Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route

AZBDR route

Rocky, remote and hot are three words that come to mind for Arizona. Blessed with a surprising number of mountain ranges, the Arizona BDR is more green and mountainous than many people expect. Starting on the US/Mexico border, the 750- mile route stays east of Tucson and Phoenix and explores the historic Empire Ranch, Sierra Ancha Cliff Dwellings, Mogollon Rim, Saguaro Cactus Forests, Navajo Nation, wild horses, Vermillion Cliffs and options to see the Grand Canyon from vantage points most people never see. 

Best time of year: April through June and Late September/October. July and August have very high temperatures and should be avoided. August is also monsoon season and is not a good time to ride the route.

Additional Route Information

In addition to the helpful links on the right, we encourage you to peruse the following websites in preparation for your AZBDR trip.

SheADV.com hosts an interactive BDR Map that shows current weather conditions, estimated snow levels, and forest fires for all BDR's.

Visit the Forest Service Website for current information on forest closures and fire restrictions in the Coconino National Forest.  

For ride reports, route updates, and to join or organize BDR rides, please visit the AZBDR thread on www.ADVrider.com and the Americas thread on www.advrider.com


Route Updates

May 16, 2017 - Pioneer Pass Closed Due to Fire

May 5, 2017 - Section 5 - Forest Road 203 reroute due to severe flooding

May 4, 2017 - Section 2  - Reroute around Empire Ranch due to Sawmill Fire.

June 10, 2016 - Section 4 Update - Road Closures Due to Fire.

June 8, 2016 - Section 3 Update - Road Closure Due to Fire.

March 29, 2016 - Section 2 Update - Heavily Rutted Area.

April 28, 2015 - Section 1 - Urgent Re-Rouoting.

April 1, 2015 - The Navajo Nation Travel Permit has changed to $12 per 24 Hour Period

January 31, 2015 - Permanent Re-Route in Section 1 of the AZBDR

September 23, 2014 - Temporary Route change in Section One of the AZBDR 

August 29, 2014 - The road closure in Section 8 is now open and the tracks for the trip will work. 

May 13, 2014 - Road Closure in Section 8 (re-route avaialble)

 


Businesses Servicing the Route (Food/Lodging/Gas)

Pleasant Valley Inn

47661 N. Hwy 288 (Arizona 288 & Midway Ave), Young, AZ 85554. Tel. 928-462-3593

 

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AZBDR

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Backcountry Discovery Routes

Backcountry Discovery Routes Headquarters

Utah Border (AZBDR)

Stateline Campground (AZBDR)

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument Viewpoint (AZBDR)

Marble Canyon - Food, Gas, Lodging (AZBDR)

Marble Canyon Footbridge (AZBDR)

Antelope Canyon near Page (AZBDR)

Side trip.

Horseshoe Bend Overlook (AZBDR)

Side trip.

Little Colorado Overlook (AZBDR)

Side trip

Cameron Trading Post - Food & Gas (AZBDR)

Navajo Visitor Center - Gas & Permits (AZBDR)

Desert View Watchtower (Grand Canyon NP - AZBDR)

Side trip.

Tusayan Ruins & Museum (Grand Canyon NP - AZBDR)

Side trip.

Grandview Point View (Grand Canyon NP - AZBDR)

Side trip.

Grand Canyon National Park Village (AZBDR)

Side trip

Wupatki National Monument (AZBDR)

Side trip

Strawberry Crater

Side trip

Sunset Crater National Monument (AZBDR)

Side trip

Winona - Food & Gas (AZBDR)

Walnut Canyon National Monument (AZBDR)

Side trip

Kinnickinick Lake (AZBDR)

Clints Well - Food, Gas, Lodging (AZBDR)

Myrtle Point Lookout (AZBDR)

Horseshoe Vista (AZBDR)

Promontory Butte Lookout (AZBDR)

Woods Canyon Lake (AZBDR)

Mogollon Rim Vistor Center (AZBDR)

Young - Food & Gas (AZBDR)

Aztec Peak (from Hwy 288) (AZBDR)

Side trip.

