It was mid-June. We had some plans to do a ride with Drew Martin, one of the best adventure moto photographers, and had a slot on the calendar to plan a ride.
There’s a Golden Triangle of motorcycle touring between Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas, called so because here you can find some the most iconic sights and quintessential experiences found in the American West.
If you are only ever going to visit the West Coast of the United States one time, this is the area you want to head to. This area offers miles and miles of scenic roads, historic locations, stunning nature, and curious cuisine.
We get asked all the time about the best stops and places to see when riding from each of these three cities. Each offers great day rides but building a route that takes you up or down the coast and into the desert is the way to go for thousands of rides that travel the American West.
The Los Angeles – San Francisco – Las Vegas triangle is a 1,300-mile loop along meandering coastal routes and across spectacular deserts and National Parks if you choose to visit all three cities. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime adventure filled with California sunshine and that perfect solitude of the open road as you traverse this wild, beautiful country.
This journey takes you to three of the most visited cities in America, each with its unique atmosphere and culture.
Whether you’re traveling solo or in a group, visiting these three cities is a great road trip for ten days or two weeks. You can also do short rides that can take 2-4 days and offer amazing riding each day. You can ride it as fast or as slow as you like, getting off the bike and enjoying as many sights and points of interest as you like.
To help you design your own Los Angeles – San Francisco – Las Vegas ride, we’ve put together a list of must-see places for you to see on the way.
Our list covers 47 stops in three sections starting with Los Angeles, heading up to San Francisco, riding inland through Yosemite to Las Vegas, and then heading back to the coast to Los Angeles.
As you read this guide, keep in mind you have all this information in a mobile app with turn-by-turn navigation through our mobile app available with all SELF-GUIDED MOTORCYCLE TOURS.
RIDING LOS ANGELES TO SAN FRANCISCO
The route from Los Angeles to San Francisco is one of the most well-traveled motorcycle rides in America. California’s Route 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, is a motorcyclist’s dream.
It’s a beautiful winding road taking you along the Pacific coastline and across Big Sur, one of the most beloved American coastal locations. Dramatic scenery plus the loneliness of the road (there are few rest and fuel stops in the area) make Big Sur an exceptionally breath-taking ride.
When leaving LA, stick to the coastline which is slower yet breathtakingly beautiful. Ride the length of Route 1 to make the most out of your coastal experience.
Of course, no ride to and/or through San Francisco would be complete without riding Route 1 north through the city and straight across the magnificent Golden State Bridge. Here is a list of interesting scenic spots, local roads, and locations not to miss on your trip.
LOS ANGELES AREA HIGHLIGHT: QUEEN MARY - LONG BEACH, CA
Built in 1937, the original RMS Queen Mary ship is now permanently moored in Long Beach, California, just south of LA. It’s a sight to behold: this 75,000-ton sea beast, once an impressive troopship and transatlantic liner, has now been converted into a spectacular museum on water.
Various historic exhibitions and attractions are available aboard the Queen Mary, including a “Paranormal Shipwalk”. It is said the ship is haunted, so for those brave souls who dare, Queen Mary offers spooky night tours in search for ghosts and mysteries. Also, consider spending a night on board – the Queen Mary is a floating hotel.
LOS ANGELES AREA HIGHLIGHT: SANTA MONICA PIER – SANTA MONICA, CA
An iconic all-American location, Santa Monica pier in Los Angeles is the endpoint of the famous Route 66. Situated right at the end of Colorado Avenue, this century-old landmark has a special treat for motorcyclists: the Route 66 Last Stop Shop. It’s an old tackle and bait shop on the pier that now offers Route 66 memorabilia and souvenirs to riders.
Enjoy the laidback LA culture and the surf, take a ride on the Santa Monica Ferris wheel and soak up the sun looking out at the Pacific Ocean. Some say that Santa Monica pier is where the road ends, but where the adventure begins.
LOS ANGELES AREA HIGHLIGHT: NEPTUNE’S NET – MALIBU, CA
If you’ve seen the movies Point Break or Fast and Furious, you’ve seen the Neptune’s Net. It’s a classic LA hangout offering food, beer, and friends. Locals go there with bottles of wine and tablecloths to sample the seafood, spending the evening in good conversation overlooking the ocean. Located right on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, Neptune’s Net is popular among local and visiting bikers, so you’ll feel right at home.
If you happen to be in the area on a weekend, be sure to also head up to the Rock Store, a famous motorcycle gathering ground in the Santa Monica mountains. It’s a fabulous ride between the two locations, crisscrossing the mountains lining the coast and winding your way up or down. The Rock Store is the place where you can rub elbows with two-wheeled celebrities like Jay Leno, John Travolta, Matt LeBlanc, and Jesse James.
