The perfect pandemic outing might be cruising through the country on a motorcycle, says Paige Bouma of Cycle Trader (CycleTrader.com). “It naturally lends itself to social distancing, and it’s a great fun thing to do. You just feel like you’re at one with nature,” says the vice president of the online marketplace for new and used motorcycles. She shares some favorite routes with USA TODAY.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Tennessee and North Carolina
The nation’s most-visited national park offers motorcyclists 400 miles of roadway to explore. Popular rides include the Tail of the Dragon, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Cherohala Skyway Loop. “You can get lost in the ride. You have mountains all around you,” Bouma says.
More information: nps.gov/grsm
Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park
This 105-mile, ridge-hugging route runs the entire length of Shenandoah National Park, offering scores of scenic overlooks with valley views and Blue Ridge Mountain vistas.“It’s the prettiest ride out there. I don’t think there’s anything more beautiful,” Bouma says. With a speed limit of just 35 mph, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, but watch out for bear, deer and other wildlife.
More information: nps.gov/shen
Tunnel of Trees
Harbor Springs to Cross Village, Michigan
At just 16 miles, it won’t take long to drive this forested route in northern Michigan, but the trip’s still unforgettable. “It’s a narrow path with sharp turns. It’s beautiful in all seasons,” Bouma says. The trip along highway M-119 offers views of Lake Michigan and plenty of places to make a pit stop or pause for meal.
More information: mackinawcity.com/day-trips/tunnel-of-trees/
Located in the center of the state, this Green Mountains ride is particularly popular during the fall color season. Covering more than 200 miles, riders can pick and choose their route. “It's right in the heart of Vermont. You ride and you can get out and do some hikes,” Bouma says. A must-visit: the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Waterbury. “Get a little Chunky Monkey or Cherry Garcia to make it an even more fun day.”
More information: vermontvacation.com/landing-pages/byways/scenic-route-100-byway
San Juan Mountain Skyway
This 230-mile loop takes riders past historic mining towns, alpine vistas, hot springs and more. One favorite section, the Million Dollar Highway, connects the Rocky Mountain towns of Ouray and Silverton. With its hairpin turns and switchbacks, the driving is memorable too. “You can map out where you want to go and what you want to see,” Bouma says.
More information: colorado.com/articles/colorado-scenic-byway-san-juan-skyway
Although the riding’s wonderful, visitors will be tempted to get off their motorcycles to hike to waterfalls and take in White Mountains views. The 34½-mile route on New Hampshire State Highway 112 is particularly popular with visitors seeking fall foliage, but the area attracts visitors in the spring and summer too, Bouma says.
More information: visitwhitemountains.com/the-kancamagus-highway
Pig Trail Scenic Byway
Twisting through the Ozark National Forest on Arkansas State Highway 23, this byway takes riders on curves and climbs and under canopies of trees. Although it's just 19 miles long, there are many other sites in the region. “It’s a quick fun ride. A good adventure,” Bouma says.
More information: arkansas.com/ozark/tours-experiences/pig-trail-scenic-byway
Historic Columbia River Highway
One of the nation’s first purpose-built scenic highways, this 75-mile route follows the Columbia River and offers views of Mount Hood, the state’s highest point. A must-stop: thundering Multnomah Falls with paths climbing to the top of the cascade. But the ride itself is worth the trip, Bouma says. “Any time you’ve got twists and turns along the route, it’s going to make a fun day.”
More information: oregon.gov/odot/regions/pages/historic-columbia-river-highway.aspx
Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway, Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area
Kentucky and Tennessee
Commonly called “The Trace,” this 43-mile route through forests and open fields features gentle curves and rolling hills as it follows a ridge route between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. Riders find many places to stop and stretch their legs, Bouma says.
More information: fhwa.dot.gov/byways/byways/2345
Once a Native American trade route, this 69-mile scenic drive offers breathtaking scenery through the Berkshire Mountains. The best section covers the section from North Adams to Greenfield, Bouma says. “This is one of the most popular places to drive in all of New England.”
More information: mohawktrail.com