Best Motorcycle Rides In Northern California

David Link

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Escape the crowded cities of Central and Southern California and head up into wild country with the best motorcycle rides in Northern California from REVER. From the majestic redwoods to the rocky coast, motorcycle rides Northern California rank among the best in the nation. Wherever you ride, Northern California provides near endless opportunities for recreation and sightseeing. You can connect all the dots along the way with can't-miss Northern California motorcycle rides on the REVER App. All you need is your smartphone and an appetite for adventure.

Tips For The Best Northern California Motorcycle Rides

For any and all upcoming motorcycle rides in Northern California, REVER lets you take total control. You can get started in moments and hit the best motorcycle roads in Northern California right away. Explore over 3,000 routes around the world, track your own rides and share them with others, and try out unique challenges all for free. When you're ready for more, REVER Pro is built to push your limits. Get serious on the road with turn by turn and voice navigation, live weather radar and alerts, “twisty roads” scenic mode and more. Upgrade today to ride anywhere with ease.

Northern California has a diverse climate, and you'll experience milder weather on the coast versus higher areas like the Sierra Nevada mountains. Generally, count on wet winters and warm, dry summers. The northern region of California receives more rainfall than the southern portion, so always bring some rain gear. You can ride some areas all year round with reliable four season gear, but you'll want to avoid the mountainous regions due to ice and snow in the winter. Northern California is prone to wildfires, so always check road conditions before you go, and be ready to change your plans if a fire closes your intended route. Finally, the camping in NorCal is world-class, so don't forget to bring your motorcycle camping gear. A couple of these routes are remote, and you're going to need that equipment for overnight rides!

Northern California Attractions

The real star of Northern California motorcycle rides is the scenic beauty around, and it's going to take more than just a couple rides to see it all. Start with NorCal's unforgettable collection of national parks including the crown jewel of Yosemite National Park, Sequoia & Kings Canyon NP, Lassen Volcanic NP, Pinnacles NP and Redwood NP. Wine country is a huge attraction in Northern California as well, and while Napa County gets most of the attention, Marin, Mendocino and Sonoma counties boast hundreds of wineries to visit. If you're ready for some excitement outside of NorCal's winding mountain roads, the whitewater rafting in the area is some of the best in the world. Rivers like the American, Klamath and Trinity all provide white knuckle excitement set in amazing scenery.  

Eureka To Mt. Shasta

Ride deep into the heart of redwood country, and then climb to the top of Mt. Shasta on this epic five-hour tour of Northern California. While the Eureka, CA area rarely receives snow, the mountain areas on this route do receive significant snowfall in the winter. Make sure to double check road conditions before you go. The ride starts in Eureka about 270 miles north of San Francisco. This coastal city once supported hundreds of lumber mills, and you can ride through Old Town on Arcata Bay to see historic mansions from that era. Old Town is also a solid place to grab some food before you set out. When ready, take the 101 or Redwood Highway east out of Eureka along Arcata Bay. The Redwood Highway follows the banks of the bay for many miles until you ride into Arcata, CA. Just north of Arcata, watch for the exit onto Highway 299 towards Blue Lake, CA.

Follow the Mad River away from the coast on 299 up into the Blue Lake area. Here the road narrows to two lanes. The 299 becomes the Trinity Highway outside of Blue Lake, and it is named for the Trinity River and National Forest. Ride up into the redwoods along the north fork of the Mad River as the road climbs to higher elevation. There are some wide, sweeping curves along the way that make for a fun ride up to Lord Ellis Summit. There isn't much at the summit aside from a parking area, but you can check out views of the valley below. From here, the Trinity Highway descends down into the neighboring valley, and the snaking curves on the way down are a blast. Ride around the Captain Creek valley to Circle Point, and get ready to start another climb. Burney Vista Point near the top of the ridge offers even better views of the area. Cruise up and over Berry Summit as the road winds down into a canyon along Willow Creek. Enjoy the ride down into the town of Willow Creek, CA. This little community on the Trinity River is home to the Willow Creek China Flat Museum, which chronicles the history of bigfoot sightings in Humbolt County and elsewhere. You can also stop and eat at the Bigfoot Steakhouse off the Trinity Highway.

