The BOLT Act is in Committee in both the House and Senate, and we need your help in moving this bill forward!
What is the BOLT Act?
The "Biking on Long-distance Trails" Act is federal legislation that would result in the identification of potential new long-distance bike trails on federally managed lands.
What does the BOLT Act mean for the future of trails and bikepacking?
If passed, the BOLT Act will mandate that federal land managers identify potential for new long distance bike trails. This could lead to support for restoration of existing long distance bike trails that need resurrection, completion of long distance trails that are in progress, and federal support for existing and new long distance trails.
How has Bikepacking Roots been involved in the BOLT Act?
We have been working with the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) and the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) in communicating with the Congressional committee staff involved in refining the BOLT Act language. BPR, with support from IMBA and ACA, have specifically recommended refining the language used to define “long-distance trails” in the context of the BOLT Act to those that:
In refining this language, the BOLT Act will be more specific to dirt oriented, off-road bikepacking rather than paved or gravel trails. We recommended this change because we currently can create exceptional gravel and road routes without substantial land manager involvement, but singletrack routes require much more of land managers like the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
Bikepacking Roots has submitted testimony to the House Committee on Natural Resources to voice our support as representatives of bikepackers. Now we’re calling on you, the bikepackers, to join us in voicing your support for the BOLT Act! Committee votes are likely to happen soon, so let’s all help this bill advance.
How can you support the BOLT Act?
Call or write your member of congress and share your support for the BOLT Act. You can use the Advocacy Toolbox for Bikepackers for tips to make your call or letter effective, or you can submit a comment through the Action Network set up by ACA. When submitting a comment through this platform, be sure to customize the text to reflect your personal values around bikepacking on long distance trails! You can refer to the bikepacking talking points provided at the bottom of the Advocacy Toolbox for Bikepackers. Including your personal story goes a long way! Beyond this, encourage your fellow bikepackers to speak up, too.
Bikepacking Roots is partnering with Adventure Cycling Association on their BOLT Act action campaign. "The Adventure Cycling Association is a non-profit org that inspires, empowers and connects people to travel by bike. We manage a route network of more than 50,000 miles of mapped routes around the country, work with AASHTO to designate the US Bicycle Route System, and lead guided tours on both road and trail routes. We want to create more places for folks to travel by bike, and make our existing route network safer."
We are no longer accepting applications for this position. Thank you to everyone who applied!
Bikepacking Roots is seeking a new Executive Director to take the reins from our founding ED, Kurt Refsnider, and continuing to expand the organization's capacity and impact as we support and advocate for the bikepacking community and the places we ride. A complete job description and instructions on how to apply are included below, and this letter to our members shares Refsnider's decision to step out of the ED role and his excitement for the transition.
Bikepacking Roots Executive Director Job Description
Bikepacking Roots (BPR) is the only non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and advancing bikepacking, growing a diverse bikepacking community, advocating for the conservation of the landscapes and public lands through which we ride, and creating professional routes. We value human-powered experiences and our inclusive, engaged, and informed membership (7,000+ strong) that makes a positive impact as we adventure by bike.
The Bikepacking Roots Executive Director (ED) provides the leadership to successfully implement the strategic goals of BPR while working alongside a diverse volunteer Board of Directors, staff, and volunteers. The ED is the visible figurehead of the organization and must positively represent the organization. This is a part-time salaried position, working 25 hours per week.
Written by Kurt Refsnider
Back in 2017, Kait Boyle and I founded the Bikepacking Roots organization with the goals of supporting the responsible growth of the bikepacking community, advocating for bikepackers and the places we ride, and creating bikepacking routes of the highest quality. No other non-profit was doing more than bits and pieces of this, and despite knowing nothing about starting a 501(c)(3) organization, we went about establishing Bikepacking Roots. I ended up stepping into the Executive Director (ED) position, learning as we grew, and balancing the work with my other steadily-evolving responsibilities as a geology professor, professional athlete, and cycling coach. Since that time, bikepacking has experienced nearly exponential growth in interest and participation. Bikepacking Roots has grown to more than 7,000 members, attracted a diverse and talented Board of Directors, and engaged volunteers from all across the country. Together, our contributions to the bikepacking community have been substantial, we’ve laid the groundwork behind the scenes for so much more, and we’re poised to expand our staff to further expand our capacity.
