Ruta Chingaza

  • Distance

    261 Mi.

    (420 KM)
  • Days

    7-8

  • % Unpaved

    85%

  • % Singletrack

    0%

  • Difficulty (1-10)

    7

  • % Rideable (time)

    97%

  • Total Ascent

    31,472'

    (9,593 M)
  • High Point

    12,125'

    (3,696 M)
Ruta Chingaza is a weeklong bikepacking loop that starts and ends in Bogotá, Colombia. The route, created in conjunction with Conservation International, travels through some of the area’s most spectacular landscapes, including the high-altitude cloud forests and endangered páramos that provide 70 percent of Bogotá’s fresh water supply. The highlight of the route is the breathtakingly beautiful Chingaza National Park, which was previously inaccessible to cyclists.
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Given its relatively short distance, Ruta Chingaza may seem like it’s only a stone’s throw away from the capital city, even at its farthest reaches. But make no mistake, while the physical distance may be minimal, the route accesses some incredibly remote and isolated landscapes, and takes in a wealth of natural splendor, geographic diversity, and cultural richness from the surrounding Cordillera Oriental, Colombia’s easternmost mountain range. From the region’s spectacular dirt roads and unrivaled cycling culture, to its crucially important ecosystems, and its rich and fascinating history, this weeklong route offers an amazing riding experience. What’s more, over the course of the journey, a multi-layered story unfolds, one that speaks of the ancient traditions of the Muisca Indigenous Peoples who once flourished in the area, their relationship to the waters along the route, and the present-day threats that these once-sacred places face.

  • Ruta Chingaza Bikepacking Route, Colombia
  • Ruta Chingaza Bikepacking Route, Colombia
  • Ruta Chingaza Bikepacking Route, Colombia
  • Ruta Chingaza Bikepacking Route, Colombia
  • Ruta Chingaza Bikepacking Route, Colombia

The route uses a fantastic mix of gravel roads, rugged doubletrack, and a little bit of pavement to connect picturesque towns, cultural landmarks, quiet farmlands, ethereal cloud forests, and the highlight of the route, Chingaza National Park. The route’s namesake is not only supremely beautiful, it’s vitally important to the people whose lives and livelihoods depend on it. Much of the park consists of páramo, a unique high mountain moorland that sits above 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) above sea level and only exists in east Africa, Central America, and South America, the majority of which is located in Colombia. These páramos are home to a menagerie of specialized plants, including the all-important and whimsical-looking frailejones and incredible, otherworldly mosses that act like sponges, absorbing water and conducting it into the groundwater system. This soil water infiltration is a natural form of flood control, and the native plants prevent erosion of soil off the steep slopes. Amazingly, the páramos of Chingaza meet over 70% of Bogotá’s total water demands.

Sadly, the world’s páramos are being threatened. Climate change and land clearing for the sake of farming, cattle grazing, and mining are destroying these fragile and irreplaceable ecosystems. Fortunately, these threats have not gone unnoticed, and there are individuals and organizations working to protect them. Conservation International has several ongoing projects and partnerships with communities and people in the vicinity of Ruta Chingaza that are addressing some of the problems facing the páramos.

Conservation InternationalSince 1987, Conservation International has worked to spotlight and secure the critical benefits that nature provides to humanity, helping to protect more than 6 million square kilometers (2.3 million square miles) of land and sea across more than 70 countries. Since 2009, their Bogota office 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 and people in the vicinity of 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.

In the process of creating this cycling project, additional opportunities for working with local communities to further protect the páramos have come to light. It is our hope that increased ecotourism might provide economic incentives for the locals to help preserve these precious places.

To make a donation to Conservation International and support their work, click here.

Route Difficulty

Overall, we rated Ruta Chingaza a moderately difficult 7 out of 10. While it’s generally non-technical in nature, much of the route is over 8,000 feet (2,400m) above sea level, with a significant percentage over 10,000 feet (3,000m), and peaks above 12,000 feet (3,600m), so altitude sickness may be a concern. In addition, weather can turn on a dime in the high páramos, leading to poor visibility or slow conditions. Otherwise, moderately fit individuals will find the route challenging, but highly rewarding. Logistics are fairly easy, and finding food and water along the route is fairly straightforward with a little planning (see Food/H2O).

  • Ruta Chingaza Bikepacking Route, Colombia
  • Ruta Chingaza, bikepacking Colombia

Ruta Chingaza uses a mix of gravel and dirt roads with the occasional stretch of pavement. Despite the lack of singletrack, the terrain should not be underestimated. The off-pavement surfaces vary from smooth gravel to extremely chunky doubletrack. Most of the roads are in relatively good condition. Of course, there are some exceptions along the route. For example, between Chingaza and Fomeque, riders must be prepared for the occasional shallow stream crossing and seasonal washouts. We did not experience any roads that were entirely impassable, but, given how remote the area is and how much rainfall it sees, it is likely that there are times when roads and/or bridges will be washed out. Within Chingaza itself, the roads are in generally good condition, but there are some isolated steep grades, chunky gravel, and rutted tracks. The most challenging aspect of the riding is the steep grade of some climbs along the route.

Route Development

BIKEPACKING.com is honored to have been chosen to collaborate with Conservation International on the creation of Ruta Chingaza. Partial funding for the development of this route was provided by Conservation International through a Millennium Innovation Lab grant. That grant was awarded to a small team of CI employees—Arcadia Lee, Nathalia Penton, Adam Smith, and Eliot Wuhrmann—for their proposed Bikepacking for Conservation Program. The initial concept of the project was to “connect the cycling community to nature conservation through storytelling.”

