Andean Bear Corridor

The Andean Bear Corridor Routes (ABCR) is a conservation-based bikepacking project that promotes responsible and sustainable cycling and connects the city of Bogotá to the surrounding ecosystems upon which Colombia’s capital and its population of nearly 10 million depend. Conceptualized by Conservation International-Colombia and the Bikepacking for Conservation Program, the ABCR has been years in the making and provides riders with the opportunity to both better understand and support regional conservation issues. Learn more about the routes and project below...

About the Project

Named after the Andean bear, also known as the spectacled bear, this network of cycling trails is spread across the habitat of this iconic species. In this region of the Andes, the páramos of Chingaza, Sumapaz, and Guerrero converge, surrounded by humid Andean montane forests, ancient sacred lakes, and pristine rivers.

  • Ruta Chingaza, bikepacking Colombia
  • Ruta Chingaza Trailer
  • Páramo Conexión bikepacking route, Colombia

About the Andean Bear

This outstanding and rich ecosystem is a critical reservoir for the Andean bear, which is generally found between 500 and 3800 meters above sea level. Its presence an indicator of ecosystem health, and by extension the health of the surrounding environment. Notoriously elusive, the bear is likely to remain hidden as you ride past, but know that you are in its habitat and respect that this is one of the last remaining stretches of land where this vulnerable species still roams.

About Conservation International Colombia

For the past 15 years, Conservation International-Colombia has been working in this area to create and support models of planet-positive economies and protect nature for people. Conservation International-Colombia works throughout this area to protect nature — not only for species like the Andean bear, but also for all it provides to people, including the residents of Bogotá and the rural communities located in the surrounding areas. At its core, Conservation International-Colombia’s work here is focused on freshwater conservation and creating the economic and environmental rationale for the conservation and restoration of the critical ecosystems that surround the city. The Water and Cities Program is grounded in the understanding that water flows through ecosystems, and our actions on the landscape affect when, where, and how much water is available to both people and nature. To be successful, protecting fresh water needs to be done through an integrated approach, and it begins with the conservation of the ecosystems which affect water quality and availability. To this end, Conservation International-Colombia is leading the development of an ambitious multi-stakeholder project to protect the ecosystems that are the source of water for over 10 million people and countless species of fauna and flora. By bringing together the national and regional environmental authorities, the water utility, and the private sector, Conservation International-Colombia aims to secure the catchments that supply water to the greater Bogotá region.

Bikepacking for Conservation Program

Founded in 2020, the Bikepacking for Conservation Program is an initiative of Conservation International that aims to harness the power of cycling to support nature conservation. Low-impact, self-driven, and sustainable, bikepacking combines mountain biking and minimalist backpacking and is the perfect vehicle for connecting people and nature. Through the ABCR, we hope to not only connect people to nature, but use cycling as a force for good by supporting cycling-based ecotourism ventures, creating sustainable alternative livelihoods for rural communities, and creating innovative storytelling to inspire cyclists to be actors of change.

Starting with our first project in Bolivia more than 30 years ago, Conservation International has helped support 1,200 protected areas across 77 countries, protecting more than 601 million hectares (1.5 billion acres) of land and sea. With offices in 30 countries and projects in more than 100 countries, Conservation International’s reach has never been broader, but our mission remains the same: to protect nature for the benefit of us all. Since 2007, Conservation International-Colombia has been working with local communities and government officials to implement a strategy to preserve the páramos. Conservation International has several ongoing projects and partnerships with communities near the Ruta Chingaza. They are working in collaboration with local farmers to decrease the water demands from agriculture by implementing water retention systems and other sustainable farming techniques. Make a Donation

Andean Bear Corridor Routes Network

Made up of four unique but interconnected routes, which you’ll find below, ABCR will give riders a much deeper understanding of what’s at stake in the region, for both people and nature.