LOS ANGELES AREA HIGHLIGHT: THE SNAKE – MALIBU, CA
Mulholland Highway is easily one of the most famous roads in California. The Snake, a short section of the Mulholland just above the Rock Store, is a well-known and well-photographed segment of the road, especially popular among the rich and the famous. On weekends, expect to see rare and vintage cars and motorcycles cruising along and posing for the cameras. Jay Leno with his cars and bikes is no stranger on the Snake, so if you’re hoping for a little limelight and some fun on the hairpins, hit Mulholland Highway and head for the hills.
OJAI & HIGHWAY 154 – OJAI, CA
Ojai, a small town located just outside of Ventura on Route 150, is a wacky and wonderful oasis of art, boutique hotels, unique architecture and wineries. It’s worth stopping here for the day and enjoying the local culture and wine, made even better by amazing scenery around Ojai.
If you plan to stay the night, ride a little further towards Santa Barbara and check out the Santa Barbara AutoCamp. It’s modern and comfortable camping taken to an all-new level in Airstream trailers.
Once you’re ready to go, head north and take the Route 154. Known locally as the San Marcos Pass Road, this is an old and scenic Stagecoach route that takes you across the beautiful valley of Santa Inez.
EL CAMINO REAL, CA
El Camino Real, which translates to the Royal Road or King’s Highway is an old Spanish route which once connected the eighteen-century Spanish Franciscan Missions from San Diego all the way to Baja California in Mexico. Although the old route has largely vanished by now, parts of it have been replaced by Highway 101 and 82, while sections of it were transformed into a few smaller regional roads.
Along the route you can still see a peculiar sight of a pole shaped like a shepherd’s staff and decorated with bells. The bells began appearing along the Camino Real in the early twentieth century as an attempt to mark the old trail and to commemorate the days when Franciscan fathers would travel the road on foot, visiting the Missions along the way as part of a pilgrimage or on urgent business.
You can ride the old Camino Real following US 101 from Santa Maria all the way to San Luis Obispo. Look for the bells along the way, as they are supposed to keep travelers in good spirits. For a detailed map of El Camino Real and a list of the Missions along the route, see the California Highways webpage.
PISMO BEACH, CA
Next up on your way to San Francisco is Pismo Beach, a small coastal town known for its charming beaches…and butterflies. Every year from October to February, the nearby eucalyptus grove hosts thousands of beautiful Monarch butterflies that flock here to winter. Clusters of Monarchs can be viewed at the Monarch Butterfly Grove just south of Pismo Beach, easily accessible by road.
If you’re not visiting during the butterfly season, there’s always the beach life, local vineyards, and wineries to enjoy.
HEARST CASTLE - SAN SIMEON, CA
During the Roaring Twenties and well into the Thirties, Hearst Castle, situated just off Route 1 near San Simeon, was known for its wild parties for Hollywood stars. Belonging to media mogul William Hearst and his mistress Marion Davies, Hearst Castle, a luxurious mansion on the beach, hosted such names as Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, and Clark Gable.
After Hearst’s passing, the family gifted the mansion to the State of California, and Hearst Castle is now open to visitors. If you’re curious about how the stars of twenties’ Hollywood liked to party and relax, stop by the Castle and pay a visit.
A note for animal lovers: As you travel along this stretch of coastline from Cambria, through San Simeon and up to Ragged Point, you may see pull-offs on the ocean side of the road. There are several beaches along this stretch where the elephant seals come to mate, give birth, and molt, depending on the time of year. The largest parking area, North of San Simeon, has docents who are available to answer questions about the seals during daylight hours.
BIG SUR, CA
World-famous, Big Sur is the most scenic section of the Pacific Coast Highway. Stretching from Morro Bay to Carmel, Big Sur offers breathtaking views of the ocean, dramatic mountain scenery, pristine wild beaches, redwood forests, and more twists and turns than any motorcyclist can wish for. It’s a truly wild country where the sea laps at the foothills of the mountains and where the riding is so spectacular you struggle to keep your eyes on the road.
The best time to ride Big Sur is April to October when the weather is at its best. Keep in mind that the thick ocean fog often lingers as late as mid-day, so don’t plan to ride Big Sur early in the morning.
