4 Great Motorcycle Rides Through Arizona
Hit the pavement on these Arizona motorcycle rides perfectly suited for two wheels.
Arizona just might be the most motorcycle-friendly state in the country, thanks to 300-plus days of sunshine and miles of pristine asphalt ribbons. No matter if you opt for a route through Arizona's scenic wilderness or one that dips into the state's vibrant cities, these trips answer the call of the open road.
Before launching, check az511.gov—Arizona Department of Transportation's site—for updates on current road conditions, as well as links to maps, tools and other resources.
Travel the Mother Road: Route 66
Mileage: 163 miles
Drive time: 2 hours, 25 minutes
Lupton to Holbrook
Begin your Route 66 motorcycle tour—a smooth, straight, fast ride along I-40—at the Painted Cliffs Welcome Center in Lupton, on Arizona's eastern border. As you head west, detour to Petrified Forest National Park (park admission costs $20 per motorcycle) to see 200-million-year-old fossils, then continue past the striped desert vistas of Arizona's postcard-perfect Painted Desert.
Holbrook to Winslow
Stop in Winslow, home of the celebrated Standin' on the Corner Park, to stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat. You don't need reservations for La Posada Hotel's Martini Lounge, an ideal place to indulge in the five-star Southwestern cuisine served at the hotel's famed Turquoise Room (reservations required).
Winslow to Flagstaff
As you make your way west, pull over to visit a 50,000-year-old meteor impact site. You can walk along the crater's edge on viewing trails, tour interactive exhibits and browse the minerals and gems in the souvenir shop.
Flagstaff is your final stop on this route. Not only does this mountain town offer much in the way of lodging and dining, but it also sits within a short drive of other destinations, including the San Francisco Peaks, Oak Creek Canyon and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.
Head into the Mountains: Phoenix to Show Low
Mileage: 175 miles
Drive time: 3 hours, 15 minutes
Phoenix to Globe
From metro Phoenix, take a ride on the paved and well-maintained US 60 east toward Mesa. As you near the sister towns of Globe-Miami, the highway opens up and the vistas expand for miles. Make a stop in Globe to sample the best Bloody Mary in town at the 1902 Drift Inn Saloon.
Globe to the White Mountains
Before you leave Globe, put on your leathers; the weather gets cooler as the switchback road starts to twist and bend through the Salt River Canyon Wilderness Area. Once you arrive in the White Mountains, you'll find yourself in the towns of Pinetop and Show Low. Here, outdoor recreation abounds, including hiking, fishing and boating. Stop at the White Mountain Nature Center in Pinetop-Lakeside to get your bearings.
Experience the Old West: Tucson
Mileage: 123 miles
Drive time: 3 hours, 45 minutes
Tucson to (the former) Old Tucson Studios
From Tucson, go back in time to the Old West at the movie-making landmark, Old Tucson. At the height of Hollywood's Western boom, this served as the backdrop for dozens of famous films, and later Old Tucson became a popular local attraction that featured staged gunfights and saloon shows. The short and easy ride out along Gates Pass Road takes you across rolling hills teeming with native wildlife.
Pima Air & Space Museum to Mount Lemmon
Return through Tucson and head southeast on I-10 (a quick, smooth jaunt) to tour the Pima Air & Space Museum, the largest privately funded aviation museum in the United States. More than 300 aircraft and space vessels from around the world rest here.
Then hit the road north to the Santa Catalina Mountains. Enjoy the slow and curving climb up 6,000-plus feet in elevation along Catalina Highway, aka the Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway, to the top of Mt. Lemmon. The scenic byway is popular with motorists and bicyclists, so the route can get crowded on weekends.
Mt. Lemmon is the highest point in the Santa Catalinas, which means you'll enjoy cooler temperatures and astonishing views. Cruise back down the mountain and settle in for the night at one of Tucson's downtown hotels.
Cruise the Small Towns: Wickenburg to Jerome
Mileage: 187 miles
Drive time: 4 hours, 25 minutes
Wickenburg to Prescott
Start out in Wickenburg, with its Western-themed entertainment and history galore. Before you depart, pay a visit to the Desert Caballeros Western Museum to soak up the region's fascinating past and see current works by Western artists.
Head north along AZ Highway 89—a picturesque, paved, mountainous route—through Prescott National Forest to Prescott itself. Make time for a cold beer at one of the Gold-Rush-era saloons on Whiskey Row or visit the Sharlot Hall Museum, a heritage site and living history museum.
Prescott to Jerome
Continue east on AZ Highway 89A to legendary Jerome, the once-booming copper mining town that's witnessed a resurgence owing, in part, to a growing local wine industry.
The last few miles are paved, but also twisty and dotted with blind spots. Drive slowly and with caution. In Jerome, learn about the disastrous fires of the 1890s, part of the strange history that helped shape this tiny town, then order a juicy burger at the Haunted Hamburger.
Back to Wickenburg
Your return trip can run two routes: down the faster-moving but less scenic I-17 through Clarkdale, or back through the switchbacks, elevation changes and stunning views along AZ Highway 89A.