My first dual-sport motorcycle ride was a brutal 1,600 miles. The scrappy route started just below the Mexican border in the buzzing port of entry Tecaté, and ended with bald tires and dusty teeth in Canada's tapestry of forests just north of the Idaho panhandle. At the time, the notorious Southern California District 37 race organization was planning annual rides as street-legal dirt bikes grew in popularity. These moto Magellans managed to stitch together a combination of single-track, checkerboard BLM land, bladed forest service roads and sometimes sketchy "private property" that came complete with a disgruntled landowner wielding a shotgun loaded with rock salt.

california backcountry discovery routes

Since that maiden voyage twelve years ago, the popularity of dual-sport riding has skyrocketed with most manufacturers offering big touring bikes and more nimble plated racing machines. Just about every state offers green-sticker riding terrain, but the amount of shreddable acreage has exploded with options for street-legal bikes.

While maps, traded tracks and websites abound with a treasure trove of rideable topography, Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDR) reign supreme as one of the most well-researched and dynamic ways to explore thousands of miles of terra firma. An added bonus? Land managers recognize this form of “managed travel,” adding value to roads designated as such, and therefore providing protection from closures, according to the non-profit, whose main focus is to establish and preserve off-highway routes.

california backcountry discovery routes

The BDR organization has eight planned routes crisscrossing public lands in the western states and one on the east coast; California is the ninth, with its new Southern California route – which opens in January and runs right through many of our own backyards. After riding a portion of the trail just outside of LA, we reached out to BDR to give us a first look at what to expect.

"We started working with local volunteers four years ago on putting together the CABDR-South route,” BDR's Director of Operations Inna Thorn tells ASN. “The Northern [California] route is still in the works and will be released in a couple of years," she added, when asked if there were plans to access more of the Golden State's web of public lands.

What can riders expect?

california backcountry discovery routes

"CABDR-South is a spectacular yet challenging off-pavement ride across the south-eastern region of California, starting in Yuma, Arizona, and ending in Benton, California,” offers Thorn.

“Created for dual-sport and adventure motorcyclists, this 820-mile route primarily uses rugged two-track and remote dirt roads that lead riders through the majestic canyons, rocky riverbeds and sandy washes of California's famous deserts and national preserves,” she continues. “Experience quirky desert enclaves and ghost towns, visit historic mines, see ancient petroglyphs and intaglios, dip in healing mineral hot springs and ride among the unique Joshua trees in the Mojave National preserve."

california backcountry discovery routes

While iron-assing from Mexico to Canada for two weeks might be out of reach for a lot of weekend warriors, many moto aficionados can get their fix on any portion of the BDR routes. Every track, trail and road can be accessed by large and small dual-sport bikes as well as high clearance four-by-four vehicles, giving you every reason to go rogue for a day or make a longer commitment to weeks of overland travel.

All photos by Ely Woody.

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