By Ron Lieback
As much as we’d like to explore everything the Backcountry Discovery Routes offer, the reality is that most of us don’t have the time to pound out the miles of a typical BDR. So, seeing a need for something more manageable, BDR has another idea: BDR-X.
This new concept introduces all the fun and challenges of a BDR, but in a loop format that can take anywhere from 2-4 days. This way, you can come on or come off the route anywhere you please, and potentially do the whole thing in a weekend.
The latest BDR-X is the PA Wilds loop, totaling just over 500 miles of exploring the lush landscape Pennsylvania has to offer. To quote the BDR:
The PA Wilds BDR-X is a spur off the Mid Atlantic BDR in Pennsylvania designed by one of the original architects of the MABDR. The east side of this loop includes parts of section 8 and 9 of the MABDR but then turns west into the PA Wilds before looping back to the start in New Columbia, PA some 500-plus miles later.
Similar to the MABDR, the route runs mostly on dirt and gravel roads through Pennsylvania State Forests with short stretches of pavement at the start, in between the forests, and at the end of each section. The route is designed in 4 sections with convenient places to eat, camp or lodge overnight at the end of each section. The beauty of being a loop route is that riders can start and finish from any point along the route.
The PA Wilds BDR-X has a familiar feel to that of the beloved MABDR with a few more optional advanced sections for those looking for a bit of a challenge. Ride it in conjunction with the MABDR and extend your adventure or ride the “X” alone and get your BDR fix over a long weekend.
The four sections create a loop around Interstate 80 or Route 6, allowing quick access to either one of the loops, regardless of whether you’re running them backward or forward. I’ve ridden many of these trails in the past but never looped them all together. I’m planning to ride the PA Wilds when peak leave-changing season occurs here in Pennsylvania; stay clicked to this blog for a review!
Following is a breakdown of each section. Each can be completed with any sized adventure motorcycle with at least 80/20 tires if it’s dry, though 50/50s are preferred, especially if it’s wet!
Section 1: New Columbia to Wellsboro
You start the PA Wilds loop in New Columbia en route to Wellsboro, a town located near the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. Again, looking at the BDR map, if it seems like you’re copying section 8 of the MABDR—that’s because you are.
Still, the riding here is excellent, with relatively easy gravel roads serving as a warm-up for what’s to come. If you’re looking for more of a challenge right off the bat, the BDR maps are top-notch in that optional, harder deviations are built right in for more experienced riders.
Section 2: Wellsboro to St. Marys
The longest of the four sections, you start in Wellsboro for section 2 and immediately head southeast towards Reynolds Spring before heading north after Hyner Run State Park. The Hammersley Wild Area and Sizerville State Park await you as you continue east before ultimately hitting your stop for the day at St. Marys.
There are many twists and turns throughout the entire run, and the scenery makes you want to slow down and enjoy the view. Apart from the shorter paved section in the middle, you’re primarily on dirt the entire way through.
Section 3: St. Marys to State College
Stage 3 of the PA Wilds loop has you largely headed south, starting at St. Marys before your terminus at State College.
We’re really getting into the PA Wilds now, as you’ll be riding amongst the elks at the Elk State Forest, itself a fascinating location with a rich mining history worth stopping and learning more about. Again, the map includes a few aggressive routes if you’re up to the challenge.
Section 4: State College to New Columbia
The route back to New Columbia is filled with forays through several state parks, and even the Rothrock State Forest. You’ll find drivable trails along the beginning of the route, leading to twisty stuff towards the end. If you really want a challenge, try Sharpback Hollow.
It’s an optional swampy section filled with mud and ruts that’ll be sure to test your skill—and is guaranteed to get you and your bike properly dirty. What a perfect way to end the PA Wilds loop.
Taking advantage of the awesome adventure riding Pennsylvania has to offer is a brilliant move by the BDR team. Individually, these routes don’t make it into the main MADR, which is a shame.
There are several examples of smaller routes like these throughout the country that don’t necessarily fit the bill of being included in the main Discovery Route but deserve some kind of recognition.
Thankfully, this wasn’t lost on the BDR team. The PA Wilds BDR-X is just the latest example of a series of BDR-X routes to be introduced in due time. As always, the BDR website has all the information you need to plan your trip, including interactive maps, GPS coordinates, free GPS tracks download, lodging recommendations, and much more. Expect more of these for other states in the future.
Gear up for BDR X or any other motorcycle adventure with Touratech USA. Founding BDR sponsor and Official Helmet provider of Backcountry Discovery Routes.