California Adventure Trail

California Adventure Trail

1,760 miles of the best backcountry across California

The Long Way Across


The California Adventure Trail (CAT) is a remote motorcycle route consisting of a mix of dirt roads and back paved roads. The route was designed for adventure motorcycles and dual sport motorcycles but it is also well suited for Jeeps and 4x4s.

The CAT starts at the Mexico border and travels to the Oregon border.

In the south, the route follows through the Mountains of Cuyamaca, San Jacinto and Big Bear. In the middle part of the state the route follows the famous Sierra Nevada mountain range and in the north, the route follows the Cascade Range. These are some of the best and most remote routes in the west. The route is best traveled in the summer and fall; late spring can also be good in light snow years.

"I have been waiting and watching and studying California's trails for years just hoping others would design and make an a awesome motorcycle route covering the best back routes across the State. Well, tired of waiting, so I decided who better than myself to design and put an awesome trail together. After all I ride alot, study a lot, and have created 100s of rides myself. Now it is the time to tackle the grandaddy of all rides. Want to help me? gpsKevin"


The CAT route has been designed with options for difficulty levels depending on your skill level and desires. The main CAT trail is shown on maps in blue. Some sections can be tough and during those sections riders have an option to take green or easier paved routes. For advanced riders on smaller dual sport bikes I have added some tough options, even singletrack in places. These red options are not recommended for larger bikes or Jeeps.

Self Guided Trail

The CAT is designed to be a self guided adventure. Riders install a custom GPS CAT microSD card into their Garmin GPS unit. The routes are then displayed as the rider travels along. Navigation is made easy. Riders can choose to follow along at times or can choose among hard and easy options. Or riders can simply choose to ride off the routes and return to them later. For many, this allows them to just experience the trail without the burden of getting lost.

"Remote Camping" or "Remote Motels"

Go The Distance

The CAT can be a long, hard adventure. Riders are advised that they should allow 9 days to 2 weeks to complete the entire trail. Many riders can choose to do the trail in parts, at different times. Riders can choose to carry all their camping gear or simply stay in motels along the way. There are lots of choices for both options. Be prepared for the possibility of adverse weather at times. Be prepared for emergencies and to take care of yourself. Be self sufficient. Be prepared to unexpectedly spend the night out in the woods. These are remote places with little outside contact.

CAT Route Status

The route is complete now and ready to test ride. Riders can buy maps and custom GPS maps for their Garmin GPS unit. Or they can download the gps files and edit them at the end of this page

Do this ride yourself: Purchase Rider Maps and GPS microSD Card for this ride. Riders can purchase a custom GPS micro SD card for their Garmin or BMW gps for $42 and a matching Paper map set for $15.

Note: A Full Rider Packet consists of printed ride descriptions and paper ride maps and a custom GPS microSD card for your Garmin or BMW GPS unit.

California Adventure Trail Choice (Scroll Down Menu)

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Notes: I suggest you plan and order early. Normally I ship within a week. But sometimes I run out and it can take me several weeks to get new cards and maps. And sometimes I am out riding and building new adventures so that can be hard too. I list the Option for 2 SD cards because many riders like to carry a backup card or a cheap backup gps in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

View the ride on the Satellite Maps

OK since many of you like to study more detail about the ride, below are the ride maps.

I put these ride maps on the web page because I know a few of you love looking at the ride detail and dreaming about the ride. At first glance these maps do not look so impressive, but they are way cool. If you start zooming in, you can see the ride in incredible detail. I have spent a ton of hours sorting through the details of the ride for each day, so for those of you that enjoy this sort of thing, well enjoy!


The Blue lines are MAIN CAT routes

The Red lines are hard alternate routes

The Green lines are easy alternate routes

Black lines are out and backs to gas and towns

Stories or Lessons Learned from people that have ridden the Trail

Enter a story or learning yourself


Q: What gas mileage range do I need?

A: 150 miles will cover the longest section

Q: Is the CAT an official route?

A: No: there is no governing body that has declared any official CAT trail. The route given here is merely a collection of open existing routes across the state. They are subject to all local laws.

Q: Can the route be ridden in the north to south direction.

A: Yes, no problem, just ride it backwards against the GPS arrows.

Q: How do I check my GPS to see if the SD Card is working?

A: There are two ways you can check your GPS.

1. See the trail on the GPS yourself. Turn on the GPS and zoom out to about 50 or 30 miles. Use the cursor to pan over to an area where you know the trail should be. Now begin zooming in. Wait for the gps to refresh it's screen as they can be slow. As you zoom in you should see the trail as a wide bold Blue line made up of arrows. OK, good job, you did it right.

2. Check to see if the map is in the GPS unit's memory: The steps to do this vary depending on which Garmin gps unit you have (and there are hundreds). Most work like this:

    • Alternate 1: From the "Map" page select Menu. Then select "Setup Map" then scroll down and select "Select Map." Now you can scroll down and read the maps in you unit. You should find a map called "TAT gpskevin." Make sure it is enabled and you are done!

