One of America’s best motorcycle road states, beautiful Virginia has it all in terms of natural diversity and one-of-a-kind attractions. The state is criss-crossed with a plethora of scenic routes and historic roads which wind from New Castle through the George Washington & Jefferson National Forest with magnificent views of the Appalachian mountains and the vast expanse of the Atlantic along the way. There are miles and miles of roads of all sorts waiting for your wheels to roll along. Straight, hilly, forested, crooked, curvy, with some serious heart-pounding challenges like tight turns and dramatic switchbacks – Virginia motorcycle routes offer a variation of easy to technical riding experiences.
Memorable sights and exciting adventures are around every turn in the road. Whether you’re planning a trip to specific cultural and historic sites or simply looking for a peaceful ride through the countryside, you are in for an experience of a lifetime. Through charming towns, atop breathtaking vistas and past acres of beautiful farmland, Virginia roads will treat you to some seriously stunning views. There’s ample wildlife watching, scenic overlooks, waterfalls, world-class fishing and kayaking – all adding up to an unforgettable riding adventure.
Ready to hit the road and discover some of the best motorcycle routes in the region? Here is your essential checklist of Virginia’s most famous and unmissable motorcycle rides.
The historic Skyline Drive is 135 miles of winding roadway along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It begins about 80 miles west of Washington DC at Front Royal, VA and meanders south to Waynesboro, VA, where it meets the equally picturesque Blue Ridge Parkway. Skyline Drive traverses through Shenandoah National Park, a beautiful national treasure with its endless stretches of scenic views and abundance of wildlife.
The natural beauty along Skyline Drive is best experienced with brief stops to avoid diverting attention from the road. Fortunately, the roadway is perfectly spaced with pullouts and viewing areas from which to admire the scenery. In fact, the route features 75 overlooks with spectacular vistas of the Shenandoah Valley to the west and the rolling hills of the Virginia Piedmont to the east.
The hundred miles on this scenic route will fly by as you merge with the road and nature. The roadway surface is good quality, well-kept and smooth, and a variation of curves, hills and straightaways makes the ride all the more interesting. You’ll find the curves and turns very enjoyable as the road is angled perfectly throughout the turns.
Skyline Drive offers a diversity of outdoor opportunities such as hiking, camping, sightseeing and wildlife watching. The route also leads to several incredible waterfalls such as South River Falls in Stanardsville and Dark Hollow Falls in Luray. There are sufficient amenities and accommodations available along the way at Skyland Resort, located on mile 41.7 and 42.5 in Shenandoah National Park and Big Meadows Lodge on mile 51.2 with full service restaurants and planned activities. Lewis Mountain Cabins on mile 57.5 offers comfortable accommodations with a covered patio, picnic table and fire pit grill.
Travel along Skyline Drive is relaxing with a speed limit of 35 mph and it takes about three hours of riding time from beginning to end. But if you really want to take in all the natural splendor or engage in outdoor activities, plan on taking more time to make the ride.
Blue Ridge Parkway
“America’s favorite drive,” Blue Ridge Parkway is one of most enjoyable roads to ride on a motorcycle. It’s 469 miles of winding road that spans in the Virginia countryside before heading down south into the Great Smoky Mountain of North Carolina. You can start your journey from the north, at the upper half of the parkway. Go to Staunton, VA, (just west of Milepost Zero in Waynesboro) on interstate 81 and then head east on interstate 64 towards Afton, VA. From there, follow the Blue Ridge Parkway signs. If you are starting in the middle, go to Wytheville, VA on I-81 and then take I-77 southeast to a town of Fancy Gap, VA. Look for the Blue Ridge Parkway signs and follow them. You can also start your trip at the lower end on the south from the town of Cherokee, NC, or get on the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville, NC.
Once on the parkway, you’ll be enjoying a slow-paced, leisurely ride through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Meandering along the Appalachian Mountain chain, the route reveals magnificent panoramic vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes. The road is well maintained with many tricky curves, tunnels and stretches of road hanging off the mountain. The cruising speed here is 45 mph.
Like Skyline Drive, there are numerous hiking trails, historic sites, waterfalls and scenic overlooks to experience off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The route will take you through historic towns like Charlottesville, Lexington and Roanoke. Must-stop spots include Peaks of Otter, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and Mabry Mill, which is the most photographed site on the Parkway. Restaurants and overnight accommodations are available from spring through the fall. Chateau Morrisette Winery is a great place to stop for dinner. And Peaks of Otter Lodge offers comfortable rooms, a full service restaurant and lounge.