Having led Bikepacking Roots to this point, I’ve come to the decision that it’s time for me to step down as ED (once a replacement is hired) and transition into a role within the organization focused on some of our expanding programming needs alongside Kait. This will allow us to hire a new ED who can bring new perspectives to Bikepacking Roots and build the director role from a part-time to full-time position, something I don’t have the capacity to do. I’m particularly excited by all this, and I hope you, our members, are as well. If you're interested in learning more about the ED position, you can find the full job description and information on how to apply here. And as we make this transition and round the corner toward the tail end of this pandemic, we have quite a few new routes, events, and opportunities we’ll be announcing. Here’s a glimpse of what’s to come:
New routes! We’ve already developed thousands of miles of routes and extensive route guidebooks that are enabling riders to have empowering experiences of all scales on two wheels, and we have thousands of additional miles of routes currently in development. First up is the new Northwoods Route - guidebooks should be available within just a few weeks, and you can pre-order yours now. We also are wrapping up work on the Intermountain Connectors between the Western Wildlands Route and Adventure Cycling Association’s iconic Great Divide MTB Route, and we’ll be seeking more members of our Route Test Team for final refinements of the Pony Express Route this fall. The singletrack-oriented Orogenesis epic is entering a new phase of on-the-ground trail development planning, and Chuska MTB Route on Navajo Nation, a project of our partner Navajo Y.E.S., will be unveiled before too much longer.
New events! We’re about to announce our new community-building Go Bikepacking! event series - the first of these will be in the Northern Rockies, the South, and on Navajo Nation. Each of these gatherings will support a different cause, and we’ll have travel grants available to help make the weekends as accessible as possible.
New opportunities! Last summer, we created the BIPOC Bike Adventure Program as a first step toward addressing inequitable access to the bikepacking experience. We’ll be sharing more about the first ~20 grant recipients in the coming weeks, and we’ll be creating a new position within the organization to expand this program thanks to support from Salsa Cycles. Our 4th Annual Bikepacking Community Survey recently focused on accessibility topics, providing us with valuable data regarding specific concerns and barriers to entry impacting BIPOC and FTW+ cyclists. These data will enable us to develop more specific strategies to support a more diverse and inclusive adventure cycling community.
New advocacy strategies! We’ve been engaged in a range of advocacy issues around the country over the past few years, primarily in a reactive posture. But in recent months, we’ve developed a collaborative strategic plan for proactively expanding our advocacy influence for bikepackers, for public lands, and for the landscapes through which we ride. We’ll share more about this in the coming months as we develop more opportunities for you to get involved.
I hope that in reading through this you feel the same excitement as I do writing it. Bikepacking Roots has so much in the works for you, the bikepacking community, and I’m eager to see who our Board of Directors chooses to take the reins in leading the organization forward. I also want to personally thank the bikepacking community for the enthusiastic support of Bikepacking Roots thus far. If you haven’t already, please consider becoming an annual member of Bikepacking Roots to support all our efforts. It’s through the generous support of the community and our business partners that we’ve been able to accomplish as much as we have in such a short time. We’ll also be looking for a few new members for our Board of Directors in the coming months, so if you’d like to get more involved, please keep an eye out for announcements about that opportunity.
Kurt Refsnider, Ph.D.
Founding Executive Director
2020 was a challenging year for countless reasons, but here at Bikepacking Roots, we have continued to expand our capacity to have a positive impact on and for the bikepacking community. Here's a quick look back at just some of what we accomplished this past year with the support from our many members and business partners.
Creating the BIPOC Bike Adventure Grant Program
• We created this grant program as a first step to help address inequitable access to the bikepacking experience. Together with our members, we raised more than $50,000 for the grant fund.
• Hired BIPOC adventure cyclists for a panel to guide the application process and select the first round of recipients Nearly 100 applications were received for this first round.
• This program will continue to grow in 2021 with new initiatives.