Devils Chasm and Sierra Ancha Cliff Dwellings (AZBDR)

Hike

Cherry Creek Water Crossing (AZBDR)

Salt River Bridge and Diversion Dam Rec Area (AZBDR)

Globe - Food, Gas, Lodging (AZBDR)

Pioneer Pass (AZBDR)

Winkelman - Food & Gas (AZBDR)

Mammoth - Food & Gas (AZBDR)

Benson - Food, Gas, Lodging (AZBDR)

Empire Ranch Headquarters (AZBDR)

Sonoita - Food, Gas, Lodging (AZBDR)

Canelo Pass (AZBDR)

Montezuma Pass Overlook (AZBDR)

Coronado Cave (AZBDR)

Hike

Coronado National Memorial (AZBDR)

Start near Mexico Border (AZBDR)

Pleasant Valley Inn (Young, AZ)

47661 N. Hwy 288 (Arizona 288 & Midway Ave), Young, AZ 85554
Ph. 928-462-3593

A small 10-unit motel right on Hwy 288 along your route in Young, Arizona. Rates vary from $75.00 single occupancy to $80.00 double occupancy. Rooms have in-room coffee, refrigerators, microwaves, cable t.v., internet and if you want, serve breakfast.

                

Winona Trading Post & Towing (Flagstaff, AZ)

I-40 and BDR Route
Day - 928-527-1177  Eve. 928-853-3676
Services: Gas, Groceries, Liquor, Towing Service

Utah Border (AZBDR)

Stateline Campground (AZBDR)

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument Viewpoint (AZBDR)

Marble Canyon - Food, Gas, Lodging (AZBDR)

Marble Canyon Footbridge (AZBDR)

Antelope Canyon near Page (AZBDR)

Side trip.

Horseshoe Bend Overlook (AZBDR)

Side trip.

Little Colorado Overlook (AZBDR)

Side trip

Cameron Trading Post - Food & Gas (AZBDR)

Navajo Visitor Center - Gas & Permits (AZBDR)

Desert View Watchtower (Grand Canyon NP - AZBDR)

Side trip.

Tusayan Ruins & Museum (Grand Canyon NP - AZBDR)

Side trip.

Grandview Point View (Grand Canyon NP - AZBDR)

Side trip.

Grand Canyon National Park Village (AZBDR)

Side trip

Wupatki National Monument (AZBDR)

Side trip

Strawberry Crater

Side trip

Sunset Crater National Monument (AZBDR)

Side trip

Winona - Food & Gas (AZBDR)

Walnut Canyon National Monument (AZBDR)

Side trip

Kinnickinick Lake (AZBDR)

Clints Well - Food, Gas, Lodging (AZBDR)

Myrtle Point Lookout (AZBDR)

Horseshoe Vista (AZBDR)

Promontory Butte Lookout (AZBDR)

Woods Canyon Lake (AZBDR)

Mogollon Rim Vistor Center (AZBDR)

Young - Food & Gas (AZBDR)

Aztec Peak (from Hwy 288) (AZBDR)

Side trip.

Devils Chasm and Sierra Ancha Cliff Dwellings (AZBDR)

Hike

Cherry Creek Water Crossing (AZBDR)

Salt River Bridge and Diversion Dam Rec Area (AZBDR)

Globe - Food, Gas, Lodging (AZBDR)

Pioneer Pass (AZBDR)

Winkelman - Food & Gas (AZBDR)

Mammoth - Food & Gas (AZBDR)

Benson - Food, Gas, Lodging (AZBDR)

Empire Ranch Headquarters (AZBDR)

Sonoita - Food, Gas, Lodging (AZBDR)

Canelo Pass (AZBDR)

Montezuma Pass Overlook (AZBDR)

Coronado Cave (AZBDR)

Hike

Coronado National Memorial (AZBDR)

Start near Mexico Border (AZBDR)

Pleasant Valley Inn (Young, AZ)

47661 N. Hwy 288 (Arizona 288 & Midway Ave), Young, AZ 85554
Ph. 928-462-3593

A small 10-unit motel right on Hwy 288 along your route in Young, Arizona. Rates vary from $75.00 single occupancy to $80.00 double occupancy. Rooms have in-room coffee, refrigerators, microwaves, cable t.v., internet and if you want, serve breakfast.

