Tag Archives: Backcountry Discovery Routes

Border to Border on the Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
Greg’s BMW taking a dirt nap along the Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route. Photos by Greg Drevenstedt.

This story is about a ride that took place in 2013 on the original Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route, which was developed by the Oregon Off-Highway Vehicle Association. The nonprofit Backcountry Discovery Routes organization developed a new ORBDR that was released in 2023. For more information, visit the Backcountry Discovery Routes website. –Ed.

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
Route 5 of the original ORBDR includes hundreds of miles of gravel roads much like this one, plus a decent helping of dirt, sand, rock gardens, and river crossings.

When your bike topples over in the middle of nowhere, when your bike and its week’s worth of gear weigh more than 600 lb, when you’re hot and sweaty and tired, it’s good to have friends along to lend a hand.

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
At the California-Oregon border before venturing off-pavement on the ORBDR.

We were three days and nearly 300 miles into the 750-mile, California-to-Washington Route 5 of the Oregon Backcountry Discovery Routes (ORBDR), a network of off-road routes crisscrossing the state’s vast national forests. While struggling my way up a technical jeep road full of embedded rocks, I high-centered the BMW’s skid plate, dabbed my left foot into a hole, lost my balance, and toppled over in a big, dusty heap.

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla

Lead rider Paul was off in the distance, so sweep rider Marten navigated around me, parked his bike on a level spot, and came back to help. Other than some badge-of-honor scratches on the bike, the only damage was to my pride, and I was soon making forward progress again.

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
Just a few miles into the ORBDR, we took a spur road to the summit of 8,000-foot Crane Mountain, where we enjoyed 360-degree views of California and Oregon.

Backcountry Discovery Routes is a nonprofit organization that establishes and preserves off-highway routes for dual-sport and adventure motorcycles. BDR has mapped and documented north-south routes in most states west of the Rockies as well as mid-Atlantic and Northeast routes and shorter BDR-X routes. Inspiration for these routes came from the ORBDR, which, according to BDR’s website, “was created a few decades ago by Bob and Cheryl Greenstreet as a concept to promote managed travel in the backcountry” and is maintained by the Oregon Off-Highway Vehicle Association.

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
The view from Fremont Point on Oregon’s Winter Rim.

Paul, Marten, and I wanted to ride the granddaddy of the Backcountry Discovery Routes, so I bought paper maps for Route 5 from OOHVA and Paul spent two weeks creating GPS tracks for us. (GPS tracks are now available upon request when maps are purchased from OOHVA.) Since most of the ORBDR is at 4,000-8,000 feet of elevation, we planned our trip for August to avoid snowpack.

A long-time adventure-riding and homebrewing buddy of mine, Paul Beck, is a computer guy. Since he created our tracks and led our group (his GPS was the only one that worked reliably), we dubbed him the Navigator. Marten Walkker, another riding buddy, is a master carpenter. He made his own tailbag, auxiliary gas tank, toolbox, and highway pegs for this trip, so we called him the Fabricator. And since I kept a journal, shot photos, and sent daily postcards to my wife, I became the Chronicler.

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
The Three Amigos at Fremont Point, 3,000 feet above seasonally dry Summer Lake.

Similar in pace and temperament and always ready for a quick laugh, we were compatible travelers, like the Three Amigos. We were all of German descent and riding BMWs – Paul on an R 1200 GS, Marten on a G 650 Xchallenge, and me on an F 800 GS Adventure – so Drei Freunde is more accurate, but it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
We had to cross the high desert through Christmas Valley to get from the mountains of Fremont National Forest to the mountains of Malheur National Forest.

Departing from Ventura on California’s southern coast, our first 750 miles were on pavement as we made our way up to the northeastern corner of the state. A half-mile before the Oregon border on the afternoon of our second day, we turned from U.S. Route 395 onto the unpaved County Road 2 and entered Modoc National Forest as we climbed into the Warner Mountains. We had to shift our brains from the grip and monotony of wide-open pavement to the delicate balance of riding top-heavy adventure bikes on loose, uneven dirt and gravel. The road leveled out within a few miles, and we turned north, passing through the green meadows of the (not so) Dismal Swamp and crossing into Oregon.

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
River crossings are nerve-racking with an audience of forest service workers, but Marten made it through like a pro.

After riding a challenging spur road up to the top of 8,000-foot Crane Mountain for panoramic views and navigating through a herd of cows, we stopped at Willow Creek Campground, which was deserted. We crossed a cattle guard to get into the campground, and even though it was surrounded by a fence, we still had to pick our way through a minefield of cow patties to set up our tents. After bathing and rinsing out our sweaty clothes in the creek (but not drinking the water), we fortified ourselves with backpacker meals and relaxed around the campfire, swapping stories and sipping whiskey.

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
Cooling off in Delintment Lake in Malheur National Forest.

The OOHVA’s detailed, full-color ORBDR map booklets offer the following words of advice: “Your journey will be one of few contacts with others. One needs to plan for being self-sufficient. Travel with others is highly recommended. If one’s means of transport fails, it can be a really, really long hike, and it could be many days before someone comes along.”

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
The early bird gets to enjoy the sunrise.

Over the course of five days on the ORBDR, we saw only a handful of people – a few ranchers, a couple of 4×4 trucks, and the occasional hunter. We traveled as a group, each of us brought our own food, water, and gear, and we carried a SPOT satellite tracker/communicator. Gas was available every 100 miles or so, often in small towns or at convenience stores near the route, and we filled up our tanks and hydration backpacks at every opportunity.

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
Lunch stops at local cafes provided welcome relief from the hot, dusty trail.

“Much energy has been spent to provide you with maps that provide the information needed to successfully navigate without on-ground signs,” says the OOHVA. We saw only a few faded, old ORBDR signs over the entire 750-mile route.

See all of Rider‘s Western U.S. motorcycle rides here.

“The development of route was financed by the Oregon ATV Allocation Funds,” said Leonard Kerns, president of the OOHVA, in a blog on Touratech-USA’s website. “On-the-ground signs were placed and the route was dedicated in the summer of 2000. Unfortunately, it did not take long for people opposed to the route to bring legal action. Support from the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management was lost and all remaining funds were used to remove the signs. At that point, OOHVA stepped in and created the maps using GPS to navigate.”

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
Breakfast of champions.

The ORBDR is on public land, so anyone can travel the route using a street-legal vehicle, but much of it passes through areas used for grazing and logging. We crossed dozens of cattle guards and stopped often to open and close barbed-wire gates. Forest land in central and eastern Oregon is all but empty, yet it’s crisscrossed with so many access roads that without GPS tracks and paper maps, getting lost is all but assured.

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
Even with GPS tracks, sometimes we hit dead ends and had to find a way back to the correct trail.
Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
One of several massive fallen trees we had to navigate around since going over wasn’t an option!

The OOHVA’s maps were created in 2002, and in the years since, some roads have been closed and new ones have been cut. Even following the purple line on Paul’s GPS, we still made wrong turns or hit dead-ends and had to figure out how to re-route ourselves. We also encountered the unexpected, such as fallen trees and man-made barricades. Therein lies the adventure. Riding a backcountry route is not like following the Yellow Brick Road; it requires not only preparation and riding skills but also teamwork, patience, and adaptability.

