Progressive IMS Outdoors (IMS) has announced its locations for the 2021 tour, spanning California, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia. From July to November, IMS promises on-road demo rides from leading manufacturers, including Harley-Davidson and the new 2021 Pan America 1250, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha, Royal Enfield, Zero and more; Side x Side demos (in select markets), riding courses, premier gear, parts and accessory brands; attractions and entertainment, camping overnight (in select cities), and much more.
“The IMS family cannot wait to bring the Powersports community together at our shows, including both returning and new members,” said Tracy Harris, Senior Vice President, IMS. “Each venue across our tour allows our IMS team, alongside our sponsors, including title sponsor Progressive, and exhibiting OEMs and brands, to offer incredibly unique experiences to our attendees. No matter who walks the grounds, there will be something geared toward your liking.”
If you’re planning to attend any of the IMS events across the country, why not combine the events with some spectacular ADV riding? From California all the way to New York and Florida, there’s no shortage of scenic routes, off-road trails, and twisty mountain roads to explore in combination with attending the IMS events.
Here are our nine favorite scenic routes near or around the IMS locations from July to November:
1. Northern California: July 16–18 (Sonoma Raceway)
Yosemite National Park
Giant sequoia trees, massive granite formations, mountain twisties, and breathtaking cliff views: Yosemite National Park is perfect for adventure motorcycling, especially during the summer. Most of the park is situated at higher altitude, keeping the temperatures cool, and there’s so much to see and do it’s best to explore Yosemite over the course of a couple of days.
If you’re coming from San Francisco, you can either ride across Yosemite via Route 120 or design your own Yosemite Loop taking Route 120, then turning off on Big Oak Flat Road to see the famous El Capitan, an enormous cliff towering above Yosemite Valley, and the Dead Giant tunnel, an ancient dead sequoia you can ride through. Then, jump on Wawona Road, a narrow two-lane byway snaking south and offering plenty of curves and turns, spectacular views of the granite towers, and the forested slopes of Sierra Nevada. At Oakhurst, turn back west to return to San Francisco or, if you have the time, add Kings Canyon National Park or Death Valley to the adventure.
If you’re planning to stay overnight, Yosemite Village has plenty of lodging options; however, it’s best to book ahead as it gets busy during the summer months.
Yosemite National Park is half a day’s ride from the Sonoma Raceway location, and you can combine the event, the ride, and the Yosemite adventure within a four- or three-day outing. Alternatively, after you’ve explored Yosemite, you can head back southwest and ride a section of the Pacific Coast Highway and Big Sur, easily the most scenic part of the highway, back to San Francisco.
Leaving San Francisco to Yosemite, make sure to stay on smaller backroads like Route 130 crossing the Henry W. Coe State Park or explore the Stanislaus National Forest area if you choose to ride in from the north.
2. Chicago (Pingree, IL): August 20–22 (Goebbert’s Farm)
Scenic Ride to Starved Rock State Park
If you’re planning to attend the IMS event in Chicago and looking for a scenic day ride around the city, Starved Rock State Park might be your best bet. The road from Ottawa to Utica is surprisingly hilly and twisty, running alongside the Illinois River and revealing forested riverbanks and hills. The ride to Ottawa from Chicago is mere 80 miles, and the last 10 miles to the park are the most scenic (and curvy) of them all.
The Starved Rock State Park itself is best known for its otherworldly sandstone rock formations eroded in fascinating swirls and stone walls. If you have the time, leave the bike at the starved Rock Visitor Center (there are two parking lots available) and take a hike to see the canyons and the magnificent waterfalls, especially the French Canyon shaped like a horseshoe located just two miles from the Visitor Center.
Although the waterfalls are at their most beautiful during the spring when the water is higher, Starved Rock is just as stunning during the summer months. Eighteen canyons with vertical walls, sandstone bluffs, and waterfalls make Starved Rock an exceptional place to explore and to get away from Chicago’s hustle and bustle, even if it’s just for a day.