Enabling More Kids to go Bikepacking
• We partnered with the National Interscholastic Cycling Association’s (NICA) to create an extensive curriculum for their new Bikepacking Camps program
• Camps will begin nationwide in 2021!
Release of the Bears Ears Loops Network
• 700 miles of exceptional riding through one of the Colorado Plateau’s most threatened landscapes
• Our 100-page route and landscape guide connects riders to the stories, culture, sociopolitical background, and uniqueness of the Bears Ears Region and confidently and safely experience the Utah desert
Continued on other Route Development Projects
• 40+ Route Test Team volunteers were out on the Northwoods Route providing feedback, building awareness of the new route in communities along the way, and identifying cyclist-friendly businesses
• The Orogenesis Route is entering a new phase of development to fill small gaps in the 3,500-mile-long route. That involves coordinating with regional mountain bike advocacy groups and land managers to resurrect old trails and build several new singletrack connectors.
• The Intermountain Connectors between the Western Wildlands Route and the Great Divide MTB Route are nearly complete!
• Jan Bennett continues with final refinements to the Pony Express Route
• We are supporting Navajo Y.E.S.' work on the new Chuska MTB Route on Navajo Nation with grant funds received from the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona
Advocating for Bikepackers, Public Lands, and Wild Places
• In 2020, we engaged in widespread advocacy efforts and contributed to maintaining backcountry mountain bike access to the Lionhead area of Idaho
• We also launched the Undivided educational advocacy column for The Radavist
Positive Impact Bikepacking Stewardship Campaign
• BPR launched this collaborative project with the Conservation Lands Foundation and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, supported by Salsa Cycles
• Educational outreach to the bikepacking community begins in early 2021
We're Continuing to Grow, Diversify, and Engage the Community!
• Our first Go Bikepacking! event filled up almost immediately but was canceled due to the pandemic
• Let's Go Bikepacking! We have three Go Bikepacking! events planned for 2021, tentatively planned for Idaho, Arizona, and Arkansas: community, education, stewardship, and fun!
• Membership grew by approximately 50% in 2020 to more than 6,000 individuals
• We've added a small group of policy and cultural advisors
• Our Board of Directors expanded with an emphasis on increasing diversity; 50 applications were received!
Join or donate today! Help us continue to support the bikepacking community and the places through which we ride in 2021 and beyond . . .
This Giving Tuesday, support Bikepacking Roots with a monthly or annual membership. In a year where it has been challenging to be together, we have focused our efforts on laying the foundation for a stronger bikepacking community with new initiatives to
As a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit, your contribution to Bikepacking Roots is tax-deductible, and our recently-expanded Board of Directors ensures that your donation is stretched to its maximum potential. We appreciate your continued support and look forward to hopefully crossing paths in 2021!
-- The Bikepacking Roots Team
At Bikepacking Roots, our mission includes “advocating for the landscapes through which we ride.” Indigenous peoples are an integral part of the future, present, and past landscapes in U.S. America. Thus, as advocates for a healthy, vibrant, and whole Western landscape, we are responsible for communicating and educating ourselves, our members, and the riders of the routes we design in a way that progresses Indigenous liberation from colonial trauma. With that intent, we’re announcing the renaming of the 2,700-mile-long Wild West Route to the Western Wildlands Route.
Our goal in designing and naming this route was to celebrate the landscape that characterizes the Intermountain West - a landscape that consists of large swaths of public lands, large areas with minimal human development, and a diverse social landscape. Unfortunately, in choosing the “Wild West Route” for a name, we largely missed our targeted connotation that comes with a name. The Wild West in the context of United States history is strewn with a history of violence, forced removal, land theft, colonization, and attempted erasure of Indigenous existence. Thus, we now recognize that rather than inspire an appreciation of the Western landscape, the name “Wild West Route” is inspiring backwards progress in decolonizing and undoing Indigenous erasure.