Once out of Willow Creek, the Trinity Highway turns south to follow the Trinity River for a long stretch. Make sure you're fueled up, and then ride through several small communities. After Cedar Flat, CA, you'll round Dun Juan Point and hit a beautiful section through a deep canyon into Del Loma, CA. Keep an eye out for several pull offs along the river if you need a break. There are also numerous campgrounds along the river off the Trinity Highway. If you'd like to throw in a line, the Trinity River is well known for its steelhead and salmon fishing. Once you get to Helena, CA, you'll be able to see the Trinity Alps in the distance with Monument Peak nearby. Look to the northwest of Helena and the river to see this mountain range. There is still more Trinity wilderness to ride through as you cruise Junction City to Weaverville, CA.

The Trinity Highway ends at Weaverville, and look for a left onto Trinity Lake Blvd. / Highway 3 headed back north. You can also stop at Trinity Brewing when you get into Weaverville to grab a bite to eat. This next section will take you up into the Trinity Lake region. There is ample camping around the lake, and fisherman can haul in a variety of species including salmon, trout and bass. Highway 3 meets up with the southern end of the lake and then runs the entire length of it. When you reach Carrville, CA, the lake narrows back into the Trinity River again, which you'll follow for a good distance through remote country.

Cross over Tangle Blue Creek where it and the Trinity River converge, and then watch for an immediate right onto Forest Road 17. This section involves another long climb up the Trinity River canyon to the base of Mt. Eddy. You know you're getting close to Mt. Eddy when the road gets steep up to a high saddle. You'll see parking here for the Deadfall Meadow Trail. Mt. Eddy is the highest mountain in the Trinity Range at 9,026 ft. Continue up the switchback past the trailhead and over the ridge. This time, you'll follow Parks Creek down out of the range to lower elevation. There is a network of side roads here, and you'll first pass Stewart Springs Road, which is a rougher dirt road at this point. Stay on Forest Road 17 until it ends at Stewart Springs Road farther down the canyon. This time hang a left on Stewart Springs to stay on the route. It will take you down out of the mountains to a junction with Old Highway 99. Turn right and ride up to the ramp with Interstate 5, but take another right just before you get on the interstate at N Old Stage Road.

Follow parallel to Interstate 5 on Old Stage Road. The large rock formation near I-5 is known as Black Butte. When you reach another ramp to the interstate, get on the interstate but stay to the right and take the first exit onto Business I-5 / Mt. Shasta Blvd. Of course, you can save some time by just getting on I-5 back at Old Highway 99, but we're all about the scenic route here at REVER. You'll enter the city of Mt. Shasta, CA, and the route continues with a quick left onto Ski Village Drive. Or you can stay on Mt. Shasta Blvd. and ride into town for some food. When Ski Village Drive ends at the Everitt Memorial Highway / A10, turn left. This last section climbs up to the base of Mt. Shasta. Cruise through the forest and up to a series of switchbacks. The John Everitt Memorial Vista Point along the way provides views of Mt. Eddy across the valley.

Mt. Shasta is a towering, potentially active volcano and the second largest mountain in the Cascade Range. It rises to 14,179 ft. above sea level, and it boasts seven large glaciers around its summit. The Everitt Memorial Highway climbs steadily up to the Old Ski Bowl where you can catch epic views of the surrounding area and the summit. The best time to ride this section is in the summer when the roads are clear of snow. The route ends here at the Old Ski Bowl, but there is also great camping and hiking in the area if you want to spend more time in the shadow of Mt. Shasta.

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This long trek through Northern California culminates at Mt. Shasta.
You'll trace much of the Trinity River on winding canyon roads. (source)
Before you get to Mt. Shasta, you'll see the unique formation known as Black Butte.
Mt. Shasta towers over the region at 14,179 ft.

Rubicon Trail

Experience the legendary off-road Rubicon Trail with REVER, and test your mettle on perhaps the hardest stretch of road in the USA. The Rubicon Trail was once a Native American footpath that connected the Sacramento Valley to the Lake Tahoe area. Over the years, the trail was widened to accommodate vehicles, and it became a popular spot to explore via Jeep in the 1950s. Jeep even named their Rubicon model after this famous trail. A Jeep may be the most popular choice on the Rubicon, but ADV or off-road bikes, ATVs and side by sides can all enjoy the trail. To be clear, this is no gentle drive in the country. Most consider the Rubicon to be one of the toughest trails out there. The route features a diverse set of named obstacles like “The Gatekeeper” and “Little Sluice” that challenge even the most experienced riders. Broken parts and stuck vehicles are common along the roughest sections of the trail. We recommend doing ample research before you tackle the trail.

