The best motorcycle rides in the southwest take riders through several states and several different landscapes. From desert landscapes to rolling hills and waterfalls, each turn and twist in the highway ahead can bring a new discovery to the journey.

1. Old Route 66 South of Kingman

Location: Arizona
Distance: 85 Miles
Time to Ride: Half Day

For a ride that is part of American history, add Old Route 66 in western Arizona to the top of the list. This portion of the route is a segment of Route 66, which begins in Chicago, Illinois and ends in Santa Monica, California. The ride through Arizona stretches for 85 miles, taking motorcyclists through the Black Mountains, vintage towns with old-time charm, such as Oatman with its 100+ year history. At one of the overlooks, you can see Arizona, California, and Nevada in one sweeping view. There’s plenty of scenery, from start to finish, tight curves to navigate, and hilly inclines.

2. Coronado Trail

Location: Arizona
Distance: 118 Miles
Time to Ride: Half Day

This 118-mile ride in the central and eastern region of the state is one of the best motorcycle rides in Arizona. It begins at Clifton and ends at Edgar via Highway 191 with the Gila National Forest on one side and Fort Apache and San Carlos Reservations on the other side. The route runs parallel to New Mexico’s border. The ride provides diversity in the landscape and atmosphere along miles of twists, cliffs, hairpin turns and changes in elevation. The route begins with a desert landscape and continues through forests of pine and aspen. Along the route, stop at scenic overlooks for spectacular views including the White Mountains and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

3. Cottonwood Canyon Run

Location: Arizona
Distance: 120 Miles
Time to Ride: Half Day to Full Day

The Cottonwood Canyon Run is a scenic ride featuring forests of pine trees and red-rock landscapes. The route includes road time in Coconino National Forest and Prescott National Forest. Road-wise, expect plenty of twists, inclines, steep cliffs, and narrow road areas along with straight sections providing a diverse riding experience. This is a scenic ride with great views. Along the route, several small towns are easily accessible for refueling and food breaks.

4. Palomar Mountain Loop

Location: California
Distance: 35 Miles
Time to Ride: 2 to 3 Hours

By far, one of the most interesting rides is the 35-mile Palomar Mountain Loop in southern California that is popular anytime of year, but especially for motorcycle riding in the winter. Rated high on the list of rides not to be missed, the route is loaded with diverse scenery from forested canopies to deep canyons. Stop along the way for views of Lake Henshaw and park your bike at the Palomar Mountain Observatory and take a tour to see the telescope and check out the museum. Expect a lot of back-and-forth winding highway that challenges the skills of even the most seasoned motorcyclist.

5. San Juan Mountain Skyway

Location: Colorado
Distance: 225 Miles
Time to Ride: Full Day

One of the best motorcycle rides in Colorado is the San Juan Mountain Skyway, known for its stunning landscapes and scenery which makes it a popular destination for cyclists. On the San Juan Mountain Skyway ride, the 225-mile route takes a circular path within the San Juan National Forest with access to cities, such as Durango and Telluride. Enjoy views of the Rocky Mountains, San Juan Mountains, red-rock canyons, hot springs, and river valleys. Be prepared for a challenging ride as the route has hairpin turns and switchbacks and steep drop offs.

6. Death Valley Scenic Byway

Location: Nevada
Distance: 125 Miles
Time to Ride: Half Day

Taking the drive from the high point of Lone Pine, California, the route heads east to Badwater, which is the lowest point and covers about 125 miles. While traversing Death Valley National Park, you’ll have access to some of the best desert motorcycle rides featuring stunning desert views, such as those seen at the Artist’s Palette where oxidized metals have created a canvas of color on the desert soil. Within the park, there’s the Twenty Mule Canyon, the Sand Dunes, Rhyolite ghost town, and Father Crowley Point.

7. Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway

Location: New Mexico
Distance: 50 Miles
Time to Ride: Half Day

With mountain vistas ahead and the wind at your back, the 50 miles of the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway is a treasure trove of breathtaking views and one of the best motorcycle rides in New Mexico. The byway links Albuquerque and Santa Fe via Highway 14. Mining towns along the way, such as Madrid and Golden, offer respites for dining, museums, art galleries, and more.

8. Talimena National Scenic Byway

Location: Oklahoma
Distance: 54 Miles
Time to Ride: Half Day

The 54-mile route that makes up the Talimena National Scenic Byway is one of the best motorcycle rides in the southwest. The scenic drive provides a visually appealing ride while offering the challenge of navigating an abundance of rolling hills and gently winding curves. The most colorful time of year for the byway’s landscape is during fall and spring, when a cacophony of colors paints the landscape with an artist’s brush. Surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest, plan ahead to explore and discover the area, hike a trail, or set up camp.

9. Rio Grande River Road

Location: Texas
Distance: 150 Miles
Time to Ride: Half Day to Full Day

This 150-mile motorcycle route in southwest Texas has earned a reputation as one of the best motorcycle rides in Texas and perfect for embracing the state’s scenery. The ride takes you along the Rio Grande River and next to Big Bend National Park. The ride has a little bit of everything to enhance the driving experience, with lots of hills, tight curves, open stretches, and scenic turnoffs.

10. Toledo Bend Reservoir

Location: Texas
Distance: 146 Miles
Time to Ride: Half Day

West of Alexandria, Louisiana, the loop encompassing the Toledo Bend Reservoir includes both the Texas and Louisiana borders. The reservoir is the largest in Texas and the route around it is full of interesting scenery, twists and turns, and a peaceful environment for an enjoyable ride. Along the scenic 146-mile route, you’ll pass farms, quiet countryside, see assorted wildlife, and have access to small towns for food and fuel. Be adventurous and take a side road, or two, which goes straight to the reservoir.

11. Scenic Byway 12

Location: Utah
Distance: 122 Miles
Time to Ride: Half Day

Touted as one of America’s most scenic highways, Scenic Byway 12 lives up to its name with its sculpted sandstone landscape. This designated route has the distinction of being named an All-American Road and encompasses 122 miles of some of the best motorcycle rides in Utah. From a landscape dotted with aspen and fir trees, to scenic views of Capitol Reef National Park and the Henry Mountains, the ride is sure to please the most avid road warrior.

12. Mexican Hat, Utah to Bryce Canyon National Park

Location: Utah
Distance: 297 Miles
Time to Ride: Full Day

A jewel in the crown of motorcycle routes is the magical ride from Mexican Hat to Bryce Canyon National Park. The 297-mile route is one of the best motorcycle rides in Utah and offers plenty of views of canyons and crags, magnificent sunsets, and morning rides when the air is still crisp, cool, and invigorating. Every turn can be a discovery, with scenery unlike any other, such as the intricate Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. While in the park, take a break and hike the Navajo Trail, Sunset Point, or Navajo/Queens Garden Loop. Extend your trip and stay awhile at one of the two campgrounds within the park.

Whether you’re taking a day trip, weekend getaway, or an extended tour of some of the top scenic highways and byways in America, the southwest offers diversity in its landscapes from desert floors to mountain tops. From motorcycle riding in the winter in Colorado to summer runs across the Arizona desert, there are plenty of choices to please the adventurous motorcyclist.