The Ottawa–Utica route is best ridden earlier in the morning to avoid the tourist crowds, but since a lot of the traffic is made up of motorcyclists, you’ll feel right at home.
To come back to Chicago, cross the Illinois River heading towards North Utica and take Route 34, a quiet, two-lane backcountry road meandering across green farmlands all the way back to Ottawa.
Starved Rock is an excellent day’s ride, and combined with a little hiking and sightseeing, it can be the perfect prelude to the Chicago IMS.
3. NYC: September 3–5 (Brooklyn Army Terminal)
Scenic Catskills Loop
The Catskills Mountains, situated just a hundred miles North of New York City, make for a perfect day (or two, depending on your time limit) of adventure riding. Out here, narrow two-lane roads meander through beautiful country, and in September, you may see the turning leaves.
Starting in Harriman State Park, the Catskills Loop begins in twisty byways skirting lakeshores and forested hills. The Kanawauke Road crossing the Park offers plenty of gentle curves, and Seven Lakes Drive runs along the edge of Lake Tiorati revealing views of the water and the woodlands around it. Next up is Route 32 running north towards the Catskills at Gardnertown; jump on Route 52 leading into the mountains and cross the Catskills via the local network of narrow country lanes starting with Debruce Road just off Livingston Manor. Depending on your schedule, there are several different routes to take across the Catskills before returning to New York, all of them small, quiet backcountry byways snaking across the wilderness in twists and turns.
Along the way, there are plenty of quirky little towns boasting great food and lodging options as well as artisan cideries and bohemian communities; the Catskills Loop is popular among local motorcyclists, so you’re guaranteed to meet like-minded souls along the way.
The best part about the Catskills is that it offers so much great riding and nature just outside of New York City, and you can make it a day’s ride or a three-day outing after or before the IMS event designing your own route: there are several scenic routes to take, whether you’re doing a loop or heading somewhere else afterwards. If you’re planning to stay for a while, the Catskills offer great hiking trails, campsites, and other ADV-worthy outdoors activities in the area.
4. Pennsylvania: September 10–12 (Carlisle Fairgrounds)
Allegheny National Forest Loop
Rugged hills, mountain views, and twisty country roads may not be what you imagine when you think of riding Pennsylvania, but that’s precisely what Allegheny National Forest has to offer. Situated 180 miles from the Carlisle Fairgrounds where the IMS event is taking place in September, Allegheny is best explored over the course of several days: Route 666, a narrow backcountry road crossing the Forest, is the best route to start your adventure. You can either cross Allegheny National Forest via Route 666 or ride a loop taking the 666 West, then returning via Route 6 on the northern side of the Forest.
Along the way, you’ll ride hilly, twisty little roads leading deep into the wild and rugged country of lumber barons, jaw-dropping scenery, and elevations of over 2,000 feet. Allegheny National Forest is situated at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and there are plenty of hiking and camping options along the way if you’re planning a two- or three-day ride.
For those looking for some dirt biking therapy, there are off-road trails available between Marienville and Penoke (just off route 66). Go easy on that throttle, though, as these trails are popular among local dual-sport and ATV riders.
The September weather in Allegheny is perfect for motorcycling, but you may encounter some rain, and the temperatures will be cooler at higher elevations, so be sure to layer up for the ride.
If you’re riding the Allegheny loop, towns like Ludlow are great for food and lodging, and there are several scenic lookout points at Tionesta Natural Area and Kinzua Bridge to check out along the way.
5. Texas (Fort Worth, TX): October 1–3 (Texas Motor Speedway)
Twisted Sisters Ride
Twisted Sisters, a network of three insanely twisty roads, are Texas’s best kept secret. Situated 300 miles south of Dallas, Twisted Sisters is a true hidden motorcycling gem consisting of Ranch roads 335, 336, and 337 in Hill Country. These three roads form a perfect loop following canyons and rolling hills and, often dubbed the Texan Tail of the Dragon, the Twisted Sisters offer up a crazy amount of sharp turns and unexpected curves—so much so that riders often choose to do this route twice.
