Friday, October 6, 2023

Heart of the West Adventure Route: USA's convenient multistate wildland journey

Heart of the West Adventure Route -- the plug-and-play solution to the risks of planning an overland trip -- will continue in 2024 to provide wildland travelers a GPS-guided network of interconnected loops and routes that remains unparalleled in North America.

This premium service delivers convenient and customizable routing for travelers in SUVs, or on dual-sport and adventure motorcycles.

H.o.W. will remain an adaptable, GPS-guided 2,800-mile-plus loop along backcountry roads through some of the American West's most iconic landscapes. We've also chronicled optional routing that can extend the experience far beyond H.o.W.'s core six states. Using supplementary routing, backcountry travelers can journey from Canada to Mexico, and from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean or even the Mojave Desert for a fraction of the cost of guided trips.

A wildland roundabout

Heart of the West Adventure Route is our flagship product and service. As a web of interconnected loops, it immerses overland travelers in the wildlands of six states in the American West:
  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • Utah, and
  • Wyoming.
H.o.W.'s focus is primarily on unpaved wildland roads, which are subject to the impacts of inclement weather. So, in advance of each season, we revisit substantial segments of the route and revise them if necessary, potentially adding new challenges and opportunities.
The result: Heart of the West Adventure Route's comprehensive, easy-to-use routing data weaves together a "roundabout" of modular loops 'n routes with:
  • updates included at no additional cost;
  • convenient connectors to Backcountry Discovery Routes; and
  • optional connectors (with additional fees) that extend to Northern and Southern California.
By connecting loops through portions of six Western states, we make it easy to tailor H.o.W. to your interests, logistics, time limitations and circumstances.

Heart of the West Adventure Route's primary track
From California's deserts and coastal mountains to Utah's canyons and the ramparts of the Rocky Mountains ... Heart of the West's roundabout of built-in and optional loops and routes lets you pick and choose, mix and match ... and do it your way! (Pricing and details are below.)

Heart of the West (green loops) and optional routing
An example: We've included our 200-mile (322 km) Nevada extension. It links the convenient H.o.W. network to the Idaho and Nevada Backcountry Discovery Routes.

An exhilarating wildland experience by itself, this connector ascends deep into the  mountain ranges and canyons of the Silver State's northernmost reaches.
There's more!
-- Our 825-mile Sierra to the Sea/Sea to Sierra Adventure Route (S2S) (described in a separate post) extends from the bluffs of the Pacific Ocean to the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada.
-- S2S then connects seamlessly to our 600-mile trek across northern Nevada, where it links up with H.o.W and the Idaho and Nevada Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDRs).
-- Southern California is connected to the vast H.o.W. network via our 1,315-mile wildland route from greater Los Angeles across the Mojave Desert to the Grand Canyon, then onward into Utah's plateaus and canyons to connect with H.o.W. in northern Colorado. This route also connects conveniently with several BDRs.

Heart of the West ADV Route extends deep into the Great Basin, one of the most remote and sparsely populated regions in the Lower 48. There, it follows the tracks of the Pony Express, Overland Stage, Transcontinental Railroad and Lincoln Highway.

Oregon Trail, Wyoming
Along the Continental Divide (a.k.a., Great Divide), long, lonely segments of the historic Oregon Trail enable travelers to sample the 19th-century emigrant experience.

The licensed H.o.W. package (pricing is below) includes:

  • our proprietary, highly detailed, plug-and-play GPX (a.k.a. GPS Exchange) track file (similar to a Google Maps track);
  • the H.o.W. e-booklet (printable and available online 24/7);
  • personal consultations, even as you travel;
  • re-routing as you travel when circumstances warrant; and ...
  • built-in links to the Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Utah Backcountry Discovery Routes.

H.o.W. Map Packs ($60 ea., shipped)

Optional ($60; available only to licensed H.o.W. clients) is the H.o.W. Map Pack. This includes: a detailed, color, wall-mountable 36 in. x 43 in. (91.44 cm x 116.84 m) folded-paper map with each track numbered and highlighted to match the track file; H.o.W. stickers; and a weather-resistant roll-top pouch. The map is produced in partnership with Benchmark Maps, America's leading publisher of high-quality recreation and travel maps and atlases. Shipping is included within the contiguous USA.

Depicting highways, surface waters, paved and unpaved backroads, public lands, national and state parks, campgrounds and a great deal more, the H.o.W. map is an important companion to GPS-guided travel. It provides a "big-picture" perspective and exceptional detail. It even includes H.o.W.'s convenient connectors to the Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Nevada Backcountry Discovery Routes.

Perhaps best of all: Heart of the West includes rewarding, field-tested options to shorten, modify and adapt the full, ~2,800-mile (4,500 km) primary loop to accommodate time-limited or changed itineraries.

So no matter what your schedule, Heart of the West ADV Route (click that link!) can be adapted to your needs -- even as you travel.

