Backcountry Discovery Routes are routes across a state or region, that travel south to north, and specifically designed for off road travel on dual sport and adventure motorcycles. BDRs are created using forest service roads, fire roads, two track and other big-bike friendly backcountry trails on public lands.

BDRs range anywhere from 700 miles to 1,400 miles. Depending on how fast you are traveling and which route you are riding, the average time to complete a route is around 5 to 8 days. The average mileage per section will be around approximately 100 to 150 miles and we find that most riders complete one section per day. We highly recommend planning enough time to enjoy scenery and check out points of interest along the way.

While the BDR routes were designed for traveling south to north, you can ride them in the opposite direction. Please pay special attention to making sure you’re always Riding Right, especially around blind corners to minimize the risk of head-on collisions with riders/drivers riding in the opposite direction.

BDRs are designed for intermediate to expert level riders. It is very important that you are honest with yourself about your skill level before you set out on a BDR. If you are a novice rider, there are some steps you can take to prepare yourself for your expedition.

We always recommend taking an off road riding course prior to riding a BDR. Here is a link to a list of highly rated off road training programs in the country:

Because carrying weight can drastically change the handling of your motorcycle, practice riding your motorcycle fully loaded with camping gear, tools, and anything else you need on your expedition.
We view adventure riding as a sport, and any sport requires training before the big event. We suggest you begin working yourself up to your BDR expedition, starting with day rides, evolving into multi-day trips, until you gain the confidence and stamina needed for a 5 to 8 day off-road motorcycle expedition.

You will need the GPX file for the BDR route you are riding uploaded into your preferred GPS unit or phone app. Additionally, the Butler Motorcycle Map for your route will have a wealth of information for planning purposes. While the map is not detailed enough for turn by turn directions its not only useful for backup navigation, but it’s also loaded with great information about the route.

We also strongly suggest watching the film on the BDR you are seeking to complete. Being able to see the terrain is very helpful in understanding the degree of difficulty you will encounter.

Always check the Route Updates page on the BDR website for the latest route information on your route before you go.

Also visit the BDR Interactive Map, and check for any natural activity along the route, by selecting various map layers, like snow pack, fire activity, weather conditions, campgrounds, and so on. (Under the ‘folder’ icon at the top right).

Another great resource for BDR riders are our 10 Route Facebook Group pages. Join the Facebook group for the route you are planning to ride, to read ride reports, ask questions, and participate in open discussions.

WABDR Facebook Group page

UTBDR Facebook Group page

COBDR Facebook Group page

AZBDR Facebook Group page

IDBDR Facebook Group page

NMBDR Facebook Group page

NVBDR Facebook Group page

MABDR Facebook Group page

CABDR-South Facebook Group page

NEBDR Facebook Group page

Yes, we suggest riding with both at all times. Make sure to download the latest version of the tracks for the route you are looking to complete.

All of the BDR routes traverse public roads, be that highways, forest service roads, or backcountry dirt roads they are all considered public roads that require a street legal vehicle with a license plate meeting all local laws and regulations to operate on public roads. Each state has their own unique set of laws for UTV use on public roads which can vary. Consider doing some research on this topic as UTV’s are not the primary focus of Backcountry Discovery Routes. Our focus is on creating routes for adventure motorcycles.

Here is a website that has links to UTV laws by state –

Any motorcycle that has a license plate, can run knobby tires, is set-up to carry the gear you plan to bring, and has the fuel range to make the distance between gas stops. Most adventure or dual-sport motorcycles will be suitable for the trip, but we strongly suggest you choose the bike that you are the most comfortable riding off-road.
When deciding on which bike is right for you, consider your budget, mechanical abilities, physical limitations, the type of terrain you plan to ride majority of the time, and how much load/weight you’re willing to carry.

