If you ask the average American, or even a non-American, what they think of when you bring up the eastern United States, odds are they’ll mention New York City, the statue of liberty, and generally stay focused on the touristy things to do in the area.
Adventure riders know better. We know that, behind the hustle and bustle of New York, Philadelphia, or New Jersey, there lies an immense playground of woods and forestry interspersed with rivers, lakes, and water crossings – a haven for any adventure rider.
In this guide, we’re going to take a closer look at the best adventure routes on the east coast. If you’re on the hardcore side of adventure motorcyclists, then you owe it to yourself to tackle the Backroad Discovery Routes across the northeast. In all, it spans over 1300 miles, taking you north from New York through New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, before knocking on Canada’s door at its termination point.
Truth be told, we could fill up a lot more pages than what we have here, but these routes are a solid start for anyone looking to explore the paths less traveled on two wheels.
Michaux Forest in Pennsylvania
Located west of Gettysburg, home of the bloodiest battle fought on U.S. soil (July 1-3, 1863), Michaux State Forest (pronounced Mee-shoh) consists of more than 85,500 acres throughout Adam, Cumberland and Franklin counties.
Some of the gravel fire roads having you climbing to 4500 feet above sea level, providing gorgeous overlooks of the counties below. You can easily piece together 100 miles of riding for a day. And for the more adventurous rider, 35 miles of ATV trails run throughout the forests that will more than challenge any skillset–especially those on larger adventure tourers.
Named after the 18th Century French botanist Andre Michaux, and home to the first forestry school Mont Alto, Michaux Forest has campsites throughout, which are a first-come, first-serve basis. The deeper, and steeper, you get, the more secluded the riding becomes.
Two highlights during the rides are Long Pine Reservoir and Laurel Lake. Just keep an eye out for hikers; 37 miles of the Appalachian trail snakes through Michaux State Forest. For additional information, here’s a Michaux State Forest map.
Bald Eagle State Forest in Pennsylvania
The ADV riding in and around Bald Eagle State Forest is a local favorite and a hidden gem. So, apologies in advance to the locals if we’re letting the secret out, but the riding here is too good not to share.
Named for the famous Native American, Chief Bald Eagle, Bald Eagle State Forest is spread across nearly 194,000 acres in Snyder, Union, Centre, Mifflin and Clinton counties west of State College, home of Penn State University.
About 340 miles of roads exist throughout Bald Eagle State Forest, with a bulk of them unpaved and reaching as high as 2,300 feet above sea level. There are loads of dual-sport motorcycle trails, and some require expert-level ability due to sharp rocks and giant mudholes. Three that impress over and over are the trails running through the Seven Mountains Region, over Shade Mountain, and near Poe Paddy State Park.
For additional information, here’s a Bald Eagle State Park map.
Hancock, NY to Andes, NY
What better way to start the North East Backcountry Discovery Route than at the very beginning, in Hancock, New York. While you can join the BDR at any point along the 1300-miles stretch, sometimes it’s nice to ease into things and start at the beginning.
The route from Hancock to Andes is 135 miles with varying terrain but we’re told that, except for a couple sections, the riding is relatively easy (of course, that term means different things to different people depending on their skill level).
Here’s a quick excerpt of the route, directly from the BDR organizers:
Make your way to where the east and west branches of the Delaware River converge in the historic village of Hancock, New York — a motorcycle-friendly town, a sportsman’s paradise and a perfect place to start the NEBDR adventure.
Cross over the West Branch of the Delaware just a mile from the center of Hancock and get ready to warm up your dirt skills on the shady O&W Road through rural Wayne County Pennsylvania. Adventure starts to ramp up as you hit River Road, a rugged seasonal track that hugs a steep drop-off high above the Delaware River. Cross back over to New York into Callicoon for miles of enjoyable dirt and gravel roads that traverse through forests and farmland and crisscross the East Branch of the Delaware several times. You’ll pass through your first of many covered bridges on the NEBDR in Downsville and then make your way up and around the majestic Pepacton Reservoir on a thrilling stretch of twisty tarmac. Your arrival into Andes includes seasonal dirt roads and outstanding mountain views. You are now on the western edge of the Catskills and Andes is the quintessential Catskill town.
