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Southwest Adventures: Top 10 Motorcycle Rides in New Mexico

Southwest Adventures: Top 10 Motorcycle Rides in New Mexico

New Mexico, with its rich tapestry of Native American and Hispanic culture, stunning landscapes, and historic routes, offers an unparalleled motorcycle adventure. The state's scenic byways and historic trails provide a perfect backdrop for riders seeking both beauty and history. From the legendary Route 66 to the lesser-known Sunspot Scenic Byway, each ride presents a unique journey through the heart of the American Southwest. In this article, we'll explore the top 10 motorcycle rides in New Mexico, each offering its own distinct flavor of the state's enchanting terrain and cultural tapestry.

Key Takeaways

  • New Mexico offers a diverse range of motorcycle rides, each with historical and cultural significance.
  • Scenic byways such as the Enchanted Circle and the Turquoise Trail provide breathtaking views and a taste of the state's natural beauty.
  • Historic routes like Route 66 and the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro offer a ride through America's storied past.
  • Each byway has unique attractions, from the volcanic landscapes of the Jemez Mountains to the Wild West history of the Billy the Kid Scenic Byway.
  • Motorcyclists can enjoy a variety of experiences, including stunning photography opportunities, culinary delights, and outdoor adventures along these top New Mexico routes.

1. Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway

1. Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway

The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway offers a captivating journey through New Mexico's diverse landscapes, combining natural beauty with rich cultural history. This 83-mile loop takes riders through the heart of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, showcasing the state's highest peaks and providing a thrilling ride with its elevation changes and winding roads.

The route is dotted with opportunities for culinary exploration, including local breweries, wineries, and farmers' markets, allowing riders to indulge in the unique flavors of the region.

Motorcycle enthusiasts will find the Enchanted Circle to be a stark contrast to other notable rides such as the Talimena Byway or the Arkansas Dragon. Unlike the crowded tourist spots, this byway offers a serene experience, where the road itself becomes a place of meditation amidst the stunning vistas.

For those seeking adventure beyond the pavement, the Enchanted Circle provides access to a plethora of outdoor activities, from hiking and fishing to stargazing in the clear New Mexico skies. It's a route that truly embodies the spirit of the Southwest, inviting riders to immerse themselves in an unforgettable adventure.

2. Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway

2. Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway

The Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway is a journey through New Mexico's storied past and vibrant present. This route offers a glimpse into the rich tapestry of American history, where the remnants of ancient civilizations and the echoes of Wild West pioneers blend seamlessly with the artistic spirit of the Southwest.

The byroad meanders through the rugged beauty of the Sandia Mountains and the historic mining towns of Golden, Madrid, and Cerrillos, each with its own unique charm and tales of yore. The trail not only captivates with its scenic vistas but also with the cultural experiences it provides, from local artisan shops to the remnants of mining glory.

Motorcycle enthusiasts will find the Turquoise Trail to be both a visual and sensory delight. The road's twists and turns offer an exhilarating ride, while the panoramic views and cool mountain air invigorate the soul. Here is a brief overview of what riders can expect:

  • Starting Point: The journey begins just outside of Albuquerque, where riders can fuel up and prepare for the adventure ahead.
  • Scenic Stops: Notable stops include the Tinkertown Museum, the Garden of the Gods, and the Turquoise Museum, each offering a unique slice of local heritage.
  • End Point: The byway concludes in the quaint town of Santa Fe, where riders can explore a city renowned for its Pueblo-style architecture and vibrant arts scene.

3. Route 66 - The Mother Road

3. Route 66 - The Mother Road

The iconic Route 66, often referred to as The Mother Road, is a quintessential part of the American driving and motorcycle experience. This historic highway, which once ran from Chicago to Los Angeles, passes through the heart of New Mexico, offering riders a taste of classic Americana.

New Mexico's stretch of Route 66 is a treasure trove of roadside attractions, vintage motels, and unique dining experiences that harken back to the golden age of American road travel.

Motorcyclists can revel in the diverse road conditions that range from well-maintained asphalt to more challenging segments, reminiscent of Alaska's motorcycle routes. The journey is enriched by the surrounding natural beauty and the plethora of optional activities available along the way. From exploring local culinary trails to visiting historic sites, the ride along Route 66 in New Mexico is as much about the journey as the destination.

  • Culinary Trails
  • Roadside Oddities
  • Historic Sites
  • Vintage Motels

Whether you're riding a classic cruiser or a modern sportbike, Route 66 in New Mexico provides an adventure that is both nostalgic and exhilarating. The Mother Road continues to captivate the hearts of motorcyclists from around the world, inviting them to explore its legendary path.

4. Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway

4. Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway

The Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway offers a captivating journey through the diverse landscapes of New Mexico. This route is a treasure trove for those seeking a blend of natural beauty and cultural richness.

