4 Fantastic Motorcycle Rides of the Midwest

See the Great Lakes, Mississippi River, South Dakota Badlands and everything in between on these Midwest motorcycle rides.

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by Nikki Farmakes
June 28, 2022

There is no better way to view the beauty of the United States than on two wheels. There’s something about the rushing wind, being exposed to the elements and the openness of the road that makes a road trip on a motorcycle an exhilarating experience. Here are some of the best scenic motorcycle rides of the Midwest that you can enjoy this summer.

Try These Midwest Motorcycle Rides

The Great River Road – Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri (In the Midwest)


The full Great River Road spans 3,000 miles (4,800 km) along the Mississippi River’s trek from the headwaters in Minnesota to the delta of Louisiana. However, some of the most beautiful views can be seen within the Midwest section that spans the headwaters in Minnesota to the bluffs of Missouri.

The various roads (yes, roads!) takes you through various landscapes and features including forests, prairies, river valleys, beautiful bridges and so much more. The most beautiful is the driftless region of southwest Wisconsin, notable for its unique scenery of cliffs and landscapes untouched by glaciers.

Any route will take you through picturesque small towns full of character with plenty of attractions to enjoy, including multiple interpretive centers along the way.

The Great River Road is a National Scenic Byway, and it is recommended that you give 6-10 days to enjoy the entire trip. Be sure to check the website to plan your route as in many areas you can choose which side of the river you want to ride.

You can learn more about the Great River Road here.

North Shore Scenic Drive & Lake Superior Scenic Byway – Minnesota & Wisconsin


While these are two separate drives, both involve Lake Superior and together create one of the most scenic drives in the United States.

The Lake Superior Scenic Byway is a 70-mile (113-km) stretch along Highway 13 on Lake Superior’s south shore. The route takes you along the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore where breathtaking views of the Apostle Islands dominate the landscape.

Continue along Highway 13 to the Duluth/Superior area and head north on U.S. 61 for 154 miles (248 km) of spectacular views of the rocky Lake Superior north shore all the way to the Canadian border. In all, the trip along the south and north shores of Lake Superior should take you approximately 6-7 hours, so a daytrip is completely doable.

However, with nine state parks, multiple adjacent hiking trails, designated photo stops and charming towns and villages along the way, this ride is perfect for a 3-day weekend adventure. If you’re looking for a spectacular fall-color ride, plan your trip for mid to late September.

Learn more about the Lake Superior Scenic Byway here.

Learn more about the North Shore Scenic Drive here.

Needles Highway – South Dakota


You’ve likely heard of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D. What you may not know is that one of the country’s best scenic drives is just a few miles south.

Needles Highway is a 14-mile (23-km) road that twists and winds its way through the South Dakota Black Hills. The road gets its name from the granite needle-like formations along the highway.

Need to stop and stretch? Sylvan Lake features hiking opportunities surrounding the lake and its unique erosion-made rock formation named “The Needle’s Eye.”

South Dakota State Highway 87 North runs through the famous Custer State Park, so on this day trip you can not only enjoy the fantastic views from the highway, you can ride through the park and say “hello” to the bison, prairie dogs and other wildlife that call Custer home.

Fun fact: the road opened in 1922 and was mapped out and marked (on foot and horseback!) by former South Dakota Governor Peter Norbeck.

Please note, due to the winding nature of the road, please be cautious and travel at safe speeds. The Highway also closes after the first snow through spring for safety.

Learn more about Needles Highway here.

Michigan Highway 22 – Michigan


If you are a fan of the circle tours around the great lakes, Michigan Highway 22 along Lake Michigan is a must drive.

The 116-mile (187-km) drive begins at Traverse City in Northwest Michigan and winds down the coast. A prominent feature of the drive is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore where you can explore 35 miles (56 km) of beaches and dunes that were shaped by glaciers.

Picturesque towns line the route featuring shopping, dining and entertainment options for all tastes. If you are a fan of old-school boats, just a few miles south of the end of the route in Ludington, you can cap off your trip with a ferry ride to Manitowoc, Wis., (only $40 for motorcycles one-way).

Learn more about Michigan Highway 22 here.

Add one (or all) of these 4 fantastic Midwest motorcycle rides to your itinerary this summer.

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