TREEBONES RESORT - BIG SUR, CA
If you plan to spend the night in Big Sur, Treebones Resort is the place to be. A beautiful, family-run campsite offers a unique yurt village with amazing ocean views, numerous hiking trails, a campsite for tents and various dining options. Refined campsite food? Sushi? Treebones has got it all.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, stay in the Human Nest or the Twig Hut – two of the most whimsical buildings in Treebones Resort. Built from twigs and designed to act as basic shelter, these two camping options are for the free-spirited travelers tired of walls and tents. Treebones Resort is a little pricey and needs to be reserved 4 to 6 months in advance, but if you want a unique Big Sur experience, this is a magical place to spend the night.
MCWAY FALLS - BIG SUR, CA
Located in the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, the fabulous McWay Falls is a gorgeous wild cove on the beach with waterfalls falling down the rocks. One of the most photographed locations in Big Sur, McWay Falls can be viewed from the road as Route 1 runs straight past it. Park your bike in the parking lot and take a short walk to the viewpoint to get the best view and to snap some pictures.
The cove is named after Christopher McWay, an early 19th-century settler who ventured out West from New York. Looking at the stunning beauty of McWay Falls, it’s easy to see why he decided to settle here.
BIXBY BRIDGE – BIG SUR, CA
Bixby Bridge, also known as the Bixby Creek Bridge, is a spectacular 714 footbridge over Bixby Creek in Big Sur, just fifteen miles before Carmel by the Sea. The bridge, known for its beautiful arch, offers stunning views of the dramatic Big Sur coastline and the deep undulating blue of the Pacific Ocean.
Dubbed the Golden Gate of Big Sur, Bixby Bridge is one of the most photographed bridges in California because of its graceful architecture and breathtaking scenery around it, so make sure to stop and snap a picture. There is plenty of parking space available on both sides of the bridge.
CARMEL MISSION BASILICA MUSEUM – CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA, CA
After a delicious lunch, make sure to pay the Carmel Mission Basilica Museum a visit. Located on the Rio Road in Carmel, the museum is a perfect example of the simplicity, spirituality, and beauty of an eighteenth-century Spanish mission.
Built in 1797, the original Roman-Catholic mission, which served as the missionary headquarters of Alta California until 1833, has been meticulously restored to its past glory. You can enjoy the beautifully rebuilt church, an elegant inner courtyard, and the small museum which explains the history of the original Mission. The museum is open daily from 9.30 am to 5 pm.
17 MILE DRIVE - PEBBLE BEACH, CA
Located along the coastline of Monterey peninsula, the 17 Mile Drive is a scenic road winding along the sea and offering stunning views to cliffs and rugged rocks. Manicured golf courses, dainty visitor centers and many amazing viewpoints on the way make the 17 Mile Drive a must-see near Monterey. Unfortunately, motorcycles are no longer allowed on this road, so you may need to rent a car.
Pebble Beach, a small coastal community that the 17 Mile Drive runs through, is famous for its luxurious golf courses. If you’re feeling like playing a little golf, this is a great place to stop for a day or two.
CANNERY ROW – MONTEREY, CA
According to Coastal Living magazine, Monterey is the “Happiest Seaside Town in California.” Cannery Row, Monterey’s most iconic street, is a perfect symbol of that. It’s a beautiful sunlit stretch lined with charming waterfront hotels, boutiques, luxury lounges, shops, restaurants, and cafes. There’s also an excellent aquarium located here.
Cannery Row runs along the Monterey Bay coastline, so you’re never more than a few minutes away from the beach. Ideal for a leisurely afternoon stroll, Cannery Row offers everything from freshly caught seafood and wine tasting to sports bars, quirky shops and museums, and adventure sports. Stop by when you’re riding through Monterey and experience the local culture which claims to hold the key to happiness.
PIGEON POINT LIGHTHOUSE – PESCADERO, CA
Pigeon Point Lighthouse, located on the beautiful beach of Pescadero, was built in 1871 as a guide for ships coming in to San Francisco Bay ports. Standing on a rugged rock, the white picturesque tower is the tallest lighthouse on the West Coast of the United States.
Still functioning as a navigation aid for the Coast Guard, the Pigeon Point Lighthouse tower is currently (2019) closed for visitors due to restoration works. However, the nearby houses that once served as the lighthouse keeper’s lodgings have been converted into a youth hostel. Consider spending a night if you love the sound of the surf breaking on the rocks.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse is easily accessible from Highway 1 on your route.
HALF MOON BAY, CA
28 miles south of San Francisco, stop for a few hours in Half Moon Bay, a small coastal town just off Route 1. It has some of the most beautiful coastlines in California, great food, and craft beers that might just entice you to stay overnight before you get to the big city.