The Rubicon Trail is best ridden west to east. The trail portion is only 12 miles long, but there are maintained roads on either side of the trail, so it's more like 22 miles total. This is certainly one route you don't want to rush. Many people take two or three days to complete it all. The western side has several designated camping areas where you can stop and rest before tackling the trail next day. Along the trail, dispersed camping is allowed in most areas. There are a couple private areas where you can camp for a fee as well. Since this trail is so popular, you can expect large crowds, especially on holiday weekends like Labor Day and Memorial Day. In mid-July, the Jeep Jamboree organization holds their annual rally on the Rubicon Trail, so you'll want to schedule any trips to avoid that weekend.

Georgetown, CA is the nearest town, and most use it as a gateway to the trail. You can grab all the services and supplies you need before you head out, and Terry's Pizzeria has solid small town food if you're hungry. When ready, take Wentworth Springs Road west out of town towards Loon Lake. When Wentworth Springs Road meets up with Ice House Road, you can take Ice House to the banks of Loon Lake. But before you start the trail at Loon Lake, you'll want to make a stop at Uncle Tom's Cabin a little farther up Wentworth Springs Road. This Rubicon staple is a rural bar housed in a cabin built way back in 1864. The ceiling is covered in dollar bills signed by others who have made the stop. Airport Flat and Gerle Creek Campgrounds are good places to stay close to Uncle Toms Cabin. Back on Ice House, ride to Loon Lake to begin the trail. Northshore Campground at the base of the lake offers close camping to the trail.

Ice House Road ends at the start of the Rubicon Trail. There is a large trailer parking lot near the lake that signifies you are there. Proceed up the trail and get ready for the first obstacle right away! The Gatekeeper was once the brutal test that kicked off the trail, and it featured intimidating boulders to climb right after the trailhead. In 2005, the county blasted this area to make it easier to pass. Now The Gatekeeper doesn't quite strike fear into riders like it used to, but it's a reminder of the challenges to come. The Granite Bowl is next, and you'll traverse a large white rock slab that is often used as a play park. It can be difficult to stay on the main trail, so look for the worn path. This is definitely a situation where the REVER App can keep you on the right trail. Above the Granite Bowl, the trail meets back up with the end of Wentworth Springs Road near Ellis Creek. This is the easier route for those that want to skip The Gatekeeper. The trail turns east at Ellis Creek, and you're just getting started.

Continue on through sections like Walker Hill and the Soup Bowl until you reach Little Sluice. This is a popular challenge for rock crawlers, but there is a bypass you can take that still offers plenty of thrills around the harder Little Sluice. You'll wind around Spider Lake, and there is another bypass you can take around the tough Old Sluice Box. This is one of the tougher areas on the trail, so take nothing for granted as you traverse each obstacle. Cross the Buck Island Dam, and then watch for the Hair Pin section where the trail turns to the north. You'll ride down into the Rubicon River Valley and over the Rubicon Springs Bridge. The Rubicon Springs area is private property, but they welcome riders. You can pay an overnight camping fee to stay in the area as long as Rubicon Springs isn't sponsoring an event. In that case, you'll have to get reservations up front. Visit the Rubicon Soda Springs site for more info.

Your next challenge is a climb out of the valley up to Cadillac Hill and the Observation Point. Make sure to stop at the top of the Observation Point and take a look back down at the trail below. The worst is over from here, but don't let down your guard as you ride past Miller Lake and Lily Lake towards Lake Tahoe. You'll pass by a large staging area that concludes the route, and it's just a short cruise down into Tahoma, CA and back to civilization. You can take Highway 89 south down into Tahoe Valley to grab some food after a hard couple days of riding!

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You'll experience stunning beauty and tough off-road conditions on the Rubicon Trail. (source)
The REVER App will help keep you on course when you ride granite slab sections where the rocky trail disappears. (source)
This is one trail you don't want to rush. Take several days to see all the area has to offer. (source)
The blue waters of Lake Tahoe await at the end of the Rubicon Trail.

Mendocino M1

Explore the only national forest in California without paved roads and major highways on this near six-hour point A to B ride. There are twenty national forests in California, but the Mendocino National Forest is the only one without a paved road running through it. That clearly puts it among the best motorcycle rides in Northern California and you'll want to tackle this route with an ADV or dirt setup. Carrying extra fuel with a fuel pack is recommended while a reliable hydration setup is a wise investment for a ride like this, as well. Portions of this route contain seasonal closures, so check status before you go. The California M1 road traverses much of the national forest, but it ends at a dead end in the wilderness, so this ride will take more than six hours out and back. This is a great chance to make a weekend of exploring the area. Pack your camping gear for an amazing experience away from the crowds on these rural roads.