Renee Hutchens, a member of the Diné (Navajo) Tribe, reached out to us and shared her perspective on why the name of this route needed to be changed. “This route was set out to be about experiencing the land through bikepacking,” says Hutchens. “But the fact is, words that are rooted in colonialism can make their way into the everyday language and how we think. Wild West shows were performed across North America and Europe from the late 1800s into the 20th century and dramatized Indian attacks on stagecoaches and cabins. One of the most popular was Buffalo Bill’s ‘Wild West Show’ where Native peoples were put on stage for show to enact mock battles, and the ‘savage Indian’ character was popularized while audiences watched. These shows, and related influences, inspired filmmakers to produce Western movies that romanticized the story about how the West was won. The truth is the West was actually ‘won’ through violence, forced removal, and genocide of Indigenous peoples.”
Hutchen’s lengthier, valuable, and powerful perspective is shared below - we strongly encourage everyone to take the time to read and reflect upon it.
We apologize for any harmful impact and trauma that the former name has caused. Bikepacking Roots is committed to seeking the input and voices of Indigenous peoples in the future as we name our work, write about landscapes, and advocate for lands. The new name, the Western Wildlands Route, is intended to inspire an appreciation of the entire landscape that comprises the Intermountain West, including the Indigenous stories, peoples and perspectives that shape the future, present, and past of the lands upon which we ride. And we all need to recognize that “wild” places need not be characterized by the absence of people - Indigenous groups have lived in harmony with and as stewards of these lands for thousands of years.
Please join us in celebrating the Western wildlands, including the people who first called these lands home, by adopting the new route name today.
An Indigenous perspective on the “Wild West” from Renee Hutchens
When I first read the name, the “Wild West Route” my mind went numb as I paused. This pause was so long it felt like I couldn’t move through it. I could not even finish reading the sentence or context within which it was written. In fact, I didn’t care to because whatever it was about, I wanted nothing to do with it. This is why words matter. Reading these words felt like trying to move through trauma on top of historical trauma. I immediately knew it was important to bring my experience and perspective to the attention of the Bikepacking Roots leadership. I remember saying, “as the name stands right now, I will never ride that route.” In the meantime, while I didn’t care to ride the route, others went on riding the route. I knew because I kept reading stories on social media tagged with the hashtag and stories in media outlets that celebrated bikepacker’s experience on the Wild West Route. What stood out to me in these unfolding stories was a deeply rooted colonial narrative. It became apparent that these stories reinforced narratives that continue the legacy of colonialism and remove Indigenous peoples’ voices in the discourse of bikepacking.
Wild West shows were performed across North America and Europe from the late 1800s into the 20th century and dramatized Indian attacks on stagecoaches and cabins. One of the most popular was Buffalo Bill’s ‘Wild West Show’ where Native peoples were put on stage for show to enact mock battles, and the ‘savage Indian’ character was popularized while audiences watched. These shows, and related influences, inspired filmmakers to produce Western movies that romanticized the story about how the West was won. The truth is the West was actually “won” through violence, forced removal and genocide of Indigenous peoples. These are the stories that played in my mind in that long pause as I read the words “Wild West Route.” I was deeply grieved to see a route with this name cross 100+ miles of my Navajo homeland. Every story I’ve read since this route was released felt like I was reading a romanticized Hollywood story about “cowboys and Indians,” but it was supposed to be about bikepacking.
Something inside of me wanted to yell, “stop reinforcing colonial narratives on sacred land.” You see, names aren’t always intended to cause harm. This route was set out to be about experiencing the land through bikepacking. But the fact is, words that are rooted in colonialism can make their way into the everyday language and how we think. To prevent harm, words and biases must be critically examined and Indigenous peoples intentionally included or engaged in discussions. It was clear the “Wild West Route” triggered something much deeper beyond some catchy words. This name conveys historical trauma, forced cultural assimilation, and a legacy of colonization that aimed to eradicate Indigenous peoples all together. I grew up near Monument Valley. My grandpa and I would go there often to visit my grandma in her hogan. I would listen to stories as she wove many rugs. I realized from a young age how much this place meant to my Diné people and our culture. People often ask me, “where’s that?” I do my best to give them geographic references and they still look at me puzzled. I finally tell them, “you know the place that appeared in all those western movies?” Immediately they nod their head. It grieves me that a beautiful and powerful place, such as Monument Valley has become narrowed down to an iconic symbol for Western cinema. It’s clear how stories, even Hollywood stories can impact the way we relate and think about the land and the peoples Indigenous to the land.
