Washington Backcountry Discovery Trail

Washington Backcountry Discovery Trail

Now with improved route options and choices to include

Mount Rainier!

The Washington Backcountry Discovery Trail is a scenic off-road route for dual-sport and adventure motorcycles that runs north to south from Canada to Oregon across the state of Washington. The 676 mile route uses mostly un-paved back roads through the beautiful Cascade Mountains.

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. This route 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. The route now includes many paved road options for travelers seeking a more relaxed adventure.

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.

If you are interested in a great ride, this is it. The original route has been modified to include Mount Rainier, but best of all I have added some route options that allow you to have some easier choices if you're not in the mood for the rough stuff, and I have also added some rougher options for those that want to ride small bikes and be tough guys.

The ride is broken into five sections to enable riders to make a balanced 5 day ride.

Do it yourself Adventure.

Navigation and GPS made easy for you.

The best way to navigate this route is to use a gps to guide you along the adventure. The combination of Daily Paper maps for discussing the ride in the morning and the gps to constantly show you the route can make the ride really easy and fun.

Self Guided Trail

This ride is designed to be a self guided adventure. Riders install a custom GPS 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.

Do this ride yourself: Purchase Rider Maps and GPS microSD Card for this ride

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.

Washington Backcountry Discovery 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 COBDR Routes

The Red lines are Hard Alternate Routes

The Green lines are Easy Alternate Routes


Q: What are the section distances?

A: Section 1: Canada Border to Twisp: 134 miles

A: Section 2: Twisp to Cashmere: 165 miles

A: Section 3: Cashmere to Whistlin Jacks: 116 miles

A: Section 4:Whistlin Jacks to Ashford: 117 miles

A: Section 5: Ashford to Oregon: 145 miles

Q: What is the difference between the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route and this route?

A: They are the same, but this route adds scenic mount Rainier and includes some easier options

Q: What is the best time of year?

A: Mid July to Mid September

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 at the ride.

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.


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.