The route begins just north of Clear Lake and the city of Lakeport, CA. There is a great BBQ joint called Romi's Brew & BBQ where they feature homemade sauces and a large menu including breakfast options on the north shore of Clear Lake. Stop in before you head into the wilderness if you're hungry. Or you can eat along the lake at the Boathouse Bar & Grill nearby. When you're ready to head out, take Highway 20 to the small community of Upper Lake, CA. Once in Upper Lake, jump on Mendenhall Avenue north, and then stay right at the fork onto Elk Mountain Road M1 / County Road 301. You'll cruise through farmland and then up into the mountains along Middle Creek. After you pass the Middle Creek Campground, the road snakes up a ridge into higher terrain.

Tackle some winding curves after you get to the top of the ridge, and stay on Elk Mountain Road through a hairpin turn. Up next, there are about 10 switchbacks as you make a dramatic climb to the top of another ridge. Pass through a four-way intersection at the top as the terrain flattens out to a large basin. Stay on Elk Mountain Road to continue the route. The Penny Pines Campground is nearby, but after that you'll hit a long stretch of remote road. You'll encounter numerous side roads as you ride, but stay on Elk Mountain Road / M1 to ride farther north into the national forest. We have marked a fun little side road called 18 North 79 Road that traverses a little draw off Elk Mountain Road. When you hit the junction with 18 North 14 Road, take the hard left to link back up with Elk Mountain Road. Turn right to continue towards Lake Pillsbury.

The blue waters of Lake Pillsbury are a destination for boating, sailing and camping in the summer months. Fisherman will find northern pike, largemouth bass and bluegill as the most common species in the lake. The lake is also the home to a large herd of tule elk that were re-introduced to the area. Keep an eye out for the herd grazing along the lake, especially in the summer. The M1 winds around the western side of the lake into the Soda Creek Valley. Your chances at services are pretty rare on this ride, but you can fuel up and get anything you need at the Soda Creek Store here. Elk Creek Road turns west at the store, but we'll stay north on the M1 / Simmons Road / 301D. This road wraps around the northern edge of the lake by the Gravelly Valley Airstrip. Just after the airport, stay left at the fork to get on Hull Mountain Road. Get ready for another climb into higher terrain away from the lake. You'll only be on Hull Mountain Road for a few miles until you bear left at the fork with Trail 65. This road traverses the top of the ridge as you climb even higher. Trail 65 links back up with Hull Mountain Road as a bit of a shortcut. Hang a left to continue on the route.

Hull Mountain looms large in the distance as you ride the ridge northwest. This next climb up to Hull Mountain will blow you away with the views on this rugged mountain road. You'll ride up just west of the summit, but make sure to take the short detour left to ride all the way to the top. The road can be a little rough near the top, but nothing an ADV setup can't handle. AT 6,873 ft., Hull Mountain provides epic views of the Mendocino NF, and it's rare you can ride all the way to the summit of such a prominent peak. After the summit, Hull Mountain Road ends, but you can continue on Forest Route 1N02 which is still the M1. This thrilling section takes you down the other side of Hull Mountain and then along another ridge. There is another camping option along the way at Spruce Grove Campground. You'll ride to the south of Bald Mountain, and then wind around to Etsel Ridge. There is dispersed camping nearby at Grizzly Flat, which is a great option if you prefer a little more privacy around the campsite.

The next section is a gradual descent into the Black Butte River Valley. Cross over the ridge at Eel River Campground, and then stay on the M1 as you climb the canyon next to the middle fork of the Eel River. If you thought you were done with scenic ascents up switchbacks, the M1 has more in store for you. Pass by the Hell Hole Trailhead and continue up to Boardman Ridge. Cruise northeast in the shadow of Anthony Peak on the way to Howard Meadows and Howard Lake. Afterward, this last stretch of the M1 features a nice little swimming spot in the canyon on Rattlesnake Creek called Conda Coolero. Stop and cool off after a dusty day of riding! The M1 ends just after the Coolero, but there are a couple dead end side roads with trailheads to explore. Once you're finished with the area, it's back down the M1 as there are no outlets from here. Enjoy the ride!

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The Mendocino National Forest is the only national forest in California without a paved highway. (source)
Lake Pillsbury is the one point of civilization along this long ride through remote terrain. (source)
It is common to see tule elk grazing around the banks of Lake Pillsbury. (source)
The route gets even more exciting as you climb up to Hull Mountain. (source)

"You don't stop riding when you get old, you get old when you stop riding."
― Anonymous

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