The 15 Best Roads in America – Chosen By AMA Magazine Readers

The 15 Best Roads in America – Chosen By AMA Magazine Readers

Speed Triple on Chief Joseph HighwayIn February of 2011, The American Motorcyclist Magazine and website put out the call for its readers to choose the best riding roads in America. The results were printed in the April 2011 copy of the magazine.

I was really surprised to see that I’ve actually ridden a few of the top 15! The ones I haven’t been on just might be fuel for my ever-growing bucket list. There is plenty of two-wheeled inspiration on those pages.

What is your take on the list?

Read the top 15 list after the jump:

15. Washington Route 129/Oregon Route 3 – Clarkston, Wa. to Enterprise, Or.

I haven’t yet been to Washington state. By the look of this route on Google Maps, I think I need to get out that way!

Have you been on this winding stretch of tarmac? Give us a review!

  • Status: Added to the Bucket List

14. Ohio Route 170 – Calcutta to Poland

Looking at the map – I’m a little skeptical about this one. It looks a little too populated, BUT…  I could be wrong.

Have you traveled it? What do you think? Does it deserve a spot in the top 15?

13. California Route 58 – McKittrick to Santa Margarita

Shack along California Route 58

Selecting a best road from California must be like selecting which of your kids you like best.

Crispy grassland, switchbacks and the high desert.  What’s not to love?

On our second day of riding in California in June of 2008, our first order of business for the day had us traveling along route 58. It was a great start to our day.

12. US Route 33 – Harrisonburg, Va. to Seneca Rocks, WV.

Seneca Rocks West Virginia

West Virginia is a beautiful state. For a motorcyclist, gorgeous mountains coupled with low population make for riding perfection.

I love West Virginia. It is within a day’s ride from where I live on Long Island and can give days worth of good riding through its mountains. Pinning down a single favorite road in its wilds is tough – but 33 is a good choice.

If you’re interested in finding more places to ride in West Virginia, make sure to stop in to Kathy’s site Appalachian Tours and get some inspiration!

11. Natchez Trace – Natchez, Ms. to Nashville, Tn.

The magazine article mentions “laid back”. I feel like that is a sugar-coated synonym for boring.

I must confess, this is the only road in the list that I have almost no desire to ride. Am I being silly? There must be something to it for it to be on the list. What am I missing out on?

10. Angeles Crest Highway – California Route 2

Newcombs Ranch on Angeles Crest

California canyon riding. Do I really need to tell you it’s amazing?

In your riding life, there are many moments that you will want to hang on to forever. Their memory is sweetened by time. In June of 2008, Greg, Kenny, Ed and I rode Angeles Crest together. We rode the serpentine tarmac and enjoyed lunch under a shady umbrella at Newcomb’s Ranch.

Whenever I see the green California 2 road sign sticker on my garage door, I smile.

9. US Route 12, Lolo Pass – Idaho and Montana

This baby is another one on my bucket list. I simply MUST ride the stretch of road that boasts a sign reading “Winding Road Next 77 Miles.

Have you ridden this route? Tell us about it!

8. Route 36 – California

Along Route 36 in California

A blacktop rollercoaster that has love in the pavement.

Serendipity put Kenny, Greg and I on Route 36 in California and WOW! I’m sure glad it did. It was a spectacular way to head from Redding to Eureka.

One of my most memorable rides… ever.

7. Cherohala Skyway – North Carolina & Tennessee

Fuzzy on the Cherohala50+ miles of fabulous sweeping turns carving through the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee.

It is home to one of the most terrifying pillion rides I’ve ever taken on the back of Kenny’s Speed Triple. He showed me no mercy and rode like he would when he was alone. I wasn’t born to be a passenger on a bike. End of story.

View on Google Maps

6. Going to the Sun Road – Glacier National Park, Mt.

The splendor of Glacier National Park is something that I must feast my eyes on. I have had this road on my “to do” list for what seems like ages.

Have you been? Tell me what I’m missing!

5. California Highway 1 – Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Coast HighwayThis stretch of road has sparked countless trips of both the imagination and real life. The beauty of riding California’s coastline is unrivaled. Every mile offers a vista more beautiful than the last.

The twists, the turns and the scenery – it’s the stuff dreams are made of.

Riding this road was a huge milestone for me.

4. Highway 550 – Ouray to Durango, Co.

Thousands of feet up in the mountains with hairpin turns and no guard rails – sounds exciting! Sign me up!

