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Enchanted Kingdom: Northeast Vermont Motorcycle Ride

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Vermont’s unmaintained Class IV roads offer access to truly off-the-beaten-path scenery and long-forgotten historic sites as well as enchanting along this Vermont motorcycle ride. Photos by Susan Dragoo.

It’s all scenic. It’s all charming. And it’s all green … except when it’s not, and then it’s even better.

A few days into a trip to the lush forests of northeastern Vermont, we were reminded of Sedona, Arizona. The connection between these two dramatically different climes may at first seem nebulous, but Vermont’s consistent beauty called to mind the time we visited an outdoors outfitter in Sedona and asked, “Which are the most scenic trails?” The jaded clerk responded with a sigh, “All of them. They’re all scenic.” His tone let us know there was nothing to be gained by pressing him for further details. We would have to make our own choices from the seemingly infinite good ones available.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Burke Mountain’s ski lift sits idle in the summer, when the resort is popular with mountain bikers riding the nearby Kingdom Trails Network.

Likewise, trying to narrow down the best scenery in Vermont is a fool’s errand. It would be difficult to make a bad choice. Our adventure riding journey to the state’s Northeast Kingdom took us into what may be some of Vermont’s most remote territory, lending itself beautifully to the pursuit of riding motorcycles down dark, green, tree‑­canopied lanes and over roads the likes of which Paul Revere might have traveled in colonial days.

See all of Rider‘s Northeast U.S. motorcycle rides here.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Willoughby Gap is Burke Mountain’s most iconic view.

These are Vermont’s northeastern highlands, dubbed the Northeast Kingdom in the 1940s by a former Vermont governor in recognition of the area’s distinct culture and geography. The region lies within the southernmost range of the cold boreal forest of spruce and fir, birch and aspen, which stretches to the Arctic. It’s a place of long winters and short growing seasons where ponds, lakes, and villages nestle in valleys and twisting roads follow clear streams between small granite hills and mountains. Adventure in Vermont, like the New England states themselves, comes in tight and tidy packages, so the remoteness here can be surprising to the traveler accustomed to the vast, open American West.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Remnants of a 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps camp at the summit of Burke Mountain.

It was mid‑­September, on the cusp of the imminent explosion of fall colors for which this place is famous. Still, there was plenty of sensory stimulation. Besides the inexplicable feeling of navigating these woods in a late summer shower, leaves were beginning to carpet the trail like gold doubloons cast forth from some cosmic seeder. Pungent scents of cut evergreens, vegetation at the end of its cycle, and earth, freshly disturbed by our tires and dampened by the rain, filled our heads with aromas fit for expensive candles sold in artisan shops. Days that started with fog and mist and ended with afternoon showers added mystique and urgency to move along yet held us in the moment, hoping it would never stop.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Riding in the Northeast Kingdom is an experience of lush, green forests and nearly infinite backroads.

Eric Milano, owner of MotoVermont (see sidebar below), led our group of a dozen riders from all walks of life. Most were successful in business and seeking another way to enjoy the outdoors. Sailors, skydivers, scuba divers, and racecar drivers, they were here to learn the nuances of adventure riding versus railing through the woods with their hair on fire, replaying the antics of their younger selves.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
An adventure bike is the perfect vehicle for enjoying it, and MotoVermont organizes great tours to get the most out the area.

Our business, D.A.R.T. (Dragoo Adventure Rider Training), is often invited on such tours to coach guests not only on the finer points of riding well over difficult terrain but also the philosophy of leaving behind a legacy of responsibility as we explore on adventure motorcycles, a term that can apply to most any off‑­road‑­capable two‑­wheeled machine with enough legs to make it between fuel stops.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Descending a rocky ledge lends the perfect opportunity for a little fun.

A high priority for adventure riders is respecting landowners and other trail users, helping to ensure trails stay open. There is more than enough joy in smelling the roses (and other flora) while tackling technical trails with natural obstacles. Adventure riders see no need to run loud pipes, ride at breakneck speeds, or travel off trail, risking damage to adjacent lands and hard‑­earned relationships.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Respectful behavior on roads and trails helps to ensure continued access.

Our first day together was dedicated to enhancing rider skills, and the second was spent applying them over some of Vermont’s most remote backroads. Many are Class IV roads, barely maintained byways kept open mostly by locals who traverse their craggy, narrow tunnels on snow machines during winter and by motorcycle the rest of the year.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
The mountains of the Northeast Kingdom offer some of the area’s most iconic scenery.

