Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route

The AZBDR is the fourth route developed by the Backcountry Discovery Routes organization for dual-sport and adventure motorcycle travel.  This scenic 750-mile south-to-north route crosses the state of Arizona beginning at the Mexico border and finishing at the Utah border.  The route has been created specifically for dual-sport and adventure motorcyclists who are interested in exploring Arizona’s remote backcountry.  It utilizes many remote dirt roads and leads riders through iconic locations including the Mogollon Rim, Sunset Crater National Monument, Grand Canyon and the Navajo Nation, as well as the historic mining towns of Tombstone and Globe, AZ.

The AZBDR documentary DVD and the water-and tear-resistant Butler Motorcycle Map are availbel for sale at the BDR store.  The free GPS tracks, digital map and the route's FAQ and photo gallery are located on the right.

Thanks to our Presenting Sponsor Go AZ Motorcycles for providing vital financial support for the production of the AZBDR route.

Route Updates

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

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

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

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

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

April 28, 2015 - Urgent Re-Rouoting of AZBDR - Section 1

AZBDR

CLOSE MAP

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 $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.

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.