  • Ghost Towns: Discover the remnants of history with a visit to the area's ghost towns.
  • Scenic Byways: The byway itself is a scenic wonder, offering views of majestic cliffs and high-elevation grasslands.
  • Museums & Historic Sites: Enrich your ride with stops at local museums and historic sites that tell the tales of the region.
  • Art Trails: Immerse yourself in the local culture by exploring art trails and artist studio tours.
The Jemez Mountain Trail is not just a path through the wilderness, but a journey that weaves through the fabric of New Mexico's vibrant history and culture.

Riders should be prepared for a variety of road conditions, including gravel paths through pine forests and potentially rocky 4x4 tracks. The experience is enhanced by the opportunity to engage with community-based arts and to witness the stunning dark skies perfect for stargazing. Remember to respect the land and communities you travel through, as this route crosses through areas of significant cultural importance.

5. Billy the Kid Scenic Byway

5. Billy the Kid Scenic Byway

The Billy the Kid Scenic Byway offers a unique blend of history and natural beauty, taking riders through the heart of New Mexico's Wild West heritage. This route is not just a journey through miles of picturesque landscapes, but also a passage through time, where one can almost hear the echoes of the infamous outlaw's horse hooves galloping in the distance.

The southernmost 115 miles of the route follow the San Pedro Valley upstream to the Mexico border, first on dirt and gravel roads to Benson and then on a mix of 2-track, 4x4 road, old railroad grades, and short sections of pavement past abandoned ranches, ghost towns, and touristy Tombstone. The final miles of the segment are through the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, a testament to the diverse experiences the byway offers.

Motorcyclists can expect an array of attractions along the Billy the Kid Scenic Byway, including:

  • Ghost Towns
  • Scenic Byways
  • Museums & Historic Sites
  • Art Trails
  • Artist Studio Tours
  • Community Based Arts Trails
  • Native American Art

Each of these points of interest adds a layer of cultural richness to the ride, making it an unforgettable experience for those seeking both adventure and a deeper understanding of the region's past.

6. Sunspot Scenic Byway

6. Sunspot Scenic Byway

The Sunspot Scenic Byway offers a unique blend of astronomical intrigue and natural beauty. This route takes riders through the Sacramento Mountains and provides access to the National Solar Observatory, a highlight for those interested in celestial phenomena.

Key Features of the Sunspot Scenic Byway:

  • Starting Point: The byway begins in the village of Cloudcroft, a quaint mountain community with an elevation of 8,600 feet.
  • Length: Approximately 16 miles one way, making it a perfect day trip for motorcycle enthusiasts.
  • Attractions: Along the way, riders can explore the Lincoln National Forest, enjoy panoramic views, and visit the Sunspot Astronomy and Visitor Center.
The journey along the Sunspot Scenic Byway is not just a ride; it's an exploration of the cosmos from the comfort of your motorcycle. The winding roads and elevation changes provide an exhilarating experience, while the stops along the way offer a glimpse into the vastness of our universe.

Riders should be prepared for varying weather conditions due to the high elevation and should check local forecasts before embarking on their adventure. The byway is typically accessible year-round, but winter conditions can cause temporary closures.

7. High Road to Taos Scenic Byway

7. High Road to Taos Scenic Byway

The High Road to Taos Scenic Byway presents a journey through the cultural, historical, and natural beauty of northern New Mexico. It offers a glimpse into the Spanish colonial past with its preserved churches and pueblos, and the living traditions of the Native American communities.

  • Starting Point: The byway begins in the town of Pojoaque, a hub for exploring Native American art and culture.
  • Key Attractions: Along the route, riders will encounter the Santuario de Chimayo, a historic pilgrimage site, and the Truchas Peaks, which provide a dramatic backdrop.
  • End Point: The journey culminates in the artistic haven of Taos, known for its vibrant arts scene and historic Taos Pueblo.
The ride not only captivates with its scenic vistas but also offers a profound connection to the land and its peoples. It is a reflective path that encourages riders to appreciate the convergence of natural splendor and human creativity.

Safety and preparedness are paramount when embarking on this ride, as conditions can vary with elevation and weather. Riders are advised to check local conditions and ensure their motorcycles are well-maintained for the journey.

8. Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway

8. Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway

The Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway offers a grand tour that extends beyond the typical arid landscapes often associated with Arizona. This 350-mile journey presents a diverse tableau of grasslands, towering peaks, expansive pine forests, and sweeping vistas of mountain ranges. The route is a celebration of natural beauty, taking riders through iconic destinations such as the Grand Canyon National Park, Flagstaff, and Sedona, culminating in the Sonoran Desert's emblematic saguaro cacti.

The Geronimo Trail is not just a path through Arizona's wilderness, but a voyage into the heart of its unexpected and varied terrains.