Our troupe traveled west out of Burke Mountain Resort, stopping off at Cafe Lotti in East Burke before turning north and entering the woods and our first Class IV challenge. Cafe Lotti is a homegrown hangout set in a typical aging Vermont building which has no doubt fueled generations of local folk and travelers alike with a belly full of breakfast and a hot cup of craft coffee or tea. It is the perfect meeting spot for adventure seekers of all types, from mountain bikers to adventure riders to cross‑­country and downhill skiers.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Whether crossing a burbling stream or stopping for Pure Vermont Maple Syrup, there’s plenty to see along the trail.

We left town westbound and turned north into the woods, winding our way past drop lines – pieces of tubing strung between taps in a forest of maple trees like webs from a giant prehistoric and overactive arachnid. Eric stopped at the entrance to a steep, rocky uphill and explained the best options for a successful path of travel. Rain had turned the rocks into slippery entrapments like greased turtle shells, ranging from tiny spotted tortoises to 6‑­foot sea turtles.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom

Most riders made the climb without incident, but one or two forgot their training and sat down or, worse, dragged their feet, losing control and learning the hard way why adventure riders stand up. Steering, suspension, and sight are all improved by standing tall and proud, and this mild lesson was a graphic illustration of just how important it is to do so in the rough.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Vermont’s deepest lake, glacial Lake Willoughby, boasts distinctive fjord-like rock formations and is a popular summer attraction.

The onset of rough terrain was the portal to this enchanted Northeast Kingdom, a region mentioned in Patricia Schultz’s book 1000 Places to See Before You Die, which boasts that when the foliage flames in autumn, this may well be the most beautiful place in America. Indeed, it should not be missed. A few years back, we made the trip by motorcycle during the peak of fall color, and years ago, Bill traversed Vermont by bicycle on his way across the northern tier of the United States, a solo journey that permanently pinned this place to his psyche and keeps us coming back.

Our rugged upward trail eventually turned down, and the trail from the top was no disappointment. Sketchy ruts through mudholes, strategically dispersed to reward good judgment in not rushing, kept us on our toes. Most of these roads shed water well and remained rideable, but caution was of the essence. The road continued to undulate throughout the 100‑­plus‑­mile clockwise loop that would eventually take us back to our starting point.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Roadside stands along the way offer a variety of goodies, including fresh eggs.

But first, a stop at Devaney Farmstand near the intersection of Hudson Road and Town Highway 29 outside West Charleston, Vermont. The clouds opened and rain came down in full force as we dismounted and climbed a stairway, ducking into a loft room where lunch had been laid out for us by Bob and Sharyl Devaney. Calzones, fresh corn on the cob, and apple pie awaited. We gobbled down the fare as rain drummed on the roof. Maple syrup, candles, fresh jams, and pies of all kinds added their fragrance to the shop, and antiques and other local trinkets were neatly displayed for anyone wanting a souvenir.

Our timing was perfect. The sun began to peek through the clouds as we said our thank‑­yous and goodbyes to the Devaneys and fired up our machines. A short ride on twisty pavement led us back to the reason we were here: more Class IV roads. After skirting the fjord‑­like Lake Willoughby, a glacial lake dotted with vacation cabins and summer camps, Eric turned right onto a barely noticeable two‑­track trail that climbed steadily toward the mountain top.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
It wouldn’t be a trip to Vermont without a covered bridge. The state has 104 historic covered bridges, and many of them are still in use today.

Eventually we descended again and crossed an old bridge leading onto a magnificent, fast gravel road following a river through the canyon. Although tempted to open up the throttle, good judgment kept our horses in check, and we ran at a brisk but reasonable pace. Riding right is critical here, as some turns are blind and, as remote as these roads are, we still saw other users. Respectfully, we would hold up five fingers to oncoming traffic if there were five or more riders behind us, then four, three, two, one, and the sweep rider held up a closed fist to indicate he was the last one. Trail etiquette is critical to maintain good relationships with the locals who hold the power to shut us out. We happily demonstrated good stewardship and appreciation for the privilege of exploring their home turf.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Riders take a break at Devaney Farms after a filling and delicious lunch.

We hit pavement just as the rain began again and made our way the last few miles to the resort. Parking under the canopy, we shed our outer gear and immediately began to relive all that had happened in a short couple of days. New friendships had been made and lessons learned. Everyone left with a quiver full of new skills and a renewed appreciation for our freedom to ride, perhaps not by lantern light warning the colonists of the British invasion, but with our own versions of enthusiasm as we explored the Enchanted Kingdom.