Half Moon Bay is known for its curious bootleggers’ history. During the Prohibition era, local “rum-runners” would use the ocean fog as a disguise to move spirits and hide them in caves and coves which served as illegal pubs and bars. Old West-style saloons still abound in Half Moon Bay, so if you’re into hearty dinners and creaking wooden floors, this is the perfect hangout for you.
ALICE’S RESTAURANT – SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Once a general store for loggers in the redwoods south of San Francisco, Alice’s Restaurant has since become a world-famous destination for hikers, travelers, and of course, motorcyclists. When the weather is nice there’s a near-constant flow of motorcycles in and out of the parking lot.
Built in the early 1900’s, Alice’s Restaurant still resembles a rugged redwood fort where you can feast on anything from delicious burgers to local scrambles or homemade pie. Located on the Skyline Boulevard, Alice’s Restaurant is destination offering interesting history, food, and company.
GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE – SAN FRANCISCO, CA
San Francisco is one of the finest natural harbors in the world, and its most iconic structure, the Golden Gate Bridge, is the crown jewel of the city. Built in 1937, the 1.7-mile long, 90-feet wide suspension bridge connects San Francisco Bay with the Marin County mainland. Any ship entering the San Francisco Bay today must pass under the Golden Gate Bridge, named so after the early California Gold Rush explorers.
While most bridges of a similar kind were usually painted black or grey, the aesthetics of art deco era, along with the need for the bridge to stand out in the notorious San Francisco fog, dictated a bright reddish orange paint to catch the light. An enormous engineering feat at the time, the Golden Gate Bridge has since become an iconic, globally famous all-American symbol of San Francisco and the spirit of freedom and exploration.
When you ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, be aware of the possibility of high winds and fog. To avoid traffic, don’t ride across the Bridge between 4 and 6 pm. For the best photo opportunities, park at the South Vista Point parking lot.
SUTRO BATHS – POINT LOBOS, SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Situated just before the Golden Gate Bridge in Point Lobos, San Francisco, Sutro Baths is a curious historical landmark harking back to the nineteenth century. Built in1894 by millionaire Adolph Sutro, the baths were once an enormous complex of pools, slides, trapezes and springboards designed to accommodate 10,000 people. Sutro’s vision was to create an affordable swimming facility for thousands of San Franciscans, and the baths were hugely popular until the Great Depression.
During the sixties, the baths were converted to an ice-skating ring but, failing to succeed, the complex was then partly demolished to make way for new apartment buildings. Now, Sutro Baths is a popular hiking attraction accessible from the west end of St. Geary street. Park in the parking lot at the end of St. Geary and hike towards the Sutro Baths, enjoying the may spectacular lookouts and the ruins of the once glorious baths.
ALCATRAZ ISLAND – SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Located 1.25 miles from San Francisco in the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz Island is probably one of the most famous California landmarks in the world. Known best for its infamous island prison, Alcatraz has been featured in television series Alcatraz as well as Hollywood blockbusters like the Book of Eli, Point Blank, and Catch Me If You Can, among many others.
From 1934 to 1963, the island hosted one of the most notorious federal prisons in American history, the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. Prisoners who were sent to Alcatraz were said to be the most dangerous criminals in America. Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis all served here. The prison is also famous for daring attempts to escape: thirty-six prisoners made 14 attempts to escape the prison during its 29 years of operation. Only 23 of them were caught alive while the rest were shot during the escape, drowned, or were “presumed drowned”.
Currently, Alcatraz Island welcomes visitors and is a recreational area for tourists and weekend leisure seekers. You can explore the abandoned prison along with other attractions like the Alcatraz Lighthouse.
PIER 39 – SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Pier 39 is a popular spot for shopping, eating out, and hanging out in San Francisco. With its friendly, artsy vibe, Pier 39, along with the nearby Fisherman’s Wharf, is a great place to spend a sunny afternoon walking around, shopping for souvenirs, trying out the video arcades, and having lunch (word is Pier 39 offers the best clam chowder in town).
You can also observe seals soaking up the sun at the pier, and if you feel like going on a little sea trip, take a ferry ride to Alcatraz or book a short tour to see the seals and sea lions out in the bay.
RUSSIAN HILL – SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Just south of Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 lies a neighborhood called the Russian Hill, another iconic hangout in San Francisco. Named so after a small Russian cemetery of sailors which existed here from seventeenth to early twentieth century, Russian Hill is a popular destination for food, shopping, and simply walking around. Many of the Russian Hill’s streets are pedestrian staircases, making for a perfect spot to explore San Francisco by foot.