    • Alternate2: Some GPS units (like Nuvi's) work like this. Select "Settings" then "Maps" then "Info" and now you should find the map "TAT gpskevin." Make sure that it is checked and you're done.

    • Alternate3: Some work like this. Select "Tools" then "Settings" then "Map" then "Map Info." You should find the map "TAT gpskevin." Make sure that it is checked and you're done.

Again, your gps may have a different way to access the maps, but the download does work in all Garmin gps units with a card slot. Sorry, there are just too many Garmin gps units for me to go through them all.

If you are new to this stuff or having trouble I will help you.

Q: What are custom GPS ride maps?

A: Custom GPS ride maps are electronic maps designed specifically to show the paths and path choices for a particular ride. The maps show the paths as clear bold lines so the riders can easily see them even on small screens. The lines are often comprised of groups of arrows or chevrons so that riders can easily tell the recommended direction of travel. The lines come in multiple colors so that riders can easily choose between Hard and Easy options. Custom ride maps make ride navigation much easier than ever before.

Q: Why do the ride lines show up as white lines rather than the expected Blue, Red and Green?

A: There are two possible reasons for this:

You have your gps in Night Mode or Auto Mode and you are seeing this after the sun has set. Solution is to put your gps display into Day mode only. See your manual, to do this it depends on which Garmin GPS you have. Or wait and it will work fine during the day.

You may have a Garmin 78 and it is in Marine Mode. To fix this: Disable Marine Mode: Select: Menu, Menu, Setup, Marine, Marine Charts Mode: Off

Q: When I purchase GPS maps on a microSD Card what is included on the card?

A: The chip will include the image files used to create the maps and a gpx file that contains all the tracklogs and waypoints for the ride. This gpx file can be read by capable Garmin GPS units or by Windows based PC's.

Q: Why do we use custom ride maps and not tracks or routes?

A: Ride maps function the same as tracks, however ride maps are made with much higher accuracy and clear line types and colors, The lines can also include arrows to help riders with direction of travel. Additionally riders do not need to know anything about tracks or which one they maybe be riding. So this makes it much easier for the riders.

Q: What are tracks and why are they not recommended?

A: Tracks (or sometimes called Tracklogs) are a collection of electronic breadcrumbs that can describe the desired path. There can be thousands of these electronic data points to describe one path. Each ride can be made up of many sets of these paths. As a result, the number of Tracklogs for a ride with several choices can become very confusing. Therefore, I do not recommend that riders use tracks as it can often create confusion. Tracklogs are often included on the MicroSD card for those riders that would like to import them to a PC and edit them to create their own ride.

Q: What are routes and why are they not used?

A: Routes are paths that are created by your GPS unit based on the internal maps that you have. This enables your unit to give you turn by turn directions. Routes are calculated based on lots of different parameters like shortest distance, fastest time, and many others. However, we as riders would like to choose our own specific path. And often our path does not include known roads that would be in your GPS mapset. Therefore, to avoid traveling on undesired paths and constant off route recalculation, we do not use routes and force your GPS to display our desired path only.

Q: What are waypoints? and how are they used?

A: Waypoints are sets of coordinates that identify a point in physical space used for purposes of navigation, otherwise known as a landmark. Waypoints are used to describe all kinds of locations on these rides like scenic points, river crossings, lunch stops, motel locations, and camp spots. Most of the microSD cards include a set of ride specific waypoints. Depending on your GPS model, these waypoints can either be automatically included in your GPS or you may need to import them into your GPS.

Many thanks and credit due:

All great big adventures are a collections of many wonderful smaller adventures and routes. The CAT has been built from a collection of the works of many people Including the Forest Service who started several of the California backcountry routes last century. The open sharing of the ride information has made the CAT possible and I would like to help openly continue to share these routes.

Google Spreadsheet


Any and all riding is on you own

Conditions change and routes may not be navigable

Legal access can change and is not guaranteed. Riders must assess the local conditions.

Weather can make the routes impassable.

Riders must obey all local laws

gpsKevin assumes no liability for these rides or your actions.

Instant GPS Download:

Want to download the Complete set of Tracklogs and Waypoints. Maybe you want to edit them and download them to your gps yourself? Below you can get an instant download in either Universal (GPX) format or Garmin Basecamp and Mapsource (GDB) format. These are high resolution tracklogs for all section of the trail and its options. 229 Tracklogs and 269 Key Waypoints

(This option is not recommended if you have not worked with tracklogs before, tracklogs do not work in all gps units and often must be modified to fit your gps. We cannot offer any tech support for your gps unit. We recommend you buy the Micro SD card)

Note: After you complete your payment, Select "Return to Merchant" Button to be directed to the download link.

CAT Complete GDB ($38.00)

CAT Complete GPX ($38.00)