Now that spring is upon us, it’s time to start planning trips on the best scenic motorcycle drives in the Midwest. Even if you like to be spontaneous, doing a little planning ahead ensures that you have plenty of time to enjoy the sights surrounding some of the most iconic, scenic routes. If you’re looking for trails to test your motorcycle skills with steep hills or tight turns while enjoying the beautiful scenery, these are some of the top routes you won’t want to miss.
Tunnel of Trees Road
The Tunnel of Trees is located on M-119 north of Harbor Springs. While the road is pretty wide south of the area, it does get very narrow as it goes along a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan—and look out for the sharp turns at Horseshoe Curve and Devil’s Elbow. This iconic route is ranked as one of the most scenic roads in the United States, and you’ll enjoy beautiful views with bright colored leaves if you choose to visit in the fall. Riders will experience views of the expansive forest and vistas. Also along the way, enjoy shopping and restaurants, including stops at Crooked Tree Breadworks, where you’ll find pepper Parmesan rolls, and Toski Sands Market and Wine Shop, where you’ll find smoked whitefish and homemade beef jerky.
Tail of the Dragon
Take Ohio Route 536 east out of Hannibal to ride the very curvy Tail of the Dragon in the Appalachian foothills of southeast Ohio. This road ends on Ohio Route 78. Be sure you fuel up and bring drinks and lunch with you, as there are no towns between Hannibal and 78—the route is meant for riding and riding only. This route is best for experienced riders as there are several hairpin turns in approximately 12 miles, not to mention the route has frequent, steep hills, with nearly no flat spots on the road, so make sure you’re riding at safe speeds. Riders of this route will enjoy incredible views including valleys, deep woods, and more.
Shawnee National Forest
Visit the scenic Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois for views of lakes, bluffs, swamps, caves, and more. For a scenic ride, start in Carbondale, Illinois. The route is very hilly with lots of twists and turns to keep the ride exciting—you should particularly be on the lookout for waterfalls along the roadside, especially during the springtime. After you’re finished exploring the open road, there are several local attractions including a Superman museum, Harrah’s Casino River Boat, as well as several shopping amenities, restaurants, and hotels.
Western South Dakota
Needles Highway is SD Hwy 87 in Custer State Park, about 30 miles south of Rapid City, South Dakota, but note that Needles Highway is only open from April–October each year. It features a 14-mile stretch of road with narrow tunnels, sharp turns, excellent views and granite spires. The Needles Eye Tunnel is only 8’ 4” wide, but there are two other tunnels on the road: Iron Creek Tunnel and Hood Tunnel. Needles Eye is named for the granite spires near the entrance of the tunnel, formed by rain and wind over time. If you have time to for a side trip, make sure to add a couple nearby stops: SD 385 takes you to Crazy Horse Memorial while SD 244 takes you to Mount Rushmore.
North Shore Tour
If you’re ready for a weekend trip, take the 175-mile lake shore tour from Duluth, Minnesota to Canada on State 61. You’ll drive along the world’s largest freshwater lake and through the Superior National Forest with a view of the Sawtooth Mountains. The forest is loaded with pines, maples, and aspens, while several waterfalls come off the mountains and go into the lake. Enjoy hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and fishing in the area, or visit the communities along the shore for shopping and eating, including Grand Marais, Two Harbors (with the world’s largest ore dock), Lakeview National Golf Course, Betty’s Pies, and Gooseberry Falls State Park. Additional places to stop include Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and Historic Site, Tettegouche State Park, Temperance River State Park, Lutsen’s several resorts, and Cascade River State Park.
If you like the idea of taking day or overnight trips through nature’s beauty on a bike, but don’t have a ride of your own, visit Tousley Motorsports to pick out a new or used motorcycle and plan your next trip. Be sure to pick up any accessories you may need, including riding gear and helmets.