Have you ridden this stretch of road? Tell us about it!

3. US 129 – The Tail of the Dragon – North Carolina and Tennessee

Kenny at Deals GapThe Dragon is probably one of the most well-known stretches of road in the US motorcycling community. Famous for it’s 318 turns in 11 miles, it is in short, a humdinger.

This could be the only road I have ever ridden on and thought – “I wish it would just stop turning for a second,” so I could take a break!

Careful not to leave any souvenirs for the Tree of Shame!

2. Blue Ridge Parkway – North Carolina

Bikes on the blue ridge parkway469 miles of beautiful pavement. The Blue Ridge Parkway makes its way from near Cherokee, North Carolina to Waynesville, Virginia. Though its low speed limit of 45mph can seem like a bit of a let down at first, rest assured it is still an enjoyable ride.  It is very scenic and with few roadway entrances, you can motor along without much worry of dealing with many traffic issues.

Because it is in the mountains, it does have a tendency to get foggy in some areas. Like SERIOUSLY foggy. It’s all part of the adventure!

1. Beartooth Highway – Montana and Wyoming

Switchbacks and sweepers climb up to over 11,000 feet up and snake through the mountains. To earn the top spot in the reader’s survey, the Beartooth Highway must be nothing short of riding heaven.

I am still haunted by the fact that we were unable to ride the eastern end of the Beartooth Highway while we were in the neighborhood in 2005. The section of the road heading towards Red Lodge was closed due to mudslides.

For you roadside lovers, the town of Rockvale, Montana on Route 212 has a very fabulous Muffler Man!

Our dear friend Ed guest posted his ride across the Beartooth on Settle in with a cup of coffee and give his adventure a read.


So, what do you think?

Tell us about your experiences on these routes. What’s missing that you would add to the list? Would you remove any of these from the list?

Are you a motorcycle blogger?

Why not post your Top 15 roads in… wherever you are? Make sure to let us know where we can read your list by leaving a comment!

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54 Replies to “The 15 Best Roads in America – Chosen By AMA Magazine Readers”

  1. No Arizona roads? Hmm. People come from all over to ride the Coronado Trail, and the 89A up through Prescott, Jerome, and Flagstaff.

    Then again, it’s got to be tough to pick just a top 10. I just have a hard time imagining that Mississippi road beating out some of those around here.

    1. Hiya Dawn 🙂
      The top 15 were apparently picked by popular vote. So, I guess the AMA mag needs more AZ folks to read and represent!

      I’ll have to check out the roads you have listed there and file them away for “someday” 🙂 Do you have pics/post of them on your blog?

  2. Thanks for the shout-out. As I was reading about WV-33, I was thinking, “Hey, I can comment on THIS one!” And then I saw the link. You’re awesome. Thanks for sharing this info, too. So many roads, so little time. And so far to those dang roads out west. I love Idaho, but have never experienced it on two wheels. We were THIS close to moving to Moscow a couple years back…

    1. “So many roads, so little time.”

      Ain’t that the truth!!!!!!

      Yes, some of the do seem a bit far away. But not as far as say.. Austria. And you did ride there! 😉

      If i’ve learned anything over the last few years it is that life is mysterious. If you follow your dreams and whims – the possibilities are limitless! You just might find yourself cruising along in a faraway place if that is what your heart desires…

  3. I have only been to Cherohola, the Blue Ridge and the Dragon 🙁 I think the Cherohola should have been a lot higher in the list though as I found it much more fun then the Blue Ridge. I enjoyed it so much that I didn’t even stop for a picture till it was done!

    I remember talking to you about your thoughts on the dragon and how it required too much thinking. I personally am still a fan of it but i’m a sucker for technical non stop turns like that. I don’t really see myself thinking too much and getting overwhelmed by turns I see each turn as the next challenge and strive to hit it correctly.

    Each turn is a chance to improve myself.

    1. Don’t say “only”, Ben!

      I prefer my road like my men – a little loose. ::badum-dum-tsss::

      I do like canyon roads and mountain passes, but something like the Cherohala or Route 36 – which offer a bit more diversity than the relentless pounding you get from the Dragon – are really my cup of tea.

      I think the thing that freaks me out about the dragon is the fear that someone coming around one of those blind turns too hot will take me out. I think i’ve been scarred by the pics you see around the web.

      1. That was a huge fear of mine as well when I went through it but a lot of the turns I always felt I could see through so I wasn’t too nervous. I also hugged the outside like it was nobodies business and I got there really early in the morning so traffic was zero. I completely understand the fear of the dragon. The nagging thought of a tractor trailer coming head on in your lane is stressful.

