The Wyoming Backcountry Discovery route is our 6th BDR in as many years. Through the running of each one, @mrs.turbodb and I are - as you can imagine - regularly comparing the current BDR to the past ones. Starting last year, with the New Mexico BDR, I finally started writing some of these down, and of course - I now feel obligated to carry on that tradition into the future.
I like to think of it - a little bit - as a Rig Review for the BDR route.
TL;DR - The Wyoming BDR blew our socks off. Before leaving, we were worried that it didn't go to some of the places we'd expected it to go, but the route through the Sierra Madre, Medicine Bow, Wind River, and Bighorn Mountains was spectacular. Even the connecting stages had highlights that were joyously unexpected. Perhaps the only stage we'd not recommend is the Stage X Red Desert loop, which was a bit... boring. To date, this is now our favorite BDR.
With that summary, let's get into the details!
The mix of roads for the WYBDR was nice. As expected, nothing along the route was difficult for a high clearance 4WD vehicle, given a driver with a bit of experience. Many of the roads were high-speed graded gravel, with a few rocky-and-bumpy trails thrown in. We quite enjoyed the variety, as @mrs.turbodb isn't a huge fan of bumps, but we both recognize that the bumpy roads often lead to less populated experiences.
There was certainly pavement along the route - but I wouldn't say it was overwhelming. Something in the 10-15% range, usually around small towns where the target audience (dual sport cyclists) would be looking for food and lodging.
As I've alluded to above, the scenery was fantastic. Right from the get-go, the climb into the Sierra Madre kicked off this route that brought excitement at every turn. For the first several days, our time in the Medicine Bow Mountains (and specifically the Snowy Range, where we took the time to enjoy the high lakes and hike to the top of the 12,000' Medicine Bow Peak) was the best part of the trip. Travelling across the state from east-to-west and then back again, the high desert and red rocks reminded us of Utah. And then, stage 7 and 8 brought two full stages in the Bighorn Mountains. These rivaled our time in the Snowy Range, especially given all the wildflowers blooming across the high meadows.
The best time of year to do this trip? In my opinion there are two:
- As soon as the route is passable. This is - essentially - spring, even though it likely occurs in late June or early July. Everything will be so green, and the wildflowers will be in full bloom. It's seriously like driving through nature's garden.
- During the fall, when the aspens are changing color. Several stages along the route pass through aspen groves, and each of the mountain ranges have numerous aspen along the trail as well as in groves visible from the route. These will be spectacular as they shimmer in the fall breeze. You'll have to time it perfectly to catch the leaves before they fall, but you're sure to be rewarded.
For us, the highlights of the trip were many - too many to list, really. Here are some of our favorites, numbered but in no particular order:
- The Snowy Range (stage 2). Just driving through was spectacular, but stopping at several lakes for lunch and a hike to the top (Medicine Bow Peak) was my favorite thing of the entire trip. Camping in the Snowy Range was great, because it meant seeing the area in both the afternoon/evening light, as well as the early morning when we awoke.
- Going for a dip in Alcova Reservoir (stage 3). This was a lucky side-effect of a re-route that we took, but it was such a refreshing activity given the 90+ °F temperatures, that I'd recommend it to anyone. There was ample parking at the lakeside, and the water temperatures were pleasantly mild.
- The entirety of Stage 7 and Stage 8 in the Bighorn Mountains. The roads here were some of the most scenic of the entire journey. Rising and falling along ridgelines, and visible into the distance as they wound through the green grassy meadows, they provided constant - and yet everchanging - views of the snowy Bighorn peaks. Even if you aren't doing the entire BDR, these sections are worth enjoying.
- Wildlife. This will change from year to year and place to place, but always be on the lookout - we very much enjoyed seeing moose, pronghorn, deer, marmots, pika, wild horses, and numerous flying creatures over the course of the trip.
The only thing we didn't think was "worth it" was the Stage X - Red Desert portion of the trip. This isn't technically part of the WYBDR, it's one of the new, shorter, loop-style routes that the BDR organization is putting together so they can release more routes more often. To us, it was pretty monotonous, and definitely didn't have the same wow factor as the rest of the BDR.
There are two main attractions of this loop - according to the good folks at the BDR org - the Red Desert badlands that you can see from Delaney Rim, and Adobe Town. For us:
- The badlands were cool, but we've seen significantly cooler ones on several other trips. Anza Borrego probably has the best badlands we've ever encountered, at Fonts Point.
- Adobe Town is more "hoodoos" and badlands," except that you drive through them. They are neat and all, but again, Anza Borrego is better, as are a lot of places in Utah, like Canyonlands National Park, where you can drive through similar terrain that's on a completely different level of awesome.
Things We Might Have Enjoyed
We finished the route in six days, having planned 8-10. Had we known we'd be done so quickly, we might have taken things a bit more slowly in a few areas:
- A stop at a hot springs. There were several just far enough off the trail to make it feel unfeasible on this trip, but the hot springs at Saratoga or a stop over at Thermopolis would have been nice. If we were to repeat this trip, we’d probably either drive out to Saratoga during Stage 2 or over to Thermopolis at the end of the trip.
- A side-trip to Christina Lake. I've wanted to go for a long time, but we weren't sure about timing, and @mrs.turbodb wasn't a huge fan of the rocky road - this is a slow, high-clearance 4WD road - as we made our way through the Wind River Mountains.
But really, with the Wyoming BDR jumping to the top of our list, I think it's safe to say that this was a huge success!
The Whole Story
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