Best Scenic Motorcycle Roads in SoCal
Southern California's Best Motorcycle Rides
When I was stationed in Southern California I had bought myself a motorcycle. At first this was because of convenience and fuel efficiency. I then found the joy of riding, as well as sightseeing. It’s a different type of ride when you get onto a motorcycle. It is one that is exciting and thrilling, as well as relaxing and captivating. A motorcycle is essentially an extension of you. While I was in SoCal I made sure to enjoy the time I was there. I made sure that there was not a stretch of road I hadn’t adventured. There is one route in particular, or should I say several roads I turned into what I call “SoCal’s Best”.
Our adventure starts at Twentynine Palms, proud home of the world’s largest Marine Corps Base. Alternatively you could start in Yucca Valley based on personal preference. You’re first thoughts upon arriving may be grim as mine was so many years ago. Since then I have grown to love the desert and even miss it. The route I have chosen takes us through the ever so scenic Joshua Tree National Park, you may want to stop and take advantage of the hiking, rock climbing, and beautiful scenary (which is accompanied by facts about the area on the side of the street) while you’re there as it truly is southern California's jewel.
You begin by riding down Utah Trail for several miles until you reach one of the gates. It is a $5.00 fee for a 2 or 3 day pass, well worth it. They may or may not have someone working that booth but should charge you at the exit. You will then enter the gate and ride until you come to a T so to speak in which you will swing a left. I suggest if you’re looking to enjoy Joshua Tree National Park you should take the alternative park entrance in Joshua Tree/Yucca Valley. If you do take the alternative you will take the 62 to Park Blvd, there is a stop light there and this is where the gift shop is located but it is easily missed if you’re not looking. Take that through the gate until you reach the T, it will be some time considering the speed limit is 35 miles per hour. Be sure to watch for pedestrians as they have crosswalks at all the exhibits. The road is El Dorado Mine Road which will have signs leading out to Interstate 10. Motorcycles, be wary as the road condition is not the best compared to the other routes and may have sand on the corners.
As you are nearing the Interstate you will be able to see it as the elevation declines. Once you get there you will take a right onto interstate 10. If you’re not used to driving in windy conditions ride with caution, especially when the sun is rising and setting. Winds can exceed 60mph in this location and on the 62 near Palm Springs. You will ride on the 10 until you reach Thousand Palms, take the Bob Hope exit and take a left. You’ll ride until you come to the 111 which you’ll want to take left. If you are hungry or need gas, now is the time to do it as there isn’t anything until you reach Idyllwild (If you go that far). You are then going to take a quick right on to Pines to Palms highway, better known as Hwy 74. Take much needed caution while riding in Idyllwild. The 74 will test the skills of the best riders; there is no room for error as you are going onto a mountain. It is truly the best motorcycle road in California. You can view the video I have linked below of a motorcycle going through Idyllwild. Enjoy your ride for the next several miles it offers breath taking scenery as you transition into the pines. At this point you have several options, Option A. Which I am going to use to lead from, Option A will keep you on the 74 and take you down into Hemet which will continue you’re ride further.
Option B is to take a right onto the 243 ride through the city of Idyllwild and come out in Banning at this point you are free to do whatever you wish, but may I suggest stopping at the Morongo Valley Casino or the Outdoor Mall next door and stretch your legs out.
The Morongo Valley Casino is pretty nice; it has table games and plenty of machines. It also has two clubs and you can also stay in their rooms (I believe they even have a spa). The best I had ever won was $700 on a dime machine. The outdoor mall is fantastic, it is the best outdoor mall I have ever seen; it will meet all of your shopping needs as far as apparel goes. It is a little high end so that may detour you, their website states that it offers one of the largest collection of designer outlets in the country. Other than that, there really isn’t much else in this area for miles around. Despite it being in the middle of the desert it receives a lot of traffic and parking is usually full, you may then be forced to park in the gravel. If you are on your motorcycle you might want to consider bringing a kickstand pad.
Option C. I personally have never taken, but I was told it was a nice scenic route before leaving California. This is where you take a left off of the 74 onto the 371. This will lead you onto the 79 and the 78, you can choose to end in Temecula, CA, Escondido, CA, or El Cajon, CA. In El Cajon you will find some of the nicer houses as well as scenery. If you go this way there is a route called Mt. Palomar which can give you a thrill as well.
Continuing on from Option A brought us to Hemet, CA. you’ll stay on the 74 now Florida Ave, which will change names twice through Hemet. You’ll then be at Perris, CA, take the 74 to Lake Elsinore. You will go around the top half of the lake, the 74 turns into Grand Ave so you’ll want to take a right back onto the 74 when you get to the intersection. This is better known as the San Ortega Freeway, it is a fun ride for motorcycles and has been repaved in 2011. It will bring you to the San Juan Capistrano in Orange County; ensure you stop at the family owned fast food restaurant known as In-N-Out as it is delicious. They have 4 different types of burgers on the menu as well as ice cream so your options will be limited (If you enjoy onions tell them you want Animal Style fries and I guarantee it will be the best fries you have ever had). They only have them in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Texas.
Again your options are endless at this point, you may choose to spend several days in the area to enjoy Los Angeles or San Diego. But, we are going to continue north onto interstate 5 so you’ll want to take a right. You will be on the 5 for a short time and reach a fork for the 5 and the 405, you want to stay on the 5 and take a right onto Hwy 133 which will turn into Hwy 241. Stay on the 241 until you reach the 91. Take a right heading east towards Corona. Ride the 91 until it turns into the 215 while in Riverside. Take the 215 until you reach San Bernardino, CA you will want to take Hwy 259 off of the 215. Take the 259 which will transition into Hwy 210, you will ride this through San Bernardino and take a left onto Hwy 330 City creek road which then turns into Hwy 18. Keep in mind that motorcycles are able to "Lane Share" on California roads, so you can drive right through the traffic jams. This will bring you up the back side into Big Bear; CA. Big Bear is its own little oasis. It seems as if it should be called Narnia for the fact that it is surrounded by the desert. It allows for desert goers to enjoy snow in the winter without shoveling snow every morning. It is great for hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, and enjoying scenic views as well. You may not want to take this route if it is winter. You can easily enjoy a weekend up in Big Bear; if it is October you can also enjoy the Oktoberfest celebration.
To continue your ride you will take route 18 down to Lucerne Valley which will put you back into the warmth of the desert. Take a right onto Old Woman Springs Road, Hwy 247, take this until you have arrived back at the start of your trip in Yucca Valley. Feel free to stop and contribute to the rock art in-between Lucerne Valley and Yucca Valley.
As you can see, the route is very scenic. It is enjoyable if you want to take it slow and extremely challenging if you want to take it fast. If you own a motorycle or want to see the vast beauty of southern california, SoCal, this route was designed for you.
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