        And your right I shouldn’t say only it is just when I look at all those great roads it reminds me how much more of the world I need to go see!

  4. I couldn’t be happier that I’ve only ridden a couple of these! Lots of riding left to do. I have to put in a good word for some of the Adirondack riding in upstate NY. Its not the longest season but lots of lakes on quiet mountain roads. I have to agree with a comment above, I’ve had some fantastic riding in AZ and NM as well…the list could go on and on!

    1. Hey Matt 🙂

      “Lots of riding left to do.”
      You said it!

      I hope to do a little more riding in the northwest section of my home state of New York. I’d love any suggestions you have!

    1. Richard-
      Bicycle people seem to have the same road sensibilities as motorcyclists. I’ve found some really good info and photos on roads through road biking websites. This was especially true for our trip to italy. Do you still bike regularly?

  5. The thing I hate about “TOP ROAD” lists is that the list eventually ruins the road (IMO). The more people that know about them, the more people will ride/pose/crash/die on them which will bring out the popo.

    I’ve only ridden a few of those roads on the list but I can say that US33 is THE BEST (but not for long) that I’ve ridden on the list.

    Cherohala 50+mph?! More like 100+mph easy 🙂 and you don’t even need to use your brakes.

    The Dragon? Meh. If it were an unknown road, it would AMAZING, but there’s more/better roads closer to home (and I ain’t saying where;)

    1. There might have been a time when I agreed with you on the “ruins the road” point, but not so much anymore.

      In this digital age, there are no secrets. Thinking otherwise is kind of an illusion. Anyone armed with a map can know what you know. If you found the road, others have and will continue to.

      I do agree that jackassery brings the police. I’m a little on the fence about this. If things get bad to the point that police are around all the time, that means people are probably doing some shit that is getting people hurt. I’m not an angel, but I don’t think you need to ride in a way that makes you a menace. So, if the fuzz shows up – can I still enjoy my ride? Probably. I dunno. I guess my feelings on the cops being around would be situational. If they are ticketing for 5mph over the limit – then yes, that would suck. If their presence is helping to curb people from burying themselves into a wall at 100mph… I’m ok with that.

      I really like that there are websites dedicated to giving you tips on great rides. I appreciate that someone would give me a tip that I might not have discovered on my own for a place that is far away from home.

      I like the lists. They give me something to dream about when I’m pretending to work. 😆

  6. I have done 5 of them, 10 more to go 🙂
    Of the 5 I have done I have to agree with the Bear Tooth being number 1, I did it last year on my cross country trip and it’s a beautiful road, almost no traffic. We we supposed to do the Lolo Pass but didn’t have enough time 🙁

  7. I’m in the DC/MD/VA/WV area…lots of interesting roads not too far from home. We did #13 twice last year, definitely a thumbs up! This may we’ll be doing 2, 3, and 7 on the new bike…looking forward to some great roads & pics 🙂

    1. Lucky girl – you live in a great area to get to some beautiful riding!

      Have you ridden 33 on the west side of Weston? We followed that to on our way to Kentucky and it was very fun as well.

  8. Three down, just 12 to go. Had fun on #7, #3 and of course #2. May I use your article for our club newsletter?

  9. Cool! 🙂
    Added your post to my list of “must ride” routes. There are a few on their that are close enough to consider this year. #15 has been on my list for a while, but didn’t get to it last year.

    @ Richard M…
    Which ones on a bicycle? I have friends who want to do #15 by bicycle (pass, thank you). I’ve decided that one has motorcycle written all over it.

  10. Interesting list and a good reminder that I’ve been a pretty lucky guy in some respects. I’ve ridden quite a number of these and while the east coast roads surely are great, nothing in the US compares to California. I day dream about those roads regularly. Now, if I can just manage to tie some Montana and Colorado riding into my next trip to Cali….

    I am curious about this route in Ohio. My rides there have left me unimpressed but that’s almost western PA so it might be a “sleeper.” I suppose that’s as good an excuse to ride to a meeting in Pittsburgh as any, right?

    1. Yup – some really good routes under your belt. I hope you can tick off the rest 🙂

      You and that “working”.

      I don’t know – i feel kind of skeptical about that Ohio route. You’ll have to give us an update if you take it.

      Isn’t there some good riding around the PBurg area?