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

SIDEBAR: MotoVermont

MotoVermont specializes in adventure motorcycle tours, training, rentals, and retail sales. Tours range from day rides in Vermont to week-long adventures farther afield, including New Mexico, Arizona, North Carolina, and other locations. Training events are typically 1-2 days in length with a focus on balance, mastery of bike controls, preparedness, and courtesy. Rental options include the Yamaha Ténéré 700, Kawasaki KLX 300, and Yamaha XT250.

MotoVermont founder and operator Eric Milano is a Backcountry Discovery Routes ambassador and a member of the development team for the NEBDR route. He spends much of his time developing tours and organizing events for adventure motorcyclists. MotoVermont has a retail store in Milton, Vermont, or you can meet them at one of the many rallies and events they attend throughout the Northeast. For more information, visit the MotoVermont website.

SIDEBAR: Burke Mountain Resort

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom

Burke Mountain Resort offers a comfortable stay with great views of Burke Mountain or Willoughby Gap from every suite. Located three miles from the Kingdom Trails Welcome Center, the resort has 116 suites ranging from studios to three-bedroom suites.

Guests can enjoy pub food, craft beers, and cocktails at The View Pub on the second floor, with large windows looking out to Willoughby Gap. Edmund’s Coffee Shop, located in a cozy timber-framed room with stone fireplaces, serves breakfast and coffee. The resort also includes on-site retail shopping opportunities at Bear Essentials and Vertical Drop Retail, with products ranging from basic groceries to home décor and outdoor gear. Other amenities include a heated pool and hot tub, a family arcade, and a fitness center. For more information, visit the Burke Mountain Resort website.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom Bill Dragoo Susan Dragoo

Bill and Susan Dragoo own and operate Dragoo Adventure Rider Training (D.A.R.T.) in Norman, Oklahoma, and are widely published writers, especially in the field of adventure travel. Learn more at BillDragoo.com and SusanDragoo.com.

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Source: RiderMagazine.com

Great American Scenic Byways Tour

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour Parkinson's Foundation
Every trip starts with a send-off and the first mile. This banner about supporting the Parkinson’s Foundation made the entire journey with me.

In 2021, Steven Goode completed the Great American Deli Schlep, a 75‑day, 15,000‑mile motorcycle ride during which he visited the best Jewish deli in nearly every state and raised funds for MAZON, a Jewish nonprofit that fights hunger in America. You can read Goode’s feature about that ride here. –Ed. 

I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” This is a quote by Susan Sontag and words I ride by.

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour Beartooth Highway
Beartooth Pass Summit (see next photo) was the crescendo of a magnificent ride on Beartooth Highway from Wyoming into Red Lodge, Montana. Hairpin curves, few guardrails, and sweeping views make it one of the best scenic byways in America. (Photos by the author)

After completing four major motorcycle trips around our wonderful country, each ranging from 11,000 to 17,000 miles, I told my wife I was done with long‑distance rides. Sort of the same way I’ve told her, many times over, that this was going to be my last motorcycle purchase. Of course, she didn’t believe me. 

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour

So when a riding buddy said we should plan a big trip, I was all in. All I needed was a cause and a theme for the ride.

For a cause, I chose the Parkinson’s Foundation. In 2001, my mother passed away from Parkinson’s disease. A motorcycle trip supporting this cause would be a great way to not only honor her memory but raise money to support finding a cure and providing resources for those afflicted with this terrible disease.  

Although my mother most likely would not have approved of my 60‑day, 16,000‑mile motorcycle trip – she was still a mother after all – she would have been extremely proud of my commitment to this cause. She had a wild side, but she didn’t show it often for fear of encouraging her sons to follow in her path, which we did anyway.

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour Steven Goode
My late mother was the inspiration for this tour. This photo shows us in our backyard in 1979.

For a theme, we decided to ride the top scenic byways in nearly every state. To help us plan the trip, National Geographic’s Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways (fifth edition) was an invaluable resource that provided descriptions, photos, maps, and interesting facts. 

When I told the Parkinson’s Foundation about my plan, they were immediately supportive and offered to help create public awareness for the trip. An important part of the publicity was social media. I’m in my late 60s, and I didn’t do Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc., so their team handled that for me. They also created logos and designed T‑shirts, banners, and a web page for my blog. Klim supported the ride by providing me with a Latitude Gore‑Tex suit, and Nelson‑Rigg provided some waterproof luggage.

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour

Scan the QR code or click here to make a donation to the Parkinson’s Foundation.

