Dirt Touring Araucanía: The Monkey Puzzle Trail, Chile
145 Mi.(233 KM)
Skyler Des Roches
Higher still, the first snows of autumn dust the tops of Chile’s endless line chain of conical volcanoes – white pyramids on the horizon.
This route travels quiet pumice tracks up from fertile valleys, past expansive lava flows, clear rivers, and remote ranches, through araucaria forests, open alpine, and smokey villages. On clear fall days, these are the makings of haikus.
Bypassing the busier roads of Conguillío National Park (which is worth a side trip, if time allows), this route follows a small 4×4 road through Reserva China Muerta, from Melipeuco to Lonquimay. Then, leaving Lonquimay, it climbs over an alpine pass on the shoulder of Volcan Lonquimay in Reserva Malalcahuello-Nalcas. In Reserva Malacahueco-Nalcas, those travelling with with light bikepacking set-ups might chose to deviate from this route on one of a few long singletrack trails through the park. A long descent along the length 20 year old lava flow passes the idyllic ranch of Lolco. At Chequenco, bikepackers should ask the locals about a horse trail that leads past Laguna Barco to the hamlet of Trapa Trapa (north of this route), and carries on over the mountains to a border crossing near Laguna de la Laja. Those sticking to the road will pass a lovely hotsprings, with excellent, affordable camping on the way to Ralco.
- Monkey Puzzle trees.
- Seeing the beech and araucaria forests in fall colors.
- The flowy pumice surface of the 4×4 roads.
- Riding on lava flows.
- This route can be ridden in either direction.
- Besides military topo maps, the best maps for cycling in Chile are the series of 1:400,000 waterproof maps available at many Copec petrol stations. Map #5 (Region Biobio) covers this area.
- Reliable GPS road and topographic maps fare available from proyectomapear.com.ar for free.
- There are campgrounds and inns in Melipeuco, Lonquimay and Ralco
- Wild camping is possible along most of this route.
- The hotsprings between Ralco and Chequenco (25km from Ralco) offers pleasant camping and access to the springs for CLP4000 per person.
- Food can be bought from grocers in Melipeuco, Lonquimay, Chequenco, and Ralco.
- For those wishing to explore the trails north of Chequenco, rest assured that the small store in the village of Chequenco is well-stocked.