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Motorcycle Riding Adventures In California

Fall is gonna be in full swing soon! For many of us, that means the last couple of months to ride before storing our bikes for the winter. The weather is usually perfect and it's just about the best time to take your motorcycle for a spin.

Autumn has always been my favorite time of the year to ride as we get a reprieve from the blazing summer heat. And California is a paradise for motorcycle riders. The State has practically any kind of natural terrain you can imagine, as well as iconic paved routes.

Whether you're a street thrill-seeker or an off-road enthusiast, here are 9 best places to ride in the fall in California!

1. Angeles Crest Highway - The Sportbike Mecca

Angeles Crest Highway is a favorite for SoCal riders. It's so close to Los Angeles, but you can feel
completely separated from the big city. Cutting through the Angeles National Forest, this 60 mile stretch of road boasts a lot of twisties in a beautiful mountain forest setting. The road condition is very good, so you can get into those turns and switchbacks without worrying about uneven surfaces. Go as high as 7,000 ft in elevation and see stunning view of the Angeles hills.

Start in La Canada and take Highway 2 up into the mountain, ending in Wrightwood (or choose various other paths). The ride starts with wide sweeping turns, but quickly goes into sharp corners and fast switchbacks. With corners named as Squid's Leap, make sure you have fun but ride carefully as motorcycle accidents are prone.

If you're in the mood for some grub, Newcomb's Ranch (about halfway up) is a popular spot for riders to meet up, get some tummy fuel, and socialize.

Time to ride: about 90 minutes

2. Malibu Canyon Roads - Tons of Options

Malibu Canyon is another favorite for local Los Angeles riders. You get incredible changes in landscape on this road, from the sparkling ocean to canyon roads to forest scenes.

Take the Latigo Canyon Road that starts from Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. The 10 mile road up Latigo is one of the twistiest roads you can find in the Los Angeles area with challenging switchbacks and sharp turns. You can then connect to Kanan Dume Road, which leads to the famous Mulholland Drive - another fun twisty road that you can ride on until you reach the inaccessible part. 

A stop by The Rock Store on Mulholland Highway (a building made entirely out of volcanic rock) is a must since you're already in the area. This a famous biker hangout/pitstop where on weekends, you may see hundreds of bikes out front - the ultimate biker community!

Time to ride: with all the mixed canyon roads, you can spend all day there!

3. Azusa Canyon - Fun day ride in greater Los Angeles 

This mountain road in the northeast region of Los Angeles is located in the San Gabriel Mountains. This ride has beautiful scenery with a variety of mountain terrain and a large change in elevation.

The difficulty level of the beginning sections is not too hard; the roads are made of wide, sweeping turns - perfect for novices. But the higher up the canyon you go, the road becomes much more technical. This includes hairpin turns, steeper inclines, and decreasing radius turns with multiple apexes.

Up the mountain is an intersection known as the Y - where East Fork Road, Glendora Ridge Road, and Glendora Mountain Road meet. Riders commonly reference 'the Y' as a landmark when preparing at the gas station at the freeway exit at the mouth of the canyon. Glendora Ridge Road, which is gentler and smoother, will take you across the range all the way to Mt. Baldy. Glendora Mountain Road, on the other hand, will take you back down. It's the most technical road of the three, so it's the preferred route for many. Why not ride down and back up?!

4. Ortega Highway (Hwy 74) - Quick canyon run

Ortega Highway isn't the most radical, knee-dragging highway in SoCal, but it's a solid go-to for anyone in Orange County, and is worth visiting if you're in the area. It can be great fun to ride through this twisty highway if you?re careful (watch out for deer! ? accidents are incredibly common). Beginning in the historic town of San Juan Capistrano and ending at Lake Elsinore, this 30-mile road up the mountain carves through the lush national forest and ends with a sweeping view over the glittering lake.

A huge bonus for Dual Sport riders are the well-traveled dirt roads via gates into the Cleveland National Forest. Beginners that take their time and watch for oncoming traffic will enjoy a ride on the Main Divide trail that spans all the way across the mountains, offering numerous opportunities to adventure in various distances with different destinations on either side of the mountain range. Check your map or GPS to make sure you stop at Santiago Peak, and be sure to verify that the exit gate you plan to use is open before you plan your route!

You'll also find the famous diner Hell's Kitchen along Highway 74 - a popular hangout and must-stop with the Harley crowd, but all riders are welcome. We stop here regardless of the bikes we're on! Another option is the Lookout Roadhouse at the top, which is a nice place to grab a bite and enjoy the view of Lake Elsinore.

Time to ride (pavement): less than 1 hour

5. California Route 36 - The twistiest road!

For street riders seeking some serious twists and thrills, you?ll have a lot of fun on this route, but BE CAREFUL! This 140 mile-long road in the Redding area (starting from Redbluff and ending in Fortuna) is EXTREMELY twisty. An entire 140 miles of twists, in fact. This is an exhausting ride purely because of how extra-alert you have to be at all times. But other rides may seem boring after this! The road is mostly smooth to ride on, but be alert because some parts don?t have guardrails, and it?s a long drop.

Time to ride: about 4 hours.