We named the ride The Great American Scenic Byways Tour supporting Parkinson’s Foundation. After reviewing the route and the time necessary to complete the ride, my friend said the trip would require too much time away from work, so he bowed out. Since I had already committed to the Foundation and this was a personal ride on behalf of my mother, I decided to go alone. 

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour Cherohala Skyway
My friend Bruce Benton joined me for a wonderful ride on the Cherohala Skyway in Tennessee and North Carolina.

For those of you who are curious how someone plans a 16,000‑mile trip, here are a few guidelines. First, get a map of the United States and put markers next to the places you plan to travel to. Second, using the rough route map, create a spreadsheet with columns for the city in which you begin your day’s ride; the destination city for that day; miles you plan to ride each day; and notes about the route, landmarks, and things to see. Good planning is key for a successful ride, and being organized reduces stress. 

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour Bayshore Scenic Byway
In Delaware I rode the Bayshore Scenic Byway. My Honda Gold Wing was a faithful companion on my deli schlep and scenic byways tours.

A key element to any trip of this magnitude is planning for unforeseen events. My mantra is “It’s all about Plan B.” On a two‑month trip, there will be at least one unexpected twist pop up. Mine came three days in when my dermatologist called to tell me I had a melanoma on my back and he wanted to surgically remove it as soon as possible. Plan B: I turned the bike around, made a beeline to Chicago, had the surgery, and was back on the road 17 days later. 

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour Outer Banks Scenic Byway
Cape Hatteras Light Station on the Outer Banks Scenic Byway in North Carolina.

The beauty of this ride’s theme was that each scenic byway has its own personality. Like a thumbprint, every byway is unique. Almost everyone I met during the trip asked me, “What is the best scenic byway?” Just like when asked what the best motorcycle is, I answered, “The one I’m riding.” There are good reasons why National Geographic picked each of these byways to include in its guide. Each one gives the rider a special glimpse into the beauty of the region.

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour
This is the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, North Carolina, where the weather seems to change every minute. The quintessential scenic byway is one of America’s treasures.

For example, the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway in Kentucky took me into forested backcountry, and I was able to get lost in my thoughts in the deep woods. One of the interesting features of this scenic byway is the Nada Tunnel, which is 900 feet long but only 12 feet wide and 13 feet high. There’s a single lane through the mountain, with no lights or painted lines. While pondering how to go through it, I asked some local Harley riders for advice. They said, “Look for a headlight at the end of the tunnel. If you see one, don’t go.” I felt like I was in a Road Runner cartoon.

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour Nada Tunnel
The Nada Tunnel is located near the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway in Kentucky.

In Newport, Rhode Island, the scenic 10‑mile Ocean Drive provided a glimpse of how the other half lived during the Gilded Age in the late 1800s. The Vanderbilt, Astors, and Morgans all had their summer homes along this rocky coast. 

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour Ocean Drive Rhode Island
Mansions along Rhode Island’s Ocean Drive.

Spanning two states, the Talimena National Scenic Byway follows Arkansas Highway 88 and Oklahoma State Highway 1. On the morning I planned to ride it, the forecast said it would be 105 degrees in Dallas, Texas, my next destination. I left at 5 a.m. to arrive in Dallas in time to beat the heat. This early start gave me an opportunity to watch the sunrise over the byway. 

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour Talimena National Scenic Byway
Sunrise over the Talimena National Scenic Byway, which goes through Arkansas and Oklahoma.

After five days on the road, I could no longer remember where I was the day before, what I had for dinner the night before, or which hotel I stayed in. That’s one of the great things about a two‑month motorcycle trip – getting lost in the journey. Writing a blog forced me to recreate the trip daily so it didn’t become one huge blur, and it also allowed friends, family, and supporters to follow my progress. 

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour
An old steam train in Essex on the Connecticut Valley Scenic Byway.

Another benefit of a trip of this scale is all the things I learned along the way. Like a school on wheels, I learned about our United States up close and personal, gaining a new appreciation for each region’s distinct personality and history. After the trip, I had a better understanding of our collective history. Whether it was exploring what life was like on plantations, following the Trail of Tears, or riding the path of Lewis and Clark, I was able to take a long look at our country and how we grew up as a nation, both the good and the bad. 

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour Oak Alley Plantation
Slave quarters at the Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana. This tour provided an education on America’s past, present, and future.