Responsible Cycling

By cycling on the Andean Bear Corridor trails, you are engaging with and entering the heart of CI Colombia’s work. Consequently, you have a responsibility to be good stewards of the land, understand your impact on the landscape, respect your surroundings, and contribute to the prosperity of the communities and the local economy that rely on healthy ecosystems. Bikepacking in the region is an opportunity and invitation to leverage the power of bikes for positive change. The Bikepacking for Conservation Program follows the Leave no Trace guidelines. Although there are many more, we’ve identified four components that we think are key in developing a mutually beneficial bikepacking model in the context of the ABCR:

  • Ruta El Dorado, Colombia

Responsible Cycling Approach

Understand the implications that you are generating as a result of your presence for the communities you interact with. We recommend:

  • Traveling in small groups
  • Understanding camping regulations and restrictions
  • Planning your visit through local connections by referring to the address book provided in the Ruta Dorado guide
  • Interacting with rural communities when possible
  • Looking out for your own health on your trip and coming prepared
  • Traveling preferably in groups of three when possible

Respecting local governance such as rules, practices, and norms is critical in providing a mutually beneficial experience for all. The impact of the influx of local cyclists within the Andean Bear corridor on local communities should not be overlooked. If not done right, increased tourism and recreation in the area has the potential to negatively affect people who live in a quiet and peaceful environment. For example, milk is produced in the towns of Sesquilé, Guatavita, and Guasca. Trucks that collect milk from farmers use the narrow and unpaved roads that connect farms and municipalities, which are also popular cycling routes. In keeping with the spirit of bikepacking, when possible, avoid main roads and prioritize dirt or gravel terrain. This, in turn, will make for a much better cycling experience. Respect private roads and properties, as well as local tourism management agreements, such as the obligation to hire local guides to visit protected areas.

Support the Local Economy

Your visit has great potential to generate income to the local economy, so please always do your best to support local businesses, including Conservation International-Colombia project beneficiaries. These businesses are inextricably linked with the health of the region and oftentimes directly contribute to improving sustainable practices that impact these landscapes. In the address books mentioned above, you will find contact information for:

  • Civil society nature reserves that offer guided walks and fauna and flora sightings
  • Farmer families who have set up rural and community tourism experiences to help visitors gain a better understanding of sustainable production processes
  • Local tour guides who share their passion for their land through hikes, wildlife watching, and bike tours
  • Lodging opportunities

Conservation and Leave No Trace

To take care of the páramo and the forest, you must pay close attention to the impact of your visit on nature. In the Colombian páramo, many of the locals are fearful of littering from the passage of cyclists. Again, please follow the “Leave no Trace” principles during your trip and be sure to stick to trails and roads. Resist the urge to walk among the frailejones and other plants, and more generally, think of nature as a sacred space. Absolutely no fires permitted!

More than 1,500 species of flora and fauna can be found in the Andean Bear Corridor, both in urban and rural areas. The main threats to the Andean Bear are habitat destruction, fragmentation, and human conflict. Your connection with their habitat is fundamental in better understanding its value for their survival. If you come in close contact with an Andean bear, enjoy that unique and special moment, but also keep in mind that these animals are wild and usually shy away from contact with humans. Do not panic, as they are only aggressive when threatened, and bear in mind the following:

  • Don’t attack, corner, or threaten the animal, and always keep calm
  • Don’t make loud sounds
  • Move slowly and move away so that the animal continues its way
  • Avoid direct eye contact
  • Don’t feed them

BIKEPACKING.com is a supporter and advocate of sustainable cycling and has developed a Leave No Trace Campaign that can serve as a guide for riding responsibly anywhere, including these routes.

FAQs

What are the Andean Bear Corridor Routes, and what’s the schedule for release?

