6 Best winter getaway motorcycle rides in the Southwest

by Bliss Drive Team January 22, 2021

6 Best winter getaway motorcycle rides in the Southwest

Are you a rider who detests the idea of garaging your motorcycle for the entire winter? If so, few things beat finding a region in the U.S. that provides a winter riding oasis. Well, search no more, because the Southwest is one of these regions. Including states like Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, winter weather here ranges from mild to absolute perfection. Breathtaking vistas combined with endlessly curvy roads is the icing topping this warm winter treat for riders. We’ve rounded up seven of the best winter getaway motorcycle rides in the Southwest. These are just a tiny taste of what you can ride during the winter in the wide-open Southwest. Let’s get rolling!


Arizona

Arizona Route 89A – Sedona, AZ 

If stunning scenery year-round is what you’re seeking, the ride into Sedona, AZ from Flagstaff on Route 89A is unparalleled. Shortly after departing Flagstaff heading south toward Sedona, you'll encounter vistas from a massive cliffside overlook that provide a teaser for the incredible beauty of the canyon you’ll be descending upon. The road leading you down into the canyon is well-maintained and features numerous tight switchbacks that drop you more than 2,000 feet of elevation into Sedona. 

89A is also known as Oak Creek Canyon Drive, and if you can make it there for the beginning of November, you can catch vibrant yellow and red foliage in forests full of Aspens, Oaks, and Maples that line Oak Creek. The road roughly follows this main waterway as you traverse the canyon into Sedona, with numerous campgrounds and creekside picnic areas to stop and indulge in the views. Red and tan rocks speckled with green conifers and cacti offer up a kaleidoscope of color that never disappoints, even in the winter.


Keep in mind – it can be crowded at certain times of the year, requiring motorcyclists to be extra careful around drivers in cars whose attention is drawn to the scenery away from the road. If you reach town but still crave more picturesque riding, you can continue on 89A south to Prescott, AZ, for another hour and a half of riding, which will also take you through the cool little western town of Jerome, AZ, a worthy rest stop.

Winter Weather Averages in Sedona, AZ

Month, high/low temps, avg days of precip.

Jan 60°/34° 4 days

Feb 64°/36° 4 days

March 69°/40° 5 days

April 76°/45° 2 days




Arizona Route 191 (aka Coronado Trail) – Clifton, AZ

This ride follows Arizona Route 191, starting in the old copper mining town of Clifton, AZ, near the border of New Mexico, leading you north through the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests and into Eagar, AZ. 

Departing Clifton, AZ, you’ll begin in a desert environment. Before you start heading up the Coronado Trail into the mountains, there’s a chance to stop at the scenic overlook to witness the world's largest open-pit copper mines. Rolling on, you’ll pass through a canyon, tracing cliff-edges and climbing continually at a steep pitch. The Coronado Trail then transports you up through Alpine-covered mountains in the National Forest. Twists and turns abound, making this somewhat remote part of Arizona (about two and a half hours east of Tuscon) well worth the journey.

Five thousand feet of elevation difference from beginning to end means you’ll experience huge transitions in the scenery, from desert landscapes to canyons and up over 10,800’ Escudilla Mountain. Pine and Aspen forests, meadows, and wildlife round out the natural beauty. If views are your primary motivation, start in Eagar and travel south, which provides better viewing angles of the valley. 

Note, no services are available between Clifton and Eager, aside from in the town of Alpine, where Route 191 meets Route 180. Also, check the weather before departing, as the high elevations you’ll encounter on the trip might be considerably colder than at your starting point. Expect nearly 4 hours of ride-time, not counting stops, as this route includes almost 1,200 hairpin turns at 15 MPH speeds. 

Winter Weather Averages in Clifton, AZ

Month, high/low temps, avg days of precip.

Jan 61°/33° 3 days

Feb 66°/37° 3 days

March 72°/43° 3 days

April 81°/49° 1 day




California

California State Route 1 (PCH) – Southern California

If you don’t mind going all the way west, you can check out perhaps one of the most iconic scenic highways in the country – California State Route 1. At over 656 miles in length, CA State Route 1 technically goes by several different names as it follows the coastline: Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), Cabrillo Highway, Shorelines Highway, and Coast Highway. At the southern end, the highway begins near Dana Point in Orange County, ending near Leggett in Mendocino County at the north end. The PCH roughly parallels U.S. Route 101 and combines with it in some sections, most notably from Ventura through Santa Barbara and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.

