Help me plan a motorcycle trip from Portland to Denver!
July 30, 2007 8:21 AM   Subscribe

Motorcycle Travel -- Portland to Denver, 4 to 5 days, as little Interstate travel as possible; how to get there, what to see along the way, and where to stay?

I'm heading to the Denver area for a wedding, and since the SO can't get the time off work, I thought I'd take a few extra days, hit the road on my motorcycle meander my way from the Pacific Northwest to the mile high city. For the trip there, I've got about 4 or 5 days, so I'd like to ask my fellow Mefites for route suggestions, places to stay (I'm going to camp where possible, but if I hit some bad whether or if I'm particularly exhausted, I might opt for a motel), and sights to see. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated!
posted by tperrigo to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
It's not exactly on the most direct path, but it sounds like this might be your chance to drive The Going-To-The-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, and then come south through Yellowstone, and then to Denver along the Front Range. A memorable trip, if you can do the miles.

But as I say, not the most direct route.
posted by paulsc at 9:15 AM on July 30, 2007

You're going to end up on some freway, not much of a way to avoid it in the boring parts. Here's a route I did a few weeks ago.

26 through Madras to Prineville, pick up 7 before (and Through) Baker City, pick up 86 to 95 back down to I-84. Take 84 into Boise. Either stop for the night in Boise or keep going and pick up 21 north (the freeway exit is past the city) if you intend to camp... there's lots of campgrounds up 21, but research and know where they are before you go.

This is all from memory, so make sure you Streets & Trips it out so you don't pass your mileage limit for any one day.

Now, you're going to go way out of your way, but you really don't want to miss this. You're going to ride through the Sawtooth Mountains, aka some of the best riding this side of Colorado. Basically, take 21 up to Stanley, hang a left on 75 (you can keep going if you need to make time, it's not quite as good but it's not bad) and then hang a right on 93 back southbound. Excitement over, it's now boring, if it's late find a place near Butte City and camp. Craters of The Moon National Monument is a few miles south on 26, or keep going through Atomic City on 26 to Blackfoot... Blackfoot is your most likely stopping point this night.

I can't remember where I set the next few stops. You're on day 4 here, and there's some amazing riding ahead, but you might have to slab the last day. My plan only went as far as Montrose, CO.

Today's your slab day. Pick up I15 southbound, slab it down south of Ogden, UT, then I84 to I80 to US 40 ... after Heber City, take a right onto 189. Get on I-15 for a little bit, then get back off at Spanish Fork and take US89 south out of town. At Fairview, pick up US31/Energy Lp. Your target is Scofield State Park's Skyline Drive -- it's a pretty twisty road. It's also called SH 264/96.

At the end, take a right on US6, follow US6/US191 down to I-70. Make time to Glenwood Springs. Stay there for the night, then take 82 south past Twin Lakes. If you're pressed for time, take 91 back to the slab and head into Denver. Otherwise, head south on US24 to US285 and follow it north over the Divide into Denver.

That looks like a 6 day route to me, but feel free to cut out the part in Idaho (even though that's arguably some of the best scenery on the trip) to cut out a day... or slab 84 to Boise to get your trip started and avoid the hassle of riding all the way out on 26.

If you don't dig Utah, take US30 off of I-15 to I-80. At Walcott, take SH 130 to SH230 to SH125 in CO, follow 125 to US 34 through Rocky Mountain National Park. In Estes Park, head south ... you can't go wrong, once you're south of Nederland, just turn left on any major road and it'll take you down into Denver.
posted by SpecialK at 9:19 AM on July 30, 2007

*weeks ago = years ago
posted by SpecialK at 9:19 AM on July 30, 2007

Google Maps has an "avoid highways" option: here's their recommended route. I haven't driven this myself, so I don't have any destination ideas, but on the way it looks like you'd hit Grand Teton National Park and Craters of the Moon National Monument.
posted by mdonley at 9:39 AM on July 30, 2007

Stay in "found woods". My technique was to go to a grocery store, buy some meat and such, then find a suitable hidden spot in some woods, set up your campsite and start a fire and cook. The advantage of a motorcycle to follow footpaths is wonderful.
Of course it can be illegal and you really need to be careful with your fire. I've crossed the country on a bike seven times. I would sometimes stay in a motel or an established campground, but my found campsites still linger in my memory.
posted by JohnR at 9:55 AM on July 30, 2007

If you're into volcanoes, you can hit up Crater Lake. Alterniviely, there is the Newberry Volcanic Monument, which is just south of Bend. US 20 and US 14 had a bunch of good scenery driving through Idaho & Wyoming. Did this (in the car!) last august, make sure you take a lot of pictures!
posted by ArgentCorvid at 10:00 AM on July 30, 2007

Bend is WAY out of your way if you're leaving from Portland.

I should note that my above route is one that I took while hanging out with a crew that was mostly Iron-Butt certified, and regards a 500 mile day while riding solo or with a small group a "relaxing" pace. Most people who aren't superheros regard a 350 mile day as a long day.
posted by SpecialK at 10:29 AM on July 30, 2007

SpecialK: Not really. check out the link provided by mdonley.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 11:03 AM on July 30, 2007

Great suggestions everyone! You've given me a lot to look into, which was just what I was hoping for! (Plus, you've gotten me all the more excited for the ride!). I'll check out the suggestions and figure out a final route...Thanks again!
posted by tperrigo at 12:57 PM on July 30, 2007

can you route your trip to go thru lolo pass, in montana? i'm told it's a fabulously twisty road, great for motorcycling. (i never did get around to riding over there when i lived on the left coast)

i don't know how tight your scheduling is.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:08 PM on July 30, 2007

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