Copake Falls, NY to Readsboro, VT
This 171-mile section of the BDR has it all, especially if you’re looking for technical terrain. The reward for getting through the technical stuff comes in the form of picturesque views straight from a postcard. Again, here’s a brief description from the BDR:
Welcome to the NEBDR’s gateway to New England where riders will quickly sense a change of topography as they ascend into the foothills of the Berkshires, with an abundance of bucolic scenery interspersed with fern lined two-tracks under thickly forested canopies...
...Enter the very southwest corner of Massachusetts and enjoy a few primo dirt tracks leading south to a quick dip into Connecticut. The route then heads north again back into Massachusetts and the Berkshire Mountains that offer an abundance of ADV-friendly state forest lands to enjoy with varied/challenging terrain. These off-pavement highlights will definitely get you up on the pegs and include Beartown State Forest and the menacing October Mountain which will start to raise the bar on technical riding on the NEBDR.
The pinnacle of the Berkshires is the majestic Mt. Greylock. The route takes you up a seasonal dirt track to the top, and standing at 3,491 feet tall, Greylock ranks as the highest point in the state of MA with 90+ mile views over the Berkshires to surrounding states of CT, VT & NH. If you choose to stay the night at Bascom Lodge, this period-perfect, craftsman-style lodge, don’t forget to catch the sunrise from the summit — so beautiful that poet Henry David Thoreau wrote about it.
Woodsville, NH to Gorham, NH
The longest single section of the NE BDR, the route from Woodsville to Gorham will take you 231 miles and leave you in awe – from both the riding and the scenery.
Again, this description from the BDR website paints a better picture of what to expect than anything we could write. Here’s a brief summary:
Just a few miles up a rural dirt road from Woodsville and after crossing a long, covered bridge, you’ll arrive at the Brick Store in Bath. The Brick Store is the oldest operating general store in the United States, established in 1791. Known for excellent fudge, smoked products, and a fine deli, this is a great place for take-out breakfast and lunch. The owner, Scott, is also an avid motorcyclist.
Section 6 winds through picturesque dirt roads from the western border towards the east, passing through woodlands and farm fields, as well as some horse properties. Crossing over Interstate 93, the route takes Sandwich Notch Road from Thornton to Sandwich, built in 1801 for the farming community that inhabited the area. The road is now a single-lane dirt road that is great fun to ride, but remember that it is two-way traffic at all times. There’s a must stop at a self-service ice cream and cheese shop, the Sandwich Creamery, tucked down a dirt road well off the beaten track. Soon after you’ll find the magnificent view of Mount Chocorua and Lake Chocorua.
Turning north, the route takes the Kancamagus Highway for about ten miles. The highway is named after Chief Kancamagus, “The Fearless One,” of the Panacook tribe. Scenery of the Swift River and mountains is spectacular before turning on to Bear Notch Road. Forest service roads in the Bartlett Experimental Forest break up the ride on more dirt before getting through Franconia Notch on NH Route 302. After passing by the Mount Washington Hotel, the route takes Jefferson Notch Road around the base of Mount Washington. You’ll soon come to appreciate any road referred to as a “notch’ in New Hampshire.
The White Mountains, and especially Mount Washington, are a spectacular sight and the highlight of the NEBDR. The Mt. Washington Auto Road is not to be missed – it’s a 7-mile tar and dirt road up to the summit at 6,288 feet. Clear days offer amazing 360-degree views for a hundred miles.
We hope these routes have gotten your juices flowing and inspired you to get out to the North East of America. No matter what adventure bike you ride, there’s something here for everyone. What’s more, often there are alternative routes you can take depending on your skill level; less experienced riders can take less-challenging routes while experts out there can tackle some really technical and gnarly terrain if they so choose.
What makes these trails even better are the quaint towns and the people who inhabit them. They’re great stewards of the area’s history, and when you sit back at the end of each day – or long after your ride’s over – they’ll enrich your memory of your trip. Enjoy!