The three general type of bikes to consider are:

  • ‘Big bore’ machines like the BMW R 1250 GS, KTM 1290 Super Adventure offer power and luxury.
  • Mid-sized bikes like the Honda Africa Twin, KTM 790 Adventure , Yamaha Tenere 700, and BMW F850GS are good all-around options.
  • The single cylinder bikes like the Husqvarna 701, KLR 650, Suzuki DR650 and plated 250cc bikes are lighter and may be easier in more technical terrain, but might not carry the weight as well as the larger bikes.

We often get requests to provide the difficulty ratings of the BDR. We do not officially rate roads or routes because the difficulty can change from day to day depending on weather, changes in road conditions, and road damage caused by a variety of forces including wind, storms, flooding, snow, logging, forest fires and more.

The difficulty experienced by an individual also depends on their off-road skills, level of fitness, stamina, bike size and amount of weight carried on the bike. For these reasons we can’t provide a rating system like a ski resort or OHV park.

We can help you a bit by ranking the existing Backcountry Discovery Routes from most difficult to least difficult. Here is the list: CABDR-South, NEBDR, AZBDR, ORBDR, WYBDR, UTBDR, COBDR, NVBDR, WABDR, NMBDR, IDBDR, MABDR.

So CABDR-South is the most difficult especially if you ride the expert sections and MABDR is the easiest in general terms. Although MABDR is the easiest there are still a few challenging rocky sections and the several water crossings that can get very difficult if the water is high.

Be sure to also review the FAQ’s for each route and our General FAQs prior to embarking on your trip.

We get this question all the time. Here are some key things to consider as you put together your plan.

All of the BDR routes include intermediate to advanced terrain. If a person is on a large twin-cylinder bike like an R1200GS Adventure or Yamaha Super Tenere, the routes can be very difficult. If a person’s skills are not advanced level, they may consider taking a smaller bike or choosing the easier options when possible.

A BDR is something a person should build up to and it shouldn’t be their first overnight trip on their ADV bike.

Although, MA, ID, WA, NM, CO, and WY are less difficult than UT, AZ, OR, CA, NV and NE, they all contain difficult sections. Lockhart Basin in UT is the hardest section of all the BDR’s.

We suggest looking at the Butler Map and take the optional easier routes to avoid the difficult sections.

Even taking this approach there may be difficult stretches depending on changes in road conditions, weather, construction and the unknown. This is part of what makes it an adventure. Regardless of its description on the map or in the film, no section of a BDR should be underestimated.

Do some shorter overnight trips as practice and ride increasingly difficult terrain to build up your skills and confidence. Also remember that riding with a fully-loaded bike should be practiced prior to tackling a BDR.

Lastly, always ride with a group so that you have a team to help overcome any obstacles whether it’s terrain, mechanicals, navigation, medical emergency, etc…
In summary, take baby steps and work up to doing a BDR. Don’t make it your first adventure motorcycle outing on a full-sized twin-cyclinder bike.

DOT approved knobby tires with an aggressive tread pattern are strongly recommended.

Not necessarily.  While the sections can loosely correspond to a day’s ride, they don’t always. It could be a two day ride depending on how fast you travel. Some riders might decide to take detours along the route or need to stop to make a repair. Daily provisions are taken into account when designing a section. You will have access to all gas, food, and lodging that may be needed from section to section.

BDR routes use public roads and for the most part you do not need permit. However, some routes go through areas that require a permit. Please refer to the FAQ for the specific route to see if there is a requirement for where you’re riding.

This depends on the route, but all of our routes are designed with reasonable distance between fuel stops in mind. Generally, the distance between fuel stops on our routes range from 115 to 150 miles. The general rule of backcountry travel is to Never Pass a Gas Station!

The latest updates will always be on our Route Updates section on our website. You can find these here We also regularly update our route specific Facebook groups and our Instagram account (@ridebdr) to reflect the most up to date information we are aware of. We rely in reports from riders, so if you have a road condition or closure to report, please email us.

This comes down to personal preference. A big part of the BDR experience is camping off your bike, however the routes are designed in a way that you can find lodging on the way if you wish. Refer to the page for the route you wish to complete on the BDR website and your Butler Map for ideas on where to stay.