Be sure to visit the famous Lombard Street and Ghirardelli Square, and admire the beautiful view of the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge from the top of the hill.
RIDING SAN FRANCISCO - LAS VEGAS
As you leave San Francisco and ride towards Las Vegas, here is where true adventure begins.
The breathtaking scenery of Yosemite National Park, Death Valley, and the Mojave Desert will make you feel like you’re a lone pioneer traversing the Old West country of vast open spaces, towering mountain peaks, and the iconic red rock formations.
Ghost mining towns and curious historic sites along the way enrich the journey as you ride East exploring these bizarre and wonderful echoes from the past.
To make the most out of your journey, be sure to visit these locations and live the spirit of the Wild West before relaxing in the ‘Disneyland for adults’ that is Las Vegas.
NAPA VALLEY, CA
Before turning east towards Vegas, be sure to ride North and visit Napa Valley, the world-famous wine region of California. The beautiful scenery of lush green rolling hills, mild, sunny Californian weather and many of Napa’s small wine-making towns are sure to win over any traveler.
Napa Valley is home to over 400 wineries, each with its distinct history and winemaking traditions. Especially known for its highly prized Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley is the Sicily of California which has plenty to offer, even if you’re not a wine aficionado.
TIOGA PASS & YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK - CA
Yosemite National Park needs no introduction. One of America’s most visited and beloved national parks, it spans an area of over 1,168 square miles of pristine wilderness. Famous for its giant sequoia trees, towering cliffs, beautiful waterfalls, and mountains, Yosemite is a stunning natural monument not to be missed on your long way to Vegas.
Heading for Yosemite, make sure to ride through Tioga Pass, the highest highway point in California. Tioga Pass is where some of the trailheads to Yosemite begin, also where you can enjoy the twisties while taking in the breathtaking mountain scenery.
Yosemite National Park is huge, and you might want to spend several days exploring the area. Stay at the Tenaya Lodge AutoCamp, a beautiful wilderness resort situated just two miles from the southern gate into Yosemite. Tenaya Lodge offers cabins and lodge and cottage rooms, several outdoor and indoor pools, and plenty of dining options for weary travelers.
MAMMOTH LAKES - CA
The adventure capital of Eastern California, Mammoth Lakes got its name from the majestic natural landscape surrounding the town. Stunning mountain peaks, perfect blue lakes and large, gorgeous valleys make Mammoth Lakes the perfect destination for outdoor adventures.
Stop here to take in the awe-inspiring scenery, enjoy the wilderness, and breath in the crisp alpine air. Mammoth Lakes are best enjoyed in winter when it becomes the wonderland for skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiles. In the summer months, the area is less crowded making it a perfect getaway from the city hustle and bustle.
Mammoth Lakes town and area are easily accessible right off Route 395.
FOSSIL FALLS – COSO, CA
Next up on Route 395 is Fossil Falls, a unique geological curiosity of oddly shaped lava formations against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Millions of years ago hot lava erupting from the Earth’s crust was quickly cooled by the glacial waters which then slowly sculpted the shiny black rock into the bizarre “lava falls”.
These black and grey rock “falls”, scattered in the dry, arid desert, are a sight to behold. Stop here and hike the trails to experience the natural beauty of Fossil Falls, and if you feel like staying the night, several campsites are available near the Falls.
LONE PINE FILM HISTORY MUSEUM – LONE PINE, CA
If you want to ride the exact same roads that John Wayne, Buck Jones and Hopalong Cassidy once rode, visit the Lone Pine Film History Museum located in Alabama Hills on Route 395. The museum explains the history of the Western movie genre from The Round-Up to Django Unchained through exhibitions of movie posters, curiosities and memorabilia as well as guided walks.
In 1920, Hollywood first discovered the area and began filming its Westerns here. Most of the dirt roads around the area were built by film studios to move equipment. Alabama Hills continue to be used as a backdrop for more recent movies such as G.I.Jane, Star Trek V, and Gladiator.
If you’re into cowboys, stagecoaches, and guns, the Lone Pine Film History Museum should be on your list to visit on your way to Vegas.
BALLARAT GHOST TOWN – BALLARAT, CA
Founded in 1897, Ballarat was once a booming mining town hosting seven saloons, a post office, a jail, and three hotels. Acting as a supply town for the nearby Ratcliff Mine, Ballarat offered shopping and entertainment for miners and traveling prospectors.
