Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route

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If getting high is your thing, Colorado offers some of the tallest mountains passable by motorcycle in the US. With several passes over 12,000 feet, there is no shortage of views on this route, just shortness of breath while taking in the sights in the thin air of Ophir, Corkscrew, Hurricane, California, Cinnamon, Cumberland, Cottonwood, Weston and Hagerman passes.

Beginning in the four corners location where, CO, AZ, NM and UT intersect, this 675-mile route winds its way north through the Rocky Mountains to the Wyoming border. The terrain includes dirt roads with rocks, sand and even a few water crossings to keep it exciting.

Best time of year: July through September. Most of the route can be done in late June. Depending on snowpack you might not make it through some high passes until sometime in July.


Additional Route Information

In addition to the Interactive COBDR Map on the right, SheADV.com hosts an interactive BDR Map that shows current weather conditions, estimated snow levels, and forest fires for all BDR’s.

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

The COBDR film is available for streaming or download.

COBDR LODGING

Steamboat Springs - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Gypsum - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Leadville - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Buena Vista - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Pitkin - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Lake City - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Ouray - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

side trip

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Telluride - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Groundhog Reservoir (COBDR)

Dolores - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

COBDR FOOD

The Pony Expresso (Dolores, CO)

795 Railroad Ave (Hwy 145), Delores CO (970)882-7950 More than just a coffee shop….a bakery, a gallery, a place to connect, unwind and enjoy.

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Steamboat Springs - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Gypsum - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Leadville - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Buena Vista - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Taylor Park Trading Post - Food & Gas (COBDR)

Pitkin - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Lake City - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Ouray - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

side trip

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Telluride - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Groundhog Reservoir (COBDR)

Dolores - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

COBDR FUEL

Steamboat Springs - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Gypsum - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Leadville - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Buena Vista - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Taylor Park Trading Post - Food & Gas (COBDR)

Pitkin - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Lake City - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Ouray - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

side trip

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Telluride - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Dolores - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

COBDR DISCOVERY POINTS

Wyoming Border Intersection (COBDR)

Wyoming Border Intersection (COBDR)

Columbine Store (COBDR)

Steamboat Lake State Park (COBDR)

Clark Store (COBDR)

Steamboat Springs - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Stagecoach Reservoir (COBDR)

State Bridge (COBDR)

Gypsum - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Sylvan Lake State Park (COBDR)

Crooked Creek Pass (COBDR)

Hagerman Pass (COBDR)

Turquoise Lake (COBDR)

Leadville - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Weston Pass (COBDR)

Buena Vista - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Cottonwood Hot Springs (COBDR)

Cottonwood Pass (COBDR)

Taylor Park Trading Post - Food & Gas (COBDR)

Tincup Town (COBDR)

Cumberland Pass (COBDR)

Pitkin - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Waunita Hot Springs (COBDR)

Los Pinos Pass (COBDR)

Lake City - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Lake San Cristobal (COBDR)

Cinnamon Pass (COBDR)

Animas Forks Mine & Ghost Town (COBDR)

California Pass (COBDR)

Hurricane Pass (COBDR)

Corkscrew Pass (COBDR)

Ouray - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

side trip

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Idarado Mine Ruins (COBDR)

Ophir Pass (COBDR)

Bridal Veil Falls (COBDR)

Telluride - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Woods Lake Recreation Area (COBDR)

side trip

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Groundhog Reservoir (COBDR)

Dolores - Food, Gas, Lodging (COBDR)

Mesa Verde National Monument (COBDR)

side trip

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Four Corners Monument (COBDR)

COBDR PACKING LIST

This packing list serves as an example and is not intended to be a complete list for your backcountry riding needs. Feel free to customize this list to work for you.