The south-central stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway from Monterey, CA to Los Angeles offers up numerous oceanside traverses, along with warm, sunny beaches even in January, making this section one of the best rides for winter warriors. One of the most popular destinations on this stretch of the PCH is the Bixby Creek Bridge, only half an hour south of Monterey. Riding north from Monterrey to San Francisco still provides plenty of suitable winter weather and views, but there are areas you might encounter wild shifts in temperature and even fog or drizzle, as there are numerous micro-climates lining this part of the coast. Aside from the shifty climate, views of the mountains meeting the sea in this section are absolutely breathtaking here!

Winter Weather Averages in Monterey, CA

Month, high/low temps, avg days of precip.

Jan 61°/45° 8 days

Feb 62°/46° 8 days

March 63°/47° 8 days

April 64°/47° 4 days


 

New Mexico

New Mexico Route 14 (Turquoise Trail) – Albuquerque, NM

If you love moseying through old ghost towns from mining days in the 1800s, the Turquoise Trail is the ride for you. Officially New Mexico State Road 14 (SR14), the road is an old two-lane that connects Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and it was designated a National Scenic Byway in 2000. Artists and craftspeople have revived some of the ghost towns along the way, with many well-preserved ghost town buildings still standing. 

The Turquoise Trail starts just south of Santa Fe, NM, and ends just east of Albuquerque. About 14 miles from Santa Fe, you’ll come to the town of Madrid, where the movie Wild Hogs was filmed. If a world-class burger sounds good, the Mine Shaft is a great joint to stop in for a break. Continuing south, you’ll pass the Sandias, two peaks that top 10,000’. The curves are mostly mellow, and stellar views can be seen on either side of the road. 

Winter Weather Averages in Albuquerque, NM

Month, high/low temps, avg days of precip.

Jan 49° 25° 2 days

Feb 55°/30° 2 days

March 64°/36° 2 days

April 72°/42° 1 day


Winter Weather Averages in Santa Fe, NM

Month, high/low temps, avg days of precip.

Jan 42°/17° 2 days

Feb 47°/21° 2 days

March 55°/26° 3 days

April 63°/32° 2 days

 

Hillsboro Haunted Highway – Hillsboro, NM

Like riding a bit more on the wild side? The Hillsboro Haunted Highway boasts rolling terrain and tight bends into blind corners, with a plethora of crosses along the road commemorating riders who lost their lives there. Yes, this is a road to be cautious on! Your reward is a technically challenging ride that offers up incredible views of the Black Range Mountains. Starting in the historic city of Hillsboro, NM, and heading south on New Mexico State Road 27, this 30-mile stretch of highway even has a ghost town to explore at the southern terminus in Nutt, NM, where SR27 meets NM26.

This ride is a great alternative when it’s too cold to ride in the higher elevations. The route can also be combined with the 152 starting in El Paso, Las Cruces, or Deming.

Winter Weather Averages in Hillsboro, NM

Month, high/low temps, avg days of precip.

Jan 55°/25° 2 days

Feb 60°/28° 1 day

March 67°/34° 1 day

April 75°/40° 1 day


 

Utah

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, UT

Straddling the Utah and Arizona state lines, riding here is like taking a trip through a Western movie backdrop. Located within the Navajo Nation Reservation, Monument Valley was the location for numerous famous western movies, including the movie “Stagecoach” that propelled John Wayne into his acting career. And then there’s one of the most classic motorcycle movies ever – “Easy Rider.” 

Just west of the Four Corners area where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah join, landscapes painted in vivid red hues provide the quintessential wide-open west experience. Moonscape-like sandstone formations ascend into the air, sometimes hundreds of feet. There are some remote areas here, so it’s wise to carry water, snacks and fill up your tank. Keep in mind there are park hours that limit ride time and a $20 entry fee. That said, there’s also plenty of good riding in the area to check out!

Park Info

Visitor center hours:

April 1–September 30: 6 a.m.–8 p.m.

October 1–March 3: 8 a.m.–5 p.m.


Scenic drive hours:

April 1–September 30: 6 a.m.–7 p.m.

October 1–March 30: 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.


Entry fee: $20 


Winter Weather Averages in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Month, high/low temps, avg days of precip.

Jan: 42°/25° 0 days

Feb: 48°/29° 0 days

March: 59°/36° 0 days

April: 69°/43 ° 0 days





Bliss Drive Team
Bliss Drive Team

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