The Ten Best Paved Motorcycle Roads in America
Part Eight of an Eleven Part Series
By Mark ‘Buck’ King
Over the last fifteen years I have had the privilege and blessing to have ridden almost all of the top motorcycle roads in the country. Practically every bike magazine and web site has at one time or another published their own list of the top roads. All the lists are a little different. Some list many of the same roads, but in a different order. Some add a different road and leave another out. I really don’t think anyone can rank these roads for anyone but themselves. Your opinion might be quite different from mine, but you won’t know that until you ride these roads for yourself. So I encourage you to quit reading articles like this and get out there and ride them for yourself!
So why eleven parts to the series on the top ten roads? That’s because there are many GREAT roads that didn’t make my top ten that just might be on YOUR top ten lists.
Part Eight – Trail Ridge Road #8
My eighth ranked road is the Trail Ridge Road in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.
This road seems to make everyone’s top ten list. Some even list it as number 1. I had to subtract some points from it just because it is so heavily traveled by tourists many of whom are driving campers.
Horace Albright was director of the National Park Service, in 1931 during the road's construction. He is quoted as saying before the road ever opened, "It is hard to describe what a sensation this new road is going to make. You will have the whole sweep of the Rockies before you in all directions." In 1931 when the first tourists drove it the Rocky Mountain News called it a "scenic wonder road of the world."
The road covers 48 miles between Estes Park on the park's east side and Grand Lake on the west. Eleven miles of this high highway travel above treeline, the elevation near 11,500 feet where the park's evergreen forests come to a halt. The point of highest elevation on the road is 12,183 feet.
While the paved road up to Mt. Evans might be the highest paved road in the country, the Trail Ridge Road is the highest through road in the USA. The photo on the left was taken near the Alpine Visitor's Center.
Whether you start at Estes Park or Grand Lake, the Trail Ridge Road climbs some 4,000 feet in a matter of minutes.
And even in the summer at the highest altitudes it can be pretty chilly. I think one of the best cups of coffee I ever had was up at the Alpine Visitors Center.
The views are breathtaking and many of the tight turns of the road are along stretches that have no guard rails so one mistake and you could find yourself in a world of hurt. But then, real men don’t need guard rails do they?
This is another one of those roads that riding in the reverse direction is like riding a new road.
I recommend an overnight stay in Estes Park and allow a day to ride the road to Grand Lake and then back to Estes Park. If you are willing to spend the bucks you can stay at the Stanley Hotel where the movie, The Shinning, was made. Not me, I’m too cheap and that movie scared the willies out of me.
Speed limits are strictly enforced by park rangers so slow down and enjoy the views. Stop plenty of times for pictures.
The Continental Divide, where stream flows are separated east from west, is crossed at Milner Pass, located at a surprisingly low 10,120 feet elevation.
Watch for wildlife of all sorts. Even moose can be seen munching grass along the Trail Ridge Road.
The view from this road really is the view from the top of the world. After you have ridden this amazing road you’ll be saying, “Ole Buck was right about this one, too!”
The next article in the series is coming soon to the BMWMCON web site.
#1 is the best road in my opinion so this is my list to this point:
#1 Beartooth Highway and the Chief Joseph Highway
#2 San Juan Skyway
#3 Pacific Coast Highway
#4 Going to the Sun Road
#5 Icefields Parkway
#6 Utah Highway 12
#7 Overseas Highway
#8 Trail Ridge Road