The Future of Bikepacking Routes

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What does the future hold for the creation, publication, and ownership of bikepacking routes? Plus a hint at a few of our upcoming projects… and Scouts Wanted! — a call to action to the bikepacking community.

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When we started our Bikepacking Routes project back in 2013, Oregon Bikepacking had just launched, and as far as we know it was the one other website publishing curated bikepacking-specific route guides. GPS navigation wasn’t nearly as widespread, nor was bikepacking in general. Nowadays, with the proliferation of in phone GPS apps, and tools such as RideWithGPS, there’s ‘an app for that’… and it has only helped further the popularity and accessibility of bikepacking.

Back then our idea was to publish routes that we’d ridden for others to enjoy. Essentially, it was something we wished existed, so we built it. The backbone of the idea was one of sharing: we wanted to know the incredible routes others were creating and riding, so we asked bikepackers who were knowledgeable about specific places — and the dirt tracks and trails that were there — to contribute their favorite routes. Routes they’d planned, scouted, and rescouted. Routes that we would help curate, offering a platform for talented contributors to share their experience. We would then collect and present the ‘best of’ from ambassadors near and far. And much of the passion was in creating our own routes.

We now have almost 200 bikepacking routes in the database. Our core goals are relatively the same: curate the best routes from around the world, and create quality new routes. We’ve already designed and planned several dozen of our own original bikepacking routes, and have several new ones in progress. In addition, many of our older routes are getting combined and ‘upgraded’ as we speak, to meet the new standards we’ve been aiming for in more recent years with our guides. As our documentation has reached a higher quality, so have our routes. All in effort to publish excellent guides in a clear and legible format — each with a careful balance that offers an adequate amount of information to plan a ride but not so much as to take away the sense of adventure — and inspire people to explore these routes and be immersed in the land, surroundings, and cultures that they pass through.

bikepacking route logos

Historically, many bikepacking routes have been created with races in mind. Other routes are crafted by passionate individuals who wish to create their own experience within a particular place. Now there are even more route initiatives being developed independently, through sponsorship, non-profit models, donation-based funding, or with other missions in mind. There’s been some chatter about ‘the future of bikepacking routes’ lately, especially when it pertains to route ownership (in regards to maintenance, responsibility, updates, etc), and whether route designers should charge for GPX downloads, among other tricky subjects. At the core, our goals are still the same — to utilize the depth and breadth of the bikepacking community to inspire others with high quality published route guides, design and develop our own great new bikepacking routes, and host the best of the best that others have created, both well-known race routes, and new ones. And in doing so, to inspire people to get out a ride and connect with their environment, both local and worldwide.

However, as our platform has evolved, so has our methodology and purpose. While we started out with a core group of ambassadors and guest contributors, over the past year we’ve actively solicited updates from bikepackers who ride our routes. The results have proven invaluable, especially for some of our early, less detailed routes. This collaborative strategy is becoming more and more important as there are greater numbers of bikepacking routes and issues arise with each of them regularly — reroutes are required because of private land blocks, road work, public land permutations, and unfortunately privatization, which is a growing threat to our public lands here in the US. Tracks are blocked by development, wild places are impinged upon by natural resources exploitation, and landscapes are restricted for the same reasons. The unfortunate fact is, bikepacking routes are fluid and must change and evolve over time; and people should be aware of these changes in order to not only have the best experience on the trail, but to possess the knowledge necessary to prevent other actions from occuring. So in the spirit of keeping our routes somewhat ‘open source’ we are announcing our Route Scouts initiative.

While in its infancy, we wish to foster the growth of the bikepacking community and keep riders abreast of issues, projects, and our efforts. We also want to get the community more involved with input and updates for routes that are in our system. We encourage you to sign up below to get on the list for things to come. We are committed to improving and updating routes regularly, but we can’t do this without the participation of the bikepacking community. It takes time and passion to create routes, but it takes community to maintain them.

To signup, enter your email address below. If you are already subscribed to our email list, you will need to click the link that says “Click here to update your profile” in the new tab/window. You will then be sent an email link to update your profile preferences. There you can check the ‘Routes and Scouting’ interest checkbox and update your profile accordingly. Thanks!