H.o.W. pricing

  We do not hold fundraisers. We don't solicit advertising, memberships and corporate sponsorships. This keeps us free of conflicting obligations that can interfere with focusing objectively on the interests of our clients. H.o.W.'s superior documentation and traveler support is funded solely through license fees, which support our research and service.

The fee schedule for personal use of the copyrighted, non-transferable H.o.W. GPX track file is:

$199 USD for 1-2 vehicles
$319 USD for 3-4 vehicles
$415 USD for 5-7 vehicles

For larger groups, a second license is required according to the same fee schedule thereafter. PayPal is the most commonly used method of payment, but other forms may be accepted. Contact us for details.

The total fee for the complete package (detailed track file; map pack; e-booklet; consultations) for 1-2 vehicles: USD$259.00

The base license fee (1-2 vehicles) for H.o.W.'s connecting routes are:

Northern California-Nevada connector: $129

Southern California-Colorado connector: $129

Sierra to the Sea Adventure Route: See separate S2S post.

Another benefit: Our clients are eligible for substantial discounts on premium motorcycle gear and map products.

So ... start planning now! Contact us using this site's contact widget (helps to avoid spammers), and we'll get you on your way.

'Trip of a lifetime!

Time and again, those who've traveled Heart of the West find one phrase to describe the experience: "Trip of a lifetime!" And you don't need to be an enduro champion or veteran rock-crawler to enjoy it. You just need a good adventure motorcycle, 4x4 truck or SUV, the knowledge to travel in the backcountry safely, and the ability to follow the detailed GPX tracks we provide.

We do the work. You live the dream.

Our detailed, plug-and-play GPX data file will guide you accurately along every mile of the route. With the routes that Backcountry Byways LLC develops, you get data that is researched, documented and monitored by wildland-travel specialists with decades of on-the-ground experience in both adventure-motorcycle and SUV-borne overland travel.

Instead of only the basic GPS-guided tracks and a handful of location markers (waypoints) so typical of free routing, H.o.W. includes almost 1,000 waypoints for verified campsites and campgrounds, lodgings, fuel stops, difficult sections and more. Each is pinpointed using Global Positioning System coordinates, by direct on-site observation.

New in 2022: Our detailed, proprietary GPX track file accommodates the Gaia GPS apps' content limitations.

Importantly, H.o.W. isn't just a product; it's a service.

That service and support begins when you sign up, and ends when your adventure is done. Going far beyond typical crowd-sourced routing ("You get what you pay for!"), we provide prompt, professional and personalized support.

Our clients have exclusive access to the person most knowledgeable about the route, someone who can provide advice that is prompt, convenient and authoritative.

This means our clients don't have to spend hours mining social-media forums for credible input from strangers.

We get to know our clients. Many become friends and return year after year. So we often can tailor our products and services to suit their interests and circumstances. We're available when they need us, just a phone call or text message away from start to finish ... even as they travel!

Perhaps you're the do-it-yourself type, willing to risk your group's vacation to save a few bucks ... spending hours scouring websites and fielding suspect responses on social-media forums ... ordering maps (USD$10 to $15 ea.), atlases (USD$25 ea.) and guidebooks (USD$20 ea.) ... consuming hours of cell-phone time ... struggling for weeks to build a GPS track following roads across unfamiliar terrain -- only to learn the hard way that a road no longer exists!

Or, perhaps you're willing to spend thousands of dollars to eat the dust of a half-dozen riders on a tour that follows the same routes as everyone else.

Given H.o.W.'s adaptable design, you can do it your way!


Heart of the West Adventure Route takes overland travelers through some of America's last-remaining, least-populated and most spectacular wildlands that remain motor-vehicle accessible.

You will be immersed in the:





Access is easy!

Other backcountry routes run east-west or north-south, and so must omit a great deal. More important, they pose logistical difficulties, e.g., getting to the beginning and returning from the end. They require arranging a shuttle or return bike shipment; or enduring massive "slab" time on backtracking.

 It's efficient and convenient.

That's because it's comprised of a main, grand loop with optional interconnected loops already woven in. Begin and end anywhere that works for you. If you can't break free for the 15 or so days the full loop typically requires, travel it in segments, over time, at a pace that's right for you.

The loop is intersected by two interstate U.S. highways: north-south I-15 and east-west I-80. Connecting to I-70 -- a major access route to Utah's canyon country -- is convenient as well. So travelers from every point on the compass are saving precious vacation days with fast and direct access.

Major airlines serve cities at logical entry/exit points, e.g., Denver, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; even Idaho Falls, Idaho! Connections are available as well to Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada; Moab, Utah; and Grand Junction, Colorado.

Vehicle storage is often available at local airports and motels.

You can camp, stay in motels, or pause for a relaxing evening at a mountain lodge.

What do travelers say?