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
Being far from anywhere, we had campgrounds largely to ourselves and were fortunate to have either a stream or lake nearby.

We quickly established a routine: waking early to heat up water for coffee and oatmeal using portable stoves, breaking camp, riding for several hours, stopping for lunch and gas, riding for several more hours, then stopping early to set up camp and relax. Paul was always in the lead, which meant his gear stayed clean and we had someone to blame for wrong turns. I followed Paul and Marten followed me, and even with space between us the dust filled our noses and covered our gear, making zippers and buckles hard to open and close. We planned to camp every night, but it didn’t work out that way, to our surprise and benefit.

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
Lead rider Paul stayed clean; sweep rider Marten stayed dirty.

During our five days on the ORBDR, we experienced a steady stream of good luck. We enjoyed mostly warm, dry weather and had no flat tires, breakdowns, or injuries. Rather than eating jerky and energy bars for lunch, we usually found a cafe in a small town where we’d refresh ourselves with air conditioning, limitless iced tea, and other luxuries, and there was always a gas station nearby to fill up and resupply.

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
We smelled smoke but had no idea the 1,000-acre Vinegar Fire was burning in the area until we popped out of the trees and came upon this U.S. Forest Service fire security truck. Our route was supposed to go down that gravel road in the distance, but we were re-routed onto pavement to the town of Ukiah.

During the three nights we camped, there was either a cool stream or a lake we could swim in to wash off the dust and relax our creaky joints. On our second day on the ORBDR, after a challenging, tiring section with lots of sand and rocks, we ended up in the town of Christmas Valley, where the Lakeview Terrace motel/restaurant spoiled us with cheeseburgers, fries, cold beers, hot showers, and soft beds.

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
Antlers Inn in Ukiah has a room-size meat cooler to store your game.

Even when we had to leave the ORBDR to route around the 1,000-acre Vinegar Fire, we got to ride 50 miles on the freshly paved Blue Mountain Scenic Byway and ended up in Ukiah on a damp, foggy night. Instead of pitching tents and eating freeze-dried meals in the rain, we stayed warm and dry at the Antlers Inn and savored burgers and beers at the Thicket Cafe & Bar. We enjoy roughing it, but we’re not too proud to take advantage of good fortune when it lands in our laps.

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
Chris ran the Antlers Inn and served us at the Thicket Cafe & Bar, where she recommended an Oregon-distilled whiskey.

Our five days and three nights on the ORBDR provided us with as much adventure as we could hope for. We rode more than 700 miles on dirt and gravel roads through the backcountry of Oregon, through dense forests, across high-desert plains, along mountain ridges, away from cities and people and normal obligations. We rode through rock gardens and sand washes, forded rivers, and navigated over or around countless obstacles, challenging ourselves and having fun. We had campgrounds to ourselves, where we enjoyed star-filled nights and soul-warming campfires, and we stumbled upon cozy motels and restaurants, where we enjoyed creature comforts.

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
We were treated to some of the best scenery of the ORBDR, such as wide-ranging views from Kendall Skyline Road in Umatilla National Forest, on the final day.

Paul, Marten, and I – the Navigator, Fabricator, and Chronicler – bonded over the experience. When we reached Walla Walla, Washington, the northern terminus of the ORBDR, having ridden 1,500 miles together, we high-fived and celebrated our shared accomplishment. The next day we headed off in different directions, Paul to Seattle, Marten to Calgary, and me home to Ventura, completing an Iron Butt SaddleSore 1000 in the process, but that’s another story.

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route ORBDR The Long Way to Walla Walla
After five days and 750 long-and-dusty, not-so-straight south-to-north miles, we completed Route 5 of the ORBDR and arrived in Walla Walla, Washington.

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route Resources

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Backcountry Discovery Routes | Ep. 70 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

Rider Magazine Insider Podcast Episode 70 Backcountry Discovery Routes

Our guests on Episode 70 of the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast are Paul Guillien and Ron West of the Backcountry Discovery Routes organization, which is a nonprofit that creates off-highway routes for dual-sport and adventure motorcycle travel and recreation. The newest Backcountry Discover Route is in Northern California and covers 940 miles off-pavement from Mammoth Lakes to the high desert of the Modoc Plateau at the Oregon border.

LINKS: RideBDR.com, @ridebdr on Instagram, Backcountry Discover Routes on Facebook

You can check out Episode 70 on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPodbean, and YouTube or via the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast webpage. Please subscribe, leave us a 5-star rating, and tell your friends! Scroll down for a list of previous episodes.

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Northern California Backcountry Discovery Route Expedition Film

Northern California Backcountry Discovery Route Expedition Documentary Film

Backcountry Discovery Routes has released news on an upcoming film about its new Northern California Backcountry Discovery Route (CABDR-North). The film is scheduled to premiere on Feb. 17 at the Sofia Performing Arts Center in Sacramento, California, before a three-month tour.

The adventure motorcycling non-profit Backcountry Discover Routes works to responsibly create adventure and dual-sport motorcycling routes. The company’s recent Economic Impact Study white paper shows that BDR has brought in $60 million to BDR-related areas and small communities during 2023.

Related: Backcountry Discovery Routes Announces Economic Impact of BDR Routes

Upon the film’s premiere, the company will release free GPS tracks, a digital map, FAQs, and travel resources on the BDR website, and a waterproof map of the route can be purchased on the online store.

Related: Riding South Dakota’s Black Hills BDR-X

For more information on the film and the CABDR-North route, read the press release below, and find the film’s trailer at the bottom.


Northern California Backcountry Discovery Route Expedition Documentary Film

The adventure motorcycling non-profit Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDR) has just released the trailer for their upcoming Northern California Backcountry Discovery Route (CABDR-North) Expedition documentary film. The feature-length film premieres on Feb. 17 at the Sofia Performing Arts Center (Sutter Theatre) in Sacramento, California, kicking off a three-month tour with over 80 film screenings planned at motorcycle dealerships and clubs across the country.

The CABDR-North represents the organization’s 13th route for adventure and dual-sport motorcycle travel, with free GPS tracks, travel resources, and BDR Motorcycle Map scheduled to accompany the film’s debut.

Motorcycle dealerships and clubs interested in hosting an CABDR-North film screening can reserve their tour date on the BDR website.

Riders looking to help BDR continue on its mission of creating and preserving ADV riding opportunities should consider joining the BDR Annual Supporter Program featuring exclusive BDR swag and industry discounts from over 40 adventure brands.

Northern California Backcountry Discovery Route Expedition Documentary Film

About the Northern California Backcountry Discovery Route & Film

The Northern California Backcountry Discovery Route expedition film features members of the BDR team and special guests from both BMW Motorrad USA and Zero Motorcycles as they take a first run on the all-new route, immersing themselves in Northern California’s captivating blend of landscapes, terrain, and history.