By signing up you’ll receive route updates, information about new ways to collaborate, route issues, and details about our new initiatives, such as The Andes Traverse, The Missing Link (Divide to Divide, USA), Morocco Traverse, Trans-Armenia, Waterfalls Gravel (NC, USA), Chili Line (NM, USA), and several others we have in the works. We also have a lot of new features and functionality in development (some coming very soon) and/or planned for the routes map and database, so stay tuned.

  • Plusbike Nerd

    I would love to have some routes here in the United States that ride from town to town traveling mostly gravel and singletrack and covering 35 to 60 miles daily. That way one could sleep in a hotel, get a shower, and eat out in the morning and evening, enjoy the amenities of the small towns, and travel very light. Nothing against camping, it would just be a different type of experience. All bikepacking trips don’t have to be an epic journey into the wilderness. A possible route I could think of in Colorado could be Salida, Buena Vista, Crested Butte, Gunnison, Lake City, Silverton, then Durango. Many of these small towns have attractions worth experiencing. You could even spend an extra day in many of these locations and ride the local single track. It would be even better if I could work out a loop. That way you could start in the city of your choosing. You could possibly get the support of the local communities if you could show that the route would boost tourism. I think town to town routes could be a great way to bikepack!

  • Todd Brockway

    I love this idea and think it is a win win for everyone. Even a mix of public campsites. This would still support local economy and any desire to camp and yet many public camp areas have bathroom/shower amenities.

  • cody matz

    I agree, this is a great idea, but most towns big enough to have a motel would most likely be able to have pavement in between. All, though I would look into Rails to Trails, because many are gravel, but exist in between major towns. Here is a great place to look http://www.traillink.com/

  • Check out the Green Mountain Gravel Growler… a prime example. We have a couple others like it in the works too: http://www.bikepacking.com/routes/green-mountain-gravel-growler/

  • It is a challenge, but I agree to your point about bikeways and rail trails. Perfect ways to make connections, both in the US and Europe…

  • Jonathan Houck

    A route that circles Gunnison County, Colorado is under development and will be rolled out this summer in collaboration with Bikepacking Roots. Will include great small communities and small summer only communities like Pitkin, Tincup, Taylor Park, Crested Butte, Marble, Paonia, Crawford, Lake City and Gunnison. Mostly dirt roads, some single track and some big passes adding up to a few hundred miles and easily tackled as a big loop or smaller sections. Mostly dispersed camping but some lodging opportunities and bountiful resupplies and food options during the entire route. Stay tuned!

  • Armand

    I’m heavily interested in a Trans-Armenia. Was planning on spending 2-3 months this summer there to create a route, but looks like it will have to occur in the summer of 2019. I speak/read/write the language as well.

  • In my case, I love planning bike routes where (I think) not many people, or nobody in some cases, have cycled and I ride them recording information about routes, etc.
    I have cycled 90% of Palawan province in Philippines during the past years but when it comes to prepare a decent report, story or something similar I feel lazy (I am sorry, I am not a fan of social media) and I just share the tracks and info in Wikiloc and it feels great when I see that people look at the routes, download them and ride them.
    As Todd Brockway has commented, in some parts of the world this activities can help to local economy and in a very sustainable way.

  • Howard Matthew

    There’s heaps of trails in Australia that are already well mapped out elsewhere http://www.cycletrailsaustralia.com/
    Appreciate our global isolation and making the effort to get here in the first place. For myself time is major factor with young family and work I can’t commit anything over a week. I can map out shorter rides close to major cities one or two nighters for the fly in fly out tourists but that’s maybe different to what you’re after.

  • sudhanshua

    Hi, Absolutely loved the idea of growing together as a community! Its a very crucial step as well.
    I’ve promised myself to dedicate 3months every year for bikepacking and this year is going to be in India finding trails for bikepacking community in India. As this way of riding is getting popular we get lots of enquiries too for the available routes.
    We would love to do our best to make this happen! Count me in for this.

    Sudhanshu Verma
    http://www.oursluglife.com

  • Doug Reilly

    Maybe you should create and sell patches of your route logos.

  • Great to hear! Lovely photos on your site… nice work!

  • We are thinking about it, for sure.

  • Nice resource. Thanks for pointing that out! Weekender routes that are accessible from metro areas are definitely routes in our sweet spot; we have a few om the site already and more in the works.