Total riding time is about 10-11 hours, but with all the stops and sights to see, your motorcycle tour of Blue Ridge Parkway might take much longer than that!
U.S Route 250
A rollercoaster of a mountain road, Route 250 is one of the most challenging motorcycle rides. Starting in Staunton, VA and ending in Elkins, WV, this route will take you up and down the hilly terrain on an adrenaline-pumping adventure. Tight corners, technically challenging switchbacks and changes in elevation await on every stretch of the road. For the most part, the road is in good condition but there are some sections that are a bit rough with heavy and uneven patchwork, so be prepared.
In the middle of the route you will ride through the George Washington National Park and the Monongahela National Park. Both are beautiful parks with lots of walking trails, picnic areas and scenic overlooks. As you pass through Shenandoah Mountain, you’ll be treated for some panoramic vistas of the valleys below. Along the way there are a few breaks between the mountain ascents and descents and the valley views are refreshing. Shortly after crossing the mountains, you’ll come to Monterey, VA (at the intersection of US 250 and US 220), which is known as the “most rider friendly town” because of the hospitality of the local riding enthusiasts.
The ride on U.S Route 250 can be done in a little over an hour. But if you stop to admire the scenery and hit all the interesting sites and museums in Staunton, it could easily take up an entire day.
Virginia’s State Route 16 (The Back of the Dragon)
Experience 32 miles of pure motorcycle riding enjoyment and over 300 curves of knee dragging fun provided by Virginia Route 16, aka the Back of the Dragon. It is the premier riding road in the USA and the most technical one you will ever ride. Crossing three mountains between Marion, VA and Tazewell, VA, this route is full of twisties, switchbacks, limited access, elevation changes and, usually, very little traffic. The two-lane ribbon snakes along as it reveals views of unmatched beauty on every side (if you can take your eyes off the road long enough to look around).
You can get on this route from the town of Marion, VA by taking Hwy 16 north 32 miles through the forest to Tazewell, VA. The pavement here is in great condition and smooth. If you take Hwy 16 south from Marion at exit 45 off I-81, the road is scenic but not as curvy as the northern part out of Marion. There are two state parks on 16 at exit 45 on I-81 – Hungry Mother State Park to the north of Marion, VA and Grayson Highlands State Park to the south towards North Carolina. As you ride, you’ll find some rest stops as well as gift shops and country restaurants all serving good food.
Ready to take on the challenge and follow in the tire tracks of the fearless “Dragon Masters”? Then the Back of the Dragon is the must-do ride for you!
George Washington Memorial Parkway
Primarily located in Northern Virginia, the George Washington Memorial Parkway is a 25-mile scenic road that serves as a gateway to the nation’s capital. The route curves alongside the Potomac Gorge, connecting historic sites and attractions from Great Falls, VA to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. GW Parkway offers scenic views of the Potomac River as well as incredible woodland scenes. Overlooks and picnic areas dot the parkway’s length, providing places to stop and admire the lush vegetation and a rolling landscape it passes through.
If you are traveling I-95 southbound, the George Washington Memorial Parkway begins approximately 16 miles from I-95, route I-495 (exit 27). Get onto I-495 northbound then take exit 43, and you’ll transition from the scenic state road to the GW Parkway. For northbound travelers, the parkway begins 10 miles from I-95, US Route 1 (exit 161). Head north on US Route 1 to VA Route 235 (Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy) eastbound to the George Washington Memorial Parkway. From there, it’s 25 miles of relaxing riding amid beautiful scenery and historically significant attractions.
Allow about one hour (without stopping) to ride this route. However, with over 25 historic sites such as Mount Vernon, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Claude Moore Colonial Farm, Robert E. Lee Memorial and a number of wildlife preserves along the way, you should ideally set aside one full day for exploring the one-of-the-kind George Washington Memorial Parkway.
The motorcycle rides we have highlighted here offer just a small sample of the wonderful variety you’ll experience on scenic and historic Virginia roads. For a fun, adventurous way to see the state of Virginia (and to hone your riding skills) these routes are a great place to start. With more than 2,500 miles designated as scenic byways, there’s virtually no end to riding adventures in Virginia. Start yours today!