                

Winona Trading Post & Towing (Flagstaff, AZ)

I-40 and BDR Route
Day - 928-527-1177  Eve. 928-853-3676
Services: Gas, Groceries, Liquor, Towing Service

AZ1 Coronado National Monument to Sonoita

The official start to the AZBDR is a stones throw from the Mexico border in the Coronado National Monument. This is an interesting area both geographically and historically. It is the center of four major biogeographic provinces: Madrean, Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and Southern Rockies/Mogollon. It is also the site of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado Expedition of 1540-1542. Information about both can be found at the interpretive overlook a few miles from the park entrance. From there, it's a mellow ride along the border fence using wide graded dirt roads before heading north to the small town of Sonoita. Fuel up here for your journey through Empire Ranch - historic working cattle ranch from the 1870s. Highlights: Views to Mexico, Ride along the border fence, Visiting Tombstone & Bisbee. Exploring Empire Ranch Headquarters. Heads Up: Heavy Border Patrol activity, be careful in blind corners. DEEP SAND starting at mile 83 near Empire Ranch. Easier alternate is available. Fuel & food available in Sonoita. Camping available at Parker Canyon Lake & Empire Ranch. Many lodging options in Benson.

AZ2 Sonoita to Benson

The official start to the AZBDR is a stones throw from the Mexico border in the Coronado National Monument. This is an interesting area both geographically and historically. It is the center of four major biogeographic provinces: Madrean, Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and Southern Rockies/Mogollon. It is also the site of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado Expedition of 1540-1542. Information about both can be found at the interpretive overlook a few miles from the park entrance. From there, it’s a mellow ride along the border fence using wide graded dirt roads before heading north to the small town of Sonoita. Fuel up here for your journey through Empire Ranch - historic working cattle ranch from the 1870s. Highlights: Views to Mexico, Ride along the border fence, Visiting Tombstone & Bisbee. Exploring Empire Ranch Headquarters. Heads Up: Heavy Border Patrol activity, be careful in blind corners. DEEP SAND starting at mile 83 near Empire Ranch. Easier alternate is available. Fuel & food available in Sonoita. Camping available at Parker Canyon Lake & Empire Ranch. Many lodging options in Benson.

AZ3 Benson to Mammoth

Heading north out of Benson will bring you through stunningly fertile farm lands along the San Pedro river. The road is wide and hard packed with no major obstacles. It's a straight shot up to the small town of Mammoth where you can fuel up. Shove a pack of homemade tortillas in your pannier. The tiny Mexican restaurant next to the gas station in Mammoth makes them hot and fresh. Possibly the best we've ever tasted. Beyond Mammoth you will be paralleling the highway on a narrow railroad service road on your way to Winkelman. The ride from Winkelman to Globe is a fantastic one. Cactus filled desert disappear into high elevation pine forests as you ride stunning ridges on the way to Pioneer Pass. Highlights: Saguaro Cactus, vertile farms land, Pioneer Pass above Globe.

AZ4 Mammoth to Globe

Heading north out of Benson will bring you through stunningly fertile farm lands along the San Pedro river. The road is wide and hard packed with no major obstacles. It's a straight shot up to the small town of Mammoth where you can fuel up. Shove a pack of homemade tortillas in your pannier. The tiny Mexican restaurant next to the gas station in Mammoth makes them hot and fresh. Possibly the best we've ever tasted. Beyond Mammoth you will be paralleling the highway on a narrow railroad service road on your way to Winkelman. The ride from Winkelman to Globe is a fantastic one. Cactus filled desert disappear into high elevation pine forests as you ride stunning ridges on the way to Pioneer Pass. Highlights: Saguaro Cactus, vertile farms land, Pioneer Pass above Globe.

AZ5 Globe to Young

This is a long and remote section with limited bail out points. Once you get north of Roosevelt Lake the road turns from pavement to a wide two lane gravel road with plenty of camping spots among the giant cactus. Ride a little further towards Coon Creek and Cherry Creek for even better campsites tucked under cottonwood trees along the water. The ride from Coon Creek north to Young is some of the most difficult on the trip with relentlessly rocky two track. There is a less difficult alternative but you'll miss out on some spectacular views in the Tonto National Forest. Highlights: Camping along Cherry Creek, views of Roosevelt lake, fun two track roads in desolate terrain. Heads Up: There is no fuel between Globe and Young (80 miles). Food and regular unleaded gas is limited but available Young. No lodging along this section.

AZ6 Young to Winona (Flagstaff)

The Saguaro Cactus and dry deserts make way to Ponderosa Pine, sandstone cliffs and dramatic canyons in section 4. You get a sense for this change almost immediately as the road climbs onto the Mogollon Rim, a 200 mile escarpment that marks the edge of the Colorado Plateau. You can expect a reasonable amount of weekend camping traffic early in this section but expect to see few people the further you go. Highlights: Views from Mogollon Rim, gorgeous Lakes, wildlife. Heads Up: There are no services in this section. If you need gas at Hwy 87, turn left (West) 9.5 miles to gas and food. If you need gas at NF 125, turn left (West) to Mormon Lake Lodge ( Regular Unleaded Only). Plenty of remote camping available along entire section.

