The Ten Best Paved Motorcycle Roads in America
Part Five of an Eleven Part Series
By Mark ‘Buck’ King
Over the last fifteen years I have had the privilege and blessing to have ridden almost all of the top motorcycle roads in the country. Practically every bike magazine and web site has at one time or another published their own list of the top roads. All the lists are a little different. Some list many of the same roads, but in a different order. Some add a different road and leave another out. I really don’t think anyone can rank these roads for anyone but themselves. Your opinion might be quite different from mine, but you won’t know that until you ride these roads for yourself. So I encourage you to quit reading articles like this and get out there and ride them for yourself!
So why eleven parts to the series on the top ten roads? That’s because there are many GREAT roads that didn’t make my top ten that just might be on YOUR top ten lists.
Part Five – Icefields Parkway #5
To add my fifth ranked road I must cheat a little on my own definition of the list as American roads. So the cheat is to define America as North America. So now we are all OK with adding this magnificent Canadian road, eh? We just might have to do this again before the list is complete, eh?
The Canadian Rockies are a special place and most folks have a soft spot for them that may have been set for us as children when we watched Dudley Do-Right cartoons.
The Icefields Parkway is Canadian Highway 93 that connects Lake Louise in the south in Alberta with Jasper to the North about 230 km or 140 miles. The road was completed in 1940. It parallels the continental divide and offers spectacular views of the Canadian Rockies along with a close encounter with the Columbia Icefields glacier for which the road is named. You will also see many other glaciers, waterfalls cascading from dramatic rock spires, and emerald lakes set in sweeping valleys.
You must purchase a Canadian National Park permit to travel on the Icefields Parkway. I don’t remember the exact fee but the ride was well worth it. The parkway is actually open year round but is busiest in July and August with up to 100,000 vehicles a month. In winter, chains or all-season radial tires are required by law and road closures are not uncommon. The parkway is mainly two lanes with occasional passing lanes. Commercial trucks are prohibited. The speed limit is 90 km/h (55 mph) although the limit is reduced at Saskatchewan River Crossing and the Columbia Icefield area. You must look out for wildlife, and vehicles stopped on the shoulder to view the scenery or the wildlife, especially the elusive Canadian moose.
Because snow can be expected here at any time of the year I would advise planning your visit in July or August. I believe we were there in July and it was pretty cold and overcast for us, but at least we didn’t see any snow.
A good strategy to ride this road is to set up base in Lake Louise and ride to Jasper for lunch and then back to Lake Louise.
We noted an unusual green tint to the water in the streams formed by the glacier melt. A little research revealed that in glacier melt water tiny bits of ground-up stone, silt, moss, algae, and dust are suspended in the water and will sometimes color the water. Also, glacial melt in a stream will transmit light down to the stony stream bed and then be reflected back up affecting the color of the water. In this case the water had a milky-green tint.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words so here are some pictures from our ride.
Click this link for a detailed list of the points of interest along the Icefields Parkway:
After you ride this road and get back to Lake Louise, enjoy a great dinner, go back to your motel, light up a good cigar and say, “Ole Buck was right about this one, too!”
The next article in the series is coming soon to the BMWMCON web site.
#1 is the best road in my opinion so this is my list to this point:
#1 Beartooth Highway and the Chief Joseph Highway
#2 San Juan Skyway
#3 Pacific Coast Highway
#4 Going to the Sun Road
#5 Icefields Parkway