  • Hi Pedro. It sounds like you know the area well, and you certainly have the photos. Let me know if you you think there is a great route to be documented there…

  • That’s great! Yeah, we did a lot of planning for a route scout, but an injury derailed that in the early fall. If everything goes well it will happen early summer.

  • sudhanshua

    Thanks! It’s great to hear from you :)

  • Howard Matthew

    I have a couple around Sydney I was gonna submit at some stage – planning a goldfields heritage trip outside of Melbourne too

  • Kurt Wold

    I understand Plusbike’s multi-stage, day ride only enthusiasm, however, it does sound like this formula might skim much of the adventure right off the top of bikepacking. Now winter fat bike riding, on the other hand, might well be suited for just such a format, as easy access to hot meals and a warm bed would greatly enhance the desire to extend such adventures. I can foresee exponential growth in the ruggedness market if a few civil amenities were thrown into winter fat bikepacking mix.

  • Fabián Morgenstern

    The world evolves and time does not stop, bikepacking is fabulous to disconnect from everything that surrounds us, it is the essence of the closest adventure that many of us can enjoy, and it does not take an infinite desert for it. or a lost path in the beyond … you just need to have love for nature, respecting the environment to be part of this planet in a purer and more dignified …
    The bikepacking is the newest way to explore it, so have the possibility of having an initiative to make it safer, without leaving the “wild” side … will always be welcome … !!!

  • Filippo Graglia

    Hey there!
    I am currently on my bikepacking travel down to Africa! in these days I am a in Spain attempting Altravesur but for the moment too much snow forced me on the coast :)
    Let me know if I can help you in some way with Transmorocco…. I will reach Morocco in 1 month more or less, and I will cross it going south!

  • Hi Logan. The Palawan province in the Philipines is a very popular diving/beach destination in South East Asia. In fact, it is always among the best worlds islands list every year. The first time I went there (without a bike) and saw the island from the plane I thought that it would be a great place to cycle… And I have been doing it for the past years. I post the tracks, some pictures and information here: http://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/user.do?id=360067&from=0&to=10 and here: http://www.pedro22hotmail.com/action.
    If you know any other similar site where I could share all this information more focused into bikepacking I would more than happy to do it :-)

  • Randal GoingHAM

    Seems like a great opportunity to mention that those logos and the graphic design on the site overall is outstanding.

  • Randal GoingHAM

    Not sure there to put this so I’ll throw it out here; one thing that I’d like to see is more balance in the geographic distribution of the routes in the US. I realize that OG ambassador types tend to focus on developing routes near where they live, which likely partially accounts for why so many of the routes on the website are in Oregon, New Mexico, and western North Carolina. I also realize that the bulk of public land and many of the most (immediately) compelling landscapes in the country are west of the Rockies. But just a quick glance at the route map indicates that there are basically no routes in the middle of the country, save a few in Nebraska, which is a damn shame because I personally am attracted to that part of the country, and would love to go bikepacking (and spend my money) among the agricultural communities, prairies, river bottoms, and bluffs of the midwest.

    In the future, I’d hope for more of an emphasis in geographic equity in empowering scouts and, if possible, investing resources in this area, so that the bikepacking “infrastructure” can do a better job representing and communicating the diversity of landscapes and cultures in the US. Personally, I live in California, but I’ll be traveling to do the High Plains Byway this summer, and would love to be able to do the same in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, and/or Oklahoma. Maybe one day I’ll be able to investigate some routes on my own, but for now, I’d love it if yall did haha!

  • Thanks Randal!!

  • Absolutely. Thanks. I will send you an email if that’s ok…

  • Thanks Randal. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly. We actually have a one route in the preliminary planning stages within a an area you mentioned. hopefully there will be some scouts who reach out from the midwest…

  • Filippo Graglia

    Perfect…you can reach me here!
    fg_tycos@msn.com
    Ciao!

  • Paul Mulvey

    I actually like linking towns together like this as well. In my experience, I find some of the rails-to-trails work well for this and linking them together helps me get to a grocery or motel or campsite, all depending on the route. I’m actually linking several trails together this fall and would be happy to document the route with photos and GPS.

  • Randal GoingHAM

    Cool man, thats great to hear, and thanks for getting back to me. If you can share a little more about the route, I’m extremely interested, and may be able to devote some resources to helping out.