Riding
  • Helmet
  • Boots
  • Goggles
  • Gloves (2 sets)
  • Protective gear (pressure suit, Leatt brace, knee braces)
  • Jacket
  • Pants
  • Balaclava or neck gaitor
  • Water bladder or bottle
  • Hydration pack
  • Ear plugs
Gadgets
  • Map holder / map case
  • GPS unit
  • GPS mount
  • Compass
  • Cell phone
  • Phone charger
  • Plug adapter: auto to BMW plug
  • Camera
  • Spot II
  • Notebook
  • Pencil/pen
Clothing
  • Rain shell
  • Riding socks (2)
  • Zip pants/shorts
  • Short sleeve (base layer shirt)
  • Swim suit
  • Flip flops/sandals
  • Riding jersey / long-sleeve (base layer shirt)
  • Fleece jacket
  • Underwear
  • Wool beanie
  • Ball cap
  • Socks
Personal
  • Toiletries
  • Soap
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush & Floss
  • Towel (MSR Pack Towel)
  • Razor
  • Toilet paper
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Pain reliever
  • Allergy meds
  • Wet Wipes
  • Sun Glasses
  • Passport if going into Canada
  • Money (credit cards & cash)
Motorcycle
  • Engine oil
  • Clip-style master link
  • Fuses
  • Chain lube
  • Spare inner-tubes
Camping Gear
  • Sleeping bag
  • Pillow
  • Roll pad
  • Tent
  • Dry bags (2) for tent, sleeping pad & sleeping bag
  • Water storage (Dromedary Bag)
  • Folding hand saw
  • Water filter
  • Eating utensils
  • Lighter / waterproof matches
  • Can opener
  • Pots & pans
  • Coffee brewing device
  • Coffee cup
  • Headlamp (2)
  • Kitchen set & spices
  • Stove
  • Stove fuel bottle
  • Folding camp chair
Books & Maps
Tools & Misc
  • Tool roll / tool set
  • Tire levers
  • Tire patch kit
  • Air pump
  • Tire gauge
  • Quicksteel
  • Leatherman tool
  • Swiss Army knife
  • Large inflation CO2 (for tubeless tires)
  • First Aid kit
  • Zip ties
  • Duct tape
  • Wire
  • LocTite
  • WD-40
  • Tow strap
Food
  • Energy bars
  • Coffee
  • Oatmeal
  • Other ingredients based on meal plan

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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

Are BDR routes suitable for a 4x4 vehicle?

For the most part all of BDR routes are doable by 4×4’s with adequate tires and clearance. The roads are all public roads and do require a street legal vehicle.  One thing to keep in mind – the routes conditions can change dramatically due to rain and flash floods which cause the roads to become difficult or impassable.

The UTBDR probably will be the most challenging route in a 4×4 if you take the expert sections. Lockhart Basin is the hardest section of all the BDR’s.

What is the COBDR?

The Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route (COBDR) is a mostly off-road motorcycle route across Colorado from New Mexico to Wyoming. The South to North route winds through the high elevations such as the San Juan mountains and relaxing segments such as the Colorado River Rd. The route includes dirt, gravel, and pavement surfaces and may include rocks, ruts, sand, mud and snow depending on time of year and conditions. The route can be completed in 4-6 days depending on pace, and is also accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles, as the entire route is at least double-track.

How far between gas stops?

The longest gap between gas stations is approximately 121 miles from Gypsum to Steamboat Springs. There is gas at Rancho Del Rio, but it’s not guaranteed and they only carry low octane gas.

Do I have to camp?

No, you can complete the COBDR using motels and restaurants fairly easily.

Can I build a camp fire?

In most cases camp fires are allowed, but check with local Ranger Stations to determine if campfires are allowed before you build one. Forest fires are a threat during parts of the year and the rules that manage this risk must be followed. Be sure to fully extinguish fires so they are DEAD-OUT. Use water to ensure a fire is fully extinguished and the ground is left cool and wet.

Where do I camp?

There are many campgrounds and suitable dry camping locations along the route. The Butler Motorcycle Map for the COBDR has a tent icon showing campgrounds on the route and many near the route. The COBDR Butler Map is available at www.touratech-usa.com or www.butlermaps.com.

Is there water on the route?

There are a few natural water sources along this route however, depending on the snow pack, some may not running. You can find potable water in the towns along the way. It is suggested that plenty of water is carried for personal and cooking use. Here is a video on water filtration filmed in the Oregon Backcountry: http://youtu.be/vqOFZAoZdTU

Where can I find the GPS tracks for the COBDR?

The tracks for the route can be downloaded free of charge online at https://ridebdr.com/download-tracks/ .

Why do I need paper maps when I have GPS tracks?

Always bring a complete set of maps for the area you plan to ride. They have good information about roads, water sources, and are an indispensable resource when the GPS doesn’t work, or is giving questionable advice. Unplanned events can occur and having paper/synthetic maps of the area can be a life saver. National Forest maps are available at http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/map/state_list.shtml#U and local Ranger Stations. COBDR Butler Motorcycle Maps are available at www.touratech-usa.com or www.butlermaps.com.

What is the ideal bike to use?

Any bike 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. Choose the bike that you are the most comfortable riding in desert and mountain terrain.

What GPS should I use?

Any GPS unit capable of displaying 10 track logs with a minimum of 500 points each is suitable for use on the COBDR. Garmin models that work best for this application are: Zumo 665/660, Montana, GPSMap 60, 62, 76, 78 and 276. Other GPS manufacturers may have units that will work. Check the technical specs to determine suitability.

How difficult is the route?