Backcountry Discovery Routes are designed by motorcyclists specifically for dual sport and adventure motorcycles. With the exception of some ATV areas that require permits, BDRs run solely on public roads. However, BDR did not develop these routes for 4×4 vehicles and some of the roads on our routes are simply not suited for 4×4 vehicle travel.

BDR routes go through very remote areas and although it depends largely on your carrier, generally you will not have cell reception aside from some of the towns along the way. It’s important that you carry a satellite device such as a Garmin inReach in case you need to get in touch with family or search and rescue.

If you’re planning to ride a BDR we assume you have your motorcycle endorsement and know the basics of riding a bike. If not, take a weekend Motorcycle Safety Course to obtain your endorsement. Read this “New to ADV. Where do I Start?’ article on our website for additional advice and information. Once you have your motorcycle endorsement:

Take an off-road course. There are some off road training resources listed here Depending on where you’re located there might be some other options for you. We suggest training on a smaller bike. These can be more confidence inspiring and easier to manage and pick up, especially if you are new to off-road riding. The skills you learn on a smaller bike will directly transfer to the larger adventure bikes.

Dial in your gear. It is essential that you purchase the best quality riding gear you can afford. Any helmet will protect your head, but we suggest looking for something that is DOT rated. We cannot overstate the importance of boots. Skip the work boots, hiking boots, and road riding boots. High quality off road riding boots with substantial ankle support and protection can be pricey, but they will last you for years to come and more than likely pay for themselves the first time you end up underneath your bike. Even the most expensive boots on the market are cheaper than any hospital bill. You will also need to protect your body and limbs. A good quality, fully armored riding suit and gloves are all essential. Because, some of the riding you will be doing on your expedition will be on the road, items with a good abrasion resistance rating on pavement are strongly suggested.

Decide what bike is right for you. If you are new to adventure riding, we strongly suggest starting with a 250cc to 650cc. Sit on some bikes to make sure you can comfortably touch the ground. If you can, do some test rides to see what feels right for you. Make sure you are comfortable with the fact your investment will pick up some scrapes and dings along the way. Whatever bike you choose, work to dial in the ergonomics. Make sure the handlebars are in a comfortable position when standing on the bike. Rotate the clutch and brake lever to a position that offers ease of accessibility while sitting AND standing. Ensure you can easily engage your shift lever while wearing your riding boots.

You also want to protect your investment. Some bikes will come with a skid plate, but most of the time they aren’t adequate. Invest in a quality skid plate. This will protect the underside of your bike from rocks and other debris while riding off road. Hand guards will save your brake and clutch levers in a tip over and also protect your hands from brush and debris. Consider other bike protection parts like crash bars, and upgrades like auxiliary lights, windscreen, heated grips, steering damper, aftermarket suspension and others.

Mount DOT approved knobby tires with an aggressive tread pattern. Decide on the type of luggage (hard or soft) you want. Pick the solution that has the most amount of features you desire.

Practice, practice, practice. Take a few short overnight trips close to home. Spend some time riding with your bike fully loaded with all of your gear. We have found that training can be an amazing tool in understanding the fundamentals of off road riding, but it’s really time on your bike, putting the fundamentals into practice that will help you really build the skills and confidence needed for a successful expedition.

It is essential to develop your skills in relation to standing on the bike. Certain things such as braking and shifting can feel very awkward at first, but with time these movements will become much more natural to you.

Find a riding group. Attend rallies, motorcycle events, BDR film screenings, and motorcycle meet ups in your area to link up with like-minded individuals. Join to connect on the forum’s regional section with riders in your area. Join local dual sport and adventure riding Facebook groups. Riding with friends is safer and just inherently more fun.
Riding with skilled riders is an excellent way to become a better rider. They can give you tips and even help to push you to that next level you may not have been comfortable with while riding alone. If you feel you are getting in over your head do not be afraid to say so. While it is great to push yourself, knowing your limits is crucial.

Ride your own ride. At the end of the day, this is supposed to be fun. Ride at the pace and on the terrain you enjoy.