Starting in Mammoth Lakes, California, atop Minaret Vista, the 940-mile route traverses the Great Sierra Nevada Range’s conifer forests, mountain meadows, and gentle slopes, concluding in the high desert of the Modoc Plateau just north of Alturas, California, at the Oregon border. Riders enjoy blissful forested two-tracks, tackle rugged canyon, and mountain roads and ascend peaks to fire lookouts with unparalleled, 360-degree views.

Northern California Backcountry Discovery Route Expedition Documentary Film

Highlights of the route include quaint towns nestled in the High Sierra’s folds, with their historic inns dating back to the 1880s. Beyond the thrill of the twisty roads and scenic vistas, riders can delve into California history, discover relics of mining towns, and witness geological wonders.

The route caters to riders of varying skill levels and offers optional challenging sections, plus three expert segments.

Northern California Backcountry Discovery Route Expedition Documentary Film

“California.… The mere utterance of the word evokes a vision and emotion expressed in countless song and prose dedicated to a place called ‘California,’” said Ron West, Northern California BDR Route architect and BDR board member. “The birthplace of Disneyland is also nothing short of a Magic Kingdom for the adventure rider. This route, born of countless scouting trips over the last five years, captures the essence of a remote and beautiful Northern California, one that may be difficult for the casual tourist to comprehend. But we found it! Just as adventurers before you from California’s earliest days seeking gold or a new beginning, so can you find your adventure by simply downloading and following the tracks laid before you. Eureka!”

Northern California Backcountry Discovery Route Expedition Documentary Film

Route Release & Film Tour

The Official Film Premiere of the CABDR-North documentary will be on Saturday, Feb. 17 at 5 p.m. PST at the Sofia Performing Arts Center (Sutter Theatre) in Sacramento, California, featuring representatives from BDR, BMW Motorrad USA, Zero Motorcycles, and select industry partners and journalists.

Free GPS tracks, digital map, FAQs, and travel resources will be released on February 17th at 12 noon PST on the BDR website. The waterproof CABDR-North motorcycle map will be available for purchase at the BDR Online Store.

Northern California Backcountry Discovery Route Expedition Documentary Film

For those in Southern California, BDR is hosting a film screening and a mini-ADV Expo event on March 16 in the Los Angeles Arts District, at Bike Shed, a 30,000 square foot moto-venue, with a bar and restaurant, multi-brand retail space, barbershop, tattoo studio, and gallery space. During the day, the event is open to the public for free from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., featuring representatives from major ADV brands and BDR industry partners, as well as OEM demo rides. The film screening will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the gallery space with admission tickets sold on the BDR website.

Every year, nearly 100 motorcycle dealerships and clubs across the country host screenings of the BDR organization’s newest film. Check the Film Tour page for a schedule of upcoming CABDR-North premieres and join your fellow adventure enthusiasts for an exciting evening of adventure motorcycle film entertainment.

Dealerships and/or clubs interested in hosting a film screening can get more information and reserve their screening date on the BDR Dealership Page.

Northern California Backcountry Discovery Route Expedition Documentary Film

Route Sponsors

BDR partnerships with major industry brands made this project possible.

BMW Motorrad USA is presenting their third BDR route, with the Lead Motorcycle Instructor from the BMW U.S. Rider Academy (in Greer, South Carolina) joining the CABDR-North filming expedition.

“Now, with first-hand experience of riding a BMW GS on a BDR, I have insights that will help us better prepare students who are training for a BDR ride,” said Richie Few, led motorcycle instructor at the BMW U.S. Rider Academy. “If you dream about taking your motorcycle off the beaten path or riding a BDR, join us in South Carolina and take a class at the BMW U.S. Rider Academy. Together, we can help make that dream a reality.”

Northern California Backcountry Discovery Route Expedition Documentary Film

Zero Motorcycles underscored their commitment to advancing the possibilities of electric adventure riding in the backcountry by providing two DSR/X motorcycles, their pioneering electric ADV model, to be tested on the route.

“For me, the Northern California BDR expedition is rooted deep,” said Trevor Doniak, chief prototype and test rider for Zero Motorcycles. “From participating in the development of the DSR/X at Zero in Santa Cruz to my personal upbringing in Northern California, this was an experience of a lifetime. The NorCal BDR will not disappoint! I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was 4 years old and love every aspect of riding. The Northern California BDR fulfilled me 10X from a motorcycle rider’s perspective.”

Edelweiss Bike Travel, Austria-based premier world-wide motorcycle tour company, has been a BDR industry supporter for many years.

Outback Motortek, producer of quality protection and multifunctional luggage systems (used by BDR recently in their Ducati DesertX build) has deep roots in metal fabrication going as far back as the early 80’s.

Northern California Backcountry Discovery Route Expedition Documentary Film

Northern California Backcountry Discovery Route Industry Partners

Special thanks to BDR community members and partners including:

Touratech-USA, KLIM Technical Riding Gear, Mosko Moto, Motoz Tires, SENA, Alpinestars, Colorado Motorcycle Adventures, Gaia GPS, Rev’It!, Austin Moto Adventures, Cyclops Adventure Sports, Moto Camp Nerd, West 38 Moto, Rever, Wolfman Luggage/Threadworks, Black Dog Cycle Works, Doubletake Mirror, ADVMoto Magazine, Upshift Online, and BMW MOA.

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Riding South Dakota’s Black Hills BDR-X

Black Hills BDR-X
On the Black Hills BDR-X, Daniel was thrilled with the 411cc Royal Enfield Himalayan. “It’s the way to go for me as I continue to master my off-road riding skills!” (See Shad TR40 Terra Adventure saddlebags review here.)

If you’re looking for a golden adventure riding opportunity, the Black Hills BDR-X marks the spot. Backcountry Discovery Routes are adventure/dual‑­sport routes that typically cover entire states and take about a week to complete, with GPS tracks and helpful info provided for free by the nonprofit BDR organization. In addition to its main routes, BDR has mapped out several shorter BDR-­X loop routes that can be completed in a few days.

Black Hills BDR-X

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

Located in western South Dakota, the Black Hills area is known for its scenic beauty, curvy roads, and historic sites like Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial. When most motorcyclists think of the Black Hills, they think of the Sturgis rally, which brings upwards of 500,000 people to the region every August.

The Black Hills BDR-X is a 355‑­mile mostly off‑­road loop that starts and ends in Keystone, just a few miles east of Mount Rushmore, and is divided into three sections. Backcountry Discovery Routes recommends riding the Black Hills BDR-­X counterclockwise, but since it’s a loop, you can start and finish anywhere along the route and run it in either direction.

Black Hills BDR-X Mount Rushmore
The presidents at Mount Rushmore represent key aspects of U.S. history: Washington symbolizes the country’s birth, Jefferson represents expansion, Lincoln signifies development, and Roosevelt signifies preservation.

What makes the Black Hills BDR-X such a perfect adventure route is its variety. The landscape includes rugged mountains, dense forests, and wide‑­open prairies. The route passes through historic towns like Deadwood, Mystic, and Hill City, as well as public lands such as Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park.

Black Hills BDR-X
We rode into Deadwood covered in Black Hills dust just like they did 150 years ago.

