The Nifty Fifty
There are any number of great motorcycle roads in the United States. Over the years, many have ventured to present their Top 10 roads, which often provoked a discussion with disagreements and controversy.
We have no intent here to provide a Top 10 list, but to showcase one road from each of the fifty states which provides a unique experience for motorcyclists and other drivers. Some of these roads may show up on a Top 10 list, but most will not.
We call our list the Nifty Fifty and it includes mountain roads, coastal roads, and everything in between. A good many of these highways will challenge any rider, so we encourge you to ride within your skill level. We hope you enjoy driving and exploring the byways we have chosen to represent our 50 states.
Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Kansas | Kentucky | Louisiana | Maine | Maryland | Massachusetts | Michigan | Minnesota | Mississippi
Missouri | Montana | Nebraska | Nevada | New Hampshire | New Jersey | New Mexico | New York | North Carolina | North Dakota
Ohio | Oklahoma | Oregon | Pennsylvania | Rhode Island | South Carolina | South Dakota | Tennessee | Texas | Utah
Vermont | Virginia | Washington | West Virginia | Wisconsin | Wyoming |
Not far from Anniston, Alabama you'll find Cottaquilla Road. This twisty and challenging road will keep you on your toes. It's too bad that the road provides only 7 miles of fun.
The Seward Highway begins in Anchorage, Alaska and continues for over 100 miles to Seward, which is a coastal town on Resurrection Bay. Along the way you will ride through Chugach National Forest and State Park. Highlights of the wonderful scenery include Turnagain Arm/Cook Inlet, Upper Trail Lake, and Kenai Lake.
We could not pass up US-191 in Arizona. Better known as the 'Devil's Highway', it provides mile after mile of twisties and sweeping curves along with awesome scenery. 191 will challenge the most proficient motorcycle rider and provide an experience you will never forget.
Route 309 takes you over the top of Mount Magazine, the highest point in Arkansas. Twisties and steep elevation changes prevail. In addition, trucks are prohibited from using the route.
Located in Los Angeles County, California, the Mulholland Highway is a favorite with sport bike riders and cruisers alike. A portion of the highway is known as 'The Snake'. The Rock Store is a must stop. It is a great hangout for bikers and, on occasion, famous motorcycle enthusiasts, such as Jay Leno, may show up.
US-550 in Colorado is also known as the Million Dollar Highway. This road presents the rider with a significant challenge as it proceeds over three mountain passes which exceed 10,000 feet in elevation. Twisties galore but many lack guard rails. Therefore you will have to keep your focus on the road and surrender the urge to take in the spectacular scenery. Enjoying the vistas can be accomplished at pull-offs along the way.
In eastern Connecticut you can enjoy a nice relaxing cruise on State Route 49. It takes you through Pachaug State Forest and past well-kept farms. Overall, 49 is a wonderful road in a state with many congested areas.
Although it is a state highway, Route 9 in Delaware is your typical back country road. Small villages, farms, and marshland provide scenic views as it meanders past several wildlife management areas. It can be washed out and closed after heavy rains, but it is a nice alternative to DE 1.
Known as the Overseas Highway, US-1 takes you through the dazzling Florida Keys. During your travels you'll enjoy the natural beauty of the keys (islands) and smell of the ocean. You'll also cross several bridges, the longest being over six miles in length.
Route 180 in northeast Georgia is a narrow, twisty, 2-lane highway through the Chattahoochee National Forest. A branch of 180 takes you to the summit of Brasstown Bald, the highest mountain in the state. The road is challenging and exciting but riding within your limits is a must.
We passed up the tourist favorite O'ahu Island of Hawaii and selected Kaua'i Island to showcase Route 550. It travels 19 winding miles to Koke'e State Park and terminates at a lookout where you can survey and enjoy the natural beauty of the Kalalau Valley. The trek to the lookout is steep at times and includes 2000 feet in elevation change.
On the north side of Lewiston, Idaho is the Spiral Highway. Less than 10 miles in length it encompasses 64 curves as it climbs 2000 feet up Lewiston Hill.
Not far from Chicago, Illinois is State Route 2, a scenic drive along the Rock River. Along with the river, you'll encounter some heavily wooded areas, small towns, and Castle Rock State Park.
US Route 12 is in an urban area of Indiana but it provides a break from the inherent traffic congestion. Also known as the Dunes Highway, it travels through the Indiana Dunes National Seashore and delivers a tree-lined canopy and nice scenery along the way.