When scouting or riding the routes, the BDR team members prefer to use a GPS unit, like the Garmin Zumo XT, Garmin Montana, Trailtech Voyager, and others. Because we use GPS Tracks, not Routes, for navigating BDRs, any GPS unit capable of displaying 15 track logs with a minimum of 500 points each is suitable for use on a BDR.

In recent years, several third party smartphone apps have been introduced designed specifically for backcountry navigation. Some of the more popular apps for BDR navigation are:

  • Gaia GPS
  • Rever
  • OsmAnd
  • BackCountry Navigator TOPO GPS PRO
  • onX Offroad
  • Many others…

Make sure to download topographical maps of the entire area you wish to ride within the navigation app of your choice. It is necessary to do this before you leave, on Wi-Fi, as the map files are often quite large. Then, import the BDR GPS tracks (GPX file) into the smartphone app of your choice.

GAIA GPS is a powerful and easy to use GPS navigational app that we can recommend for riders who plan to use a smart phone or a tablet for navigating the BDR’s.

Visit the Gaia GPS article for step by step instructing on using Gaia for BDR routing HERE

Click HERE for a discounted GAIA Premium Membership through BDR.

GPS Tracks can be downloaded for free on the BDR website at

Click on the GPS Tracks, Download GPS Tracks button. Fill in contact information, agree to the terms, hit submit. A link will appear for you to download and save the GPS file on your computer/phone.

Choose an offline GPS app; there are several smartphone apps available to display GPS tracks (Rever, Gaia, OsmAnd, etc…)

Download offline maps for the area you intend to ride.

Import the GPX file into the offline GPS app of your choice.

Start navigating by following the BDR route line.

There are some different options for backcountry navigation using a smartphone. Google Maps is not well suited for this purpose as it’s not designed to work with GPS tracks and waypoints that we use for the BDR routes.

GPS Tracks can be downloaded for free on the BDR website at

Click on the GPS Tracks, Download GPS Tracks button.

Fill in personal information, agree to the terms, hit submit.

Connect your Garmin to your PC or Mac via USB cable

Copy the downloaded GPX file into to the GPS device, inside the GPX folder


Import the GPX file to Basecamp then use “Send to device” to transfer the GPX file

***Some GPS units require that you manually select to display each track on your device, such as the BMW Nav V and VI.
After loading the GPX file to your device, simply click on your tracks app where you can view all the loaded tracks. You must then select each track individually and choose to ‘show on map’. You can also change track colors in this screen.
PLEASE NOTE:  Some units such as the Nav V and Nav VI and Zumo 396, only allow a maximum of 15 tracks to be displayed at any given time.
When you import our tracks, they are all loaded onto your device, but you have to manually select to ‘show on map’ the tracks you wish to see.
With this limitation, we suggest you only make visible to first half of the route, then when you finish those sections, turn those tracks ‘off’ and select the remaining tracks as ‘visible’ on map.

The Garmin Zumo XT often has issues connecting to or being recognized by Mac computers.
If your XT is not being recognized when you plug it in, you can try a few things first:

  • Download the BDR tracks on our website and install Garmin Basecamp to your computer.
  • Import this .gpx file into Garmin Basecamp.
  • Make sure you are using the supplied official Garmin USB cable that came with your gps unit.
  • If your XT isn’t recognized, try turning the GPS unit on first, then plugging it into your computer.
  • likely your XT will not be recognized as a drive for transferring, so rather you can open Garmin Basecamp, and see if your gps device is recognized there.
  • If it is, select the BDR you wish to transfer from the collection list on the left, then at the top of the window select “TRANSFER>Send “xxxxtracks” to Device”
  • The tracks will now be on your GPS unit. You may need to make each track ‘visible’ using the XT device.