      1. There is some good riding around Pittsburgh, actually I’d say about two thirds of the state has great riding within minutes of where you might standing. As long as you want to go north or south. I swear every road that goes east to west was designed to bore a rider to tears. So, I just zig-zag merrily across the state.

    1. GREAT video, Jim! Looks like you do a fine job of puttin’ that Wing down the road 🙂

      Yes, too bad we didn’t get to do that section of it indeed. BUT… i think from now on i am going to think of it as a delay rather than a “miss”. Lots of riding left to do!

      Chief Joseph was a nice “consolation prize” 😆

      1. I’ll do Chief Joseph ANY time. Love Cody and that whole area. hope to get to Glacier this summer. I have lots of video left to edit, better get to it, because I predict more taping to come.

        thanks for the nice blog.


  11. Hello,
    My wife and I toured Colorado the last week of Sept. 2010 for the color change in the aspens (perfect timing and weather). We drove the “,Million Dollar Highway”, (the AMA’s #4 selection), north from Durango to Ouray. Our camera ran out of battery unfortunately, just as we left Silverton or we would have got some great shots. Ouray (pronounced Uray), is a real quaint small town in a box canyon which has it’s opening to the north of town. We came from the south which is a road that snakes along the middle of one side of a huge crack or gourge formed in granite. Maybe it’s a sheer thousand feet to the sky on the upside and a sheer thousand or so straight down. Everybody is doing no more than 25mph here because one mistake and your dead. No guardrails except for small pull off areas (2?) which were unfortunately closed for repair when we were there. I recommend you come from the south because that way, most of the time you are on the inside next to the wall and further from the creepy edge. Not for the faint of heart. Awesome experience and view.

  12. I’m not surprised that California roads came up so popular. I work at Bay Harbor motors aka Staten Island Kawasaki; New Yorker’s can admit that the west coast has a lot to offer our riders.


  13. Idaho/Montana Lolo pass is really fantastic. Take your time and slow down, the views are really worth it.

    If you are up that way then you might as well take another great route, ID highway #75, between Challis and Stanley, ID.

    1. Hey Clifford 🙂

      Thanks for the tip on 75. Can never have too many good road suggestions in your back pocket.

      I must say, that part of the world hardly looks like you could ever make a wrong turn. The scenery looks amazing.

  14. The Natchez Trace is boring. It’s pretty and there’s some historical stuff but it’s just leisurely cruise.

  15. I enjoyed 15 more so than 9, 15 is much more challenging, a lot of elevation changes, narrow and tight in places and makes you feel really good afterwards. 9 would be more fun if you were able to travel between 85 and 100 without getting into trouble. A high speed road (highway) that is well maintained and is capable of being traversed at high speeds.

  16. The Blue Ridge Parkway is indeed a beautiful ride. I live right at mile marker 184 on the Parkway, just north of the NC line. Weekends May through October the motorcycle traffic on the Parkway is steady. Where I live in Meadows of Dan VA there is a campground for bikers, and a regular “biker night” with live bluegrass music and food.

  17. A little edit, if I may: The BRP terminates at Afton Mountain, VA, near Waynesboro, VA. I grew up there, and spent many a day (and night) cruising the Parkway and hiking the hills. Then I moved to NC and bought a bike.

    The best part of the BRP is the part south of Asheville, NC. The Cherohala, however, is even better than that. The Dragon, meh. Ride it to say you have, then chug down to Bryson City, take Everett St. pass the Great Smokey Mountain Railway, and enjoy Fontana Road, also known as The Road to Nowhere. Nowhere has a great parking lot with a rhododendron forest on the mountain side, complete with babbling brook on the north side and breathtaking views of Fontana Lake on the other. Its my favorite little spot away from it all when riding in NC.

    There, I don’t mind sharing! 😉

  18. As a motorcycle ride, Natchez Trace might seem boring. Its the actual history of the trace itself that attracts riders. Most of the other roads simply do not have the historical significance of the trace.

  19. Blue Ridge Parkway deserves a special spot for it’s sheer length, lack of commercial traffic and amenities. Riding it is like going back to the thirties:

    There are plenty of fantastic roads in New Mexico that would deserve to get on this list. High Road to Taos comes to mind, but roads around Los Alamos are also a great treat.

    To make a list like this more relevant it should be made longer, but also with some restrictions in place. For example, roads should definitely be grouped by length. For example, Tail of the Dragon and Mount Washington Auto Road should never be in the same group as California 1 and BRP.

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