1. Beartooth Highway (Montana & Wyoming)
Winding through Southwest Montana and Northern Wyoming is Highway 212 - home to the Beartooth Highway. Named for the Beartooth Mountains it rambles along, this winding highway is 68 miles of motorcycle paradise. Starting near Red Lodge, Montana, and ending just north of Yellowstone National Park in Cooke City, Wyoming, Beartooth Highway passes through endless beautiful forests and mountain passes. In addition to incredible scenery and tons of wildlife viewing (including grizzly bears, black bears, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and bobcats), Custer National Forest, Shoshone National Forest, and Gallatin National Forest also offer campgrounds for those of you who'd like to extend your trip and explore the area. At 10,947 feet in elevation, and surrounded by more than twenty peaks that tower over you at more than 12,000 feet, Beartooth Highway boasts the title of the highway with the highest elevation in the Northern Rockies. As such, weather can be crisp and unpredictable. Though the road opens by Memorial Day weekend in late May, late spring blizzards are not unheard of around here. Pack plenty of warm clothing, and be sure to check the weather reports before you leave, in case of road closures. You'll also want to plan to be on the road for at least three hours. If you have plenty of time to explore, checkout some of the adjoining scenic byways, such as the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway on Wyoming 296 and the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway, where you can spot fantastic rock formations and even more wildlife. There is a reason that Charles Kuralt (CBS correspondent, "On the Road" host, and travel expert) titled this highway "the most beautiful roadway in America." We're sure you'll agree!
2. Spirit Lake Memorial Highway (Washington & Oregon)
If you're a geology buff, the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway is the ride for you. Also called "The Road to Mount Saint Helens," it is a ride that shows the awe-inspiring destruction caused by the 1980 volcanic eruption. While the road used to lead to Spirit Lake, as the name suggests, most of the highway was destroyed in the aftermath of Mount St. Helens, and was rebuilt in 1992 to end at the Johnston Ridge Observatory instead, thus avoiding future runoff and landslides from the volcano. Starting near Longview, Washington, this 52-mile stretch is at least a two hour ride, or longer if you plan on stopping to take in the sites. Along the road you'll pass by Mount St. Helens Visitor Center, where you can hike to Silver Lake and the wetlands that surround it. The byway parallels the Toutle River, and passes through Kid Valley - a small logging and mining town that was rebuilt after being nearly destroyed by the blast, and that now features a campground for people visiting the area. The road is typically open year-round, but late spring is an ideal time to visit, making it a great place to start your touring season.
3. Going-to-the-Sun Road (Montana)
Do you remember the opening scene in The Shining? The car driving down a winding road, cut out of jagged mountain sides, with dramatic landscapes? Well, that scene was filmed here, at Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana. And while there probably won't be any ominous music playing in the background, and we promise that you won't end up in a death hotel, we do promise that you won't be disappointed by the ride. This 50 mile 2-lane highway is only open in summer, but it is definitely worth the wait. Spanning Glacier National Park, this ride offers incredible views, as well as a constantly winding road with several hairpin turns. Starting at the pristine Lake McDonald, the twisting road scales up the mountain to the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, where you have sweeping views of endless wildflowers and grazing wildlife. Keep in mind that the parking lot at Logan Pass usually fills up by 11:00, though, so getting an early start is a good idea. Early in the morning is also the best time to spot bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and even grizzly bears. Since it is a national park, there is a small entrance fee, but trust us - you'd be willing to pay ten times as much for this experience. It's the perfect road for experienced riders looking for a thrill.
4. Kootenay Loop (British Columbia)
Did you know that the Pacific Northwest is actually home to two Glacier National Parks? In addition to the breathtaking gem in Montana, there is another beautiful glacial park with the same name in British Columbia, Canada. Just as the one in Montana is home to Going-to-the-Sun Road - a motorcyclist's mecca - Glacier National Park in Canada is home to Kootenay Loop, another must-ride road for any biker. Instead of just going through the park, though, the full loop takes you on a several day adventure through multiple quaint towns, natural hot springs, and incredible nature areas and campgrounds. Starting in Everett, Washington, you can look forward to a nearly week-long camping motorcycle trip that you won't forget. Named for the Kootenay portion of the Canadian Rockies, the route is made up of several different highways, allowing you to carve out your own custom ride. Even in summer, you'll encounter varying climates, so it's important to come prepared. You'll also need a passport to re-enter the U.S., so if you don't already have one, be sure to apply long in advance. Since you'll be passing through several small towns, you should also look up the towns' noise bylaws before you head out, to make sure your bike will be in compliance. This trip requires a lot of planning, but all the work comes with a huge reward.
