Mexico Motorcycle Route 40 and 23 Guide (Mazatlan, Durango, Ruiz)

One of the best motorcycle routes on mainland Mexico are the rides from Mazatlan to Durango on route 40 and the even better and more remote route 23 from Durango to Ruiz. Here’s what you need to know about riding them both…


Mexico Motorcycle Route Guide: Ruta 40 and 23 – Mazatlan, Durango, Ruiz 

One of the best motorcycle routes on mainland Mexico is the ride from Mazatlan to Durango on route 40. And there’s an even better, lesser known and travelled and far more remote route 23 from Durango to Ruiz. Here’s what you need to know about riding them both with handy maps. This is an incredible loop and a must if you’re riding in this area. 

Mazatlan to Durango Route 40

  • Route name: Ruta 40
  • Distance: 200 miles
  • Time: Can be ridden in one day
  • Fuel: Petrol can be found along route
  • Recommended accommodation: La Ciudad
  • Motorcycle: Any
  • Must stop: Make sure you stop for lunch in Copala

From Mazatlan to Durango there are two routes: the 40 and 40D. The 40 is the libre (free road) and the 40D is the cuota (toll road).

The free ruta 40 is the route we want here, so when you go onto Google Maps, make sure to select ‘Options’ and then click avoid tolls.

We have provided a Google Map to show the route below. However, please note that because this is an embedded map on a website, Google may show parts of it on the 40D. You at no point need to access the D. When you open your own map and select avoid tolls it will only show the 40 route the entire way.

The Ruta 40 is also known as the ‘El Espinozo del Diablo’ aka the Devil’s backbone. There are a number of stories as to how the road got its name. It is also considered one of the world’s most dangerous roads. But don’t let that put you off because it’s wildly exaggerated.

Perhaps, before the toll road was built, which is a much faster and busier road running alongside it, it may have been dangerous. There are hundreds of tight twists and turns and with all the through traffic it could have been dicey.

But right now, that’s an exaggeration so don’t let it put you off.

The route itself is fantastic, brimming with twists, turns and endless curves up and over mountains until you reach Durango.

We stopped for the night halfway at La Ciudad. It’s not a pretty town, but there’s a great little hotel that we pinned on iOverlander where delicious burritos were served up and our motorcycles were parked safely in the garden.

Note that La Ciudad can be freezing cold at night, even if you’re boiling hot riding there.

A must stop is Copala – stop for lunch at Allejandro’s and check out the mission. It’s ma beautiful little town hidden from the mainroad. You can find the restaurant on iOverlander. 

Durango to Ruiz Route 23

  • Route name: Ruta 23
  • Distance: 268 miles
  • Time: Two comfortable days or one seriously long day
  • Fuel: Petrol at Mezquital and Ruiz
  • Recommended accommodation: Mezquital Hotel Principal 
  • Motorcycle: Easier on an adventure bike

Route 40 is the famous route while 23 is hardly talked about or mentioned, but 23 is so much better than 40. We were heading from Mazatlan to Tepic, and if we just rode the 40 I would not have said it would have been worth the detour. However, the 23 was exceptional and made it very worth the four extra days.  

The 23 is full of twists and turns, but longer stretches of straight road to give you a break. The road condition is far worse than the 40, making it a bit more of an adventure. It’s covered in pot holes and stretches of construction and terrible road. It would be hard going on a sportsbike or cruiser – an adventure bike would be ideal.

But what makes the 23 so special is how remote it is and the incredible views. The 40 is almost closed off, only showing glimpses of the mountains and valleys you’re riding through, while the 23 is very open and it’s constantly showcasing incredible views.

The route itself is only 268 miles, but it takes a lot of time due to the conditions. It can be ridden in a day and people do it, but I don’t know why. You’d be rushing with no time to stop and sample local foods or take photos. Instead, head to Mezquital town for the night, there’s a great hotel there we bookmarked on iOverlander.

Another stop is Jesus Maria, but far more basic and the hotels there are nowhere near as good. Again, bookmarked on iOverlander.  

Please remember that the 23 is full of serious sized potholes, broken roads, donkeys and chickens. Even if the road smooths out, you can fly around a corner to find a crater in the middle of the road. Ride slow and take your time. If you want speed and faster curves, go for the 40.

There is petrol at Mezquital and the next station is at Ruiz. So plan your fuel stop accordingly. If you do run out, you can find bottled petrol at little towns along the way.

Finally, Google Maps may try telling you that you can’t go down the 23 from north to south and will constantly try and redirect you, as it did with us. Just ignore that. We used Maps.Me instead.

Route 40 and 23 map

Read more on motorcycle travel in Mexico

Thanks for checking out the How to Cross the Border from the USA to Mexico with a Motorcycle Guide. We hope you enjoyed it! Here’s a few more articles on motorcycle travel in Mexico and North America that we recommend you read next. 

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Are you planning a motorcycle ride along the Route 40 and 23 in Mexico? Do you have any questions, tips or suggestions? Let us know in the comments below. 

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