...perhaps I am biased but I like the Million Dollar Highway over Beartooth Pass....only by a little bit mind you.

dom

Gary France said...

Dom – And Happy New Year to you. It is a close call. I would say the Million Dollar Highway is a better road and more fun to ride with more twisties, but oh boy, those views from Beartooth Pass are spectacular.

Phil Albritton said...

I've ridden all of them except the Beartooth Pass. Would have ridden it but it was closed to traffic due to snow, when I was there. Tail of The Dragon is way overrated and crowded. Cherohala Skyway is better in that area. BRP is long and beautiful, but too much ice cream can become sickening, if you know what I mean.Million Dollar highway is just ONE of many good roads in that area.

Anonymous said...

I rode the Blue Ridge on 2005 as part of the HOG Road Candy tour. Amazing scenery and endless twisties.

George Ferreira said...

Numbers 1,2 and 3 I've done on a motorcycle, number 5 by car. I have to say Beartooth but since I haven't done 4 I will have to wait until I ride it. I have been to Ouray by car but from there went northwest to Moab, didn't know about that road back then.
I would add the "going to the sun" road in Glacier National Park as another great road if you can deal with some traffic.

iansolley said...

got me thinking - there are so many great roads out there - I have done all these except Beartooth (which I will try and do this year). Agree with Phil on Tail of Dragon - we rode it on a Saturday in June and didnt get out of first gear due to the massive amounts of bikes, did Blue Ridge Parkway a few days earlier in thick fog to! Two more I would add are Old Route 66 over the hills into Oatman, and the 180 through the Gila National Forest in New Mexico.

Trobairitz said...

I am always curious to see which roads make the top 5.

Some day maybe we'll even ride some of them.

RichardM said...

Beartooth in a truck and PCH, #5, on my bicycle. Both spectacular.

Gary France said...

Phil – Thanks for the advice about Cherohala Skyway. Not knowing the area and never having ridden there means I hadn’t actually heard of it before. I do know what you mean and the same applies to chocolate!

Gary France said...

George – I would say Beartooth is much more impressive due to the views, but the Million Dollar Highway is much scarier because the drop-offs (with no guard rails) would cause major grief if you made a mistake. I need to ride the “Going to the su” road one day. I hear Glacier National Park is spectacular and I am sorry I didn’t know of it before I made my US trip.

Gary France said...

Ian – I found the same when riding the Needles Highway near Sturgis for the first time, when there were way too many bikes to make it enjoyable, so I got up very early the next morning and rode it while everyone else was asleep. The old R66 road near Oatman would be fantastic, if it wasn’t for the very poor condition of its road surface – great history in that road. Never done 180 in New Mexico though.

Gary France said...

Trobairitz – I hope you do get to ride some. You make up for not having ridden them in other ways though, like having a great partner where the two of you share the same passion for riding.

Gary France said...

Richard – Of the two, I think I’d prefer the PCH on a bicycle. Better on a bike with an engine though!

Canajun said...

Thanks Gary, a few more for the bucket list. Happy New Year!

(No Name) said...

I rode the Million Dollar hwy in Aug 2012. Did the Durango to Silverton leg in pouring rain. Not fun.

Thomas Osburn said...

Great roads. I have ridden all but #5. Concerning the Blue Ridge Pkwy I have ridden only a small part, but it was nice.

bob skoot said...

Gary:

I have been close to some of these roads but before I knew they existed. Our trips were mainly fly and rent a car. We have driven parts of Route66 from Needles and into Utah and through Escalante, Arches & I love Moab.

It was my desire to see my own country and when we had our jeep and truck we travelled extensively on non-paved backroads, mostly within BC. Imagine the feeling of being 8 hours in the middle of nowhere on gravel roads, or 160 kms of gravel roads up into the Nass Valley (Nisga'a). These are roads more suited for a Dual Sport bike.

I still have a desire to ride across Canada and to see my own country even though there are no exotic roads up here

bob
Riding the Wet Coast
My Flickr // My YouTube

polarbear said...

I think the speed limit on the Blue Ridge Parkway is 35mph.. And I am so glad that we get to keep all of our secret favorite roads to ourselves here in Oregon....We've got a lot of every type of road you could ask for.. some of it isn't even paved. All of it is awesome though.

Gary France said...

Canajun – Happy New Year to you as well. I hope you get to ride some of them soon.

No Name – That is one road I wouldn’t like to do in heavy rain. Scary!

Thomas – The Pacific Coast Highway is a truly memorable road. Not so much as a great technical road, but for the views and the terrific feeling of being relaxed that it gives you.

Bob – I would love to travel to those off-road places in Canada. By car or motorcycle, great roads are still great roads. I am returning to Colorado this year on a family holiday in an RV, to see some of the fantastic roads there once again.

Jean Nelson Paintings and Photography said...

I would add the stretch of 101 that runs along the Oregon coast - spectacular scenery on this winding highway. I have traveled 101 in both states.

Rex J. Covington said...

Happy New Year! I have rode everyone of those hwy and they were fantastic!

biker baby said...

I only read part of this post and already I love it. I have marked it as a favorite to read in full when I am feeling better. I will definitely be coming back to read the rest.
I rode roads 1, 4, and 5. I would love to ride the Dragon but would probably irritate people because I would want to see the views. I hear people go there for the thrill of riding the curves as fast as they can.

WooleyBugger said...

I've ridden the Blueridge, not all of it but parts of it, and plan on riding the whole thing this spring or summer. Come join me and I might use a gopro to document it.
Now I have ridden the Mighty Python
, Hwy 58 in Damascus VA, which is 318 curves in 31 miles. Most of these curves are hairpin high concentration curves. Speed limit is posted 55 but I don't know anyone fool enough to go the posted limit. The road is not widely known yet with MC riders because of the dragon. You can find a good write up about it after we survived it by my friend Billy Jones at motorcycleroads.us

Gary France said...

polarbear – I believe you are right about the speed limit. I have never been on two wheels in Oregon, but one day....

Jean – That sounds like one of the roads I need to plan to ride.

Rex – And a belated Happy New Year to you!

biker baby – I am glad you liked it and I hope you get to read it in full soon. From what I have heard and seen in a few pictures, there are not many views to see from the Tail of the Dragon road. You are right about people wanting to ride it fast, so if I ever got the chance to ride it, I would go for something like 10am on a Monday morning when the road should be quiet.

Wooley – Riding the Blue Ridge with you is very tempting, but sadly I won’t have the time this year. I looked for Billy’s write up, but couldn’t find it. I did however find reviews of the road by other people and the road sounds very good. I read it was just resurfaced, so this summer is probably the ideal time to ride it.

ourbmw said...

We've ridden the Blue Ridge Parkway from mile marker "0" at the north end, all the way down to mile marker "469" at the southern end. It is an amazing road and you should take your time on it. It was built as a scenic roadway. The Tail of the Dragon is fun to say you did it but can be very crowded. Expect to be passed by sport bikes who use it as their personal raceway.

Gary France said...

Chris and Donna – Everytime I hear of somebody mentioning the Blue Ridge Parkway, they invariably say great things about it. To ride from 0 to 469 must have been a great experience and one that I certainly hope to replicate one day. Having seen your video of the ride, it looked fantastic, even with the foggy start!