When the mine closed, however, the town declined and its inhabitants moved away. By the 1920’s, Ballarat became a ghost town...only to be discovered again by Charles Manson in 1967. The Manson family lived briefly in an abandoned ranch south of Ballarat and left graffiti all over the town. Later, Ballarat was featured in one of the Easy Rider movie scenes.
Currently, Ballarat, located just off Route 178, has only one inhabitant and is open to visitors. It is an authentic ghost town with crumbling abandoned houses and pieces of machinery scattered around in the desert, creating a feel of some apocalyptic Mad Max campout in the middle of nowhere.
DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA-NEVADA
Another of the most iconic and most visited national parks in America, Death Valley is a destination for any motorcyclist in search for breath-taking scenery and adventure. Riding through Death Valley feels like being on another planet. The landscape here varies from dry canyons, Badlands and arid desert to beautiful golden sand dunes, salt flats, and rugged red rock formations surrounded by jagged mountain peaks.
Death Valley lies at the lowest elevation in North America, its Badwater Basin is located 282 feet below the sea level. When you head towards Death Valley, don’t forget to take a photo with that iconic Death Valley sign. It’s located on California Highway 190 at the edge of the Darwin Falls Wilderness Area.
During the summer months, Death Valley becomes the hottest and driest place in North America, so take precaution and pack a lot of water and sunscreen.
If you want to know more about riding in National Parks, read our DETAILED GUIDE TO THE BEST MOTORCYCLE RIDING YOU CAN DO IN NATIONAL PARKS.
AMARGOSA OPERA HOUSE - DEATH VALLEY JUNCTION, CA
If you are into the out of the ordinary and the eccentric, Amargosa Opera House, situated in the teeny tiny town of Death Valley Junction on Route 127, is a must-see for you. Originally built in the early 1900’s as a hotel, town hall and office complex, the Spanish Colonial style adobe building was rented by Marta Becket in 1967 and transformed into a wonderland of art and theatre performances.
p class="media-description">Originally from New York, ballet dancer, painter and actress Marta Becket moved to Death Valley Junction in the seventies and began restoring the Amargosa Opera House. Here, she spent her whole life and career painting murals and giving weekly performances, even when there was no audience.After Becket’s passing, the Amargosa Opera House began operating as a museum, hotel, and café catering to visitors from all over the world.
CHINA RANCH DATE FARM – TECOPA, CA
Situated south of Shoshone just off Route 127, China Ranch Date Farm is a true desert oasis. Perfect for a day adventure, the Farm, located right in the heart of the Mojave Desert, is a verdant green paradise of lush date palm trees, willows, and towering cottonwoods.
China Ranch Date Farm is famous for its dates, date cookies, and muffins, as well as beautiful nature walks near the Old Spanish Trail. If you’re riding in from Death Valley, stop here for an extraordinary adventure in the forbidding desert scenery.
VALLEY OF FIRE - LAS VEGAS, NV
Located just fifty miles east of Las Vegas, Valley of Fire National Park is a Mars-like area of bright red rock formations scattered across the desert. Spectacular rock outcroppings, petrified trees, and mysterious petroglyphs make for an extraordinary experience. If you're planning to spend some time in Las Vegas, read our DETAILED GUIDE ABOUT THINGS TO DO IN THE SIN CITY ON AND OFF THE BIKE.
If you’re planning to do some hiking, campsites with shade are available for overnight stay right there in the park. Camp under the starry sky and enjoy the rugged scenery of otherworldly red rocks with your morning coffee. As with many State Parks in the USA, there is an entrance fee.
RIDING LAS VEGAS – LOS ANGELES
The Las Vegas to Los Angeles stretch brings you back to California, historic Route 66, stunning national parks, and many curious Old West locations along the way.
This leg of the trip promises otherworldly desert scenery, strange middle-of-nowhere settlements resembling a post-apocalyptic movie set, weird art, abandoned silver mining towns, and remarkable roads everywhere you go.
Here are some of the most intriguing points of interest along the way.
BONNIE AND CLYDE’S DEATH CAR, BUFFALO BILL’S RESORT AND CASINO - PRIMM, NEVADA
After spending a few days trying your luck in Las Vegas, you may think you’ve had enough of casinos. However, there’s one more casino you should visit after leaving Las Vegas, even if you don’t feel like gambling. Buffalo Bill’s Casino located in Primm, Nevada, just off Route 15 has a one-of-a-kind exhibit: the death car of Bonnie and Clyde.
