Trips & Trails: Idaho Backcountry Discovery Route

This is another one from our friends at Backcountry Discovery Routes, the Idaho Backcountry Discovery Route (IBDR). Unlike some of the other BDRs, the IBDR is not terribly technical. However, it is long.

Running from Jarbidge, Nevada, just below the Idaho border, up to the Canadian border, the IBDR is 1,233 miles long and broken into eight sections. This is likely more than you can accomplish in a weeklong overland trip. That is, if you want to take your time and enjoy the region’s hikes, scenic views, hot springs, and quaint towns.

If you don’t want to just blast straight through for eight to 10 hours per day, you’ll need to allocate a couple weeks to the journey or break it up into smaller, more manageable chunks. Don’t forget to factor in the time you need to get back home, too.

What’s cool about the IBDR is that it is composed of other shorter routes, like the Magruder Road Corridor. So, making smaller journeys from the huge BDR is easy.

No matter which route you pick or how much of the IBDR you take on, it’ll prove incredibly diverse in its scenery and terrain. You’ll climb mountains, ride through high desert and streams, and pass through abandoned mining towns and primitive tunnels. At night, you’ll camp in bear country — the entire state is bear country.

Like all the other BDRs, the IBDR was created for adventure motorcycles. In some imagery and literature, you’ll see mentions of bridges blocked with concrete barricades that prevent vehicles wider than 50 inches from crossing them. Dig through online forums, though, and you’ll see that many of those bridges have either been widened or circumvented by more recent tracks.


However, that’s no guarantee that the route will be free of obstacles. If you go, be ready to backtrack or improvise your route on the fly.

If you’re clever with your planning, and want to take a break from sleeping in your tent every night, along the IBDR there are cabins you can rent, like the Johnson Creek Guard Station, among others. Rental portal windows open in May and close in August. However, they’re usually booked up almost immediately. So act quickly.

Butler Motorcycle Maps sells an Idaho Backcountry Discovery Route map on their website. Not only would purchasing it support a storied overland mapping brand, it’ll also be an insurance policy of sorts. There’s almost no cell service along the IBDR. So, you could keep this hard copy on you just in case.

What to know:

  • Time: 41 hours or five days (nonstop, averaging 30 mph) — but we don’t recommend that.

  • Distance: 1,233 miles

  • Fuel: Fuel stations can be found in towns throughout the route. But top off when you can. And, as always, bring extra fuel just along just in case.

  • Water: Water is available from natural sources along the route. Plan to treat the water (boiling for more than five minutes or using a water filter) before consuming it. Regardless, bring more water than you anticipate needing.

  • Permits: Permits are not required to drive the Idaho Backcountry Discovery Route.

  • Other considerations: July through October is the ideal time of year to consider traversing the IBDR However, snow storms can be possible year round, especially during fall. So pack and plan accordingly.

Header image: Photo by Noah Austin on Unsplash

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