There are great campgrounds or more luxurious lodging available. You’re never far from civilization, so you can get away from it all yet still have access to gas stations, stores, restaurants, and hotels. The BDR-X route includes flowing gravel and dirt roads, challenging two‑­track, and some of the area’s best paved roads, including Spearfish Canyon Road, Needles Highway, and Iron Mountain Road.

Black Hills BDR-X Spearfish Canyon
Spearfish Canyon was the filming location of the final scene in “Dances With Wolves.”

Setting the Hook

Last July, I joined three of my CFMOTO USA colleagues – Reid Strait, Daniel Dégallier, and Bill Baker – at Get On ADV Fest, a four‑­day adventure‑­bike rally in the Black Hills where we introduced the Ibex 800 T adventure bike. There was plenty of off‑­road riding involved, and REVER provided excellent tracks for the event.

Related: 2023 CFMOTO Ibex 800 T | Road Test Review 

Black Hills BDR-X
The Black Hills BDR-X is a best-of-class route. Gorgeous canyon roads. Superb gravel. Epic two-track. Majestic scenery. Native American and U.S. history. Clean, easy camping. Great food. Yup, there’s golden riding in them thar Black Hills.

The riding was so good, we were inspired to return in September and be among the first to ride the new Black Hills BDR-­X. The stars aligned when we learned that Rally for Rangers, a nonprofit organization that raises funds to support park rangers, would be hosting an event in the Black Hills at the same time (see sidebar below). CFMOTO USA provided Ibex 800 Ts for the guides to use during the event, along with a Papio minibike for cruising around the campground.  

Black Hills BDR-X Hitchrail Bar
The Hitch Rail Bar and Restaurant in Pringle is a great lunch stop.

After we delivered the bikes to the event, we spent the next few days riding the Black Hills BDR-­X to do some team bonding. Reid rode an Ibex 800 T, but the rest of us rode our personal bikes: Bill on a KTM 690 Enduro R, Daniel on a Royal Enfield Himalayan, and me on a Kawasaki KLX 300.

Black Hills BDR-X Pactola Reservoir
There’s an old mining town at the bottom of Pactola Reservoir, which was completed in 1956.

Black Hills BDR-X: 4 Riders, 4 Bikes, 4 Days

We may have different tastes in bikes, but we all agree on one thing: The Black Hills BDR-X is fantastic. It’s 355 miles of adventure motorcycling bliss. In terms of difficulty, I’d rate it 4 or 5 on a scale of 1‑­10. (I’ve also ridden the Mid Atlantic BDR, which I’d rate an easy 2 or 3.) Every day of the BDR-­X was filled with moments of euphoria, which crystallized into memories that we’ll share around the campfire for years to come.

Related: Backcountry Discovery Routes Announces Economic Impact of BDR Routes

Black Hills BDR-X Kawasaki KLX
Brad’s Kawasaki KLX after the BDR-X.

During one part of the ride, the sun overhead was radiant, casting a warm, autumn glow. The steady, gentle crunch of gravel under my tires never got old, nor did the scenery. Towering cliffs with rough textures contrasted with the vivid foliage below. The curves and bends unfurled before me, each one as breathtaking as the last. It was a sensory feast, as if Mother Nature took out her paintbrush, mixed up an impossibly diverse palette of rich colors, and painted a masterpiece. At higher elevations, the hills were ablaze in scarlet, amber, and gold, while it was a verdant wonderland down below. I was tempted to ride faster, but I slowed down, smelled the pines, and savored the experience.

Black Hills BDR-X
Campfire quote of the night: “Motorcycles are like beer. The best one is the one in your hand.”

Black Hills Gold

If you love off‑­road adventure riding, you’ll love the Black Hills BDR-X, which was like discovering a vein of gold. There’s gravel, rocky two‑­track, mud, and epic pavement. There’s majestic scenery, wildlife, and history. You can’t see and do it all in one trip, so like the four of us, you’ll want to come back. It’s fun but by no means a stroll in the park, and it’s the difficult stuff that sticks with you for a lifetime.

Black Hills BDR-X
Get the best zip ties money can buy; you’ll be glad you spent the extra quarter.

On Day 3, it was raining, and we opted to do the optional hard section over Bear Mountain. The route was rutted, rocky, steep two‑­track. The slick mud packed up on our tires, turning them into Teflon‑­coated slicks. Bill christened this spur route “Axle Grease Alley.” On the final bit, I chose my line and went for it, twisting the throttle to the stop, desperate for the tires to hook up, every muscle in my body fighting to keep me and the Kawasaki upright. After I made it to the top, Reid gave me a thumbs‑­up and said, “Brad, you looked like a flailing Kool‑­Aid man. Next time keep your feet on the pegs!”

Black Hills BDR-X
Climbing Bear Mountain in the rain took its toll on the KTM’s 17,000-mile clutch, which gave up the ghost short of the top. Bill had just enough bite left to make it to camp.

Happily, we all made it through the toughest sections in one piece. Despite the struggle and the chaos, even with our bikes and bodies caked in mud, we were grinning from ear to ear. Daniel’s quick thinking led us to a car wash in Custer, where we pressure‑­washed our bikes and could again recognize which was which. Cost? A few quarters. Memories? Priceless.

Black Hills BDR-X Bear Mountain lookout tower
BDR-X Section 3: If the trails are muddy, there are two ways to reach the Bear Mountain lookout tower: the “Hard Way” and the “Not Today” way. If it’s dry as July and the dust is flying, no problem.

Rally for Rangers Sidebar

The mission of Rally for Rangers is “to protect the world’s special places by empowering rangers around the world with new motorcycles and equipment.” It has provided more than 160 motorcycles and equipment for rangers in parks in distant places like Mongolia, Argentina, Nepal, Bhutan, Peru, and Namibia.

The first Rally for Rangers USA event took place last September in South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest and Pine Ridge Reservation. Fifteen adventure riders raised nearly $40,000 before convening in Custer State Park for a weekend of camping, riding, visiting tribal park rangers, and donating equipment and funds to protect parks and forests.

Traditional Rally for Rangers events are two‑­week international journeys, but the USA rallies are held over a long weekend. The Black Hills event donated night vision optics for tribal rangers of the Oglala Sioux Parks to conduct nighttime anti‑­poaching patrols. A donation was also made to the Forest Service motorized trails program to support motorcycle‑­only trails in the Black Hills National Forest.

Black Hills BDR-X Rally for Rangers
On our third day, we met up with Rally for Rangers. It was a night to remember that included amazing food, a meet-and-greet with the Oglala Sioux rangers, and ideal camping conditions in Custer State Park.

Riders in this inaugural event hailed from all over the U.S., with some trailering their bikes and others renting from Rogue Moto or using demo bikes provided by CFMOTO. The weekend included off‑­road training by Heavy Enduro as well as on- and off‑­road riding on Needles Highway, portions of the Black Hills BDR‑­X, and otherwise inaccessible trails on the Pine Ridge Reservation hosted by the Oglala Sioux rangers.