AZ7 Winona to Cameron

Just as Section 4 was much different than those before it, Section 5 has riding that is completely different than anything you have experienced in southern Arizona. The first few miles dissect fast roads made of hard packed volcanic sand. Ancient volcanic cones scatter the landscape for most of the ride.The most impressive is Sunset Crater. Take the opportunity to explore a bit in this area and take photos of the lunar landscape. Of course no ride through Arizona would be complete without a visit to the Grand Canyon. This northern part of this section deposits a few short miles from popular tourist overlooks in to the Grand Canyon. For an even more unique look down peel off onto one of the overlooks outside of the Park in Navajo Nation on your way to Cameron. Highlights: Volcanic cones, Sunset Crater, Grand Canyon. Heads Up: There are no services in this section of the route (125 miles). Camping is available around Sunset Crater. Cameron Trading post is a great place to get a room, food and fuel.

AZ8 Cameron to Marble Canyon

You are about to enter Navajo Nation, one of the neatest sections of the AZBDR. This is a wild, untouched part of our country and while visiting here is welcomed, it is a delicate matter. PLEASE respect the land and it's people. Stay on posted roads and keep speeds down. There are a few great opportunities to look down into both the Little Colorado River Canyon and the Grand Canyon itself. The roads are wide and nicely graded with no technical spots or difficult terrain to speak of but keep your eyes open for wild horses and packs of dogs around the modest homes that dot the countryside. Once you leave Navajo Nation you'll have a short slog on pavement before finishing your expedition on 13 miles of fun, mellow dirt roads through Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. Congrats! You've completed the AZBDR and have experienced the best landscapes and riding in Arizona. ***Note on riding through Navajo Nation**** You MUST obtain a pass to ride and camp in Navajo Nation. Camping and riding permits are $12 each per person ( cash only). They can be purchased at the small round building at the junction of Hwy 64 and 89 in Cameron. Don't plan on entering these lands after dark after the permit office is closed. Cameron Visitor Center: P.O. Box 459, Cameron, AZ 86020 tel : 928.679.2303, fax:928.679.2017, email: lcr@navajonationparks.org. Highlights: Wild Horses, Native American culture, "non-touristy" overlooks into the Grand Canyon, Sandstone canyons of Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. Heads Up: DON"T forget your Navajo Nation permit. Fuel & Lodging available in Cameron and Marble Canyon. Camping available in Navajo Nation and Vermillion Cliffs.

AZ9 Marble Canyon to Utah Border

You are about to enter Navajo Nation, one of the neatest sections of the AZBDR. This is a wild, untouched part of our country and while visiting here is welcomed, it is a delicate matter. PLEASE respect the land and it's people. Stay on posted roads and keep speeds down. There are a few great opportunities to look down into both the Little Colorado River Canyon and the Grand Canyon itself. The roads are wide and nicely graded with no technical spots or difficult terrain to speak of but keep your eyes open for wild horses and packs of dogs around the modest homes that dot the countryside. Once you leave Navajo Nation you'll have a short slog on pavement before finishing your expedition on 13 miles of fun, mellow dirt roads through Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. Congrats! You've completed the AZBDR and have experienced the best landscapes and riding in Arizona. ***Note on riding through Navajo Nation**** You MUST obtain a pass to ride and camp in Navajo Nation. Camping and riding permits are $5 each per person ( cash only). They can be purchased at the small round building at the junction of Hwy 64 and 89 in Cameron. Don't plan on entering these lands after dark after the permit office is closed. Cameron Visitor Center: P.O. Box 459, Cameron, AZ 86020 tel : 928.679.2303, fax:928.679.2017, email: lcr@navajonationparks.org. Highlights: Wild Horses, Native American culture, "non-touristy" overlooks into the Grand Canyon, Sandstone canyons of Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. Heads Up: DON"T forget your Navajo Nation permit. Fuel & Lodging available in Cameron and Marble Canyon. Camping available in Navajo Nation and Vermillion Cliffs.

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AZBDR FAQ

Below are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about the Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route.  

AZBDR Discovery Points

AZBDR Restaurants

AZBDR Gas Stations

AZBDR Lodging