The Washington Backcountry Discovery Route (WABDR) is a scenic off-road route for dual-sport and adventure motorcycles that runs north to south from Oregon to Canada across the state of Washington. The 575 mile route uses mostly un-paved back roads through the beautiful Cascade Mountains and some arid landscapes of Eastern Washington.
Some of the roads are wide, well-maintained gravel and many are rugged and narrow 2-track with steep grades, exposed corners and no warning signs or guard rails. The WABDR offers a less-travelled path for anyone looking to experience the beauty of Washington and explore backcountry areas. Many of the roads have been in place for decades and some have significant history dating back generations.
It takes most people about 5-6 days to complete the route and there are some easy alternate sections to get around difficult stretches. There are many great camp spots along the way for those looking to rough it. The route also works well for those looking to stay in hotels or to do a little of both. The WABDR is also suitable for 4x4 vehicles looking for an easy, scenic drive.
It is our hope that many people will travel this route and help us to improve it, and protect it over the years to come.
June 15, 2015 - Road #4150 Closure in Section 5 (re-route avaialble).
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Below are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route.
The Washington Backcountry Discovery Route (WABDR) is a mostly off-road route from Oregon, USA to British Columbia, Canada. The South to North route winds through the Cascade Mountains and some arid landscapes in the foothills of Eastern Washington. The roads include 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.
The longest gap between gas stations is approximately 122 miles from Packwood to Ellensburg, unless you stop for gas in Nile Valley on Hwy 410. The next longest section is 120 miles between Stevenson and Packwood. Premium fuel is available in Stevenson, Packwood, Ellensburg, Cashmere, Leavenworth, Chelan, Twisp, Omak and Oroville. Low octane gas is available in Carlton, Nile, Ardenvoir and Conconully. The elevation chart on the WABDR Butler Map includes all the mileage details and fuel locations.
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 many campgrounds and suitable dry camping locations along the route. The Butler Motorcycle Map for the WABDR has a tent icon showing campgrounds on the route and many near the route. The WABDR Butler Map is available through Touratech-USA and Butler Maps. In addition, the Wenatchee, Okanogan, and Gifford Pinchot National forest maps show a tent icon for all campgrounds. These maps are available at www.naturenw.org and local Ranger Stations. Make sure to leave all camp locations clean and safe for the next user.
No, you can complete the WABDR using hotels and restaurants fairly easily. Hotels, restaurants and grocery stores are available in Stevenson, Packwood, Ellensburg, Cashmere, Leavenworth, Chelan, Twisp, Omak and Oroville. Limited accommodations are also available in Conconully.
You can find potable water in the towns along the way, or use a filtration system and source the water from creeks and springs along the route. The National Forest maps are a good resource for finding suitable creeks and springs. Choosing a camp location close to a water source is a good idea. It is strongly recommended to have a water filtration solution with you at all times in the backcountry. A filtration solution will allow you to carry less weight on the bike since you don't have to haul your water. It's also more flexible if you run into delays or have a mechanical issue along the way. 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 indispensible 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 www.naturenw.org and local Ranger Stations. WABDR Butler Motorcycle Maps are available at Touratech-USA and Butler Maps.
Any GPS unit capable of displaying 10 track logs with a minimum of 500 points each is suitable for use on the WABDR. Garmin models that work best for this application are: Zumo 665/660, 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 http://www.backcountrydiscoveryroutes.com/WABDR
The WABDR is best from July-October depending on snowpack and weather.
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.
The WABDR 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 steep grades combined with rough surfaces. You may also encounter sections that have trees or branches over the road. Some of the roads are overgrown with foliage, but are passable by both motorcycle and 4x4 vehicles. 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. Certainly nothing like the Malheur River on the OBDR (Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route)
Yes, there are several gates on the route. Please make sure to close all gates that you pass through.
DOT approved knobby tires are strongly recommended. Our team members used either Continental TKC 80 or Dunlop 606 tires when we rode the route.
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.
The highest elevations are reached in section 6 where Lone Frank Pass reaches nearly 7,000 feet. The route starts at nearly sea level and brings riders up to 5,000 to 6,000 multiple times on each section.
For the latest information on current roads conditions and closures, check our News section, as well as rider accounts on www.ADVrider.com.
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 Nighthawk border crossing is typically open 9am - 5pm seven days a week. The nearby border crossing at Osoyoos just north of Oroville is open 24 hours a day. The US Border Office phone number is (509) 476-2125. Remember to bring your passport if you plan to cross into Canada.
South Sound BMW provides a safe and convenient location to have your bike shipped to the Seattle/Tacoma area. They will allow you to use their shipping dock and warehouse to facilitate the shipping of your motorcycle. In most cases there is no charge for the receiving service. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (800) 303-1838 for more information. Additionally, JC Motors provides shipping services within the US.
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:
A discover pass is required on street legal vehicles when using state recreation lands. For more information visit www.discoverpass.wa.gov/faq
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 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.)