Every long motorcycle trip has unexpected moments, and one left me speechless and cleaning the mess off my bike for days. Leaving Elko, Nevada, to ride to Idaho, I took State Route 225, a two‑lane road with virtually no traffic. As I was riding north, I noticed something that looked like pinecones on the pavement up ahead. Once I got closer, the “pinecones” began to scurry. As I continued to ride north, they completely covered the road. Then I noticed that the road’s tire tracks were turning red, not asphalt gray. It was an infestation of Mormon crickets, which are about 2 inches long and don’t fly, and I was riding through an invasion of Biblical proportions that went on for 50‑plus miles! 

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour Sawtooth Mountains Ponderosa Pines Scenic Byway
Taking a pause to enjoy a view of the Sawtooth Mountains after riding the Ponderosa Pines Scenic Byway in Idaho.

My original plan was to ride through California’s Death Valley National Park. Just before I left, I received a call from my son. “Dad, did you hear that a 65‑year‑old guy just died in Death Valley? He had two flat tires on his car, and nobody came to his rescue. Are you sure you want to go into Death Valley by yourself, on your motorcycle, with temperatures reaching 115 degrees?” Plan B: Due to the intense heat and time constraints after my unexpected surgery, I opted to bypass California, Oregon, and Washington. 

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway
The Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway in Kansas.

My favorite scenic byway changed from day to day. When I was on the East Coast, I loved the Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway in Maine. Riding the 17.6‑mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge‑Tunnel (U.S. Route 13) in Virginia, which includes a tunnel under the water, from Norfolk to Fisherman Island National Wildlife Refuge, was spectacular.

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour Maine
Somewhere in Maine, on my way to Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway.

Out West, it was U.S. Route 191 (Coronado Trail) in Arizona and State Route 12 in Utah. Beartooth Highway in Wyoming and Montana is a must‑ride. It is hard to choose only one scenic byway because each is special, and every one of them gave me new perspectives on the areas I was traveling through.

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour Coronado Trail Scenic Byway
U.S. Route 191 in Arizona between Alpine and Morenci is known as the Coronado Trail Scenic Byway – one of my all-time favorites.

People also asked, “How do you pack for such a big trip?” My only advice is to take less than you think you need but all that’s necessary for unforeseen conditions (rain, cold, heat, etc.). You must think through all the variables and prepare a Plan B. If traveling solo, use a satellite tracking device so family and friends know how to find you. 

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour Bryce Canyon National Park
Riding through Bryce Canyon National Park, which is located just off Scenic Byway 12 in Utah.

Long motorcycle trips are not for everyone, but I love not knowing what is on the other side of the hill and feeling the thrill and power of the bike beneath me, experiences that keep me going day after day. I highly recommend checking out National Geographic’s Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways, picking a region, and planning your own adventure. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Take the time to enjoy the sights, sensations, and sinuous curves on America’s rich bounty of scenic byways.

Great American Scenic Byways Motorcycle Tour Pike Peak
On the way down from the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado.

During his Great American Scenic Byways tour, Steven Goode raised nearly $22,000 for the Parkinson’s Foundation. To make a donation, use the QR code above or click here. To read Goode’s blog, visit this page on Facebook. Below you’ll find a complete list of the scenic byways Goode rode on this tour.

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

Great American Scenic Byways Tour

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Exploring Backroads on a New York and Pennsylvania Motorcycle Ride

Upper Delaware River Watershed New York and Pennsylvania Motorcycle Ride Favorite Ride
The snaking Hawk’s Nest section of New York Route 97 clings to rocky cliffs hundreds of feet above the Delaware River. It was a highlight of this New York and Pennsylvania motorcycle ride.

The Upper Delaware River Watershed encompasses thousands of square miles in New York and Pennsylvania, with hundreds of miles of serpentine roads rolling through forests, farmland, small towns, and historic sites. It makes for a superb ride, so I fired up my Kawasaki Vulcan and hit the road to explore it. 

Upper Delaware River Watershed New York and Pennsylvania Motorcycle Ride Favorite Ride

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

From West Milford, New Jersey, I rolled north on smooth East Shore Road through state forest land and then along the sparkling shoreline of Greenwood Lake. With the morning sun twinkling through the trees and the cool, fresh air energizing me, I rode through the Black Dirt Region of southern Orange County, New York, a beautiful area of farmland renowned for its rich, black soil.

Cruising through Port Jervis, I wound through the Hawk’s Nest section of State Route 97, which is designated as the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway for 70 miles. This sinuous roadway is cut into the mountainside, offering excellent views of the Delaware River far below.

See all of Rider‘s Northeast U.S. motorcycle rides here.