Some of the blind corners of the Twisted Sisters are unexpectedly sharp, so keep the throttle steady and mind the cattle guards and wandering livestock—after all, this is pure Texas ranch country. In October, the temperatures will be much milder than during the summer months, but you may still want to jump in one of the swimming holes along the way.
Before you embark on the Twisted Sisters adventure, fill up with gas in Medina as there won’t be a lot of fuel options along the way. If you’re starting in Medina in the morning, the local Keese’s Café is the most popular among local and visiting riders, and if you have the time, take a detour via Route 187 and visit the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum, a tiny but quirky place boasting a collection of 60 motorcycles and a favorite hangout spot among local riders.
The town of Leaky marks the beginning of the second Sister, Route 336, where the curves are gentler, but there may be deer or livestock wandering into the road. The last Sister, route 335, will offer scenic views and lead back to Medina to complete the ride.
If you ride the Twisted Sisters on a weekend, you may spot photographers taking snapshots of riders as they lean into the curves; if you get caught on camera, photos are available at the TX Moto Foto website.
6. Nashville (Lebanon, TN): October 8–10 (James L Ward Agricultural Center)
If you’re attending the Nashville IMS event, you may want to take the Blue Ridge Parkway, hands-down the best motorcycle route in the Smoky Mountains, in or out of the city. However, if you can’t take off enough time to cover the entire Parkway, there is a lesser-known and shorter route that is just as spectacular and offers a taste of the Smoky Mountains: the Cherohala Skyway. In a way, Cherohala is a compact version of Blue Ridge: starting in Robbinsville and ending in Tellico Plains, it’s a mere 50-mile ride but it packs in so many curves and turns and so much breath-taking mountain scenery it more than makes up for the low miles.
Cherohala Skyway is a narrow mountain road rising to over 5,000 feet at times, and there are no gas stations or any other facilities on the route. It’s a lonely road offering jaw-dropping views of the mountains, and at times, the thick fog rolling over the road creates the sensation that you’re riding in the clouds. Cherohala Skyway is a perfect day’s ride with almost no traffic and several scenic stops along the way; in October, the temperatures will be cooler, and there may be wet leaves on the road, so go easy and watch your speed. As the route receives little traffic, there may be wildlife wandering into the road.
If Cherohala Skyway is too short a ride, add Tail of the Dragon situated just 16 miles north to your itinerary. If you plan to stay overnight, the Tail of the Dragon has several motorcycle-friendly lodging options in the area.
If you have the time, visit the Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum located 80 miles east of Cherohala in Maggie Valley. Maggie Valley also boasts several motorcycle-oriented motels and eateries, and the entire area has plenty of motorcycling roads to enjoy whether you’ll be heading back to Nashville or going east.
7. Central Florida (Lakeland, FL): October 15–17 (Sun n Fun Campus)
Florida’s Swamp and Off-Road Routes
Florida may not boast jaw-dropping mountain twisties, but when it comes to off-road and adventure riding, it has several locations worth checking out while you’re attending the IMS event in Lakeland. Just 40 miles outside of Lakeland, there’s the Croom Motorcycle Area, a 2,600-acre dirt biking paradise offering 40 miles of single track, sandy trails meandering through pine forests, and muddy pits for the truly adventurous. The Croom Motorcycle Area is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, and it can be a fantastic escape on your adventure or dual-sport bike before or after the IMS event. There is also an organized campsite if you’re hoping to ride for several days.
Another great location for dirt and dual-sport riding is Ocala National Forest located 80 miles north of Lakeland. Offering over a hundred miles of trails, Ocala is all about sandy single track and small jumps; the trails are open from dawn till dusk year-round.
Finally, there is a 100-mile trail system in the Osceola National Forest a little further north, best known for its muddy tracks and plentiful water crossings. There are no permits or fees required to ride Osceola, and there are basic campsites in the Forest if you’re planning to explore the area over several days. Osceola is open year-round.
