If you’re looking for some of the top adventure riding areas in America, the eastern side of the country is filled with amazing landscapes that are sometimes overlooked, or downright not known about.
Due to its natural topography, the eastern United States is full of mountains and forest land. You just have to know where to look.
In this post, we’ll explore some of 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 give the Backcountry Discovery Routes across the northeast (and across the whole United States) a try.
In all, the BDR covers over 1300 miles, taking you from New York to New Hampshire, Vermont to Maine. It even takes you to Canada’s doorstep before calling it quits.
Many of the routes listed below are from the BDR, but there are far too many to list here. We’ve also sprinkled in a few options not on the BDR to add a little variety.
Nonetheless, if you’re looking to get away on an Adventure Touring ride in the Eastern United States, these are just a few of the great options.
Hancock, NY to Andes, NY
What better way to start than with the tipping-off point for the North East BDR? This 135-mile section is the first leg of a nearly 1300-mile journey that takes you nearly to Canada.
It’s not a loop, so take that into consideration, but there are many turnoffs that aren’t an official part of the route that you can take to turn this into a loop and return back to your starting point of Hancock, New York. As for the route itself, we’ll point you to the BDR description:
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.
Take a quick ride two miles east from the center of town on Route 28 to the Palmer Hill lookout and experience a panoramic view of the mountains that make up the 600,000-acre Catskill Forest Preserve — classified as Forever Wild Land in the New York State Constitution. Spend the night in Andes and enjoy some local hard cider and culinary treats at Wayside Cider or rub shoulders with the locals at the bar/restaurant in the historic Andes Hotel. Supplies and fuel can be had at the General Store on Main Street or the Tremperskill Country Store about 5 miles outside of the village down CR1.
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 have 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.
Readsboro, VT to Barnard, VT
Vermont doesn’t get enough love from motorcyclists, so this is our attempt to bring some deserved attention to the Green Mountain State.
A beautiful part of the country whether you’re into adventure riding or not, Vermont doesn’t get the fanfare of more popular tourist attractions, but that’s what makes it great.
And, as the name Green Mountain State implies, Vermont is full of landscapes any adventure rider would love to explore.
On this 178-mile leg of the NorthEast BDR, you’ll experience a little slice of everything Vermont has to offer. That includes some technical riding towards the end. If an easier route is what you’d prefer, there are work-arounds for that. Here’s the official description from the BDR:
You are now in the Green Mountain State. Are you ready to experience beautiful pastoral settings, historic mountain roads and architecture dating back to the Revolutionary War? We hope so! Vermonters have a generally laid-back attitude, a strong passion for their home state and are eager to share that passion with friendly and respectful visitors. The roads you will be using to pass through Vermont are beautiful, and in most cases, originally designed for human and animal transport. They are small and rudimentary and houses are often placed within feet of the road. Many of these roads double as cattle crossings and hiking trails, so safe riding is imperative.
After your introduction to Class 4 roads at the end of Section 3, stop into the Readsboro General Store to fuel up your body and your bike. From there the route settles into a patchwork of forest roads meandering through the lower Green Mountain National Forest. The town of Grafton is a wonderful place to stop, spend the night at the inn, or have lunch at the general store.
Tip: Don’t miss out on Vermont’s general stores, they are all unique and interesting.
There are technical riding bits dispersed throughout this section but after the town of Danby, there are quite a few challenging Class 4 roads. If you find you’re not quite up for it, the GPS tracks include easier go-arounds for the more difficult Class 4 roads. Your last gnarly stretch of this section leads you to the town of Barnard where you can gas up and grab supplies at the General Store. There’s camping at Silver Lake State Park and several B&Bs in town or alternatively the town of Woodstock is only 10 miles away.
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 mud holes.
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.
Woodsville, NH to Gorham, NH
The longest single leg of the NorthEast BDR, this ride through New Hampshire spans 231 miles. The ride itself isn’t particularly challenging, but what it lacks in difficulty it more than makes up for in history and scenery.
And don’t be mistaken; these roads are still a massive amount of fun. Again, here’s the official description from the BDR:
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 an avid motorcyclist so be sure to tell him we sent you.
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. Our favorite flavor was Dirt Road – go figure. 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. The weather observatory is manned 365 days a year and has recorded some of the highest winds on the planet – 231 mph. Clear days offer amazing 360-degree views for a hundred miles. There’s a restaurant and museum at the summit. Nearby Gorham is the perfect White Mountain town to stay the night. If you weren’t able to make it up Mt. Washington when you arrived into town, you can give it a fresh go the next morning.
As you can see, the eastern United States offers a lot of great riding for the adventure touring rider. And we’ve only just scratched the surface of what’s out there, too.
Call us greedy, but we purposely didn’t reveal more routes because there are still some we want to keep to ourselves!
Nonetheless, that’s the beauty of adventure touring; you’re free and able to find new routes of your own. The eastern US is full of them.