Names of routes are no different because words are what make up the power of narratives that impact our relationships to anything, anyone, or any place. I want to challenge the cycling industry to do better and be more intentional when it comes to names or words used in routes, cycling events, marketing slogans, and products. Words are powerful because they can either perpetuate Indigenous erasure or promote inclusivity of Indigenous peoples and their experiences. Unsure at first where my conversations would end up about the problematic name of the “Wild West Route,” I am glad to say they eventually led to more productive conversations, and the decision to change the name of the route.
The 2020 election is just 2 weeks away, and voting is ongoing in many states already. Over the past 4 years, the United States has been subject to leadership that has rolled back environmental protections and exacerbated social justice issues that negatively impact the health of the nation, the landscape of the U.S., the global climate, and the experiences of bikepackers.
We ask that you vote in this election; all races are important to bring leadership around the U.S. that will lead the country toward a socially and environmentally healthy landscape.
Below, we share some of the issues relevant to all bikepackers that your vote can impact.
Use your vote to elect federal and state officials who will bring Indigenous leadership to land management.
The reduction of numerous National Monuments in 2017 was one of President Trump’s first major attacks on the environment and the American people. President Obama’s 2016 designation of Bears Ears National Monument marked the first time in history that a National Monument was created in response to the voices and advocacy of the Indigenous groups who call the landscape home. The language of Obama’s Presidential proclamation that designated Bears Ears National Monument took a step toward building more inclusive land management practices by including the voice of the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition in collaborating on the National Monument designation and management. The language recognizes that Native Americans still use the land today and acknowledges that Native presence isn’t just a historical fact - it’s a present-day reality of the diversity of the United States.
A critical step toward rectifying Indegenous erasure and colonialism is centering Indigenous voices and perspectives in land management. Bears Ears National Monument was a step in that direction, but that was undone by President Trump and Interior Secretary Zinke.
Bears Ears is on the ancestral lands of the Hopi Tribe, Diné (Navajo), Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, and Zuni Pueblo. Artwork above by Renee Hutchens.
Use your vote to elect federal and local officials who will recognize and address the devastating legacy of uranium mining on the people and landscape of the Colorado Plateau.
There is a long history of radioactive contamination from uranium mines across the Colorado Plateau. The toxicity of uranium has caused extensive illness and death across Native communities in the Southwest. Many communities located near abandoned uranium mines have also been directly affected by groundwater contamination, and this is not a historic issue - it is very much a current one! After a legacy of uranium-caused cancer, birth defects, and death across Navajo Nation, it is unacceptable for a uranium mine to be negotiated just outside Grand Canyon National Park, where contaminated groundwater will poison the water source of the Havasupai people.
Use your vote for roadless areas in National Forests, backcountry experiences, and the Traditional Homelands Conservation Rule.
The Roadless Rule is a conservation tool to protect National Forests from road development that comes with extractive development such as logging and mining. Just last month, President Trump stripped the Tongass National Forest from the protections granted through the Roadless Rule. Not only is the Tongass the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world, it provides critical wildlife habitat, resources on ancestral lands to 11 Native tribes, and world-class recreation, but the amount of carbon dioxide the Tongass can sequester makes it critical in combating climate change. None of the tribes recommended a full repeal of the Roadless Rule, and around 95% of public comments opposed complete exemption.
Unlike more restrictive conservation measures, the Roadless Rule allows for mountain biking and winter grooming in conjunction with natural resource protections. Trump’s undoing of the Tongass protection by the Roadless Rule is threatening in setting a precedent for future undoing of the Roadless Rule. In addition to the ecosystem and climate services of undeveloped forests, roadless areas provide bikepackers with more remote, less-developed backcountry experiences - a value bikepackers in our 2019 Bikepacking Community Survey highlighted as an important part of the bikepacking experience.
The Tongass National Forest is on the lands of Tlingit and Haida. Photo above of mountain biking in Idaho's Lionhead Roadless Area (photo by Will Stubblefield).
