Of the 1,433 miles that Interstate 15 runs north and south from Mexico to Canada, there is no other 14 mile stretch more beautiful and pleasurable as the Virgin River Gorge.
It runs entirely through the State of Arizona, in the north-west corner of the State, following the Virgin River through a twisting, winding canyon in the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau.
Riding the super-slab has never been my preferred choice of thoroughfare, being something more of a last resort. But this section of the I-15 offers breathtaking views and throws in some fun sweepers too.
When this stretch of the freeway opened up in 1972, it was hailed as one of the most scenic portions of Interstate in the USA, as well as one of the most expensive, with numerous bridges and roadways perched atop the canyon walls of the Virgin River Gorge. At a cost of $1 million per mile, it was declared an “engineering marvel” of the Interstate System.
The curves are wide, but are a blast to ride through. Even though curve signs are posted for 55mph, you can easily glide through them on a motorcycle at 80, flying smoothly over the recently repaved highway as you’re treated to views of majestic canyon walls jutting up from the road. However, be on the lookout for Arizona Highway Patrol, it’s said that they frequently harvest funds out of this portion of the Interstate.
Fortunately for Sash and I, we didn’t encounter any.
About halfway through the Virgin River Gorge, off of Exit 18, is the Virgin River Gorge Campground, run by the Bureau of Land Management. There are hiking trails and 75 developed campsites, in case you feel like spending more time here.
The only other section of the federal Interstate system I can think of that offers similarly breathtaking views and sweeping curves one after another, is the Glenwood Canyon section of the I-70 through the Colorado Rockies.
Most riders in California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona have long experienced the Virgin River Gorge. For those of you elsewhere, make a point to give it a ride.