Everyone who has ever owned a Harley-Davidson can tell you that one of the best things about having a Harley is being able to take it for a weekend cruise.
Who doesn’t want to take their Harley-Davidson out to escape the real world and all the troubles that come during the work week? Riding your Harley-Davidson through the scenic mountains or along the ocean coastline allows you to get away from everything and just be one with the road.
But where are the top places in the United States to take one of those wonderful Harley-Davidson weekends?
Here’s our top 10 list (feel free to add your favorite spots in the comments):
1. Deal’s Gap/Tail of the Dragon – The shortest ride on our list is probably the most challenging. This isn’t for the beginner cyclist; there were 26 motorcycle fatalities from 2000-2010. The “Tail of the Dragon” covers only 11 miles near the Tennessee/North Carolina border in the Great Smoky Mountains, but riders will face 318 turns with roller coaster elevation changes. There’s even a “Tree of Shame” that features a collection of motorcycle pieces from years of wrecks. The scenery is great and it’s stowed away in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so if you are able to go on a weekday, traffic is sparse. Several of the roads getting to US-129 are also great. Take the trip and you and your Harley-Davidson will have an action packed day.
2. Pacific Coast Highway – Start just outside Los Angeles in Santa Monica at the charming green Patrick’s Roadhouse for a great breakfast and then get ready to be amazed by beautiful sights all day. With a plethora of hiking spots, museums, lighthouses, restaurants and even some oddities, you can make it a week long vacation that can take you all the way up the United States’ western coast and inland to Seattle by just following the Pacific Coast Highway. Or you and your Harley-Davidson can make it a simple day trip. Either way, the sights are incredible with the ocean on one side and everything else on the other (waterfalls, redwood forests, coastal mountains and rolling hills).
3. Alaska Highway- If you want adventure, this is the ride for you…though it can be expensive if you want to ship your Harley-Davidson to the wild frontier that is our country’s 49th state. Even if you have to rent a bike, this is a must ride. Start in Haines, AK and trace the Tatshenshini Alsek and Kluane National Parks as you glide through parts of British Colombia and Yukon before re-entering the largest of the United States. You can enjoy the beautiful snowy and glacial scenery (as well as the wildlife that are liable to cause a traffic jam as seen on the right) all the way to Fairbanks on a 13-15 hour day ride during the summer or if you are really adventurous, diverge off the Alaska Highway to Highway 5. The mostly-gravel road is closed seasonally, but if it’s open make your way to Chicken, AK, where you will enjoy none of the amenities of a luxury hotel, but will be treated to genuine hospitality.
4. Yellowstone Highway – The former Yellowstone Highway is now U.S. 20 and can take your Harley-Davidson all the way from the Pacific Coast Highway in Northwest Oregon to Denver. If you have the time, we recommend doing the entire trip because then you will get to see all kinds of terrain from the beach to the Rocky Mountains. If you don’t have the time, our recommendation is to travel the state of Wyoming. Start in Yellowstone National Park and follow Yellowstone Highway past Old Faithful, around Yellowstone Lake and all the way down to Cheyenne. If you can time it right, go to the Frontier Days rodeo and festival in Cheyenne.
5. The Great River Road – The Great River Road runs the entire gamut from the United States/Canada border to the Gulf of Mexico, following the Mighty Mississippi the entire way. You will travel through all 10 river states and get to see everything from the swamps of Louisiana to the wilderness of Minnesota. It isn’t necessarily one road as the name suggests so make sure you follow the signs and bring a map, just in case. This route twists and turns whenever possible, taking you over the river several times and putting you in towns that have been forgotten by every other road. That’s what makes this trip so awesome.
6. Key West Highway – Whether you are a squid (novice) or an experienced Harley-Davidson vet, the Key West Highway is a great lazy ride. The speed limits are low, so this isn’t about throttle twisting, but just taking in nature’s beauty as you are surrounded by water, traveling the causeways from island to island. Depending on how long you want the trip to be, you can start in Naples and cut across the Everglades where you’ll see the wildlife in the swamp or any number of places up Florida’s east coast. Start in Daytona after Bike Week and follow US-1 all the way down to the keys, but be prepared to face the traffic of Miami.
7. Monument Valley/Route 66 – Combine the “Main Street of America” with a trip through natural desolation and beauty with this ride. Start in Kayenta, Arizona and travel north on US-163 through the Navajo lands where the Oljato-Monument Valley resides. You might feel like you’ve seen the pictures of the isolated mesas and buttes standing amongst the remainder of the desert, but it’s nothing like the feeling you will experience as you take your Harley-Davidson through this stretch. If you can, stay a night at the Navajo-owned The View Hotel. Once you hit US-191 in Utah, loop down to Route 66 and then depending on the length of your trip either head west through Arizona and California to Santa Monica where you could potentially connect with the Pacific Coast Highway for an ultimate combo trip OR head east through the six states that will take you to Chicago. (You could also potentially connect with the Great River Road in St. Louis.)
8. Texas Hill Country – It’s like an entirely different state. If you’ve ever driven through the state of Texas, you know just how hot, dry and depressing it can be. Well, Hill Country is completely different. There is enough elevation that it is cooler, there is plenty of green and even some river water that you will pass over multiple times. There is a roller coaster combination of hills and turns and a variety of roads available for Harley-Davidson riders of all experience levels. If you are up to the challenge, go after the 38-mile Texas Hill Country Twister.
9. Highway 36 California – Park your Harley-Davidson beside the twisty road sign that marks the beginning of the Highway 36 trek and lets you know that you are in for 140 miles of fun. Snap a picture and get ready for a challenging, but rewarding ride through Northern California. Be safe though because there are some treacherous turns and there is barely any cell phone reception as you are traveling through redwood forests in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest area. Highway 36 is a cyclist’s dream. If you ride it from east to west, you can finish off the trip with a trip to the beach, which is only an extra 15 minutes. Enjoy…and thank me later.
10. Blue Ridge Parkway – Traveling through four different national forests, starting with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, your Harley-Davidson is in for a day of work while you are in for a day of beauty. The Blue Ridge Parkway traverse through the southern half of the Appalachian Mountains will leave you breathless. This is another ride that will make you feel like you’ve gone back in time, especially if you take the time to stop at an old mill or one of the Civil War battle sites. Finish the trip in Cherokee, NC where you can enjoy the Museum of the Cherokee Indians or the “Unto These Hills” outdoor drama.
We didn’t include your top spot? Let us know in the comments. And let us know what model Harley you do your cruising on!