The Black Hills Rally for Rangers event takes place again in September 2024 to support Oglala Sioux and Northern Cheyenne tribal rangers. For more information, visit the Rally For Rangers website or listen to our interview with Rally for Rangers co‑­founder Tom Medema on the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast.

Black Hills BDR-X

Black Hills BDR-X Resources:

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Backcountry Discovery Routes Announces Economic Impact of BDR Routes

Continuing in their mission of responsibly creating off-highway routes for adventure and dual-sport motorcycle travel, the nonprofit Backcountry Discovery Routes organization has released its 2023 Economic Impact Study white paper, which reports more than $60 million dollars in boosts to local economies in proximity to BDR routes. Of particular interest was the impact on smaller rural communities, where the increase in tourism dollars has helped offset declines in other industries such as mining or forestry. For more information, read the press release below.


Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR

SEATTLE – Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDR), the nonprofit organization dedicated to developing adventure riding opportunities across the U.S., just released its comprehensive Economic Impact Study white paper.  The report underscores the role played by BDR riders in bolstering local economies, with BDR-related spending creating an annual economic impact of over $60 million across all BDR routes.

To access the complete economic impact study white paper and learn more about Backcountry Discovery Routes, visit the Economic Impact Study page on the BDR website.

Conducted in partnership with the University of Wyoming’s Center for Business and Economic Analysis (CBEA), the study examined visitor spending patterns among motorcyclists traveling on BDR routes. Key findings were derived from economic impact calculations, utilizing state-specific multipliers, industry-specific margins, estimates of out-of-state visitors, and average spending per industry and state.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR

One of the standout conclusions from the study is the substantial positive impact BDR has on small rural communities. As the organization continues to create new BDR routes, it brings a surge of economic activity to these areas in the form of tourism. The influx of commerce extends to various sectors, including hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, parks, and more. Many of these rural communities have faced economic challenges due to declines in traditional industries such as mining and forestry, and BDR’s initiatives have proven to be an important source of new tourism revenue for these remote local economies.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR

Inna Thorn, executive director at Backcountry Discovery Routes, said that many states are looking for new outdoor recreation opportunities to help diversify their economies and bring new tourism dollars to local communities.

“This economic impact study underscores the substantial positive influence BDR has on the communities we travel through,” she said. “More than just an advocate for off-highway motorcycling, BDR is a catalyst for economic growth in rural communities along our routes. As we continue to expand our network of routes, we are committed to making a lasting and positive difference in these communities, while educating our riders about safe and respectful travel on public lands and in local communities.”

Related: Backcountry Discovery Routes | Ep. 58 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

In addition, BDR efforts are also growing the sport by creating new adventure riders and driving motorcycle sales. The study found that BDR riders generated $9.6 million in motorcycle sales in 2022. BDR riders are not just buying motorcycles, they are also spending significant dollars on related products and services to prepare for a BDR ride. 

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR

BDR invites all interested parties, including policymakers, local officials, and motorcycling enthusiasts, to explore the full economic impact study white paper. By understanding the tangible benefits that BDR routes bring to rural areas, communities and stakeholders can work together to harness the potential for sustainable growth and development of adventure motorcycle tourism.

About Backcountry Discovery Routes

Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDR) is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization that creates off-highway routes for adventure and dual-sport motorcycle travel. The organization’s work includes promoting rider education and safety campaigns, driving economic relief to rural communities, and encouraging responsible motorcycle travel in the backcountry. Through the careful investment of funds and working with land managers and other public benefit organizations, BDR seeks to keep remote public roads open for motorcycling for generations to come. 

BDR delivers turn-key trip planning resources to the community including GPS tracks, digital maps, travel information, route condition updates, YouTube videos, Q&As, and other information – all available 24/7 on the Backcountry Discovery Routes website. The organization relies on the generosity of donors and a team of volunteers and ambassadors who contribute thousands of hours each year to help carry out this mission. 

Since 2010, BDR has created routes in Washington, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, the Mid-Atlantic region, Southern California, the North-East region, Wyoming, and Oregon and the soon-to-be-released Northern, California project. In 2022, BDR introduced a new concept of shorter, BDR-style routes that loop called BDR-X. Current BDR-X routes include Red Desert, Wyoming; PA Wilds, Pennsylvania; Steens Mountain & Alvord Desert, Oregon; and now the Black Hills, South Dakota.

See all of Rider‘s Backcountry Discovery Routes coverage here.

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Backcountry Discovery Routes Releases Steens Mountain and Alvord Desert, OR BDR-X

Backcountry Discovery Routes Steens Mountains and Alvord Desert Oregon BDR-X
Backcountry Discovery Routes Steens Mountains and Alvord Desert, Oregon, BDR-X (Photo by Ely Woody)

Earlier this year, Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDR) released the Oregon BDR, its 12th full route, and each one can be completed in about a week. BDR has also released shorter BDR-X routes that are loops that can be done in two to three days. Read the press release below to learn more about the latest BDR-X route.

Related: Listen to Our Podcast Interview with BDR’s Inna Thorn and Tim James


Backcountry Discovery Routes Steens Mountains and Alvord Desert Oregon BDR-X
Backcountry Discovery Routes Steens Mountains and Alvord Desert, Oregon, BDR-X (Photo by Ely Woody)

The adventure motorcycling nonprofit Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDR) will release its next route, the Steens Mountain and Alvord Desert, Oregon BDR-X, during a live YouTube broadcast on June 7th from Mosko Moto headquarters in White Salmon, Washington. 

Hosts BDR Executive Director Inna Thorn, route co-architect Nathan Fant, and Mosko Moto CEO Pete Day will premiere the short expedition documentary film and offer viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the route.

  • Wednesday, June 7, 2023
  • Steens Mountain & Alvord Desert BDR-X Live Route Release
  • 5 p.m. PST / 8 p.m. EST
  • YouTube.com/RideBDR
Backcountry Discovery Routes Steens Mountains and Alvord Desert Oregon BDR-X
Backcountry Discovery Routes Steens Mountains and Alvord Desert, Oregon, BDR-X (Photo by Ely Woody)

The Steens Mountain and Alvord Desert BDR-X is the organization’s fifteenth route and fourth in the BDR-X series of shorter BDR-style loops. Free GPS tracks, travel resources, and a downloadable/printable map will be available at RideBDR.com/AlvordDesert.

“We created this BDR-X because Steens Mountain has to been seen to be believed. Far different than the Cascades or Rockies, this remote mountain has deep glacier-carved gorges and views down to the vast Alvord Desert that riders get to experience on the second day. It’s an awe-inspiring loop that riders will never forget.” — Bryce Stevens, BDR co-founder and route architect

Mosko Moto is the presenting sponsor of this route. The luggage and apparel manufacturer is headquartered in White Salmon, WA, and is perfectly situated between the end of the ORBDR and the start of the WABDR. For BDR riders, Mosko offers free camping at the Bates Mototel – about 5 miles from downtown White Salmon (reserve a site by email). Mosko’s Co-Founder and CEO joined the filming expedition.