The most famous gangster-couple in history, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were a duo of bank robbers, car thieves, burglars, and kidnappers who went on a 21-month crime spree in Arkansas in the 1930’s. The famous criminal couple was gunned down by police in Louisiana as they were trying to flee in a stolen 1934 Ford Deluxe. Six police officers unleashed a hail of bullets from automatic rifles, shotguns, and pistols, instantly killing Bonnie and Clyde and leaving the Ford with 160 bullet holes.
That very same infamous car is now on display at Buffalo Bill’s in Primm, and it’s worth the stop to see this piece of illustrious history.
KELSO DEPOT – KELSO, CA
Located in the heart of the Mojave National Preserve, Kelso Depot is a century-old Spanish Colonial style building reminiscent of a desert oasis. Built in the early 1900’s, Kelso Depot served as a station for steam trains transporting ore from the nearby mines. With the decline of mining in the area and the rise of more powerful diesel engines, Kelso depot, much like the adjacent ghost town of Kelso, were abandoned.
The Depot was restored in 2005 and now serves as the Visitor Center for Mojave National Preserve. As you ride this wild and beautiful country of sand dunes, mesas, cinder cone volcanoes, and canyons, stop and explore the Kelso Depot, a strange and beautiful desert mirage from the past.
BAGDAD CAFÉ - NEWBERRY SPRINGS, CA
A favored stop on the historic Route 66, Bagdad Café is a quirky little place filled to the brim with Route 66 memorabilia, souvenirs, and stickers. Don’t expect first class service or gourmet menu here, but what Bagdad Café does have is character, nostalgia and that old Route 66 spirit that has kept it alive throughout the years. Make a quick stop here for breakfast or coffee and experience a journey back in time.
ROY’S MOTEL AND CAFÉ – AMBOY, CA
Roy’s Motel and Café on Route 66 is another must-see on your way to Los Angeles. It’s an iconic landmark attracting all two-wheeled travelers and Route 66 fans, because its history is tightly interwoven with the fate of the famous Route.
Built in 1938 by Roy Crowl as a gas station, Roy’s Café has seen both the rise and fall of Route 66. In its heyday, Route 66 was the main artery of America connecting Chicago and Los Angeles. Seeing increasing traffic, Roy Crowl added a restaurant, a complex of cabins for overnight stay and an auto repair shop, expecting to expand the business.
Soon, Roy’s Café was operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and employing 70 people.But as the use of Route 66 fell sharply due to the opening of Interstate 40 in 1972, it meant an overnight loss of business for Roy’s Café. Roy Crawl died shortly thereafter.
In 2008, Roy’s Café was restored and re-opened. It now serves as a gas station where you can stop and grab a drink, take some photos, and explore the grounds which still retain the classic Route 66 1940s look. You can experience this and many other iconic Route 66 stops on our FAMOUS ROUTE 66 GUIDED TOURS.
29 PALMS INN - TWENTYNINE PALMS, CA
As you leave the Mojave Desert, you’re soon greeted by another natural wonder --Joshua Tree National park. Just before you ride through the park, stop and spend the night at 29 Palms Inn located in the Oasis of Mara in Twentynine Palms as there are no accommodations except camping within the park.
Owned by five generations of the same family, 29 Palms Inn is almost a century old complex of authentic adobe bungalows and wood-frame cabins dating back to the1920s-1930s. Surrounded by lush palm trees and filled with wondrous artwork, the 29 Palms Inn feels like a surreal desert dream of perfect tranquility. The Inn offers various lodging and dining options and sits right at the gateway into Joshua Tree.
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK – JOSHUA TREE, CA
Joshua Tree National Park in southeastern California is a natural wonder where two similar yet distinct worlds -- the Mojave and the Colorado deserts -- collide. The result is a stunning expanse of pristine wilderness packed with impressive boulders and rock outcroppings, and of course dotted with Joshua trees.
To truly experience Joshua Tree National Park, plan to spend a day or two here in the area and enjoying its many natural wonders. Be sure to visit the Cholla Garden on the south side of the Park, a grove of giant cactus trees, and Hidden Valley, one of the most scenic walks in Joshua Tree.
PALM TREE OASIS - THOUSAND PALMS, CA
When you get to Palm Springs, take Route 10 and ride to Thousand Palms to explore the Palm Tree Oasis in the Coachella Valley Preserve.It’s a natural green oasis in the middle of the desert, nestled in the Indio Hills. Palm Tree Oasis offers thirty miles of beautiful hiking trails through the lush green palm tree coves with designated picnic areas and cool little ponds on the way. The Visitor Center is an authentic palm log cabin built in 1930, so if you feel like stepping into the past of the desert west, Palm Tree Oasis is the place for you.
