Trips & Trails: Washington Backcountry Discovery Route

Finally, we come to a Trips & Trails entry created by and for the adventure motorcycle community. Although it was drawn with motos in mind, there’s no reason why a full-size 4×4 couldn’t make the journey (please, no letters, moto riders).

The Washington Backcountry Discovery Route, or WABDR as it’s often referred to, is a 575- to 593-mile overland route (there are two different lengths listed on the website) that runs north from the Oregon border across Washington clear up to the Canadian border.

It’s broken down into six chunks, which we’ll highlight further down, that are anywhere between 66 and 123 miles each. Most folks choose to traverse the WABDR in five to six days. However, there are outdoor activities to participate in as well as small towns to get immersed in along the way, so you could surely stretch the trip out a few extra days if you wanted to.

The starting point is Cascade Locks, Oregon. From there, you roll across The Bridge of the Gods into Washington state. For the next 120 miles, you’re zigzagging your way north toward Packwood, WA.

From Packwood, you put down 123 miles to Ellensburg.

The third leg is from Ellensburg to Cashmere, which covers 74 miles.

Cashmere to Chelan is the fourth portion at 104 miles.

It’s a moderate 103-mile drive from Chelan to Conconully.

The final leg takes you from Conconully 66 miles north to the Canadian border.

Along the way, you’ll see arid pine forests, volcanic mountains, and scenic lakes. Washington is known for rainy Seattle. But the eastern portion of the state runs the gamut in terms of climates and ecosystems. Washington is not just one huge temperate rainforest, it has a lot more to offer.

For those not keen to push their limits, there are cutoffs to avoid the more difficult portions. But let’s not forget that this is a moderate route to begin with. So, vehicles with good ground clearance and in good condition should make it without issue or deviations.

Of all the Trips & Trails we’ve detailed so far, this one is the longest. However, it’s perhaps the most supported — in terms of fuel, water, groceries, and lodging along the way.

If you’d like to know even more about the WABDR, please check out the website. It carefully details all six legs as well as breaks down all the amenities and activities available along the way.


Time: 5-6 days

Distance: 593 miles

Fuel: Since this is not an entirely off-road adventure, fuel can be located throughout the length of the trek. However, it is always advisable to bring extra fuel along with you. You never know when it will come in handy.

Water: Similar to fuel, water (and groceries) will be accessible along the five- to six-day route. That said, plan to bring more water than you anticipate requiring. A good rule of thumb is more than one gallon of water per person per day.

Permits: No permits are required.

Other considerations: June through September is the ideal window. Snow can come early in the season and make some higher-elevation portions impassable.

Header image credit: @nickjaynes

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