The Zumo XT unit comes equipped with Bluetooth capabilities and can connect with your phone.
Another workaround for transferring our tracks to your Zumo XT and using additional features is as follows:

  1. If you do not need to modify the BDR tracks and wish to use them on your device as they come:
    • download the Garmin Drive and Garmin Explore apps to your phone using the app store.
    • make sure you pair your cell phone to your Zumo XT via Bluetooth.
    • navigate to our website to download the BDR track file of your choosing using your cell phone.
    • upon downloading the tracks, you should be given an option of where to open, save, or ‘send’ the .gpx file.
    • when your phone gives you the option of where to save or download the file, select the Garmin Drive app. You may have to search for the app to select it.
    • The Garmin Drive app should then open, confirming it has received the .gpx file.
    • With your XT connected to your phone via Bluetooth, it should give you the option to ‘send’ the file to your XT.
    • Now the tracks should appear on your Zumo XT, just like you transferred them via cable. You may need to make each track ‘visible’ using the XT device.
  2. If you need to modify the tracks to add waypoints or other tracks using Basecamp first, you can then use this method:
    • download the Garmin Drive and Garmin Explore apps to your phone using the app store.
    • make sure you pair your cell phone to your Zumo XT via Bluetooth.
    • send an email to yourself (from your computer to your phone) with the BDR track file attached to the email.
    • open this email on your phone, then select to ‘download’ the .gpx file that is attached by clicking on the attachment.
    • next, when your phone gives you the option of where to open, save or send the file, select the Garmin Drive app. You may have to search for the app.
    • The Garmin Drive app should then open, confirming it has received the .gpx file.
    • With your XT connected to your phone via Bluetooth, it should give you the option to ‘send’ the file to your XT.
    • Now the tracks should appear on your Zumo XT, just like you transferred them via cable. You may need to make each track ‘visible’ using the XT device.

Additionally, you can now use the Garmin Explore app to view the tracks on your phone, add or modify waypoints, change tracks colors, and more.  All these changes will appear automatically on your XT the next time they are both turned on and synced via Bluetooth.

The Zumo XT should automatically display the waypoints on your map, however it does not have the option to display the name of the waypoint (just the icon).
The XT also refers to waypoints ‘favorites’.
If you aren’t seeing them visible on your map, you can try this:
True Garmin Waypoints (also referred to as Favorites in the XT) can be made to show up on the XT map using the following menu: 
Settings->Map&Vehicle->Map Layers->Collections->Choose what you want to appear on the map.
For example if you downloaded the ORBDR tracks, you should see ‘ORBDR-Feb2023’ under collections and make sure you turn on that to make it visible.

Make sure you both have the latest tracks  – Aside from that, your GPS is most likely converting our tracks to a ’route’. Garmin software will also call this a “trip”. Displaying BDR Tracks as a ‘route’ or a ‘trip’ will definitely cause this issue. Converting a track into a route/trip will cause the track to recalculate to other roads that weren’t intended as part of the BDR.  All BDR .gpx files contain each section as a track.  Tracks are simply embedded colored lines that you follow, and do not provide any turn-by-turn navigation or routing. We do not recommend converting these tracks to routes or trips because although they may provide navigation, various devices often cause issues with unexpected re-routes and navigation issues. As a rule of thumb while using tracks, if you’re on the line, you’re on the right track.

The correct way to display tracks on the Zumo XT is Apps -> Tracks-> Select a track-> Gear Icon -> Show on Map. The method on other Garmin models can vary.  Please review this page for further information.

Garmin has an app called Garmin Drive you can install on your iPad which allows you to transfer GPS tracks from your iPad to your Garmin device.
Here is a link to the how-to article Garmin has posted on their website:

Because we use GPS Tracks, not Routes, for navigating BDRs, any GPS unit capable of displaying 15 track logs with a minimum of 500 points each is suitable for use on a BDR. Older devices supporting only GPS Routes would cause issues of re-routing you along unintended roads instead of providing a static path to follow along the BDR, as GPS Tracks do. GPS units that do not support tracks are unfortunately not supported for BDRs.

GPS tracks are a static line to follow and aren’t designed to be turn-by-turn.

GPS tracks can be used in either direction.

Waypoints, or Points-of-interest (POI), are a static place such as a viewpoint, gas station, or hotel.