“The Alvord is one of my favorite places in the world. The wide open spaces, the absence of noise, clutter, and people. Dark skies and vivid stars. It’s a very special place, and it’s far from everything, which is kind of the point.” — Pete Day, Mosko Moto Co-Founder & CEO

About The Backcountry Discovery Routes OR BDR-X 

Designed to showcase the striking 5,000-foot elevation transition from the Steens Mountain to the Alvord Desert, this remote BDR-X starts and ends in Fields, Oregon (near section 1 of the Oregon BDR). The 246-mile loop can be accomplished in two days and offers a diverse mix of surface terrain, including gravel roads, rocky double-track, overgrown dirt roads, and open desert playa making this BDR-X truly unique. This 2-day loop is accessible after the snow melts and the roads open in June.

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Backcountry Discovery Routes | Ep. 58 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

Ep58 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast Backcountry Discovery Routes

Our guests on Episode 58 of the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast are Inna Thorn, executive director of Backcountry Discovery Routes, and Tim James, BDR’s board president. Backcountry Discovery Routes is a nonprofit organization that creates off-highway routes for dual-sport and adventure motorcycle travel. BDR has introduced a new route with free GPS tracks nearly every year since 2010. When we last spoke to Inna and Tim last year on Episode 33, the Wyoming BDR had just been released. In 2023, the Oregon BDR was released, making it the 12th full route, and each one can be completed in about a week. Backcountry Discovery Routes has also released shorter BDR-X routes that are loops that can be done in two to three days. Through the tireless work of its staff and many volunteers, Backcountry Discovery Routes maintains existing routes and continues developing new ones. Future BDRs will include Southern California, Montana, and the Southeast. Visit the BDR website to learn more and support their efforts.

LINKS: RideBDR.comBDR on InstagramBDR on Facebook

You can listen to Episode 58 on iTunesSpotify, and Podbean, or via the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast webpage. Please subscribe, leave us a 5-star rating, and tell your friends! Scroll down for a list of previous episodes.

Visit the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast webpage to check out previous episodes:

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Backcountry Discovery Routes: BMW and BDR Collaborate on New Oregon Route

Following the success of the first partnership between BMW Motorrad USA and Backcountry Discovery Routes in 2022 with the Wyoming BDR, the two groups have announced a second partnership for a route in Oregon. The new route will be officially launched Saturday, Feb. 4, at the premiere screening of the ORBDR Expedition documentary in Portland and other select locations around the nation. For more information, read the press release below from BMW Motorrad USA.


Backcountry Discovery Routes Oregon BDR

BMW Motorrad USA is excited to announce its second partnership with adventure motorcycling nonprofit, Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDR) on their newest route – Oregon. This is the second BDR route on which BMW Motorrad has collaborated, the first being the Wyoming BDR, released in 2022.

Related: New Route: Wyoming Backcountry Discovery Route

The ORBDR represents the organization’s 12th route for adventure and dual-sport motorcycle travel, with free GPS tracks, travel resources, and a Butler Motorcycle Map scheduled to accompany the film’s debut.

Backcountry Discovery Routes Oregon BDR

Luciana Francisco, BMW Motorrad USA head of brand and marketing, said BMW Motorrad is proud to partner with Backcountry Discovery Routes for the second time in two years.

“In 2023, BMW Motorrad celebrates its 100th year anniversary and also marks 43 years of BMW GS motorcycles,” Francisco said. “This is the perfect time to share our passion for the adventure and dual-sport riding communities and show our continued support for the BDR organization and what they stand for. We look forward to both new and experienced off-road enthusiasts being inspired by the scenic routes of the ORBDR.”

Related: Backcountry Discovery Routes: Two Buddies on Yamaha Ténéré 700s in Utah and Arizona

To launch of the new Oregon route, Backcountry Discovery Routes and BMW Motorrad will kick-off with a film premiere event in Portland, Oregon, and selected BMW Motorrad dealer events on Saturday, Feb. 4. Additionally, over 70 film screenings are planned through spring 2023, hosted by dealers and clubs around the country. More information on the film screening locations is available at the Backcountry Discovery Routes events webpage.

Backcountry Discovery Routes Oregon BDR

The ORBDR expedition film features members of the BDR team and special guests from BMW Motorrad USA, Mosko Moto, and Edelweiss Bike Travel as they take a first run on the all-new ORBDR. Starting in the high desert landscapes of Southeastern Oregon and exploring North into the Cascade Range, the crew tests their endurance, riding cross-state through 750 miles of lava rock, silt, sand, and steep mountain roads. Highlighting the state’s many natural wonders including hot springs, pyroducts, caverns, buttes, and glaciated volcanoes, the route and film showcases why traveling by motorcycle is one of the best ways to discover the backcountry of Oregon.

Story continues below trailer for ORBDR Expedition

Bryce Stevens, Oregon Route architect & BDR co-founder grew up in the Pacific Northwest and said he has “always been fascinated by volcanoes.”

“The ORBDR is a route filled with natural wonders of the volcanic kind. We designed the ORBDR to show off different regions of the state and keep the route ever-changing,” Stevens said. “Oregon has vast high desert in the southeast, sparse pine forests in the central part of the state, and densely forested mountains in the Cascade Range. It almost feels like three BDRs packed into one.”

Related: Backcountry Discovery Routes: Ep. 33 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

Joining the expedition team in Oregon was Ricardo Rodriguez, lead motorcycle instructor at BMW’s U.S. Rider Academy in Greer, South Carolina. Ricardo is a graduate of BMW’s rigorous International Instructor’s Academy and has been teaching on-road street survival, adventure off-road, and authority riding skills since 2010.

“The BDR Team has set out on a fantastic mission, helping keep public lands accessible to the adventure community,” he said. “I am very proud and excited about the relationship between BDR, BMW Motorrad, and the BMW U.S. Rider Academy. Having the opportunity to be a part of the Oregon BDR has helped build my experience as a rider and a coach. Overcoming the challenges along the ORBDR reinforced to me the value of the skills we teach daily at the US Rider Academy.”

Rodriguez continued to say that Backcountry Discovery Routes offers properly trained riders an opportunity to put their skills to the test.

“The Oregon BDR is a challenge and reward riding adventure.”

For more information, visit the Backcountry Discovery Routes website.

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Backcountry Discovery Routes: Two Buddies on Yamaha Ténéré 700s in Utah and Arizona

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700 Colorado River
Taking a rehydration break along the Colorado River while our Yamaha Ténéré 700s waited patiently.

During the long, dark winter in Minnesota, when the ground is covered in snow and ice and our motorcycles are mothballed for months, dreaming about riding in a warm, dry place gives us hope. That’s when my friend Craig and I started planning an adventure ride out West. We sketched out a route that included a mix of backroads, parts of the Arizona and Utah Backcountry Discovery Routes, other off-road tracks, and interesting sights along the way.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

In May, we flew into Phoenix and headed to EagleRider in nearby Mesa, where we were greeted by a friendly guy named Bob. After a quick paperwork checkout procedure, we packed our gear on two rented Yamaha Ténéré 700s and headed north on Interstate 17.