Leaving the river behind near Pond Eddy, I climbed deeper into the watershed. I’m not religious in the traditional sense, but I love viewing unique churches. Two impressive ones grace the treelined State Route 41: Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church with its white facade and metal domes and the rustic log St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Catholic Church.

Upper Delaware River Watershed New York and Pennsylvania Motorcycle Ride Favorite Ride
Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Glen Spey, New York, stands as a citadel of hope.

From Glen Spey, I weaved through the wooded route to Eldred, where I blasted up scenic State Route 55 to Lake Superior State Park, a good place for a relaxing swim or walkabout. From there, I made a pilgrimage to Bethel, site of the famous 1969 Woodstock music festival where 400,000 people gathered for three days of peace and music. 

Upper Delaware River Watershed New York and Pennsylvania Motorcycle Ride Favorite Ride

No longer the rural field of Max Yasgur’s farm, it is now part of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. This concert venue’s museum honors the 1969 festival, and the original concert field has been preserved. A monument near the stage site memorializes the groups who performed there.

From Bethel, I blasted northwest on country backroads to the impressive Stone Arch Bridge Historical Park and then onto Roscoe for lunch at the Roscoe Diner. Next, I crossed the Beaverkill River, a tributary of the Delaware River. Both the Beaverkill and the Downsville covered bridges are off State Route 206, and riding a motorcycle through these wooden structures is a joy not to be missed.

Upper Delaware River Watershed New York and Pennsylvania Motorcycle Ride Favorite Ride
The Stone Arch Bridge, built in 1880, adorns its namesake park in Kenoza Lake, New York. It is as famous for its beautiful architecture as it is for a murder committed on the bridge in 1892.

Downsville is also home to the 15-mile-long, 5,700-acre Pepacton Reservoir on the East Branch of the Delaware River. State Route 30’s twisties follow the reservoir’s shoreline and then the snaking river. With my Vulcan purring and the afternoon sun reflecting off the water, I cruised SR-30 to State Route 17. In Hancock, I dropped my kickstand at the tidy Hancock House Hotel, which has a pub and a restaurant on-site, making it an ideal overnight stop for riders.

The next day, I fired up my Vulcan and savored the crisp air and deep blue sky as I rumbled over the river into Pennsylvania. State Routes 191, 247, and 370 roll through farmland and forest. On SR-370, I spotted a bear crossing the road – not an unusual occurrence in rural Pennsylvania. 

Upper Delaware River Watershed New York and Pennsylvania Motorcycle Ride Favorite Ride
This rural Pennsylvania road passes through the green pastures of a family farm.

Riding south on State Route 296 to Waymart is one of my favorite roads: smooth with a mix of farmland and forest on both sides. At Waymart, I crossed over U.S. Route 6 – known locally as PA Route 6 – which spans the northern part of the state and offers hundreds of miles of excellent riding opportunities.

At Hawley, I picked up a winding section of PA Route 6 and then followed State Route 590 to Lackawaxen, where SR-590 begins to parallel the Lackawaxen River, another tributary of the Delaware. It was a beautiful day, and I stopped to watch some kayakers on the river. 

Upper Delaware River Watershed New York and Pennsylvania Motorcycle Ride Favorite Ride
The author’s bike soaks up some rays as he explores a farm stand on Pennsylvania Route 296 near Waymart.

Crossing the Lackawaxen River, I stopped to rest at the Delaware Aqueduct, known as the Roebling Bridge, which was built in the mid-1800s and is the oldest existing wire suspension bridge in the U.S. Crossing the river here allows you to continue north or south on the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway. 

New York and Pennsylvania Motorcycle Ride Resources

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

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A Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride in Autumn

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran West Bluff
On the northern tip of Keweenaw Peninsula, West Bluff provides a sweeping view of Lake Superior and Copper Harbor, Michigan – a great spot to stop along this Michigan Upper Peninsula motorcycle ride. Photos by the author and Craig Moll.

As a resident of Minnesota with incurable wanderlust, I’ve visited Michigan’s Upper Peninsula a few times, including doing the 1,300‑mile Lake Superior Circle Tour twice. But one area of the Upper Peninsula – known locally as the “U.P.” – I had yet to explore is the Keweenaw Peninsula, a 150‑mile‑long wedge of land that looks like a long dorsal fin jutting into Lake Superior. Before Old Man Winter brought an end to the riding season, my friend Craig and I squeezed in a mid‑October ride, making a big loop around the U.P. where we enjoyed the area’s rich history, unparalleled scenery, and excellent motorcycling roads.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran REVER map