Use your vote to elect federal and state officials who will take action to address climate change and bring Native peoples into co-management of forests and wildfire.
The western US has seen record-breaking wildfire this year. Wildfires across most western states have had devastating impacts on communities, watersheds, wildlife habitat, air quality, and recreation. Healthy air, water, ecosystems, and human communities are vital to the future of the West. Climate change is undeniably contributing to these increasingly widespread and severe fires - drought, beetle infestations, and record temperatures. Coupled with climate-related factors, more than a century of fire suppression has led to unprecedented fire-prone forests that are often choked with overgrowth.
Co-management of forests and wildfire between state, federal, and Tribal leaders offers the future of the western landscape a glimmer of hope. Indigenous peoples have been practicing ceremonial and traditional burning to mitigate extreme wildfires and cultivate desired plants for harvesting and attracting game. After 200 years of banned traditional burning, allowing tribes to return to their ancestral lands to practice controlled burning is an opportunity for co-management of forests.
The Karuk and Yaruk tribes in Northern California have partnered with the Forest Service to manage lands for traditional purposes concurrently with wildfire management. This is just one example of Indigenous/Federal collaboration in land management for the future health of the landscape.
Photo above of 2020 wildfire aftermath along the Arizona Trail (photo courtesy of Arizona Trail Association).
Bikepacking Roots is excited to announce that we are now accepting applications for the BIPOC Bike Adventure Grant. This new grant program has been created to help reduce the barriers to bike adventure for BIPOC individuals. Awards will provide funding, gear, and mentoring as needed for recipients to pursue an adventurous experience by bicycle and help elevate their voices.
Qualified applicants are those who identify as BIPOC, live in the United States, have any level of cycling experience, and would benefit from support in order to pursue a specific bike adventure. Applications can also be submitted by small informal groups planning to adventure together. And the meaning of adventure is left up to applicants to define for themselves. The adventure could be a destination bikepacking expedition, a road bike tour, or a trip for day rides on backcountry trails. Awards can also help with gear needs and support individuals working toward a bigger bikepacking trip by helping build skills, confidence, and experience through clinics, group events, or other programs.
During this pandemic, only adventures within the United States will be supported. Applicants must also outline how they will travel as responsibly as possible to minimize risks to themselves and others.
Thanks to the generosity of countless individuals and financial contributions from nearly fifty outdoor and cycling brands, awards will range from $500 to $3,000+ for this grant cycle, and some equipment support will be available. Bikepacking Roots’ staff and volunteers are available to provide mentorship with trip planning as needed. Opportunities will also be created for recipients interested in sharing their stories more broadly. Click here to learn more about the grant program and to apply.
Applications must be received by no later than November 8th. Applications will be reviewed by a panel of four BIPOC adventure cyclists, and recipients will be notified by mid-December. The next application window will open in spring of 2021. To make a contribution to the BIPOC Bike Adventure Grant fund, please click here.
Bikepacking Roots is expanding and diversifying our Board of Directors, and we are welcoming applications from individuals looking to be a positive influence for and within the bikepacking community. The Board of Directors is made up of passionate volunteers who act as representatives of the organization and as advocates for the bikepacking community, the experiences we collectively seek, and the landscapes through which we ride.
Who is Bikepacking Roots? We are the only non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and advancing bikepacking, growing a diverse bikepacking community, and creating professional routes. We also advocate for the conservation of the landscapes and public lands through which we ride and for continued access to backcountry trails. Our organization values human-powered adventure and an inclusive, engaged, and informed membership, now nearly 6,000 strong, that makes a positive impact as we all explore by bike. In the past year, Bikepacking Roots has created the Bears Ears Loops and the Northwoods Route, the BIPOC Bike Adventure Grant, developed a bikepacking curriculum for the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, and has been involved in advocacy efforts all across the West.
“Our Board is instrumental in helping chart the direction of this community-driven non-profit,” explains Executive Director Kurt Refsnider. “The Board also makes sure that we’re as efficient as possible with our budget in order to maximize our impact.”