5. McKenzie Highway (Oregon)
Spirit Lake Memorial Highway isn't the only motorcycle tour reveling in geological wonders. The McKenzie Highway in Oregon (SR 242) winds through several snow-capped volcanoes, rambling over landscape made of 5,000 year old lava flow. Starting out in the picturesque, old west town of Sisters, and ending in McKenzie Bridge, the 82 mile road can take anywhere between three and five hours to navigate, as you take in the sights that the Willamette National Forest has to offer. Be sure to stop at the Dee Wright Observatory at the summit, and approximate halfway point of your trip. Built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps entirely out of lava rock from the surrounding landscape, this unique structure offers incredible views of the surrounding mountain peaks. After you're done exploring the observatory, a little forward down the road, stop for a one mile hike to Proxy Falls - a moss-covered waterfall widely sought out by nature photographers. If you feel like resting up after your hike, hit up the Belknap Hot Springs for a soak. There is also overnight camping available, for those of you wishing for a longer stay. The McKenzie Highway is open July through October, and is a great ride for any biker.
6. North Cascades Highway (Washington)
Another great ride for experienced motorcyclists is the North Cascades Highway in Washington. Filled with countless sweepers and lots of tight corners, it's a ride that will keep you on your toes. Running through North Cascades National Park, the road is also packed with scenic outlooks, including the Gorge Lake and Diablo Lake. The route also includes the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, and the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, so be prepared to make several stops for hiking. You may also want to stop for lunch in the charming historic town of Winthrop, Washington, along the way. The only downfall of this ride? It's so popular, that the road can get pretty packed on the weekends. Your best bet will be to plan a weekday trip, or leave really early to beat the rush. Whether you're looking to camp and explore the area, or you're just looking for a thrilling ride, the North Cascades Highway won't leave you disappointed.
7. Cascade Loop (Washington)
If you're dying to try out the turns on the North Cascades Highway, but you're looking for a longer getaway, the 440 mile Cascade Loop is the perfect solution. Starting out in Everett, Washington, this loop will allow you to experience not only the exhilarating ride through North Cascades National Park on Highway 20, but so much more that Washington has to offer. From the Puget Sound to rugged, snow-lined mountains, this tour has everything. Stop by the Bavarian town of Leavenworth, filled with charming culinary boutiques and lots of nature exploring opportunities. Small seaside communities also line the way, with stops along Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands. Of course, you'll have plenty of camping opportunities throughout the Cascade Mountain Range. With incredibly diverse scenery and roads, this is a ride that will serve every motorcyclist's interest.
8. Lolo Pass (Idaho & Montana)
Follow Highway 12 between Missoula, Montana and Lewiston, Idaho for a historical and remote ride that will let you leave civilization behind, and be fully immersed in nature. This 175 mile trek was also made by Lewis & Clark in 1805 during their exploration of the west, and remains almost as rugged as when they struggled through the dense forest and charging rivers. Nestled in the Bitterroot Mountains, you won't find any services in this space, so be sure to gas up and bring plenty of supplies with you before you start. Though the scenery is remote, the road itself is very well cared for, with light traffic, and many gentle sweepers. It's not as twisty as the North Cascades Highway or Going-to-the-Sun Road, but there are some tight curves along the way. Another attraction is the Lolo Hot Springs, about 36 miles outside of Missoula. If you like to get away from it all and connect with nothing but nature and your bike, Lolo Pass is the right tour for you.
9. Spine of the Dragon (Oregon)
If you're a technical rider and you have to choose just one road in Oregon to ride on, this is it. This section of Highway 47 earned its nickname as the "Spine of the Dragon" with its many corners, twists, and turns. Starting at Clatskanie, Oregon, you'll be winding through a nearly barren highway with endless S-curves and changes in elevation. This is no casual motorcycle tour. It requires intense focus to traverse safely. Also keep in mind that this is a road frequented by logging trucks. As such, you have to be extra careful taking those corners. Logging vehicles are large and fast, and it's definitely worth taking any extra measures to avoid a collision. This doesn't mean that you can't have an awesome ride, though. Just be alert, and you will have the time of your life taking those turns on one of the northwest's windiest roads.
10. The Spiral Highway (Idaho)
This is certainly the shortest road on our list, at only 9 miles long. Hear us out, though! While it may be a quick ride, it is one that is absolutely worth making a part of your northwest motorcycle tour. Built from an old wagon trail along the Snake River, this road climbs 2,000 feet in those short 9 miles, with 64 curves. You will be literally riding in spirals. Also known as the Old Lewiston Grade, this road sees very little traffic since the construction of US-95 in 1979, and is in incredible shape. Being such a potentially dangerous road, though, it does see a lot of police patrolling it. So, be sure to watch your speed going around those sweepers and switchbacks. With the technicality of the road, there aren't a lot of opportunities going up the hill to take in the scenery. Going down will give you a better view. The best solution? Since it's only 9 miles, why not take a few turns on it? Once you hit this road once, you'll be dying to go back for another spin. So, helmet up and enjoy the ride!