Motorcycling Riverside County

Riverside County has quite a few good roads for motorcycling. The wide variety of roads available, ranging from twisty mountain roads to long desert trails. This site will cover mostly western Riverside County with the eastern portion coming when I get the time to get out that way.

Ortega Highway is a scenic and twisty mountain road that runs across the Santa Ana Mountains between San Juan Capistrano in Orange County to Lake Elsinore in Riverside County. The roadway is quite popular with motorcyclists and they come from all over to ride here. Weekends are busiest and that does come with a few considerations. Traffic counts are quite high for a roadway with only two lanes and minimal safe passing areas. I always recommend caution on this roadway, particularly through the narrow canyon section in the middle. Rocks and sand can be sometimes found on the roadway through that section as well. There is a usually good area for passing just west of the San Juan Fire Station on the Orange County side. Most of the other areas are limited in length.

  • State 74 – Pines to Palms Highway

State 74, east of Hemet to Palm Desert, is another great roadway to ride. Leaving the town of Hemet on the western end, the roadway climbs up a steep and winding grade with nice sweeping curves through the first few miles. After the first semi-switchback, the roadway has a couple of passing lanes in a section that some locals have dubbed the “Slalom” due to its very twisty nature. After the roadway tops out just east of Mountain Center, the roadway becomes fairly flat and linear. It isn’t until after the junction with State 371 that is becomes more interesting. The section between 371 and Palm Desert offers a somewhat unique bit of roadway. Known as “Seven Level Hill”, the roadway passes through multiple switchbacks culminating at a vista point with a spectacular view of the Coachella Valley. A ride over Seven Level Hill is indeed a trip to remember.

As with any other mountain road, watch out for rocks and sand in the roadway, especially from Hemet to State 243 and through Seven Level Hill. Fuel and food are also limited so keep that in mind for longer rides or transmountain journeys.

  • State 243 – Banning / Idyllwild Highway

This is a beautiful roadway that runs from the Banning Pass in Beaumont through Idyllwild to State 74 in Mountain Center. From its northern end, it starts with a decent grade with large sweeping switchback turns until it reaches the forest. Once in the forest, the overall curvature isn’t too bad. There aren’t many curves posted below 30 mph until near Idyllwild. Through town, it is a bit slow and pretty much stays that way until State 74. Now, being a mountain road, where snow tends to stay during winter, there are a few issues. Until it gets repaved, the roadway is cracked in many places fairly regularly. This doesn’t mean potholes, but does mean bumps in curves. With the snow comes sand, and that sand stays most of the year. Sometimes it isn’t that bad but over the summer of 2015, I found many curves with sand in all the wrong places. There are also very few places to get fuel along the road. From Hwy 74 to I-10, there is really only one gas station in Idyllwild to fill up at. I recommend getting food and fuel there if you’re coming through the area.

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