  • Hi guys,
    at the moment I’m working for a 15-20 days rute in Marocco that I’m going to test next May. I’ll be glad to share it with you and all the comunity.
    At the moment I have only a small web site that I use to collect my travels and my photos.
    http://nuthead.org/about-me/

  • zero_trooper

    ‘Trans-Armenia’ – now that does sound like an adventure! 😊

  • Hey Logan, we’ve been documenting some of the remaining ancient trail routes here in the northern Philippines highland before modernization fully pave the roads. We have a few dirt routes ranging from 3-7 days worth of riding and passing through heritage sites, and it’s approximately 60-80% unpaved. We’ll share as soon as I revisit and photograph the routes again.

  • Jamie Lent

    I think it all has its upsides and downsides. Sometimes I really want to get out into the woods. Other times it is just the thing to settle down at a bed&breakfast and get advice on the best pub. Credit card touring is a great gateway drug as well. The only piece I really find crucial is being self supported. The moment you toss your bags in the back of a van, and pay someone to follow you around, you are fundamentally changing the nature of the adventure. But as long as you are out fending for yourself, I don’t care if you take the train, eat at a 5 star restaurant, or sleep in a cozy king sized bed. Getting around by bike is fun!

  • Greg Moore

    Sounds awesome – is there a name yet for the route? Want to try and keep this on my radar….

  • Andrew Goin

    In the NorthWest, I love being surrounded by so many great options. I have planned and completed many great rides around here but my photos and story telling is probably not up to the standards I see on this site. I’d like to compete with the folks in the “middle” of the country on who can offer up the most rides in their neck of the woods. Let’s fill in the map with options!

  • Jonathan Houck

    Been kicking around a few ideas for a name but the nickname it has taken on is ‘The Campaign Trail’ due to the factthat when successfully running for re-election (I am a Gunnison County Commissioner) I bikepacked, as part of my campaign efforts, to many of these outlying communities that will be included in the full loop. Gunnison County is 1 1/2 times the size of Delaware and 82% public lands so there is lots of room to roam! So many great smaller loops, looking forward to getting this one rolled out!

  • Jerod Foster

    Hey Logan and Randall, my brother and I are also working on creating routes in the southern plains with the intention of building something more extensive moving north. Planning stages currently, but the work is forthcoming. The biggest I see the further south you go in the plains is the amount of private vs. public land. Gravel/dirt roads are extensive, it’s just a matter of connecting those to campsites (particularly in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

  • Charlie Puyear

    As a native son of Missouri (and current resident in STL), would be happy to help out with some routes in MO, AR, KS, IA, etc. Lots of gravel and even some solid stretches of single track (check out the Ozark Trail in SE MO).

  • shtlck

    Hey Logan, I would be interested in doing some stuff here in
    Europe. Will do a quickie in center Germany in may, going to Iceland in June/July, planning to cross the Pyrenees (Toulouse->Barcelona) September.

    Let me know if you have something started I can contribute with or make my own project to share.

  • Peter Pascale

    Love all of this – great suggestions in the discussion. I submitted a route last year (Straddle and Paddle – Northern MN), and intend to collect any updates/improvements this year based on other riders I’ve networked with and my own time up north. I really like the idea of updating/improving routes over time, and not just to keep them alive but to evolve them as connectors to meta-routes perhaps…

  • Dan Hemme

    Eastern NC is gravel country. Should absolutely get some more routes laid down out here.

  • Hi Dan. I’d definitely be curious to learn more about big chunks of gravel out there. I did the one route in the Croatan that’s on the site, but it would be cool to have another.

  • Dan Hemme

    First thought is the Albemarle Peninsula – Tyrrell and Hyde Counties are all but uninhabited, much of it is Alligator River NWR or Mattamuskeet NWR so it’s federal land. Great pocosin lands and endangered species.

  • Dylan

    Hey Jonathan,

    As an Aurora resident and employee of Adams County government – I can’t wait for this route! You truly have some beautiful county down there and I would love an excuse to load the bikes up and pedal around Gunny for a few weeks. I’ll surely be following along.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Christian Müller

    Would love to know more about the route. I am about to go there end of March and April for 2 weeks. I am not set on a route yet, was thinking doing bits of the Caravans Route…

  • This is the last version made just about uno month ago.
    https://nuthead.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Tajine-Route.gpx

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