Tracks are a static line on a map – as your GPS position moves the idea is to follow this line.

Routes are dynamically calculated directions to connect a starting and ending point – they can change as you go.

It is important to download offline maps before leaving internet service and have the BDR GPX file downloaded on your phone.

A satellite communication device is always a good idea for travel in the backcountry. You never know what could happen and often cellular coverage is no available or spotty at best.
A satellite phone can be rented if you only need one for a few days.
Another good option is a satellite messenger such as a Spot or a Garmin InReach  Both have med-vac options in case of an emergency medical issue. They also offer the ability to send text messages to contacts at home. It also allows them to track your location during your trip.

There are a few medical assist companies. The ones most familiar to the BDR are Global Rescue and Medjet Assist.   Its also strongly encouraged that all riders  have some kind of emergency SOS device such as a Garmin InReach, Spot, or Zolio, which may be your fastest method of making emergency contact, especially while in an area without cell coverage.

This is a very commonly asked question. Unfortunately, that is a very tough question to answer because there are so many variables to take into account. Here are some suggestions we have found work for us:

  • Finding a privately owned campground like a KOA and asking to leave your rig for a fee.
  • Asking your preferred motel chain. Stay there the night before starting your trip and the last night of your trip before heading home and arrange to leave your rig there for the days in between.
  • Inquiring on the regional forums on or the Route Facebook Group page. We have found that it is very easy to find a generous rider willing to allow you to park at their home for a few days simply for the sake of helping someone get out there and ride.
  • Because all BDR routes are one way, we like leaving our rigs closer to the end of the route and riding to the beginning. This way, you are fresh, and a few hours of road riding to start is a great way to get you warmed up for your expedition. When you have completed the route, you will then only have a short ride back to your rig.

We generally do not recommend riding BDR’s two-up because of how technical the routes can be. However segments of routes can be ridden two-up for those experienced in riding off-highway with a passenger and luggage, and we know of couples who have ridden and fully enjoyed their two-up BDR adventures. Easier routes like the MABDR, NEBDR (if taking easier alternates), and IDBDR are more suitable for traveling two-up.

Most BDR routes have a number of gates along the route used by ranchers. The rule is to leave the gate as you’ve found it.

This is a personal preference depending on your motorcycle size and the size of the load you’re carrying.

Some pros of riding with hard luggage is convenience, security, and ability to carry larger loads. Some cons of hard luggage is that it is heavier, requires the use of racks, and can bend out of shape in a hard tip over.

Some pros of riding with soft luggage is that it is more lightweight, and stands up to tip overs better. Many versions of soft luggage can also be mounted without the need for racks. Some cons of soft luggage is that it is more difficult to secure your belongings when you’re away from your bike, more time consuming to pack up every morning, and sometimes requires more effort to slim down your load so that everything fits properly.

Dispersed camping is allowed in all national forests, unless noted otherwise. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has an INTERACTIVE MAP  which shows dispersed camping locations.

Each state has its own recreational fishing requirements and restrictions. To learn about the required licenses and stamps for fishing (and hunting), please visit the website for Game & Fish Departments in the respective state to ensure that you have obtained the proper permits if you intend to go fishing during your BDR trip.

A number of BDR routes includes a few instances where the the track follows an easement road through private land. In many, but not all cases, the land owners have installed “private land” signs and it is important that riders acknowledge these signs and stay on the designated track. If you are unsure of the land ownership adjacent to the roads, such as outside of national forest lands, it’s best to stay on the track to avoid trespassing. In all cases riders should not ride off the roads which creates new trails and damages vegetation. Please remember that riding off the designated roads can jeopardize our right to use these roads for recreation.

On most BDRs riders will encounter gates across roads. These gates are important and are used by ranchers to control and separate herds. The rule of thumb is to leave the gate as you’ve found it. This means that if it was closed when you found it, close it after passing through. If it was open, leave it open. It is important for riders to follow this rule to prevent animal herds intermixing, and respect the rights and needs of private landowners and permittees.

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