CALICO GHOST TOWN – YERMO, CA
Past Palm Springs aim for Barstow and take a short ride to Yermo just off Interstate 15. Here you can visit the ghost town of Calico, a former silver mining town now converted into a theme park. Calico was built in 1881 as a silver mining settlement when four traveling prospectors discovered a large silver deposit in the nearby mountains. Just four years later, Calico had 500 operating silver mines and was a booming town complete with three hotels, five general stores, multiple bars, and boarding houses.
Calico’s fortune was short-lived: by 1896, silver prices had dropped drastically. As a result, Calico was soon completely abandoned becoming a ghost town. Currently, Calico is open to visitors as a Western-themed park.
Situated near the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve just off Route 62, Pioneertown is an Old-West themed town originally started by a team of Hollywood investors in the 1940s. Designed as a film set and accommodation for film crews, Pioneertown has survived to this day as a living movie set open to visitors year round.
Old West saloons, jails, and stables still stand in Pioneertown, and if you’re lucky, you might find yourself in the middle of a mock gunfight. For a hearty lunch, stop at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace which serves excellent ribs and barbecue.
ELMER’S BOTTLE TREE RANCH – ORO GRANDE, CA
As you ride towards Los Angeles, you’ll pass Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch on the historic Route 66 just north of Victorville. It is exactly what it says in the name: a ranch of bottle trees, forming a peculiar yet astonishing forest of “trees” made from sticks and, well, bottles.
Elmer, the creator of this strange oasis, loves talking to visitors. He constantly adds to his bottle tree forest by building new “trees”. For some of them, he has used an old missile, while another bottle tree sports an ancient rifle as a top. Located right on Route 66, you surely must stop at this place on your way to LA. Before you leave, consider leaving a small donation for Elmer as there is no entrance fee.
KILL BILL CHURCH – LANCASTER, CA
If you’ve seen Quentin Tarantino’s movie “Kill Bill”, you probably remember the bloody wedding scene taking place in a small white church. Well, that church, The Sanctuary Adventist Church of Lancaster, exists in real life – and you can visit it.
Located in the town of Lancaster off Route 14, “Kill Bill” church is open to visitors all year long. In addition to being featured in Kill Bill, the church also appeared in the movies True Confessions and Inferno.
ANGELES CREST HIGHWAY (CA ROUTE 2)
Angeles Crest Highway is the perfect road to ride towards Los Angeles at the end of your trip. Favored by local motorcyclists, Angela’s Crest highway takes you across the scenic Angeles National Forest, darting across beautiful mountain ridges in thrilling twists and turns. Use caution in the winter months when temperatures get close to freezing due to elevation changes. Also, be sure to check the California Highway Patrol web page for this area as there are frequent slides and road closures.
Enjoy the breathtaking mountain scenery and fresh alpine air before you enter the LA traffic.
PETERSEN AUTOMOTIVE MUSEUM – LOS ANGELES, CA
Now that you’ve made it back to Los Angeles, it’s time to pay homage to the wonderful machine that got you here: your motorcycle. To honor the car and motorcycle history and culture, visit the Petersen Automotive Museum situated near Beverly Hills in LA. We recently mentioned the Petersen Museum in our list of 12 OF AMERICA’S BEST MOTORCYCLE MUSEUMS.
Hundreds of exquisite cars and two-wheeled wonders are exhibited at the museum all-year round, with some of the “traveling exhibitions” changing seasonally. Plan to spend a few hours here, as the museum is large and it’s easy to forget the time in this wonderland of engines and chrome.
MALIBU CANYONS – MALIBU, CA
If you’re itching to hit the road again, ride north of Los Angeles and travel along the Malibu Canyon Road. Originating near Mulholland Highway and culminating at the Malibu Pier, the Malibu Canyon road is a scenic route through a winding mountain pass and across the breathtaking scenery of the Malibu Mountains ending at the Pacific Ocean.
One of the most beautiful drives in Southern California, Malibu Canyon Road will leave you longing for more.
The Golden Triangle trip by motorcycle is a robust itinerary which will require some preparation and planning in order to hit all the highlights. But with this comprehensive guide, you can choose your own must-see places, locations and natural monuments, and design the trip according to your own needs and expectations.
NATIONAL PARKS are the notable destinations if you love nature, all the nostalgic Old West and Route 66 locations if you’re into history, and if you are a foodie, there is no end to the restaurant and winery options throughout this region.
Whichever combination of roads, scenic byways, and points of interest you choose, riding the Golden Triangle will be an unforgettable experience.