Motorcycle riders in Washington don’t even need to leave the state to find dozens of great routes, most with twisty curves and some mix of deep forest, snow-capped mountains and gorgeous water views.
In fact, with the range of scenery from the Pacific coast, the Olympic Peninsula, the Cascade Mountains, the Columbia River basin and the rolling hills of Eastern Washington, the evergreen state has some of the best rides in the whole country, according to MotorcycleRoads.com, a site dedicated to sharing route information and reviews.
Here are five top recommendations for experienced riders — because they’re all longer than 200 miles — gathered from lists by MotorcycleRoads.com, peer-to-peer motorcycle rental site Riders Share and travel site Washington Innsiders.
Highway 101 Loop
Two- or three-day trip — 360 miles
The Highway 101 Loop circles the Olympic Peninsula and covers more than 360 miles around over a million acres of crystal-clear lakes, the sacred Hoh Rain Forest and charming little towns. Most recommend taking at least two days for this trip and three if you want to see a lot, including an 18-mile detour up Hurricane Ridge Road, where tight, winding curves take riders to an unparalleled view of the Olympic Mountain Range.
Two- or three-day trip — 444 miles
The Cascade Loop features lush forests, orchards, vineyards, mountain peaks, valleys, deserts, waterfalls and island communities.
This trip is longer than most listed here, but definitely worth it. You will want to split this trip into at least two or three days. Start along Interstate 5 North in Seattle to Mukilteo, then take Highway 2 east toward Wenatchee. On the way, soak in the incredible views of Stevens Pass. Next, head to Leavenworth, Wenatchee, Lake Chelan and North Cascades National Park.
Leavenworth Day Ride
One-day trip — 289 miles
If the Cascade Loop is too intense or too long, Riders Share suggests doing the Leavenworth Day Ride, which offers a bite-sized version. It’s quite long, at 289 miles, but can be accomplished in a long day of committed riding. This route includes Snoqualmie Falls and the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, then leads to Leavenworth, the quaint mountain town mentioned in the previous route description. If you have the time, visit the Okanogan- Wenatchee National Forest just off Highway 207, which boasts over 4,000,000 acres of caves, hiking trails, and mountain bike trails.
One-day trip — 221 miles
If you’re looking for great views and twisty roads, the Mount Rainier day ride is the perfect one-day trip, at 221 miles. Locals suggest starting in Enumclaw, approximately 43 miles and 1.5 hours east of Seattle. To get there from Seattle, take I-5 South then WA-164 East. From Enumclaw, take Highway 410 to arrive at the Chinook pass, where you’ll experience an incredible view.
Once you’re finished there, go back and take Highway 123 south to the Stevens Canyon entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. You will wind around the Ohanapecosh River and up Stevens Canyon Road, experiencing some exciting and sharp switchbacks with grand views. As you near the top of the road, take time to stop and soak in the scenery.
One- or two-day trip — 221 miles
Highway 14 takes riders along the north side of the stunning Columbia River Gorge. Start in Vancouver, Washington, and take the highway east to Goldendale. Along the way, you’ll experience an incredible change from forest to desert as you travel through the beautiful basalt canyon. The route is about 120 miles one way. Take a detour left onto Highway 141 after Stevenson to get a great view of the volcanic Mount Adams, the second highest peak in Washington.
Before you hit the road, it’s important to prepare. With any ride in Western Washington, an extra fleece and rain gear are smart to have even if it’s sunny when you start. Wind, pollen and dust can also be an issue, so good eyewear is a must. If you wear contacts, bring an extra set of lenses or glasses and use your helmet’s face shield.
And while there are certainly risks inherent to riding motorcycles, knowing basic safety precautions can help avoid the worst. According to the Washington Safety Traffic Commission, 75% of all motorcycle fatalities are rider-caused. Speeding and rider impairment were the two biggest factors contributing to crashes, according to the commission.
In addition to riding at reasonable speeds and not using drugs and alcohol while riding, here are some other top safety tips from seasoned riders compiled by Sturgis Rider News:
- Ride with people who know how to ride and whom you trust;
- Wear something bright or neon;
- Wear the right gloves and gear;
- Never ride tired;
- Always keep at least 20 feet between you and other riders;
- If you’re in a group and others are riding faster than you are comfortable with, hang back and go your own speed;
- Be wary of semitrucks.
Riders of all experience levels can also take training courses. A list of Department of Licensing-approved motorcycle training schools is available at st.news/motoschools.
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.