The COBDR route is designed to be ridden on adventure and dual-sport motorcycles, as well as driven in 4×4 vehicles. There are no single-track style trails on this route. Many of the roads are in remote areas and reach high elevation areas where road maintenance is minimal or non-existent. You can expect to cover sections of road with deep ruts, loose rocks, sand and other challenges. There are also sections that have deep sand. Road conditions change from week to week based on the recent weather. When you see signs that read, “Roads maybe impassable when wet”, use caution, roads become very slick and can be impassable. You may also encounter sections that have trees or branches over the road. There are alternate “easier” routes around a few of the most challenging sections. Depending on time of year and weather, there may be a few small deep water crossings. Flash floods are frequent during summer storms. Don’t cross flooded washes. Wait until water subsides.

What time of year can I do the COBDR?

The COBDR is best from July-September and sometimes October if no early snow storms have occurred. The route can be done in June, but snowpack in the high mtns may keep you from doing the entire route as mapped. There have been some years where the snow has not cleared from the high country until the last week of July.

Are there any gates on the route?

Yes, there are several gates on the route. Most remain open unless BLM or NFS has closed them due to snow closure.

What tires should I use for the COBDR?

DOT approved knobby tires (such as Continental TKC 80 or Dunlop 606) are strongly recommended.

What weather concerns should I have?

Colorado has fast moving thunder storms during the summer months. These storms usually build in the mountains in the early afternoon and usually contain lightning, hail stones and heavy downpours. It’s recommended you go over the high passes early in the day.

What is the highest elevation on the COBDR?

The highest elevations are reached in section where California Pass reaches nearly 13,000 feet. The route travels at high elevations for long distances and is above 8,000 feet the majority of the time.

How long does it take to run the COBDR?

Most people average 150 miles a day on a backcountry motorcycle trip. Plan on doing this route in 4-6 days depending on how fast you want to travel and how early you want to roll out of camp.

Is there cell phone coverage on the route?

Much of this route is remote and out of reach for cell phone towers. There will be long sections with no coverage. Your best bet is to talk or text in the towns or on top of mountains. You will be surprised where you get coverage and where you don’t. A satellite communication device is a good idea in the backcou

How do I get information on current road conditions?

We are working to include information on current road conditions on our website based on other riders’ reports. In the meantime, you can find the most up to date roads information on www.bushducks.com

Can the Route be done North to South?

Yes the route can be done North to South.

How Bad is the Sand Really?

This is a tough question to answer because conditions are constantly changing. If the weather has been moist or temps have been cool, the sand will be firmer and significantly easier to ride. If it hasn’t been hot for some time, the sand becomes very soft and deep. So the bottom line is, learn to ride in deep sand before your trip which will make your ride more enjoyable.

What about the Clay?

There are several sections where the road is a clay surface north of Haggerman Pass. When wet, these sections become very slick and virtually impassable. When you encounter wet clay roads, a higher gear selection is recommended to keep your rear wheel from sliding. Slow and steady will get you through, but in some cases travel will come to a halt due to slick conditions.

Do I need to worry about Altitude Sickness?

Altitude sickness is certainly possible on this ride. The COBDR reaches elevations of over 10,000 feet many times so plan your ride responsibly. The higher and faster you go up, the greater risk you are for symptoms. Consider spending a night or two at moderate elevation if you are prone to altitude sickness. It’s always best to ride up high, sleep down low. Altitude sickness, also referred to as Acute Mountain Sickness, is the illness causing effect of high altitude on the human body. The exact mechanism by which it occurs is unknown, but the severity of symptoms can vary from mild to life threatening.

Common symptoms of High Altitude Sickness / Acute Mountain Sickness include: fatigue, headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, muscle cramping, insomnia, elevated blood pressure, shortness of breath, water retention and dehydration. Recognizing the symptoms of High Altitude Sickness, getting to a lower elevation, using supplemental oxygen, staying hydrated with water and Acli-Mate® Mountain Sport Drink may help to prevent or reduce the severity of altitude sickness. (Immediate medical attention is advised for moderate to severe AMS!)

Which BDR is the easiest? Which one would you recommend for a rider that hasn’t done a long trip on dirt before. I have just taken an intro level training course and I ride a 1200GSA?

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 bike 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, WA and CO are less difficult than UT and AZ,  they all contain difficult sections. 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.

What medical supplies should I carry on a BDR trip?

This advice comes from Rob Watt, BDR Board and Expeditions Member, and Wilderness EMT.

We carry items for wound management, breaks, basic meds and dental.  You can buy a good first aid kit at one of the outdoor stores online or Touratech-USA.  Get one that is an Extended Day Backpacker or 3-4 person kit.  These kits usually have the basics for a motorcycle trip.

They usually don’t have a SAM splint, so pick one of those up along with a couple ace bandages.  One other thing that we do for every multi-day trip, is to gather important information about each rider: allergies, medications, medical issues, emergency contacts, etc.

Then we put that on a master sheet for each person, so if something does happen we have that information handy incase that person can’t speak.  Another good practice is to do a little research of where medical facilities are along your planned route.  Is there a “flight for life” in the area? Where are the hospitals, Medical clinics, etc?

Here is a list of some items that you should have in your medical kit:

  • Bandages: Assorted sizes for small cuts, blisters, etc.
  • 4-inch closure strips or butterfly closures: For closing large wounds. 4-inch strips are more effective than butterfly.
  • 4 inch by 4 inch sterile dressing pads (5 to 10): To apply pressure to a wound and stop bleeding
  • Non-adherent sterile dressing (2 inch by 2 inch): Use these or Second Skin to cover blisters, burns or lacerations.
  • Gauze roll: Holds dressing in place.
  • Small roll of 1-inch adhesive tape: Holds dressings in place.
  • Multi-use tool or knife: Should include knife, scissors. A scalpel and blade are also useful for first aid.
  • Forceps or tweezers: For removing splinters, ticks, and removing debris from wounds.
  • Scissors: Trauma scissors, which have a blunt end to protect the patient, can be used for cutting away clothing from injury, cutting medical tape, etc.
  • Thermometer: Digital is generally more accurate, but batteries do wear out.
  • Malleable splint: Lightweight foam-covered aluminum, such as a SAM splint.
  • Irrigation syringe (35 cc): Used to flush and clean wounds.
  • Suction syringe (65 cc): Used to clear mouth of fluids when giving CPR.
  • Safety pins: Can help remove splinters, fasten arm sling, or make a whole in a plastic bag for improvised wound irrigation.
  • Cotton-tip swabs: For removing  foreign objects from eye, or applying antibiotic ointment.
  • Resealable plastic bags: Many uses, including icing a swollen joint or creating wound irrigation device.
  • ACE, Coban, or other rubberized bandage: Can be used as outer wrap on splints, wound dressings or support for joint injuries. Be careful not to wrap too tightly.
  • Antiseptic towlettes: For cleaning small wounds.
  • Cleansing pads with lidocaine: For cleaning. Includes a topical anesthetic for abrasions, stings, etc.
  • Topical antibiotic ointment: For application to wounds. Simple Vaseline can also be used in dressing a wound.
  • Moleskin: Prevents blisters. Cut and apply a section to your foot as soon as you discover a “hot spot.” Duct tape also works for this purpose.
  • Povidone Iodine USP 10 percent, 1 oz.: For preventing infection. Bottled PVD iodine 10 percent solution should be diluted to a ratio of 1 percent or less for flushing wounds.
  • Aloe vera gel: Found in packets or small bottles for relief of minor burns.
  • Pain relievers, including aspirin and Ibuprofen: Provides relief for minor aches and pains, reduces fever, helps reduce inflammation of sprains and other injuries.
  • Antihistamines: For relief of pollen allergies, or to reduce reaction to bites and stings.
  • Immodium 2 mg capsules or tablets: For relief of diarrhea from intestinal infections.
  • Pepto Bismol or antiacid tablets: For relief from general diarrhea, abdominal upset.
  • After Bite or hydrocortisone cream USP 1 percent: Relieves skin irritation from bites, poison oak, stings, or allergic reactions.
  • Latex or nitrile gloves: Protects against blood-borne diseases and infection.
  • CPR microshield mask: A compact flexible barrier with a one-way valve for rescue breathing, which protects user from blood, vomit or saliva.
  • Oral rehydration salts: Packet of electrolyte salts and glucose for treatment of dehydration, heat exhaustion, or loss of fluids from vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Space bag/blanket: Lightweight emergency shelter. For treating hypothermia victims.
  • Paper and pencil: For recording medical data such as body temperature, pulse, time and date of symptoms, injuries, medicines administered, etc. Most repackaged kits include accident report forms.
  • Wilderness First Aid booklet: Many prepackaged first aid kits contain one. An excellent pocket guide is the Wilderness Medical Handbook

Rating the Routes by Difficulty

We get a lot of requests to provide difficulty ratings. The difficulty of a route can change from day to day depending on weather, changes in the 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, bike size and amount of weight carried on the bike. For these reasons we can’t provide a rating system like a ski resort. We can help you a bit by ranking the existing BDR’s from most difficult to least difficult. Here is the list: CA, AZ, UT, CO, WA, NM, ID, MA. So CABDR South is the most difficult especially if you ride the expert sections and Mid Atlantic BDR 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. Also mud can be very challenging if it rains heavily. We hope this helps you in your planning. Be sure to also review the FAQ’s for each route prior to planning your trip.

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