The Andean Bear Corridor Routes evolved out of a pilot project that was launched in 2020 to design bikepacking routes that help connect cyclists to nature, and in doing so, allow them to better understand and support local conservation efforts. Our initial route – Ruta Chingaza – crossed the iconic páramos and cloud forests that surround the city of Bogotá, with the crux of the route traversing Chingaza National Park, which is responsible for 70% of the water in Bogotá. As part of this project, Conservation International-Colombia has been in close communication with the park authorities for the past three years to support them in developing an ecotourism strategy that would allow cycling in the national park in a safe and responsibly way that is appropriate for these sensitive ecosystems. Not only will this help connect Bogotános with their natural heritage, it will also provide opportunities to develop ecotourism ventures that support the work of the Colombian National Park system and local conservation organizations. While this strategy has been delayed by COVID-19 and other factors over the past few years, Chingaza National Park anticipates officially launching their tourism strategy in 2023.

In the interim, the Bikepacking for Conservation Program has been working to provide riders with a catalogue of routes for different riding experiences. We have scouted a new route, Ruta El Dorado, and integrated existing routes such as Oh Boyaca! and the Paramos Conexion to create a network of interconnected routes called the Andean Bear Corridor Routes.

As part of this broader initiative, Conservation International-Colombia has been working with a network of local beneficiaries, ecotourism outfitters, and Colombian municipalities to integrate and build the capacity of local communities to benefit from the bike tourism that this project will generate.

The Andean Bear Corridor Route is rooted in deep and trusted relationships with local stakeholders, whether it be rural communities, local government, outdoor recreation professionals, or sustainable tourism operators. It is designed to advance local conservation efforts and benefit the communities that depend on nature. For all those reasons, and recognizing the potential of the project for positive impact, we will be rolling out the full catalogue of routes contained within the Andean Bear Corridor Network, including Ruta Chingaza, gradually throughout 2023, starting with Ruta El Dorado, Oh Boyaca!, and the Paramos Connexion. This will allow us to make the final adjustments to the routes, finalize our capacity building efforts with local stakeholders, and prepare for the launch of an expanded experience that benefits local communities, cyclists, and conservation efforts alike.

While new and immediate riding opportunities are unveiled with this expansion, we have also decided to temporarily pull down Ruta Chingaza until it is officially rideable. All signs point in the right direction for an opening for the 2023 riding season, so please check back in in the new year for further updates on an exact timeline.

What types of roads and trails are on the ABCR?

The trails themselves incorporate a diverse array of surfaces, but are mostly made up of a mix of gravel and dirt roads with some stretches of pavement and primary roads. The vast majority of the roads are in good condition, and many integrate with existing cycling routes that are maintained and sign-posted. But come prepared to experience some loose and chunky doubletrack. The weather can make a big difference in terms of your overall riding experience and safety, and you should come ready for any eventuality. Expect some challenging double-digit inclines, which, combined with loose and wet soil after a heavy rain, can prove challenging for even the most experienced cyclists. We recommend taking your time and stopping for frequent breaks, not just to catch your breath but also to enjoy, interact, and engage with the people and nature you will meet along the way. While most of the routes are within just 20 kilometers of the city of Bogotá, cyclists will be surprised by how quiet and remote these areas are – the perfect opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

What kind of bike should I bring?

Low gears and voluminous tires are key for the area’s many steep climbs! Most people ride the Andean Bear Corridor Routes on gravel-oriented drop-bar rigs, though many have used mountain bikes as well, which have proven to be an excellent choice. Looking for a bike shop or equipment in Bogotá? There are plenty of bike shops and bike repair stations. We recommend 14 OchoMiles. They have several locations across the city, a couple of which stock camping and bikepacking equipment. Learn more over at 14ochomiles.com.

When should I go?

We recommend riding these trails in the dry season, which is typically from the end of November until March and early summer between June and July. However, the climate of this region is variable and unpredictable, and the effects of El Niño and La Niña can shift the wet and dry season dramatically year to year. Variability is likely to get even more unpredictable in light of the effects of climate change. We recommend that riders stay flexible with the amount of time they give themselves to ride these trails – make sure to build in buffer time to acclimate to the high altitudes before riding too.