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

We met up just east of Minneapolis in Hudson, Wisconsin, on a cool, clear autumn day. Craig was on his KTM 890 Adventure, and I was on my Harley‑Davidson Pan American, which I call “Dirt Glide.” With no rain in the forecast, we were excited to hit the road.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran Lake Superior
Lake Superior, which is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area and the third largest by volume, forms the northern shoreline of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

We crossed into Michigan on U.S. Route 2 and continued northeast on M‑28 to Lake Gogebic, the state’s largest inland lake. The long, finger‑shaped lake is a popular spot for outdoor activities year‑round. It has 13,380 acres of good fishing water, and there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, hunting, camping, and winter sports. Surrounded by vast hardwood forests, it’s a great place to see fall colors. It also gets an annual snowfall of nearly 300 inches and has an excellent snowmobile trail system.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Chuck Cochran and Craig Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Chuck and Craig at Sand Point on the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

For motorcyclists, a loop around Lake Gogebic is an enjoyable scenic ride. M‑64 hugs the western shore, and East Shore Road hugs the other side, and there are parks, lodges, and dining options dotted along the nearly 40‑mile route. At the lake’s northern end at the junction of M‑28 and M‑64 is Bergland, which has places to eat, drink, and stay, as well as a museum highlighting the local history of mining, logging, and sports.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran U.S. Route 41
U.S. Route 41 runs the length of the Keneewaw Peninsula, from Baraga to Copper Harbor. In the fall, the changing leaves create a tunnel of color. Photo credit Danita Delimont / Adobe Stock.

After enjoying the scenery of the lake, we continued up M‑64 to the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan’s largest state park and home of the Lake of the Clouds. Covering 60,000 acres with 35,000 acres of old‑growth forest, the park has waterfalls, rivers and streams, hiking trails, a campground, and miles of scenic Lake Superior shoreline.

Our ride up to the Lake of the Clouds scenic overlook was rewarded with a kaleidoscope of fall colors and scenery that lives up to the lake’s name. After a few photos, we were back on the bikes and followed M‑64 along the southern shore of Lake Superior to Ontonagon, where we turned inland on M‑38 to M‑26, which runs up the center of the Keweenaw Peninsula, also known as the Copper Country region.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran Lake of the Clouds
Located in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park along the shore of Lake Superior, Lake of the Clouds is idyllic.

At Houghton, we crossed the Portage Lake Lift Bridge and continued north on U.S. Route 41. With the sun fading, we rode to our overnight destination at the AmericInn in Calumet. The hotel is within walking distance of restaurants, stores, and the Keweenaw National Historic Park, which showcases the area’s 7,000‑year history of copper mining.

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We wandered through Calumet, a small town that was in the heart of Michigan’s copper mining industry. Its historic downtown has gift shops, galleries, coffee houses, saloons, and restaurants. We made our way to the Michigan House Cafe & Red Jacket Brewing Co., which is in the former Hotel Michigan that was opened by Bosch Brewing in 1905. Today, it’s a restaurant and brewpub, and the Oatmeal Express stout was the perfect choice for a fall evening.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran Eagle River
In the mid-1800s, Eagle River was a thriving mining town on the north shore of the Keneewaw Peninsula. We enjoyed a scenic shoreline ride on M-26 from there to Copper Harbor.

The next morning, we availed ourselves of the AmericInn’s complimentary breakfast and trudged out to our frost‑covered bikes. We continued riding on U.S. 41 in a northeasterly direction to Phoenix, where we turned due north on M‑26, which curves its way along the Lake Superior shore, offering amazing views and passing through nature and wildlife sanctuaries.

Before the town of Copper Harbor, we turned on to Brockway Mountain Drive, which gradually climbs up and over an eroded volcanic prominence that rises 720 feet above Lake Superior’s waterline. At West Bluff, we stopped to admire an unbelievable vista of the big lake to the north and the fall‑colored forest to the south. 

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran Cinder Pond Marina
Cinder Pond Marina is part of the charming waterfront in Marquette.

We cruised back downhill to Copper Harbor, Michigan’s northernmost town, which overlooks its namesake port near the outer tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Surrounded by Lake Superior, its microclimate is cool in the summer and relatively mild in the winter. Copper Harbor has a fascinating history, and the town is a great base camp for exploring the peninsula or a launching point for trips to Grand Isle National Park.

After gassing up, we headed south on U.S. 41 and then Gay Lac La Belle Road to the Bete Grise Wetlands Preserve and the southern shore of the Keweenaw Peninsula. We stopped for lunch in Houghton, which is located on the Keweenaw Waterway that cuts across the peninsula and was once at the epicenter of the region’s copper industry.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran Lower Harbor Ore Dock
The massive concrete-and-steel Lower Harbor Ore Dock is one of the most iconic landmarks in Marquette. Photo credit ehrlif / Adobe Stock.