With temperatures in the triple digits, the frigid days of winter seemed like a distant memory, so we busted north to gain some elevation.

Related: 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 | Long-Term Ride Review

Even in full riding gear, we started to cool off as we rode farther north. Our bikes were unfamiliar to us, and they were stuffed to the gunwales with camping gear and other essentials. We soon grew accustomed to their added weight as we passed over the “Carefree Highway,” a 30-mile stretch of road made famous by Canadian singer Gordon Lightfoot that runs between I-17 and U.S. Route 60.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700

I have a lot of street miles under my belt, but this was my first adventure bike trip, so I wasn’t entirely prepared for the primitive roads where the gravel feels like marbles under your wheels. However, it didn’t take long for the combination of my ancient dirtbike experience and a few unplanned rear-wheel kickouts to provide a quick education on keeping the Ténéré upright. Enthusiasm tempered with caution was the order of the day.

We took County Road 59/Bumble Bee Road off I-17 to check out the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club. The name of this welcoming 4×4 oasis run by Tina Barnhart is a bit tongue-in-cheek, as it is located hundreds of miles from open water. Barnhart is also in the vehicle delivery business to such faraway places as Africa and is active in the Global Rescue Project based in Scottsdale, Arizona, which works to end child slavery and reunite children with their families.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Cleator Bar and Yacht Club
Boats in the Yacht Club’s “marina.”

The Cleator Bar is a must-stop location, complete with boats in the “marina” out back and a stage for live music. Interestingly, the entire town of Cleator, comprising 40 acres, a bar, a general store, a few other structures, and mineral rights, was put on the market by descendants of James P. Cleator in 2020 for $1.25 million, and it was sold at the bargain price of $956,000.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Cleator Bar and Yacht Club
Hanging out with Tina Barnhart while we cooled off at the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club.

Related: Backcountry Discovery Routes: First BDR-X Route and YouTube BDR Film Library

Our next stop was Crown King, located another 13 miles along CR 59 at an elevation of 5,771 feet. A high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended on the deteriorated roads. The Ténérés managed well, and we soon found ourselves taking a load off in the Crown King Saloon & Eatery, one of the oldest continuously operated saloons in the state. We enjoyed a cold drink and a hearty lunch, and the $5 bottle of scotch we bought there (on sale courtesy of Mother’s Day) served us well during the rest of the trip.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Bradshaw Mountains
We were surprised to see so much green in the Bradshaw Mountains.

Like a lot of small towns in the Bradshaw Mountains of Arizona, Crown King used to be a thriving mining community. In 1904, a railroad was built to help mining operations, but due to a lack of water and high transportation costs to process the ore, it was abandoned in 1926. The old railroad bed is still used today as the main access road to Crown King. 

While there, we met Chuck Hall, who is a great ambassador for the area – and a talented guitar picker to boot. He told us he’d lived there for over 30 years and recommended we check out the Senator Highway, on which he’d lost many an exhaust pipe from his old Dodge Neon. A former stagecoach route, the rutted road snakes 37 miles from Crown King to Prescott with many blind switchbacks, eroded surfaces, several water crossings, and spectacular scenery.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700
Craig takes a breather on part of the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route.

Hall recommended we visit Palace Station, a stage stop built in 1878 midway between Crown King and Prescott. Back in the day, the station had a bar and was a social meeting center for the miners who worked in the area.

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

We targeted the town of Jerome for the night. This old copper mining town earned its nickname, “Wickedest Town in the West,” during its heyday in the early 20th century. After the mining bust, the town descended into desperation, greed, and crime. It was revived in the 1960s as a tourist destination, and many of its historic buildings are now filled with restaurants, shops, and hotels. Jerome is said to be a hotbed of paranormal activity, and we stayed at the Connor Hotel, which is reportedly haunted by the “Lady in Red.” We didn’t see any ghosts, so maybe she had the night off. 

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700 Jerome Arizona
Downtown Jerome, the “Wickedest Town in the West.”

Related: Backcountry Discovery Routes: Ep. 33 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

With a long day of off-roading ahead, we left Jerome and headed north toward the Grand Canyon on a series of unpaved national forest roads. We wound our way around the contours of Woodchute Mountain, crossed the Verde River, and ascended to the Colorado Plateau at more than 6,000 feet. We could see the volcanic San Francisco Peaks rising above the plateau to the east.

We crossed Interstate 40 near Williams, and after a few miles on State Route 64, we turned onto a national forest road to take an unpaved “back door” route into Grand Canyon National Park. We hooked up with Route 64 again where it’s known as East Rim Drive and enjoyed scenic views from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona South Rim Grand Canyon
Craig (on left) and me at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon – a million miles away from our home in Minnesota.

After leaving the park, we connected with U.S. Route 89 and refueled at Cameron, where the highway crosses the Little Colorado River. At Bitter Springs, U.S. 89 splits to the east toward Page, but we continued north on U.S. Route 89A, crossing the Colorado River at Marble Canyon via the Navajo Bridge and following 89A west into an area known as the Arizona Strip. We rode with the majestic Vermilion Cliffs to our right, crossed House Rock Valley, and then climbed out of the desert and into the evergreens of the Kaibab Plateau.  

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Navajo Bridge
The Navajo Bridge crosses the Colorado River at Marble Canyon, and in the background is Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

We stopped at Jacob Lake, a small crossroads that sits at 7,925 feet, and it was noticeably cooler at the higher elevation. Known as the gateway to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Jacob Lake has a gas station and a hotel with a restaurant and gift shop. The town was named after Jacob Hamblin, an early Mormon pioneer who was shown the location in the mid-1800s by the Kaibab band of Southern Paiutes. And according to the hotel staff, the lake is more of a pond.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Jacob Lake
Jacob Lake, Arizona, is near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

We continued west through Fredonia and crossed into Utah near Kanab, known locally as “Little Hollywood” because of its rich history in filmmaking – most notably Westerns, with more than 100 movies and television shows being filmed there.

Thus far we had stayed at motels, so we weren’t exactly roughing it. We decided we needed to get some use out of the camping gear we’d been lugging around. After riding through Zion National Park, where we were blown away by the majesty of the cliff faces and rock formations, we traversed the Dixie National Forest through Duck Creek Village to Hatch, where we found suitable dispersed camping.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Zion National Park
Utah State Route 9 winds through incomparable scenery in Zion National Park.

It had been about 20 years since my last camping experience. I narrowly avoided putting an eye out with the tent poles, and after the camp was set and the fire built, it felt good to relax with that $5 bottle of scotch. It was a clear night, and the 7,000-foot elevation yielded cool temperatures. With the fire all but gone, it was time to turn in for the night. I live in Minnesota and am no stranger to the cold, but I clocked 19 degrees overnight in that campsite and don’t think I have ever been so happy to see the sun start to rise. Note to self: Next time bring a sleeping bag rated below 30 degrees.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona
Around the campfire, we sampled the $5 bottle of scotch we bought at the Crown King Saloon. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the coldest night I ever spent camping was during May in Utah.

