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Motorcycle Road Trip: Red Rock Country

Courtesy of Gary McKechnie

This 400-odd-mile trip could be titled, “The Best of the West.” From the Old West (and New Age) town of Sedona, you’ll drop in on a stretch of Route 66, visit one of the most recognizable canyons on Earth, take a dip in a lake with a 2,000-mile shoreline, and wrap things up in one of the most stunningly gorgeous national parks . . . ever. The iconic Western scenes—not to mention the miles of “magnificent desolation” (which was Buzz Aldrin’s take on the lunar landscape)—will free your spirit .

The Highway that’s the Best

Courtesy of Nancy Howell

En route to the starting line in Sedona, consider a pit stop/photo op along Route 66 in the town of Seligman, Arizona. Although Route 66 has largely been replaced by a series of interstate highways, its legend has never dimmed.

Paying tribute to America’s Mother Road is a great way to kick start your own journey (as I did on my Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1700).

Sedona Rocks!

If you’ve never visited Sedona (or even if you have), you might not know that the Cowboy Artists of America began here in the restaurant known as the Cowboy Club Grille & Spirits. This is a town filled with artists, outdoor enthusiasts, and New Age practitioners—-but, in truth, Sedona is itself a work of art.

Courtesy of Gary McKechnieThanks to the surrounding red-rock mountains, Sedona also feels a little otherworldly—maybe a bit like Mars, even. At sunset, many people head to a promontory on Airport Road to catch the glow of twilight upon the red rocks. During the day, an armada of Jeeps takes trekkers on rocking and rolling tours up to rugged hill trails—trails punishing enough to demolish your motorcycle.

Forward into the Past                   

Courtesy of Gary McKechnieEn route from Sedona to the Grand Canyon, don’t miss the town of Williams, which sits on the last section of fabled Route 66 to be bypassed by Interstate 40.

With retro diners, nightclubs, motor courts, and plenty of neon, downtown feels suspended in the 1950s.

Keeping things even more firmly frozen in time is the historical (and don’t-miss) Grand Canyon Railway. It leaves Williams daily at 9:30 am for a stunning 2¼-hour journey across the desert plains and into the national park, departing from there at 3:30 pm for the return trip.

Sunrise, Sunset

The Grand Canyon looks different every time you see it. The absence or presence of rain and snow create different scenes every season.Throughout each day, but particularly at daybreak and dusk, the vistas seem to change with every variance of light and shadow.

Courtesy of Gary McKechnieIn high season, shuttle buses ferry you to western overlooks on the South Rim—putting you a little closer to some of the most fantastic light shows on earth.

Heading east out of Grand Canyon National Park, you’ll eventually reach Mary Colter’s Watchtower. Built at Desert View in 1932 as an observation tower, the 70-foot-high structure resembles an ancient pueblo watchtower (it’s laced with art inspired by tribal designs) and offers one of the canyon’s most dramatic overlooks.

C’mon in! The Water’s Fine!

Created with the assistance of the Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell seeps through sublime passages and into slot canyons to create a fluid and surreal scene.

Courtesy of Gary McKechnieDuring an entertaining and educational tour departing from Antelope Point Marina, the captain might run the pontoon boat aground so you can take a dip in the clear, bracing waters.


There’s no way that a small photo can convey the size of the Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Arizona. It’s 1,560 feet across, 710 feet high, and 300 feet thick at the bottom.

CCourtesy of Gary McKechnieAnd even though it’s holding back Lake Powell—whose shoreline measures roughly 2,000 miles—this massive dam and equally massive lake are just two small facets of the 1.25 million-acre Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Gateway to Paradise

Although often overshadowed by Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and other western national parks, Zion National Park’s all-encompassing beauty puts it on par with any of its peers. Although it covers a mere 0.01% of Utah’s land area, it’s home to more than 70% of the state’s native plant species.

Courtesy of Gary McKechnieIt also has spectacular plateaus, canyons, and waterfalls; hanging gardens; forested side canyons; the fabled Narrows; and the wonderful Zion Lodge. If you can’t stay in the park, nearby Springdale has motor courts that are great for motorcyclists.

You could spend a day (or even 365 of them) in Zion National Park, and you’d still never get enough. You’ll appreciate the park even more when you “hike the Narrows,” that is, the river-cut route through rock passages that are between 60 and 100 million years old. From the park’s far reaches, at the rock formation known as the Temple of Sinawava, a path leads to the waterway, where hikers carrying walking sticks and dry bags head into sloshing canyon waters en route to views seldom seen by anyone.

Editor’s Note: This is the third piece in our eight-part series on motorcycle travel by Gary McKechnie, author of Great American Motorcycle Tours, which has just been released in its fifth edition. To prep for a trip like this, be sure to read the first two articles in Travel Tips.