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8 Great Adventure Motorcycle Rides in Utah

 Some of the best places to ride in the American Southwest are in Utah.

Published on 04.18.2016

 
A friend of mine kept telling me of this American gem. A place so steeped in natural history, you could only be mesmerized by wonder. After years of cajoling, I finally caved, and carved out some time to explore this mystical place that my friend held so dear. He promised that I would be under a spell during the trip. He said that every day would be better than the last, and that this place was like no other.

Every time I pore over a map, looking to explore a corner of the world, I have to admit that I overlook the USA. Perhaps it’s because it is easy to get to. Maybe it’s because it does not seem to hold any exotic charm. I can’t quite explain it, but after spending a week riding through the Southwest of the United States, I realized that our country is blessed with more natural beauty than a lifetime will allow exploring. By motorcycle, it was paradise.

To the geology aficionado, the American Southwest is a treasure trove. The history of the earth is painted on cliff walls all around you, and you can only be mystified at the profound forces of wind, water and time it took to make each masterpiece. To the American history buff, this area holds its own divine: ranches, cowboy towns, and the historic remnants of Route 66 collectively inspire a dreamy, once-upon-a-time-in-America feeling.

Let’s kick off our American Southwest Motorcycle Adventure with a few favorite motorcycle rides in Utah.

Courtesy William Beem

1. Zion National Park

Zion National Park Motorcycle Rides in UtahCourtesy Flickr/sonofabike

If you can get there early season or late season before the snow flies, you will be able to ride along the Virgin River on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. From April through October, access is restricted to wheelchair accessible shuttle buses. This is, by far, the most outrageous highlight of riding the park, and you must come early season or late season to ride this corridor-like canyon to the turnaround.

2. Moab

Moab Motorcycle Rides in UtahCourtesy Phil Freeman

If you are in the area, it is imperative to stay a couple days and base yourself out of Moab. You can ride through Arches National Park or explore the White Rim area. You will need a day use permit for that, but it is well worth your time. There is nothing like riding along the Colorado River, soaking in the vibrant red hues of the rocks, the brilliant blue of the sky and the meandering chocolate giant of the river far below.

3. Burr Trail Road

Burr Trail Road - Motorcycle Rides in UtahCourtesy Phil Freeman

While riding Highway 12 between Torrey and Bryce, Utah, make sure to ride the Burr Trail Road. There is no ride like this one. It is an out-and-back style ride that originates in the small town of Boulder, Utah. The road drops down into a narrow canyon and leads you through it. It is simply epic and a must-do if you are in the area.

4. Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods - Motorcycle Rides in UtahCourtesy Phil Freeman

Located in southeastern Utah, near Mexican Hat, Valley of the Gods is a hidden gem. This short sojourn is a dirt road through towering desert rock pinnacles. The dirt road is not technical and the scenery can only be described as quintessential Southwest splendor. You might also venture up the Moki Dugway and enjoy a view from above. This is one of those rides that will give you chills!

5. Mexican Hat

Mexican Hat - Motorcycle Rides in UtahCourtesy Phil Freeman

Ok, sure, it takes a while to get there and it’s not an all-day thing, but staring at that large saucer of a rock, precariously balanced on an earthen spike is not only impressive, it’s unforgettable. Mexican Hat is a tiny desert community that sits along the San Juan River, in southeastern Utah. It gets its name from the rock formation which resembles an overturned sombrero! Ride through here en route to Monument Valley or Natural Bridges National Monument.

6. Monument Valley, Arizona-Utah Border

Monument Valley - Motorcycle Rides in UtahCourtesy Phil Freeman

I have to say that a ride through Monument Valley is unlike any other ride in the world. Forget all the iconic imagery surrounding it and take it for what it is — a natural wonder. Riding through Monument Valley, you can’t help but take it all in — the big sky, the iconic formations and the peacefulness of the earth all around. Monument Valley lies within the Navajo Nation Reservation and is accessible from U.S. Hwy 163.

7. Bryce Canyon

Bryce CanyonCourtesy Adam Foster

Sandwiched between Zion and the Grand Staircase Escalante, this stretch could easily just blend into the beautiful southwest scenery but the ride out to Rainbow Point (Highway 63) is pretty epic with many viewpoints of the numerous natural amphitheaters from high elevations. Red rocks, evergreens and snow on the shoulder make an interesting contrast to your stereotypical American Southwest scenery of dry desolate desert.

8. The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Grand Staircase - Motorcycle Rides in UtahCourtesy Phil Freeman

Make sure to ride Highway 12 between Torrey, UT and Bryce, UT. It’s almost overwhelming how beautiful it is and words just don’t describe it. It is considered one of the best rides in the USA, and for good reason. Multi-colored cliffs, buttes, plateaus, and canyons await you at The Grand Staircase-Escalante.

The American Southwest is amazing on so many levels; the riding, the sights, the slices of classic Americana. If you have never experienced it, you should bump it to the top of your bucket list. For those in the US it’s close by, it’s easy to get to and it will transport you back in time at both a geologic and historical level.

Phil Freeman MotoQuestAbout the Author: MotoQuest founder Phil Freeman is an adventurer through and through. Born and raised in Alaska, Phil boasts more than 20 years experience traveling Alaska by motorcycle, and co-authored the award-winning book “The Adventurous Motorcyclist’s Guide to Alaska.” MotoQuest offers guided motorcycle tours around the world and motorcycle rentals in the West Coast of the U.S. For more information, visit motoquest.com

Author: Phil Freeman

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4 thoughts on “8 Great Adventure Motorcycle Rides in Utah

  1. Regarding the Burr Trail, it doesn’t have to be a out and back. If you are on any size Adventure Bike continue on once it becomes good graded dirt and experience an incredible switchback descent into Capitol Reef National Park. From there either follow the signs onto the graded (mostly) Notom Road back towards the pavement of SR24 and the town of Torrey, UT. or continue on the dirt a bit further and reconnect to the paved portion of the Burr terminating at the Bullfrog Marina at Lake Powell.

  2. I was in Moab a month or so ago. Lots of great scenery. I was actually going to relocate there on a semi-permanent basis, but I got tired very quickly of the sheer number of police cars in and around town preying on tourists. I didn’t have any run-ins with them, but it was annoying nonetheless. I even wrote to the mayor of Moab about it, and got a typical response that it’s all about safety (which it’s not; it’s all about revenue).

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