If pure off-road riding and single-track challenges are a little too much, Florida has several scenic byways to explore on pavement. Route 19 across the Ocala National Forest is a tranquil, two-lane road meandering through serene countryside, and if all else fails, there’s always the Florida Keys route starting in Miami and offering a surreal ride across multiple bridges and islands surrounded by technicolor-blue water and Caribbean vibes.
8. Atlanta (Conyers, GA): October 29–31 (Georgia International Horse Park)
Chattahoochee National Forest Loop
For those planning to attend the Atlanta IMS event and looking for an adventure-packed escape before or after the event, Chattahoochee National Forest area is easily the best place to ride. Chattahoochee marks the beginning of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the entire area is crisscrossed by fantastic motorcycle roads twisting and turning around every mile. The best part is, Chattahoochee isn’t anywhere near as popular—and crowded—as the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway, and it offers a surprising amount of excellent curves and breathtaking mountain scenery.
Starting in Helen, take Route 348 west and enjoy the countless serpentines and sweeping bends surrounded by rock walls and dense forest. Route 348 is a narrow, two-lane mountain road with so many different twists and turns you may want to ride this route twice. Alternatively, take Route 180 south for a complete loop and ride to Suches; here, you can stay at Two Wheels Only campsite and lodge aimed at motorcycle riders only. Two Wheels Only receives thousands of riders every year, and it’s an unofficial motorcycling Mecca in Chattahoochee—if you have the time, this is the perfect place to overnight.
Next up is the equally curvy and exciting Route 129 back to Helen to complete the loop; or, if time permits, you can jump on Route 19 cutting across the Forest and ride Route 348 back to enjoy the crazy switchbacks again.
If you have several days to explore Chattahoochee, there’s no shortage of scenic byways and motorcycling routes to ride, and you’re guaranteed to meet other riders along the way. If you’re heading north after the Atlanta event, add Cherohala Skyway, Maggie Valley, and Blue Ridge Parkway to your route.
9. Southern California: November 19-21 (TBA)
Joshua Tree National Park Loop
Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most motorcycle-friendly and accessible parks in the U.S. Stretching for over 1,200 square miles, Joshua Tree boasts incredible scenery of rock formations, boulders, and the famed Joshua trees decorating the desert landscape. Joshua Tree can be easily explored via the paved route cutting across the park, a two-lane road shooting off Route 62 at Twentynine Palms in the north and connecting with Route 10 in the south.
Joshua Tree can be a day’s ride or, if you have the time, it can be explored over several days as there are several campsites within the park boundaries. Some of the biggest highlights in Joshua Tree include the large monolithic rock formations, the Keys View vista of San Andreas Fault, and the Cholla Cactus Garden. Joshua Tree is where the Colorado and Mojave deserts meet, creating a landscape so stunning you may want to explore the area for a few days.
If you have the time and love the vibes of the Old West, visit Pioneertown on the outskirts of Joshua Tree National Park boasting authentic bars and saloons—so much so that the town was used as a movie set for old Westerns.
Whether you’re entering the park via the northern or southern entrance, don’t forget to stop at the rangers’ station and get your ticket—you will be asked to show it when you leave. In addition, be sure to gas up before heading into Joshua Tree as there are no gas stations within the park area.
Joshua Tree is also perfect for off-road riding: if you’re ready to leave pavement, Joshua Tree has several great dirt roads like the Old Dale Road, Berdoo Canyon, and Brooklyn Mine Road. Sand, hard-packed dirt, and otherworldly landscapes are perfect for dual-sport and dirt biking, but don’t forget to carry fuel and water—even in the fall, temperatures in Joshua Tree can be hot.
From paved routes to off-road trails and from mountain twisties to flatland single track, there’s no shortage of exciting ADV routes around every single IMS stop this year. What are your favorite ADV rides in these areas? Share your favorite rides in the comments below!
This Post was kindly sponsored by IMS Outdoors. Thank you IMS for supporting ADVrider.