As a California native, I’m spoiled to be able to enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery and near perfect weather all year round. Riding my motorcycle became my catalyst to exploring the Bay Area, so here are a few of my favorite motorcycle routes in Northern California.
One of the most popular moto-tourist destinations is riding the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH/Highway 1), and it is one of my favorite rides. The entire stretch, from Oregon to the Mexico border, is long and daunting, so here are a few notable sections up north:
As soon as you pass the zebras roaming around Hearst Castle in San Simeon heading north or the Monterey/Carmel wineries heading south, you enter one of the most scenic routes in the country. With a cliff on one side, and the ocean on the other, you are literally on the edge of your seat as you ride along the twisty coast in 20-30mph turns.
While in the area, make sure you stop and take a photo at the iconic Bixby Bridge (pictured in many Harley Davidson ads) and plan your gas stops accordingly (the limited gas stations in the area tend to charge an arm and a leg for a gallon of fuel). Avoid riding on popular holiday weekends so that you ride at your own pace and not at the pace of the Cruise America RV ahead of you. And look out for gravel and sand on the road, especially at some of the tighter 15mph curves!
Point Reyes, CA
Right after you cross the Golden Gate Bridge, continue heading North on Highway 1 towards Muir Woods/Stinson Beach. This route is similar to Big Sur, except the terrain changes and you’re surrounded by redwoods for the first half of the trip. Soon you’ll start to twist and turn on the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais and then start hugging the coast doing 10-15mph on curves. Stinson Beach is a popular attraction, but I like to continue on Highway 1 until you reach Point Reyes Station, and take Pierce Point Road into the Tule Elk Reserve until the road ends. The road gets a little bumpy towards the end, but you get the best views of the coast and access to a few beautiful secluded beaches.
Most of the best motorcycle riding in Northern California, outside of the coast, is in the Peninsula Area in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This is a great place to take a break from the coast and test your abilities on some really twisty roads. When riding in this area, watch out for deer and wild animals. There’s a time and place for “loud pipes save lives,” and this is definitely one of them.
I’m lucky enough to live only a few miles from one of the more popular roads up the mountains, Highway 84 (or Woodside Road). Following this road heading west, you’re in for 20 miles of twisty 15-25 mph curves surrounded by redwoods. At the peak of the mountain range, you’ll hit the mecca of motorcycles on weekend mornings: Alice’s Restaurant. If you continue heading west, you’ll start to make your descent into farmlands and eventually hit the coast.
Page Mill Road
Page Mill Road is a few miles south from 84, and among the more challenging roads in the area. Taking this road from Palo Alto will get you up 9 miles to the peak of the mountain range and onto Skyline Boulevard. If you ride Page Mill Road heading west, you’ll really get to feel the power of your motorcycle as you drop it down to first and second gear and feel it pull you up the mountain on the 5-10mph curves. This route is favorable to sport bikes, but I’ve seen some cruisers head up that way too – just be careful not to scrape your pipes!
I’m not too familiar with any back roads in the East Bay, but one that does stand out is Niles Canyon Road (Highway 84 E) towards Sunol. This road isn’t filled with any tight turns and is pretty short, but it’s still fun to ride. You’re flanked by lush hills on each side of the two lane road and towards the end of the road you ride parallel to a railroad. This is the perfect definition of a back road when you want to avoid gridlock traffic on the highways.
Honorary mentions go to the Golden Gate Bridge and now the Bay Bridge (at night), especially when there is no traffic!
Next on my list: Avenue of the Giants and the Mendocino Coast!