From the east coast to the west coast, and not forgetting Hawaii and Alaska, America is inarguably one of the most geographically diverse countries in the world. And ever since President Eisenhower proposed the building of 41,000 miles of interconnected asphalt with the Interstate Highway System, back in 1956, it became easier than ever to see all of what the country has to offer. But where to start? What should be your vehicle of choice? Those questions are actually easier to answer than you might think.
If you’re looking for great road complimented by incredible scenery, with a few exceptions, pin straight expressways are your enemy. What you want are stretches of tarmac adapted to nature when they were first laid out and there’s no better place to look than along coastal stretches and the ribbons of asphalt that contour snaking rivers and waterways. And if you want to take in 100 percent of the experience, skip the car and go for two wheels. With a motorcycle, there’s no barrier between you and nature — It becomes a sensory overload rushing at you at 65 mph. So, if you want to know the best riding roads in America, this list is your starting point.
Hells Canyon Road, Idaho
Starting just across the river from Coopersfield Campground in Oxbow, Oregon, and continuing all the way to Hells Canyon Dam, the appropriately named Hells Canyon Road runs along the Snake River for 22 miles. Hugging the jagged canyon walls, the two-lane strip of blacktop undulates and creases the entire way. When you do eventually get to the Hells Canyon Dam, where only Park Service vehicles are allowed to pass, you’ll have to turn around and head back the way you came. Going 44 miles out of your way never looked so good.
Location: Hells Canyon Road | Council, ID ⇱
Route 9W to Storm King Highway, New York
Just short of an hour north of Manhattan is Route 9W. It’s a highway that starts out unassumingly enough, meandering around Bear Mountain State Park. Take the exit for Storm King Highway, though, and the contemptuously named route leads you to and along the Palisades, a cliffside drive with views 1,000 feet over the Hudson River.
Location: Storm King Highway | West Point, NY ⇱
M119, Harbor Springs, Michigan
Perfectly contouring the northern section of Lake Michigan, the M119 in Harbor Springs, Michigan, makes for one hell of a springtime ride. If the Nurburgring is the “Green Hell,” then M119 north out of Harbor Springs, Michigan is probably the Green Heaven. Officially nicknamed the Tunnel of Trees, what M119 lacks in elevation change it makes up for in twisties and constant, peacefully green canopy.
Location: M119 | Harbor Spring, MI ⇱
California State Route 1, California
You can’t have a list of waterfront riding roads without California Highway 1 or the Pacific Coast Highway. In total, the PCH stretches 556 miles from Dana Point in Orange County, just south of Los Angeles to Leggett, California. Along the way, you’ll see some of the most famous views in the world, including the Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur, the Channel Islands and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Location: Pacific Coast Highway | State Route 1, CA ⇱
US 1, Florida
US 1 in Florida, from South of Homestead down to Key West isn’t exactly pin straight but it’s not a road for the apex hunters either. What US 1 lacks in turns, it more than makes up for in views of crystal clear waters and warm salt air flooding your helmet. Not to mention you’re spoiled for choice if you want to stop and take a dip.
Location: US-1 | Key West, FL ⇱
Hana Highway, Hawaii
It should come as no surprise that Hawaii has at least one stunning waterfront road, but the Hana Highway on the north coast of Maui is one of the best in the world, not just for the tiny island state. Pinched between the Pacific ocean and Koolau Forest Reserve, the Hana Highway serpentines its way along the coast, providing the dramatic sights, sounds and beautiful aromas Hawaii is known for.
Location: Hana Highway | Haiku, HI ⇱
US 101, From Cannon Beach to Florence, Oregon
The PCH takes care of most of California but when you pick up the 101 and make your way up to Oregon, that’s when you figure out the west coast is riding road heaven. Route 101, from Cannon Beach to Florence, Oregon, snakes up Oregon’s west coast, spoiling riders with views of crashing waves, Nehalem Bay State Park and the famous 235-foot Haystack Rock.
Location: US 101 | Redwood Highway ⇱