Best Motorcycle Rides in Washington
This is very much a work in progress. Just a few rules:
1. I assume that you know what you are doing. Motorcycling is an inherently dangerous activity, as are many (most?) of the fun things you can do outdoors. I put it in the same risk category as whitewater canoeing and technical mountaineering, a couple of other things I do with my spare time. As with these other sports, you must have appropriate equipment and you must seek formal training in order to get the necessary level of expertise. I do not recommend that you actually do any of these rides. If you choose to do any of them, the risk and rewards are yours alone.
2. I have ridden every ride shown here. In most cases I include the date. Roads change, and especially in mountainous regions, they sometimes change for the worse. Every winter brings its washouts and closures, and some last for years. Some are never repaired. So I suggest that if you want to go on a ride listed here, especially one that goes on Forest Service or other backcountry roads, you should check to confirm that the road is open.
3. I do quite a bit of riding and not a lot of Web programming. Programming is time-consuming. So if this site is a little rough, bear with me. I'll fix it when the rains come again. But if you do find errors, please drop me a line, and I'll try to fix them. My contact information is on every page.
4. I do recommend one book, and only one book, that describes motorcycle tours in Washington. It's called Destination Highways Washington. It has lots of useful information, especially if you're an out-of-state rider coming to Washington, and every ride in it is a good one (at least, the 90% or so that I've done). There are some great rides that aren't in the book, and it doesn't cover rides off the pavement, but there's nothing better between two covers.
5. This site includes some rides that go off-pavement, onto gravel and/or dirt. It doesn't include any single-track rides. I usually refer to these as "GS" rides. All such bits of road are identified, to the best of my recollection. Note that many rural "paved" roads in Washington are chip-sealed and so you can expect to occasionally encounter gravelly bits on paved roads.
6. These descriptions are all in the form of Google Earth KMZ files, and some include GPS-standard GPX files. You download the KMZ file and open it with Google Earth to see the route, the waypoints, and the descriptive information. If you have a GPS, you can also download the GPX file and open it with the software that supports your GPS (Garmin Mapsource, for instance) in order to upload the routes and waypoints to your GPS. Sometimes I include tracks rather than routes. At some point here I'll put together a map that shows all the different rides, in the meantime, use the Google Earth files to see how they all go together.
North Cascades Highway
Often called the best ride in the state. Unless you're coming from the north, the approach via Darrington, shown here, is best, and this route has a nice byway that avoids Highway 20 from Rockport to Marblemount. Note that the highway is usually closed from about November 1 to May 31. Total distance 228 km.
The KMZ file (right-click, Save Link As...). Ride date 2008.08.16. Last update 2008.11.16.
Ellensburg to Wenatchee
This is definitely a GS run, with most of the trip on gravel and dirt. Route may be closed by snow from mid October into early July. But, an exhilarating trip through some little-seen country.
The KMZ file (right-click, Save Link As...). Ride date 2007.06.09. Last update 2008.11.16.
Portland to Seattle: The High Road
Although this trip stays in the mountains and much is on forest roads, the whole thing is paved. When I did it in early June, it was all open, but had walls of snow along much of the roadway. The side trip to Windy Ridge is not to be missed.
The KMZ file (right-click, Save Link As...). Ride date 2007.06.03. Last update 2008.11.16.
Walla Walla to Clarkston: The High Road
Most people take US 12 from Walla Walla to Clarkston. It's a nice ride, and I recommend it. This route, though, crosses the Blue Mountains into Oregon, rides along the north side of the Wallowas, re-enters Washington on one of the emptiest roads in the state, to finally come down to the Snake River at Clarkston. When I rode it in April, it was cold, but all the passes were clear and dry. Total distance 305 km.
The KMZ file (right-click, Save Link As...). Ride date 2008.04.26. Last update 2008.11.16.
Below is a Google map showing the distance, in travel time (1, 2, or 3 hours) between Olympia, WA (specifically the intersection of US-101 and Black Lake Boulevard) and other areas in the neighborhood. I find it a useful travel planning tool.
Some Other Great Rides
I've ridden all of these, but they are for the most part too simple to even need detailed documentation. All are highly recommended for their scenery and/or the quality of the motorcycling.