Riders should be prepared for a mix of natural and paved surfaces, with a significant portion of the journey unfolding on natural terrain. The riding season typically spans from early May to late November, accommodating a wide range of weather conditions and allowing for an immersive experience of the region's seasonal shifts.

Segment Details Information
Total Distance 344 miles
Elevation Gain 22,000 feet
Natural Surfaces 70%
Paved Surfaces 30%
Estimated Duration 6-8 days
Riding Season Early May to late November
Physical Difficulty 3/10
Technical Difficulty 4/10

The Geronimo Trail is an adventure that challenges both the body and the spirit, with a physical difficulty rating of 3/10 and a technical difficulty of 4/10. It is a journey that promises to leave riders with a profound appreciation for the Southwest's hidden majesty.

9. Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway

9. Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway

The Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway offers a journey through the heart of New Mexico's rich history and stunning landscapes. This route is a testament to the state's diverse cultural heritage, encompassing Ghost Towns, Museums & Historic Sites, and Art Trails. Riders can immerse themselves in the artistic expressions found along the Community Based Arts Trails and explore the works of Native American artists.

The byway also provides access to a plethora of outdoor adventures. From the tranquility of the National Forests to the excitement of Mountain & Road Biking, there is something for every nature enthusiast. The route's proximity to State Parks and Public Wilderness Lands ensures that riders can easily find spots for Camping and Hiking, while the Dark Skies & Stargazing opportunities are unparalleled.

The Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway is not just a road; it's a passage through time and terrain that offers an enriching experience for the soul and the senses.

For those seeking a more structured itinerary, consider the following points of interest along the byway:

  • Visit the historic mining towns and learn about the bygone era of the Wild West.
  • Explore the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument to witness the architectural marvels of the ancient Puebloans.
  • Take a detour to the nearby lakes and rivers for a serene fishing or kayaking session.
  • Engage with local artists and craftsmen in their studios to appreciate the region's creative spirit.

Each stop on the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway reveals a new chapter in New Mexico's storied past and present.

10. El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail

10. El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail

The El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail offers a profound glimpse into the rich tapestry of history and culture that has shaped New Mexico. This trail, extending a significant distance, provides an immersive experience into the past, where travelers can encounter the remnants of ghost towns, historic sites, and the natural beauty of the San Pedro Valley.

The journey along El Camino Real is not just a ride through scenic landscapes but a passage through time, revealing the layers of human endeavor and the environment's influence on historical routes.

Riders should be prepared for a variety of conditions, as the trail can present challenges such as overgrown paths and scarce water sources in the desert climate. The trail's southernmost stretch is particularly evocative, winding through wetlands and cottonwood groves, with the San Pedro River occasionally gracing the path. Here, the interplay of nature and history is most palpable, offering a serene yet thought-provoking ride.

Key Points of Interest on El Camino Real:

  • Ghost towns and historic sites
  • San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area
  • Diverse landscapes, from desert to wetlands
  • The historic and touristy town of Tombstone

Riders seeking to connect with the nearest city can take the Sierra Vista Extension, which leads to Sierra Vista, offering a respite from the trail's more remote sections.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the top motorcycle rides in New Mexico?

Some of the top motorcycle rides in New Mexico include the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway, Route 66 - The Mother Road, Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway, and the Billy the Kid Scenic Byway among others.

Is the Route 66 motorcycle ride in New Mexico suitable for beginners?

Yes, Route 66 offers a historic and scenic ride that is suitable for riders of all levels, including beginners.

What kind of attractions will I find along the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway?

The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway offers stunning natural landscapes, opportunities for photography, and access to New Mexico's state parks, ideal for adventure and exploration.

Are there any cultural events or festivals along these motorcycle routes?

Yes, New Mexico hosts a variety of cultural events and festivals throughout the year, including Native American events, balloon fiestas, wine festivals, and more.

Can I find good places to eat along the motorcycle routes in New Mexico?

Absolutely, New Mexico is known for its rich cuisine, and you can find restaurants, breweries, tap rooms, wineries, and vineyards along the scenic byways.

What are some outdoor activities other than motorcycling that I can enjoy in New Mexico?

New Mexico offers a range of outdoor activities including hiking, skiing, birding, hot air ballooning, fishing, and stargazing, to name a few.

Where can I find more information and travel guides for motorcycle rides in New Mexico?

You can subscribe to the New Mexico Tourism Department's newsletter, visit their website, or check out the New Mexico Magazine for fresh vacation ideas and guides.

Are there any motorcycle-friendly accommodations along these routes?

Yes, New Mexico has a variety of accommodations for travelers, including hotels, motels, inns, resorts, bed & breakfasts, vacation rentals, and campgrounds that cater to motorcycle enthusiasts.

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