Iowa Route 982 is a nice back road through the Loess Hills. You'll have vistas of the Missouri Valley and Nebraska to the west. Light traffic and sweeping turns make this a must ride in Iowa.
McDowell Road is a nice stretch of road south of Manhattan, Kansas. Much of it has recently been paved. Sweeping turns as it goes through the Flint Hills and Konza Prairie.
The Trace Road in Kentucky and Tennessee travels through the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. It provides a scenic winding ride, but there are few amenities. Since there are no commercial or residential areas along the route, wild animals are in abundance.
With bayous and cypress trees lining the road, Route 307 is an enjoyable Louisiana back road. Sugarcane fields, small country stores, and swamps provide local flavor. Light traffic and excellent road conditions make 307 a nice cruise.
Maine's Route 9 is one of those highways where you can sit back, relax, and go for miles without taking your foot off the pegs. Very few intersections, good road conditions, plenty of areas to pass, and beautiful scenery make ME 9 a great motorcycle ride.
Route 213 in the Eastern Shore of Maryland is a scenic stretch of well maintained road through small towns and past tidy farms. Traffic is light to moderate except for the Elkton area. You can combine it with US 50 to make a fine alternative to busy I-95 and avoid congestion in the Baltimore area.
In the northwest corner of Massachusetts is Mount Greylock Scenic Byway. The highlight of the trip, of course, is Mount Greylock, the highest peak in the state at 3,489 feet. From the byway, a seasonal road, which is open from late May to November 1, takes you to the summit.
Route 119 in Michigan travels along the Great Lake which bears its name. The route is also known as Lake Shore Drive and 'Tunnel of Trees'. With its canopy of leaves it makes an excellent fall foliage tour, however, with frequent views of the lake and good road conditions, it is an excellent ride in the summer, as well.
Designated as the Historic Bluff Country Scenic Byway, Route 16 in Minnesota is a beautiful ride. It travels along the Root River with bluffs, hardwood forests, and farms providing a backdrop. The small communities which line this highway have ample amenities.
The Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi could not to be denied from our list. With sweeping curves, nice scenery, no commercial vehicles, and little traffic it is the perfect cruising road. The parkway also travels through Alabama and Tennessee.
If you like endless sweepers and lovely scenery, you will like Missouri Route 19. Along the way the many hills in the region provide noticeable elevation change. Also, this is wine country, so you'll find many wineries near this byway, particularly in the Hermann area.
Also known as the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway, Forest Route 73 takes you through the Beaverhead National Forest in Montana. Much of the byway follows the Wise River while another portion features several switchbacks as you cross a divide. Combined with light traffic, this road is a blast to ride.
Nebraska does not get much respect as far as great roads are concerned. State Route 2 is an exception. It goes through the Sandhills which are sand dunes stabilized by grass. This results in a unique scenic experience as the road sweeps around and over the hills.
Red Rock Canyon Road is a one-way loop off of State Route 159 a few miles west of Las Vegas, Nevada. Speed is restricted on the road but the colorful rock formations provide a remarkable visual experience. Bikers sometimes congregate at a rest area on SR-159 between the entrance and exit of the drive.
The Mount Washington Auto Road in New Hampshire takes you to the summit of the highest peak in the Northeastern United States. Although mostly unpaved, it is suitable for street bikes. During Laconia Bike Week hundreds of bikers make the trek to Mount Washington for the 'Ride to the Sky'. When the weather is favorable at the summit, you are rewarded with far-reaching vistas.
In the Highlands of New Jersey you'll find a real treat, Sunrise Mountain Road. This is a one-lane, one-way (south to north) 8 mile road through Stokes State Forest. Midway through the route is a spur to a parking area. From there it is a short walk to the summit of the mountain.
State Route 152 in Southwest New Mexico is often compared to 'The Dragon', that infamous road in North Carolina and Tennessee. With long sweepers and hairpins it will keep you busy. An advantage over 'The Dragon' is the light traffic situation on the route.
Route 30 is the backbone of New York. It stretches from the Canadian border to the Delaware River valley. Almost 300 miles in length, Route 30 takes you through Adirondack Park, Catskill State Park, and past the Pepacton Reservoir. A great cruising road with little traffic.
