By: HRCA staff
We motorcyclists are always searching for an excuse to ride, and here in America we are truly blessed with an amazing natural resource for riding destinations: 129 National Parks and Monuments that provide some spectacular scenery and numerous activities. So to supply you with riding inspiration as well as another good reason to get out and explore the great outdoors, from time to time we will highlight prime locations from this list of 129. As we make our selections, we'll skip back and forth across the country to give as many of you readers as possible a fair shot at riding to one of our picks. We'll cover the National Parks' stars as well as many lesser lights that merit a visit, including one that in this first installment that will throw you something of a curve ball.
There's one National Park in California that you can't get to by motorcycle, or any wheeled vehicle, for that matter. The five islands comprising the Channel Islands National Park, which sits just off the coast of California between Ventura and Santa Barbara, offers 175 miles of pristine coastline for the perfect getaway for anyone who enjoys hiking, camping, fishing, snorkeling, surfing and kayaking. The area is a true archeological gem because more than 10,000 continuous years of human occupation have been recorded on the islands, including that of the Arlington Springs Woman, the oldest dated human remains ever found in North America.
Sometimes referred to as "The Galapagos of North America," the park is home to seals, sea lions, island fox, brown pelicans and a wide variety of other birds. A recent effort to replenish the bald eagle population on the islands was successful, and in recent years chicks have hatched on the island for the first time in more than 50 years. Two mainland visitor centers are readily accessible via motorcycle: The Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center at Channel Islands National Park in Ventura and the Outdoors Santa Barbara Visitor Center. Visit www.nps.gov.chis/index.htm for complete information about the visiting the park, which is open year-round.
Just because you've made a commitment to park your bike to visit Channel Islands National Park doesn't mean you have to forego riding altogether. In fact, a wealth of world-class roads lies within easy reach of the Ventura/Santa Barbara area, which makes this "Gold Coast" area a mighty attractive draw. You could easily spend a week vacationing here, balancing the time spent according to your tastes and preferences between ocean activities and riding.
For starters, the southern edge of Ventura County enfolds the northernmost reaches of the Santa Monica Mountains and the world-famous Mulholland Highway and its equally renowned bike hangout, the Rock Store. An incredible assortment of fantastic twisty mountain riding roads spur directly off of Mulholland or connect nearby: Decker Canyon, Encinal Canyon, Latigo Canyon, Piuma Road, Yerba Buena Road, Deer Creek Road and more. A rider can easily spend a full day crisscrossing the Santa Monicas; in fact, many local riders do just that every weekend they're in town!
Further inland, Highway 33 passes through the bucolic town of Ojai and heads north into the Los Padres National forest for some great back-road twisties and vistas. Many riders simply head up the mountain and then back down, or you can keep on going to create bigger day-long riding loops. On up Hwy 33, Lockwood Valley Road snakes east to Frazier Park and Interstate 5, while following Hwy 33 to its terminus takes you to the fast sweepers of Highway 166. On 166, head west, gas up at New Cuyama and keep riding to Santa Maria and Highway 101.
Another favorite road, CA 154, takes off further north from Hwy 101 in Santa Barbara and traces the San Marcos Pass Road to wind its way over the Santa Ynez Mountains before arcing back to the 101 some 35 miles later. The route takes riders through parts of the Los Padres National Forest (stop at the Cold Spring Tavern for lunch or just a soft drink), past Lake Cachuma Recreation Area, and on to colorful, historic valley towns. Adventuresome riders will also enjoy CA 246, which splits off of 154 and works its way west through Solvang and crosses 101 at Buellton. Or from Solvang, drop south on Alisal Road and pick up Old Coastal Highway and the 101 closer to the coastline.
Originally published by the Honda Riders Club of America.