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...
Andean Bear Corridor
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.
About the Andean Bear
About Conservation International Colombia
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.
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:
Responsible Cycling Approach
- 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.
What are the Andean Bear Corridor Routes, and what’s the schedule for release?
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.