We passed up the usual candidates in North Carolina and selected State Route 12, the Outer Banks Scenic Byway. South of Nags Head it travels through the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Part of the road was heavily damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011, but NC DOT has made significant repairs to keep the road open for residents and visitors. SR-12 is unique in that it includes two ferries which connect Ocracoke Island to other islands in the Outer Banks.
The Theodore Roosevelt National Park Byway in North Dakota is a 14 mile scenic drive to Oxbow Overlook which provides a great view of the Badlands and Little Missouri River. Other points of interest can be found along the byway. Access is gained off of US-85 south of Watford City.
A real gem in Ohio is Route 26 through Wayne National Forest. Twisties, light traffic, good road conditions, and splendid scenery. You can't ask for more than that.
A great curvy back road in Oklahoma is the Indian Highway. It's in a remote area and goes through the Kiamichi Mountains. You'll find plentiful curves, light traffic, and significant elevation change.
Route 238 is described as the 'backway' between Grants Pass and Medford, Oregon. A wonderful alternative to Interstate 5, traffic is light and you are entertained with numerous curves. A fun road worth your time.
Route 841 in Chester County, Pennsylvania is one of those routes that's under the 'radar' because it doesn't go anywhere. But it is a great all around back country road with minimal traffic. Some nice scenery is afforded by horse estates, small villages, and farms.
As small as it is, Rhode Island provided a challenge to find a deserving road for this list. We chose State Route 94 which renders some curves as it parallels the Connecticut state line.
There are several ways to connect South Carolina Route 11 with US Route 64 in North Carolina to include US-276, US-178, and Route 28. But one that sometimes gets overlooked is SC 130/NC 281. This road may not have the twisty curves like the others, but it has some nice fast sweepers and few intersections.
In the Black Hills of South Dakota you will find US Route 16A. It is a very twisty road with a good number of switchbacks. But the 'crown jewels' of this byway are the 3 one-lane tunnels. Traveling north on 16A, you get a fantastic view of Mount Rushmore as you exit these tunnels.
In Eastern Tennessee the Foothills Parkway is a real joy. It's a combination of long sweeping curves, elevation change, and nice scenery. Commercial vehicles are prohibited and traffic is light. A bonus is that it can be easily combined with the 'Tail of the Dragon'.
Sorry 'Twisted Sisters', you are a wonderful motorcycle ride, but we opted for Ranch Road 170. Because of its remote location in Texas, few riders get a chance to experience this highway. It rambles along the Rio Grande River and through Big Bend Ranch State Park with a minimal amount of traffic.
Utah Route 261, in many ways, is your typical state highway. What makes it special is a 3 mile stretch called the Moki Dugway, which is a steep, narrow, gravel road with several switchbacks posted as 5 mph. With no guardrails and some blind corners, riding the Moki Dugway is a unforgetable experience.
Vermont's Skyline Drive is the longest (5 miles), privately owned, paved, toll road in the USA. It ascends 3,235 feet to Mount Equinox and the road is open from May 1st to Oct 31st. Along the way you'll have panoramic views of the Green, Taconic, Adirondack, White and Bershire Mountains.
Virginia is home to one of the great engineering wonders of the modern world, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel on US Route 13. The complex is a combination of trestles, tunnels, artificial islands, bridges, causeway and approach roads. You have unobstructed views of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Chesapeake Bay on the other. A unique riding experience to say the least.
Route 112 in Washington is a delight to ride. Also known as the Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway, it is technically challenging with tight turns and some off-camber curves. The road travels along the strait before it ends at Neah Bay on the Makah Indian Reservation.
Crossing West Virginia, US Route 60 is a great all around road. Kanawha Falls, Hawks Nest, and the New River Gorge Bridge are must stops. With lots of twisties and sweeping curves, small towns, and beautiful scenery, it's an excellent alternative to Interstate 77/64.
Bay Shore Drive is a wonderful ride along Sturgeon Bay, Green Bay, and Egg Harbor in Wisconsin. Although you will have to share the road with bicyclists and tourists, the stunning scenery makes the trip rewarding. Nice restaurants and shops can be found in Strugeon Bay and Egg Harbor.
Described as a sweet ride across the high plains of Eastern Wyoming, US Route 85 is a terrific cruise. A good way to get to the Black Hills of South Dakota from the south. Traffic is light and the road is well maintained. Newcastle is a biker-friendly town with ample amenities.