Bikepacking Roots is striving for the composition of our Board of Directors to reflect an increasingly diverse and inclusive bikepacking community. In particular, we are seeking applicants who represent non-dominant identities as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and/or FTW (femme, transgender, women). Individuals of all ages, identities, abilities, and sizes are encouraged to apply. Board members do not need to be bikepackers but preferably can contribute expertise, guidance, and dedication in areas that strengthen Bikepacking Roots’ ability and capacity to pursue our mission. These skill areas could include (in no particular order)
To learn more about this opportunity and to apply, click here. Bikepacking Roots will begin reviewing applications on September 14th.
We're excited to finally release the long-awaited Bears Ears Loops bikepacking route network - 700 miles of riding options through the high deserts and subalpine wilds of central and southeastern Utah. Their goal with these routes are to empower riders to confidently and safely immerse themselves in the remarkable but intimidating landscape, develop an informed sense of place, and experience some of all that is at risk to be lost if the Bears Ears region is not protected.
The 372-mile Bears Ears Loop, the eastern of two loop options, meanders through more than 100 miles within the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument. By helping bikepackers experience this and the surrounding landscapes and understanding more about the unique cultural history, geology, and ecology through the accompanying 100-page Bears Ears Loops Landscape and Route Guide, we are actively creating new advocates for Bears Ears. The 437-mile Swell Loop to the west connects with our already-popular Wild West Route, the Canada-to-Mexico epic.
The riding experience of this network has been intentionally designed as relatively non-technical, very manageable on a traditional mountain bike (fat bikes are not necessary, and gravel bikes are not recommended), and to be accessible for any mountain biker with some prior bikepacking experience. Most of the riding is on dirt roads and 4x4 tracks, and water resources along the way have been inventoried and scouted in different seasons to assess reliability. Bikepacking Routes also chose to not route the loops through the more seldom-visited areas of the Monument to avoid impacting their nature.
“The remoteness of this region, the scale and grandeur of the landscape, and the minimal development of any sort make this place the most powerful of anywhere I’ve ridden,” says Kurt Refsnider, Bikepacking Roots' Executive Director. “But the remoteness and perceived harshness of the area keep most bikepackers away. So we’ve created these routes and extensive planning resources to allow more riders to safely adventure through this region, to have immersive experiences here, to learn more about the landscape and its sacredness to Indigenous groups. That understanding and connection is what builds new conservation advocates.”
The designation of Bears Ears National Monument in 2016 marked the first time in U.S. history that a National Monument was created in response to the voices of the Indigenous groups who call the landscape home - the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe. Just 11 months later, the Trump administration reduced the Monument's size by ~85%. And in a direct affront to the request of the Intertribal Coalition, the southern unit of the reduced Monument was named the Shásh Jaa’ Unit (using the Diné name for Bears Ears). The Coalition had insisted upon the use of the English “Bears Ears” name for the Monument rather than in any one tribe’s language in solidarity and unity. The legality of the Monument reduction is currently being litigated in court.
"We often times hear phrases such as ‘land conservation’ and ‘protecting public lands’ in the outdoor industry which is heavily driven by preserving the ability to recreate in these places,” explains Diné (Navajo) conservation advocate and mountain biker Renee Hutchens. “We too advocate, but what drives our fight to protect our land is our belief that the land is us – our identity, culture, and way of life is held within Mother Earth. It is the same mindset you’d have if you were fighting for your own life or that of your loved ones."
More information about these loops, all GPS data, and the full 100-page Bears Ears Loops Landscape and Route guidebook (in digital and print formats) are available on our Bears Ears Loops page.
However, during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition is requesting that visitors refrain from traveling to the Bears Ears region given the severity of the health crisis in some local communities, particularly Indigenous communities. So now is the time for planning trips, not actually taking trips to this area - that’s how we collectively can best show respect and solidarity at this time.
News and updates
Bikepacking Roots is a 8,000-member-strong 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and advancing bikepacking, growing a diverse bikepacking community, advocating for the conservation of the landscapes and public lands through which we ride, and creating professional routes.
Our Business Partners support the bikepacking community, conservation, and public lands:
Our organizational partners that support bikepacking, advocacy, conservation, and outdoor recreation: