New Mexico Backcountry Discovery Route

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If you grew up watching westerns on TV, the landscapes on the New Mexico BDR will bring back memories. It’s true Wild West with the history to prove it.

You’ll ride through areas where the notorious outlaw ‘Billy the Kid’ made history by eluding authorities and see the land the same way he did because not much has changed in many of these places. Wild horses, landscapes that roll on forever and the tiniest of towns highlight this route.

Beginning in Dell City, TX you’ll enjoy the Guadalupe Rim views on your way to the high-elevation historic town of Cloudcroft. Hot springs, and lakeside camping can be found on your way into the mountains of the Gila National Forest and you’ll even be a stone’s throw from AZ before heading back to the north east toward Colorado. Highlights include Chloride Canyon, long stretches between towns and endless dispersed camping options. The last section north of Abiquiu winds through high mountains with open meadows with groves of aspen trees and is as beautiful as it gets.

Best time of year: Late May/June and September/October. July and August are monsoon season with extremely high temperatures and not recommended.


The NMBDR is presented by Sandia BMW Motorcycles, with additional support from Santa Fe BMW Motorcycles.

NMBDR LODGING

Each room offers you free access to Wi-Fi since we know you need some of the pleasures from back home. We know you’ll enjoy your stay with us, we even guarantee it.

42 Main Street
Reserve, NM 87830

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They say the grass is always greener on the other side, but if you ask us, the grass is pretty green over here. It’s beautiful. Peaceful. Everything you need to relax, unplug, enjoy……

2134 Hwy 180

Reserve, NM 87830

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In the 1730s, it was the third largest settlement in the Spanish province of Nuevo México. Artist Georgia O’Keeffe lived there from 1949 until shortly before her death in 1986 at 98 years of age.

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Located off the busy 550 highway, Cuba has several motels, restaurants and bars. In 2005 and 2019, the National Christmas Tree was harvested from the Santa Fe National Forest near Cuba.

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Grants New Mexico is a diverse community of 10,000 people descending from many cultures and backgrounds. Our climate is mild year round, typical of the high desert. We are located 1 hour west of Albuquerque on I-40. Our area offers low property taxes, inexpensive housing, the convenience of a nearby large city, and an abundance of open space.

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A small, friendly, one stop sign community at the gateway to the nation’s largest National Forest, the Gila Wilderness.

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The City of Elephant Butte is home to the largest lake in the state and also The Sierra Del Rio Golf Course. We are the premier destination for recreational boating in the beautiful state of New Mexico. Enjoy our local restaurants, hotels, motels, fishing guides, watercraft sales and rentals, city park and our beautiful walking trail.

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Truth or Consequences is a city in New Mexico, and the county seat of Sierra County. In 2010, the population was 6,475. It has frequently been noted on lists of unusual place names for having chosen to rename itself after the Truth or Consequences radio show.

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Though the population of the village of San Antonio 12 miles south of Socorro is less than a hundred people, it is a village with plenty of character.

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This railroad town was originally called Carrizo Flats, named for the nearby Carrizo (or reed grass) River. The extra “zo” was added to signify the abundance of the area.

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A small town famous for Smokey Bear. Smokey Bear was a bear found with burnt paws in the aftermath of the Capitan Gap Wildfire that became a symbol for forest fire prevention.

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Welcome to Cloudcroft, New Mexico! We are proud of our 110 year old, unique mountain community which combines the amenities of modern life with our heritage as a pioneer village. Cloudcroft, NM is the travel destination of thousands of visitors each year. In the summer, it is a wonderful place to get away from the heat and enjoy the delightful pleasures of the mountains. In the winter, you can explore the vast wonderland of cross-country skiing, snow mobiling, and ice skating. At any time of the year, Cloudcroft is truly “The Most Enchanting Part of the Land of Enchantment!”

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Alamogordo is the seat of Otero County, New Mexico, United States. A city in the Tularosa Basin of the Chihuahuan Desert, it is bordered on the east by the Sacramento Mountains and to the west by Holloman Air Force Base.

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Dell City is a small farming and ranching community, located 13 miles off of US Highway 62-180. Approximately 80 miles between El Paso, TX and Carlsbad, NM. Our current population hovers near 500 with plenty of room to grow.

Known as the Valley of Hidden Waters, this quaint little community is nestled at the base of Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

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NMBDR FOOD

El Rito’s world famous El Farolito has people from all over the world blazing a path to a one of the first Spanish settlements in Northern New Mexico in quest of some of the best New Mexican food in the state, hence, the world.
1212 Main St, El Rito NM 87530 (575) 581-9509

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Café Abiquiu offers casual dining in a charming atmosphere adorned with the work of local artists. You’ll find seasonal and specialty espresso drinks, local beers, wines and traditional Northern New Mexico favorites.
21120 Hwy 84, Abiquiu NM 87510 (505) 685-4422

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Bode’s started as Grants Mercantile in 1890 as a general store, post office, stage coach stop and jail when Abiquiu was the starting place of the Old Spanish Trail.
21196 US Hwy 84, Abiquiu NM 87510 (505) 685-4422

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The closest, great, New Mexico Style Mexican Food in a Charming Atmosphere Since 1975!
6453 Main 550 St, Cuba NM 87013 (575) 289-9429

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Straightforward, family-friendly cafe serving American & Mexican dishes amid a relaxed atmosphere.
820 E Santa Fe Ave, Grants NM 87020 (505) 285-6229

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As good as you’re going to get in Reserve! Okay, that sounded sarcastic, but seriously, there ain’t much in Reserve.
96 Main St, Reserve NM 87830 (575) 533-6111

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Adobe Does BBQ serves some of the best American daily. Bring your friends or family to experience this splendid environment.

95 B Main Street
Reserve, NM 87830

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Born in 2001, with the layoff of her husband from a closing local business, Jennifer looked into the future and wondered how they could feed there 1, soon to be 2 small children. She knew she could cook, and had worked in some food service before, and decided to try in a broken down “Little Adobe” building, that was afore destined to be torn down.

2134 Hwy 180, Reserve, NM 87830

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In the 1730s, it was the third largest settlement in the Spanish province of Nuevo México. Artist Georgia O’Keeffe lived there from 1949 until shortly before her death in 1986 at 98 years of age.

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Located off the busy 550 highway, Cuba has several motels, restaurants and bars. In 2005 and 2019, the National Christmas Tree was harvested from the Santa Fe National Forest near Cuba.

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Great food served in a genuine atmosphere of beauty and enchantment. Catch the real spirit here in Grants New Mexico.

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Pie Town is located along U.S. Highway 60 in Catron County. Its name comes from an early bakery for making dried-apple pies that was established by Clyde Norman in the early 1920s.

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A small, friendly, one stop sign community at the GateWay to the nation’s largest National Forest, the Gila Wilderness.

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The City of Elephant Butte is home to the largest lake in the state and also The Sierra Del Rio Golf Course. We are the premier destination for recreational boating in the beautiful state of New Mexico.

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Ralph Edwards, game show host of Truth or Consequences The town’s name was changed from “Hot Springs” to “Truth or Consequences” on March 31, 1950, after Ralph Edwards, the host of the popular game show “Truth or Consequences,” called for any town in America to do so – in celebration of the show’s ten year anniversary.

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Though the population of the village of San Antonio 12 miles south of Socorro is less than a hundred people, it is a village with plenty of character.

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Founded in 1899, the town provided the main railroad access for Lincoln County, and the town experienced significant population growth in the early decades of the 1900s.

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A small town famous for Smokey Bear. Smokey Bear was a bear found with burnt paws in the aftermath of the Capitan Gap Wildfire that became a symbol for forest fire prevention.

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“Cloudcroft” is an old English word meaning covered or shrouded in clouds. It is a wonderful, unique name. Cloudcroft is not normally covered in clouds, however. Instead, the norm is beautiful views and wonderful temperatures, staying cool in the summer and not getting that cold in the winter.

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Home of the famous Apple Barn.

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A city in the Tularosa Basin of the Chihuahuan Desert, it is bordered on the east by the Sacramento Mountains and to the west by Holloman Air Force Base.

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First place on the route to get gas, after Dell City. Weed just has a small convenience store.

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1177 Main Street
El Rito, NM 87530

Snacks, candy, drinks, beer and spirits, as well as groceries.

NMBDR FUEL

Last gas available until Reserve, about 130 miles of very remote country.

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A small town famous for Smokey Bear. Smokey Bear was a bear found with burnt paws in the aftermath of the Capitan Gap Wildfire that became a symbol for forest fire prevention.

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The Lodge. Rebecca the Ghost.

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Home of the famous Apple Barn.

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side trip.

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First place on the route to get gas, after Dell City. Weed just has a small convenience store.

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Starting Gas stop. Some lodging through AirBnB.

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NMBDR DISCOVERY POINTS

While riding the NMBDR, we recommend visiting some (or all) of these places, selected for their natural beauty, photo opportunities, historical significance, or pure pleasure of discovery! (These waypoints are included in the NMBDR GPS tracks available for a free download on this page). Send us your photos from these discovery points to share with the BDR community.

(Listing South to North)

Starting Gas stop. Some lodging through AirBnB.

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side trip.

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Dog Canyon Campground, a part of Guadalupe Mountains National Park is 20 miles southwest at the end of NM Highway 137. A good place to officially start the ride.

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side trip.

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Store open sometimes. Gas station no longer open.

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A long side trip to a waterfall and a day-use facility with water, restrooms, and pavillions. Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area is open from 8:30 am to 5 pm daily and costs $5 fee to enter.

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The Guadalupe Rim runs north-south and has excellent views west from the edge. The NMBDR gets close to the edge in the south and again in the north. Stop when you can to take in the views.

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First place on the route to get gas, after Dell City. Weed just has a small convenience store.

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Another great viewpoint, overlooking White Sands.

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side trip.

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side trip.

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Dirt route along the western facing Sacramento Mountains, great views of Alamogordo and White Sands.

side trip.

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side trip.

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Home of the famous Apple Barn.

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The Lodge. Rebecca the Ghost.

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side trip.

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One of the most scenic roads in New Mexico. Spectacular to ride.

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side trip.

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side trip.

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Near Ruidoso. Side trip, worth it if a person has time.

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A small town famous for Smokey Bear. Smokey Bear was a bear found with burnt paws in the aftermath of the Capitan Gap Wildfire that became a symbol for forest fire prevention.

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side trip.

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side trip.

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Last gas available until Reserve, about 130 miles of very remote country.

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Chloride Canyon has a fun twisty road that passes by many different mines and petroglyph sites.

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Bill Knight Gap (NMBDR)

side trip.

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The Ice cave and Bandera Volcano are a privately owned attraction in the El Malpais National Monument. A fee is required to access the trails.

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side trip.

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Its approximately a 700 ft elevation hike to the summit of Mt Taylor from the Water Canyon Trailhead.

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side trip.

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on the route.

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Ghost Ranch is a 21,000-acre education and retreat center located near the small town of Abiquiu. Visitors enjoy hiking trails, museums, a café and gift shop, library, overnight accommodations and camping. Ghost Ranch is renowned for the landscapes made famous by painter Georgia O’Keeffe.

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side trip.

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Colorado-New Mexico Border (NMBDR)

NMBDR 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.

  • 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

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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

The NMBDR is the sixth route developed by the Backcountry Discovery Routes organization for dual-sport and adventure motorcycle travel.  The NMBDR is a south-to-north route across the state of New Mexico covering over 1,200 miles of mostly non-paved track.

The route begins in the farming community of Dell City, Texas and finishes in Antonito, Colorado.  Traveling on the best backcountry roads, you will discover New Mexico’s scenic terrain including high-elevation forests, mountains, deserts and canyons. You will experience the unique culture and history of New Mexico’s rural towns, native reservations, historic locations & more.  The route also presents spectacular camping opportunities and highlights the state’s rich history.

The NMBDR has fewer hotel opportunities than other Backcountry Discovery Routes. Camping on the other hand, is plentiful. Official campgrounds are shown on the front of the map with a small tent icon and many more primitive backcountry camps can be found along the way. Because of the limited beds available in the small towns along the NMBDR, it is recommended that riders make reservations ahead of their arrival. Rooms can be found in Cloudcroft, Ruidoso, Carizozo, Truth or Consequences, Reserve, Grants, Cuba, Abiquiu.

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

There are two sections where the distance is 153 miles. The first section is from Dell City to Weed.  Weed usually has gas but occasionally will be out. The second section is from Carrizozo to Truth or Consequences.  It too is 153 miles but you will find gas all the time in these two towns.  Carrying extra gas is strongly suggested.

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.

There are a few natural water sources along this route, however, depending on the snow pack, some may not be 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

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. NMBDR Butler Motorcycle Maps are available at www.touratech-usa.com or www.butlermaps.com.

Any GPS unit capable of displaying 15 track logs with a minimum of 500 points each is suitable for use on the NMBDR. 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.

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

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.

The NMBDR 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.  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. 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.

The NMBDR is best in the months of June and September.  The route can be done in May, but snowpack in the high mountains may keep you from doing the entire route as mapped. New Mexico experiences summer monsoons in the months of July and August.  These heavy rains can keep you from riding the majority of the route due to mud and flash floods.  You can also ride the NMBDR far into November, but the days are shorter and you will encounter hunters.

New Mexico 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. These storms can contain heavy winds with blinding dust storms.

DOT approved knobby tires (such as Continental TKC 80, Mefo Super Explorer, or Dunlop 606 are strongly recommended.

Most people average 150 miles a day on a backcountry motorcycle trip. Plan on doing this route in 8 -10 days depending on how fast you want to travel and how early you want to roll out of camp. There is a lot of history to see on the NMBDR so planning a little extra time is suggested.

Yes, there are several gates on the route. The route travels through several ranches where you will find gates open and closed.  Please leave the gates as you find them.

The highest elevations are reached in section 7, where the Los Pinos River access reaches around 9500ft. The NMBDR never stays up high until you get within 100 miles south of the Colorado border.

We do our best to post the most up-to-date information on our Route Updates Page. We depend on the BDR community to inform us about route and road conditions, so if you encounter any road closures or severe conditions that are worth reporting, please contact us with the information.

There is also a dedicated NMBDR Facebook Group Page. We recommend that you join the group prior to your trip to read trip reports and comments from other riders about their experience on the route.

Don’t forget to use our Interactive Map to get route conditions in real time. Read this Article to a quick tutorial on how to use the Interactive Map.

Yes the route can be done North to South.

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 backcountry. Phones with Verizon service have more coverage on this route vs AT&T.

New Mexico is a habitat to many large animals like the Black Bear, Elk, Wolves and Mountain Lions. Safe food practices while camping are an absolute for your safety and the animals safety.  Here is a link to find out more http://www.centerforwildlifeinformation.org/BeBearAware/Hiking_and_Camping/hiking_and_camping.html  Rattlesnakes are also found throughout the state.

Rating the Routes by Difficulty

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, 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.

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