Visit to read the growing list of ride reports and reviews. A sampling:

"... the greatest western U.S. adventure of all." member

"In my opinion should go down as one of the great Overland Adventures in North America." Tragic Overlander

"Tony's constant attention to detail, updates, emails, and obvious true desire to insure the client has the experience of a lifetime is just tremendous." Sir Dave

"... the best route we've ever ridden, period. And we've ridden a few." Dockingpilot


"For people who have one shot at it, this service is great." Pantah

"Any part of the route is fantastic. You will love it." johnpitts01

"I am very happy with the depth and quality of the resources as well as excellent input and customer service from byways, it will be hard to go back to my usual personal planning from scratch in the future." -- Somber

Contact us today!

Just use our "Contact Us" tab in the right-side column. We will connect you to a web gallery of images so you can see what to expect.

We'll provide payment details (most clients use PayPal.) Then you'll receive the advantages of the 30 years we've spent chronicling the wildland roads of the American West for guidebooks, magazines, automotive manufacturers, web publishers ... and busy people like you.

How to get H.o.W.

Here's how travelers acquire the H.o.W. license, GPX file and map:

1. Contact us at: backcountrybyways at gee mail dot com.

2. Schedule a telephone visit. We will acquaint you further with the H.o.W. package and experience, and answer all of your questions.

3. We provide payment details.

4. Once payment is received, we deliver the H.o.W. track file via email.

5. USPS Priority Mail delivery of the optional ($60) map pack.

6. Add you to the list of H.o.W. travelers who will receive exclusive news alerts or revised data that we sometimes send out during the travel season for which your license is acquired. These emailed alerts can involve updates on road conditions, closures, wildfires, new routing and more. If warranted, they also may include a revised or supplementary track that can be downloaded to your GPS device and added to the route.

There's more!

Many wildland travelers can require pre-launch assistance. So our personal service doesn't end with providing the track file.

Services include:
  • the potential to adapt the route to your interests and needs*
  • helping you identify your best start/end points
  • updates as you travel, based on live reports from current H.o.W. travelers

* Additional fee and at least 90 days advance notice required.

Still have questions? Send us a note using the "Contact" form in the sidebar.

Happy Trails!













Anonymous said...

Hello Tony! Just found your site. When do you recommend doing Heart of the West? Trying to stay away from snow and tick season in the sagebrush.

Tony Huegel, founder & principal said...

Hello, back! Snow I know about. But I've never experienced ticks along HoW. September, especially the middle or latter part of the month, has consistently provided HoW travelers with the best conditions. Temps are cooler, the weather is more stable, and the quaking aspens and cottonwoods are turning color. June, July and August are typically hot and wet. Some road segments remain closed by regulation until July 1. In September, however, campers will find nights getting cold, especially in mountain valleys. But the mosquitoes are gone! So the ideal time to travel HoW is coming up fast. Are you ready?

DavidC said...

Tony, about how much of the route is unpaved?

Tony Huegel, founder & principal said...

A good question, DavidC!

Approximately 15 percent involves one form of paved road or another.

That's an improvement, for our explorations during the 2013 season replaced many miles of paved roads (previously used to make important connections) with long segments of fun, even historic wildland two-track trails.

We've identified many more miles of remote two-track roads for on-the-ground verification (as conditions permit) and likely inclusion in 2014. So stay tuned ...��

Travis said...

Hello, Is the route doable with a URAL Patrol? I am only worried about steep climbs. The URAL is under powered and I had to turn back when the wife and I took it to CO last year.

Tony Huegel, founder & principal said...

I'm sure the primary route would be doable, perhaps with omitting one or two steep and rocky segments and choosing the provided bypasses. But for an a segment or two, the primary route doesn't have much steep terrain. In any case, once you're on board, I'll be happy to work with H.o.W. clients to go over the details and work through the options. This route is, by design, very adaptable.

Mike said...

Is there a recommended max width and height for the vehicle? I'm interested in doing this with a custom camper built on a Mitsubishi Fuso 4x4?

Tony Huegel, founder & principal said...

Mike, there are narrow two-track segments, readily bypassed if that truck seems too large. One optional spur on the Continental Divide would likely be inadvisable in that rig. But have a look at the photos in the H.o.W. online album, which accurately depicts the roads and the route, and see what you think. The link is in the blog post.

Kyle C. said...

Hi Tony,

I've read a number of trip reports on the ADV site. Are you aware of anyone who has completed all or part of the Heart of the West route in a 4wd vehicle and published a report about it?


Tony Huegel, founder & principal said...

Thanks for the question, Kyle!

A number of forum members have driven Heart of the West Adventure Route, at least in part. I know of one fellow who completed it in a Toyota Tacoma; and two in Land Cruisers who terminated early due to breakdowns. I've driven it in 4Runners and Land Cruisers with no greater mishaps than ruined tires (carry two spares ...).

I am unaware of any four-wheeled trip reports, but you might post a query on and see what feedback you receive.

Members of the adventure-motorcycling forum are the most prolific when it comes to trip reports.

If you have further questions, Kyle, just send me a note at: backcountry byways at gee mail dot com.

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