The Utah Backcountry Discovery Route, or UTBDR, is a scenic driving route across the state of Utah, from Arizona to Idaho, for dual-sport adventure motorcycles and 4x4 vehicles. This 871 mile long south-north route uses mostly un-paved backroads and will pass through a number of iconic locations including Moab, Valley of the Gods, the Abajo and La Sal Mountain Ranges, Nine Mile Canyon, and the northern Wasatch Mountains.
The Utah Backcoutry Discovery Route was produced and released by Curbsyde Productions with major support from Touratech-USA, KLiM Technical Riding Gear, Butler Motorcycle Maps, NEMO Tents, WARN Winches, Sidi Boots, and Noren Films. Additional support provided by Canyon Lands Jeep Rental, BMW Motorcycles of Utah and The Edge Powersports KTM.
April 2, 2015 - LaSal Store/Gas stop had closed.
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Below are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route.
The Utah Backcountry Discovery Route (UTBDR) is mostly off-road route from Arizona to Idaho. The South to North route winds through the red soils of southern Utah to the northern high mountains to the north. 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 5-7 days depending on pace, and is also accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles, as the entire route is at least double-track.
The longest gap between gas stations is approximately 165 miles from Wellington to Evanston, Wyo. This is if you stop at Soldier Summit for gas, if not the distance is 239 miles.
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 very few natural water sources along this route and depending on the snow pack most are 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. Take twice as much as you think you will need, because you will need it. Here is a video on water filtration filmed in the Oregon Backcountry: http://youtu.be/vqOFZAoZdTU
No, you can complete the UTBDR using motels and restaurants fairly easily.
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 the US Forest Service website and local Ranger Stations. UTBDR Butler Motorcycle Maps are available at www.touratech-usa.com or www.butlermaps.com.
Any GPS unit capable of displaying 10 track logs with a minimum of 500 points each is suitable for use on the UTBDR. 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 by following the "Dowload GPS Tracks" link on the right.
The UTBDR is best from August-October depending on early snow storms and weather. The route can be done in May and June, but snowpack in the high mtns may keep you from doing the entire route as mapped.
Any bike that has a license plate, can run knobby tires and 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 UTBDR route is designed to be ridden on adventure and dual-sport motorcycles, as well as driven in 4x4 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 for extended periods of time. 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 shallow water crossings, but none worth worrying about. Flash floods are frequent during summer storms. Don’t cross flooded washes. Wait until water subsides.
DOT approved knobby tires are strongly recommended. Our team members used either Continental TKC 80, Mefo Super Explorer or Dunlop 606 tires when we rode the route.
Lockhart Basin is a very difficult alternate section to the UTBDR. It’s labeled “Expert Only” to make riders aware of the risks when taking this route. An average rider can ride this route, but is NOT advised to do so alone. Bikes should be fully protected with good aftermarket protection like, skidplates, exhaust guards, hand guards, brake resivour guards, etc. These can be found at www.touratech-usa.com or other retailers. Lockhart is seldom traveled by others, so be prepared for breakdowns or overnight stay. The mileage from the Needles Outpost to Moab is not far, but will take the majority of the day. Carry as much water as you can carry, there are no water sources along this route. We recommend this section be done with a group of riders.
Most people average 150 miles a day on a backcountry motorcycle trip. Plan on doing this route in 5-7 days depending on how fast you want to travel and how early you want to roll out of camp.
Yes, there are several gates on the route. Most all remain open unless BLM or NFS has closed them due to snow closure.
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 to talk or text is 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.
The highest elevations are reached in section 5 where Bald Mtn Pass reaches 10,700 feet. The route starts near 5000 ft and travels to over 10,000 ft six times along the route.
There are several sections where the road is a clay surface. 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.
This is a tough question to answer because conditions are constantly changing. If the weather or temps have been cool, the sand will be firmer and significantly easier to ride. If it’s been hot for some time, the sand becomes very soft and deep. So the bottom line is, learn to ride in deep sand before you come which will make your ride more enjoyable.
Yes the route can be done North to South. However, it was laid out South to North so a few of the sections are harder going North to South. For example, leaving Moab going over LaSal Pass is difficult going North to South. You may take the alternate route around LaSal pass. Lockhart Basin is also more difficult going North to South.
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.
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:
(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.)