6. California Hwy 1 - Scenic ride along the coast

It is a rite of passage for SoCal dwellers to take this route at some point. For riding enthusiasts, it's a must. Hwy 1 is a favorite for those who want to take the more scenic route up north to San Francisco. Sure, it'll take you half as long if you just go directly up Hwy 5, but what's the fun in that? Aside from riding right next to the beautiful Pacific Ocean, you'll also hit some pretty awesome mountain curves once you get into Monterey County.

There are several insanely gorgeous stops along the way, such as Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Big Sur, and Monterey Bay. Don't forget to stop by San Simeon to see elephant seals sunning themselves on the beach! It really is remarkable to pull off in the lovely designated parking area and peak down at these massive animals in their natural environment.

Time to ride: The long length of this ride is taxing, so allow for 2 days if you started by Malibu and your goal is San Francisco. There's plenty of sights along the way so plan accordingly!

7. Baja California - ride down a peninsula

Or, you can head South and reach Baja (the original California) - now a spectacular Mexican peninsula where you can find innumerable sleepy little towns on your way through mountains, deserts and sandy beaches. It's also a dream for off-roaders, as there are hundreds of miles of dirt trails of all different terrain. Just don't get lost in the wilderness out there! Also be careful to plan around large-scale professional events like the Baja 1000.

For the street-riders who are craving an epic adventure, you can ride 1,000 miles of paved road (Highway 1) down the entire peninsula, starting in Tijuana and ending in beautiful Cabo San Lucas.

Tips: this is at least an overnight trip if you're starting from Los Angeles. Bring your passport and proof of ownership of your bike. And be extra careful of safety and don?t do anything stupid (ahem, as in, don?t bring anything illegal and keep your wits about you).

8. Big Bear - SoCal mountain trails for all riders

Big Bear has lots of options for off-road enthusiasts and thrill-seeking street guys. There are dozens of off-road trails snaking through Big Bear Mountain and the surrounding areas. You'll have fun discovering and conquering each one. Most of them are hard compacted dirt with loose rocks, but there are very challenging trails with large rocks as well. If it's your first time in the area mind the posted signs and be prepared for a variety of weather and change in temperature.

On the other hand, if you prefer street riding or have a passenger, an option for you is to the do the loop around Big Bear Lake. You'll start at the base of the mountain in Highland and continue up 330 and 18 East until you get to the Lake. This is a fun twisty road. After you make a loop around the lake, Big Bear has a charming little village where you can chill and grab a bite.

This is absolutely one of our favorite destinations since it feels like you're worlds away even though it's right on our backyard.

Time to ride: about 2.5 hour for the lake loop to go up and down.

9. El Paso Mountains - Off-road canyon fun

El Paso Mountains in the northern Mojave Desert is an awesome fun ride for the off-roaders. The desert landscape is almost surreal. You'll go through incredibly rocky areas where the ground is littered with rocks as big as your fist, dirt paths with the red canyon cliffs rising up on either side of you, and flat desertscape where you can see for miles. You may even spot a few native desert tortoises (please don't touch)! As you gain elevation, the view of the valley below is just amazing.

A good target destination is Last Chance Canyon, a depression-era mining site, and the Burro Schmidt Tunnel, a mysterious half-mile long tunnel entirely dug by hand through solid rock over 3 decades.

Tips: El Paso is a great time to ride in the fall (October and later) as it's very hot in the summer. Be careful though that you can only ride in areas where there is an "OPEN" sign; a fine is very costly here!

10. Lake Tahoe - Breathtaking alpine scenery

Tahoe is another location that offers a ton of riding options for riders of every level. Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in the United States, and the 80-mile loop around it is perfect for the novice rider, not to mention the breathtaking scenery by your side at every turn. If off-road riding is more your style, there are also hundreds of miles of trails in the Tahoe area.

If you want to venture out into the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, you can go to the tiny town of Genoa from 207 through Kingsbury. There, the main attraction is the charming little Genoa Bar and Saloon - the oldest drinking establishment in Nevada! This bar has seen a lot of famous visitors throughout its decades, and is now a famous pit stop for bikers to cure their thirst while reveling in a part of history.

11. Death Valley - Desertscape and Sand Dunes

It doesn't sound like it, but Death Valley is a beautiful ride. This ride takes you through the California desert into Nevada. You can have a really fun rocky ride in Echo Canyon, and then really get up to speed through a wide expanse of desert while dodging lots of cacti. A distinct landmark of this area is the Mesquite Dunes - massive rolling hills of soft sand shaped by the wind.

This is a great place to include on your route since you will have ridden through narrow, rocky canyons, riverbeds, and beautiful open desert to get here. Heads up noobs - the sand is super soft, and your bike can easily end up like this (ha!):

Watch footage of our ride through Death Valley:

Are you gonna hit up any of these epic routes/trails this fall? Remember, bring plenty of water, extra fuel, and tire repair materials. If you're going alone, make sure someone knows where you are going, even what specific trail you're planning to ride. We've had too many crashes on desolate trails with our Solomoto team alone, so we urge everyone (especialy the solo-moto-ers) to take extra precautions!

Get out there this fall and have fun!

By Daniel Relich

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