Once packed up, we put Hatch in the rear view and were soon heading east on Utah’s stunning State Route 12, known as one of the most scenic highways in the nation. We visited Bryce Canyon National Park and its many rock spires and hoodoos and rode through the vastness of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

At Boulder, we left the pavement and took the Burr Trail, a well-known backcountry route that passes through Capitol Reef National Park on its way to the Bullfrog Basin in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The trail was named for John Burr, a cattle rancher who developed the route to move his cattle between winter and summer ranges. The country was nearly impassable then and continues to be challenging to this day, with RVs and trailers “not recommended.” Southern Utah is one amazing vista after another, and this stretch featured outstanding scenery as well as many switchbacks on loose gravel that kept us on our toes.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Burr Trail
Switchbacks and elevation changes as far as the eye can see on the Burr Trail in Utah.

Throughout the trip, we’d been battered by winds that were contributing to fire restrictions in Arizona and Utah. At this point, the wind was howling, with 50-mph gusts giving us a good sand blasting. After a quick stop in Bullfrog, we headed north on State Route 276 and then south on State Route 95 to Hite Crossing over the Colorado River.

We had violated our “never pass gas” top-off policy in Bullfrog, expecting to find a place to refuel in Fry Canyon. Given the time of year and possibly other reasons unknown, the gas pumps were closed in Fry, so we pushed on through some gorgeous country that might’ve been easier to appreciate if we weren’t worried about our dwindling fuel.

At one point, we pulled over to assess the situation. Craig had been smart enough to fill his reserve bottle, which he poured into his tank. My bike was still showing a couple bars of fuel left. I tip my cap to the Yamaha Ténéré 700. Even though my fuel gauge was blinking “empty” and both of us were expecting the pullover of shame, we made it all the way to Blanding. The Arch Canyon Inn was a welcome stop, but being informed that it’s a dry town put the “bland” in Blanding.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700
Travelers in a strange land. Parts of Utah felt like being on another planet.

Leaving Blanding and getting on the Utah BDR was like visiting another planet. The Butler and Comb washes, the Moki Dugway, and Valley of the Gods were some of our favorite parts of this trip. With all the distinct rock formations, it was a challenge to stay focused on the trail and not get distracted by the scenery. In most cases, one blown turn can mean disaster, but the rewards are more than worth the risks. Again, caution saved the day.

The southern terminus of the Utah BDR is in the town of Mexican Hat, which I assumed was named after a mountain resembling a sombrero. Turns out, it is a distinctive disc-shaped rock about 60 feet in diameter that’s perched atop a smaller base at the top of a mesa. I’ll always remember it as the site of my first involuntary dismount from the Yamaha during a charge up a softer-than-expected mound of sand.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700 Mexican Hat
At the southern terminus of the Utah BDR in Mexican Hat. Behind me is the town’s namesake rock and below me is softer-than-expected sand.

Related: (Mis)Adventures on the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route (BDR)

The area around Mexican Hat borders the northern section of the Navajo Nation into Monument Valley. This area is considered the sacred heart of Navajo country, and you can’t help but marvel at how iconic the straight-line stretch of road is as it leads into the horizon, framed with towering sandstone rock formations. Hiking in the park is highly restricted, with only one path that can be hiked without a guide. Monument Valley Trail Park had been previously closed after a movie crew was caught filming without a permit. It is now reopened at a reduced occupancy limit, but no motorcycles are permitted on the 17-mile loop due to deep sand dunes in the area.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700
Dispersed camping near Hatch, Utah.

Back in Arizona, we cruised paved highways to Flagstaff and then down into Sedona. Determined to camp at a lower (read: warmer) elevation, we found the Lo Lo Mai Springs Outdoor Resort. Lo lo mai is a Hopi Indian word that represents a greeting with many meanings, similar to the Hawaiian aloha. It also means “beautiful,” which the owners of Lo Lo Mai Springs say is where the resort’s name originated. The area borders spring-fed Oak Creek, which is a valuable and rare natural water source in this part of Arizona. The campground had some welcome amenities and was a lot warmer than the prior camping stop.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700 Monument Valley
Monument Valley.

We spent our last day exploring some of the Arizona BDR tracks in the Coconino National Forest near Sedona and Flagstaff. With time running out, we finally hopped on State Route 87 and burned the final miles to Scottsdale, where the town was alive with nightlife.

Returning the bikes was bittersweet. Bob welcomed us back, relieved that the Ténérés had only a layer of dust and a bit less rubber on their tires after 1,591 on- and off-road miles. As we grabbed an Uber to the airport, I could not help but realize the vast additional riding world that adventure motorcycling opens up. Soon after getting home, I put one of my streetbikes up for sale, and an adventure bike could be in my future.

The post Backcountry Discovery Routes: Two Buddies on Yamaha Ténéré 700s in Utah and Arizona first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Backcountry Discovery Routes to Give Away a 2022 Husqvarna Norden 901

Backcountry Discovery Routes Norden 901

Who wouldn’t appreciate a 2022 Husqvarna Norden 901 with $12,000-worth of upgrades? Backcountry Discovery Routes, an adventure motorcycling non-profit organization, is giving one away for its annual Motorcycle Sweepstakes Fundraiser, taking place now until January 20, 2023. The entry fee is $25. 

Watch Rider’s 2022 Husqvarna Norden 901 Video Review here 

“We’ve worked with our industry partners to turn this bike into the ultimate adventure machine,” says Inna Thorn, BDR Executive Director. “It’s set up specifically for tackling any or all of the Backcountry Discovery Routes. This is by far the most well-equipped sweepstake bike that BDR has ever offered, and we hope the community will be just as excited to participate in this year’s sweepstakes as we are to offer it.” 

Backcountry Discovery Routes Norden 901

The aftermarket accessories on the Norden 901 include: 

  • Full WP suspension XPLOR PRO upgrade 
  • Special BDR Edition graphics 
  • Protection and luggage systems from Touratech 
  • Yoshimura slip-on exhaust 
  • Garmin Zumo XT with locking mount 
  • Scotts steering stabilizer with TripleClamp Moto mount kit 
  • LED lights by Cyclops 
  • Complete set of 11 BDR Butler Motorcycle Maps 
Backcountry Discovery Routes Norden 901

Backcountry Discovery Routes is a non-profit that works to create and preserve off-highway riding opportunities for dual-sport and adventure motorcyclists. All proceeds from the sweepstakes will go toward helping BDR with these goals. 

Backcountry Discovery Routes Norden 901

BDR’s work includes “promoting rider education and safety campaigns, driving economic relief to rural communities, and encouraging responsible motorcycle travel in the backcountry.” 

Backcountry Discovery Routes Norden 901

Anyone can enter to win the 2022 Norden 901. International entries are welcome with the understanding that the prize will be collected in Seattle, Washington, and may be subject to tax or importation limitations. 

Backcountry Discovery Routes Norden 901

The winner will be drawn live on January 20, 2023 at 1 pm PST on BDR’s YouTube channel

Click here to visit Backcountry Discovery Routes’ website for more information about the organization and the sweepstakes. 

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Source: RiderMagazine.com