We rode south on U.S. 41, which runs along the western shore of Portage Lake and then Keweenaw Bay to L’Anse, where we returned to the mainland of the U.P. We followed U.S. 41 east to Marquette, a Lake Superior port city known for shipping iron ore from the Marquette Iron Range. With a population of 20,000 and home to Northern Michigan University, Marquette is the largest city on the U.P. We pulled into the Hampton Inn Marquette/Waterfront, which lives up to its name with an amazing view of sailboats and other vessels carving up the bay. Being a lively college town, Marquette has numerous bars and restaurants to choose from. We had dinner at the historic Vierling Restaurant & Marquette Harbor Brewery, named after Martin Vierling, who built the building in 1883 and ran a “gentlemen’s saloon” at the location until Prohibition. Renovated and reopened in the 1980s, the establishment has a historic wooden bar with large windows overlooking the harbor. 

Firing up the bikes the next morning, we rode east on M‑28 to Munising and then on H‑58 for a few miles to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We rode up to Sand Point, which has nice views across the water to Grand Island, a national recreation area.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran Whitefish Point
More ships have been lost in the vicinity of Whitefish Point, also known as the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes,” than anywhere else on Lake Superior.

The road to Munising and Sand Point was good, but the winding curves of H‑58 rivaled some of the best roads we’ve ever ridden, with extensive twists and turns carved through the forest and along the Lake Superior shore. We continued east to M‑123 to visit Tahquamenon Falls State Park, which covers 50,000 acres. The Upper Falls is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River and is about 200 feet across and drops 50 feet. The Lower Falls are a series of smaller falls cascading in many directions.

East of the park, we made our way up to Whitefish Point, which is known as the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes” and home of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. There have been 550 known shipwrecks in the area, and at least 200 of them are off Whitefish Point, including the famous SS Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank in 1975 and was memorialized in a popular song by Gordon Lightfoot.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran Fayette State Park
On the southern, Lake Michigan side of the Upper Peninsula, Fayette State Park is a restored 19th century iron-smelting village with 22 historic buildings, a museum, and a visitor center.

We made our way to the southern side of the U.P. on the northern shore of Lake Michigan, where we spent the night in Manistique, a recreational mecca for boating, fishing, camping, and snowmobiling. In the morning, we rode south on the Garden Peninsula to Fayette State Park, which overlooks Big Bay De Noc and was home to one of the U.P.’s most productive iron‑smelting operations during the 19th century. When the iron market declined, the Jackson Iron Company shuttered its operation in 1891.

Our return route west on U.S. 2 took us to Iron Mountain, home of the Pine Mountain Ski Jump and the annual Continental Cup, one of the world’s best ski jumping events.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Tahquamenon Falls State Park has 35-plus miles of trails and multiple viewpoints for the Upper and Lower falls.

Next we wanted to check out an interesting phenomenon called the Paulding Light, a mysterious light that appears at the end of a deadend road in a valley located between the towns of Pauling and Watersmeet off U.S. Route 45. The light has been reported since the 1960s, and various legends claim the light is the result of paranormal activity, the ghost of either a railroad brakeman who died in a train collision, a murdered mail courier, or a Native American dancing on powerlines.

Craig and I arrived at the location at dusk and waited for the light. At first we saw nothing, and then…wait…what’s that? Sure enough, a faint light appeared off in the distance above the tree line. Off and on it went, so we decided to pursue this mystery for ourselves. We rode down a steep, sandy, rock‑strewn powerline road to a narrow, rickety bridge that crossed a creek. As I hit the partially rotted bridge, I thought, Pan Am, don’t fail me now! Charging up the hill on the other side, we attempted to find the source of the light but to no avail. In 2010, students at Michigan Tech said they solved the mystery, claiming the Paulding Light is caused by headlights on a faraway highway. I like the ghost stories better.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran
One of our favorite parts of touring around Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was the many roadside waterfalls, creeks, and overlooks where we could stop and take a few quiet moments to appreciate nature’s beauty.

The next day, we returned home. It’s always bittersweet when a fun motorcycle trip comes to an end, but the great thing about exploring a new area is knowing we can always come back for more. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula offers seemingly endless opportunities for riding and recreation, with a rich vein of history that runs through the area like its deep deposits of copper and iron.

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Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Resources

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