Ruta Chingaza was created by Logan Watts and Joe Cruz, with additional input from Juan Pablo Ortiz and Virginia Krabill. It was scouted by Joe Cruz, Rugile Kaladyte, Virginia Krabill, Logan Watts, and Lael Wilcox. Additionally, Lael completed a time trial of the route as a final verification and to generate enthusiasm among local cyclists who will, no doubt, take on the challenge as soon as access to Chingaza is granted. Her FKT is set at 36 hours and 14 minutes!

  • Ruta Chingaza, bikepacking Colombia
  • Ruta Chingaza, bikepacking Colombia
  • Ruta Chingaza, bikepacking Colombia

Furthermore, Ruta Chingaza would not be possible without the hard work and support of the Colombian government and the Tourism Experience Team of the Parque Nacional Natural Chingaza, specifically Juan Carlos Clavijo and Faber Ramos. Natalia Acero and John Myers of Conservation International Colombia played crucial roles through their work as liaisons between BIKEPACKING.com and the Colombian Parks Service. The route was also fine-tuned with the help of local cyclists whose passion for the sport, kindness, and generosity seem limitless. While we thank all of those great individuals, a special shout-out goes to Juan Pablo Ortiz of 14 Ochomiles and Greg Bleakney and Julián Manrique of WhereNext. Thanks as well to Atenea Camacho (Tingua Hidden Journeys) for providing logistical help and translation services during our stay in Bogotá. And lastly, thanks to Surly Bikes for loaning three Bridge Clubs fo the CI team, and Jaime Ortiz Mariño for sharing his wit and knowledge with us and for promoting the value of cycling around the world.

PLEASE NOTE: Although we collectively decided to publish Ruta Chingaza, this route is currently closed due to Covid-19 restrictions, particularly the segment through Chingaza National Park, which is closed to cycling at this moment. This guide is to be used as inspiration for future trips only. The park anticipates being able to begin facilitating cycling experiences (including bikepacking) by sometime in 2021. Stay tuned and check back here for details. We will update promptly as details arise.

  • Highlights

    camera

  • Must Know

    alert

  • Camping

    home

  • Food/H2O

    drop

  • Trail Notes

    signpost

  • Resources

    link

ruta chingaza filmBe sure to watch the companion film by Rugile Kaladyte—Ruta Chingaza: Bikepacking for Conservation. Click here to watch the film and find a Q and A with the filmmaker, plus some behind the scenes photos from the trip. In addition, the upcoming Issue 05 of The Bikepacking Journal will feature a story about this trip with exclusive photos and an illustrated map.

  • Taking in the many sights, sounds, and tastes of Bogotá before and after the ride: the Bogotá Graffiti tour (a must), a wealth of great restaurants, and the many markets. See Trail Notes for details.
  • The Museo de Oro in Bogotá is home to an amazing collection of pre-Columbian gold artifacts and offers an incredible historic perspective on the region’s indigenous heritage, as well as a glimpse into the sacred lakes of the páramos. We highly recommend taking this in before you set out on the ride.
  • Colombia’s love of cycling can be seen everywhere; from the thousands of cyclists out on the roads, to the monuments and murals, to Ciclovia every Sunday (see Trail Notes for details).
  • If you’ve got the time, the Catedral de Sal in Zipaquirá is a very popular tourist attraction. This functioning Roman Catholic church was built 660 feet (200 meters) underground within the tunnels of an old salt mine. Admission is $18 USD per adult foreigner.
  • Laguna Guatavita is located just a couple of miles off-route and is well worth the effort to visit. The beautiful crater lagoon was one of seven sacred lagoons for the indigenous Muisca, or Chibcha, people who flourished in the region that extends from present-day Boyaca to Sumapaz from between 600 and 1600 CE. The lagoon played an important role in the spiritual lives of the ancient Muisca who made offerings to their gods by throwing gold and other valuables into the lagoon. These rituals formed the basis of the European legend of El Dorado.
  • Chingaza National Park: Almost the entire park exists above 10,000 feet in elevation. This incredible landscape is a mix of high-altitude tropical cloud forest and the páramos. The frailejones are the star of the show, and huge swaths of them can be appreciated while cycling through the park. Animals found in Chingaza include the endangered spectacled bear, deer, tapirs, pumas, Andean condors, cock-of-the-rocks, jaguars, turkeys, woolly monkeys, nocturnal monkeys, ocelots, and toucans.
  • San Juanito, El Calvario, and other small towns with charming town squares. The larger towns on the route have squares with large, central cathedrals.
  • Cañón del río Guatiquía, an incredible, remote, and cloud forested canyon cut by río Guatiquía that’s full of massive waterfalls.
  • Between San Juanito and Fomeque, the road cuts through and lies adjacent to lush mountain walls that are covered in layers of mosses, ferns, and tropical foliage that are truly mesmerizing.
  • Birds: Colombia is home to more species of birds than any other country in the world. Take some time to visit Observatorio de Colibries in La Calera (details in Trail Notes).
  • Alto de Patios: The route finishes here. This hill overlooking Bogotá is where many cyclists ride up to admire the views, have coffee, and socialize.

Weather and When to Go

  • Colombia is equatorial, so temperatures are mild and fairly consistent throughout the year. In Bogotá, maximum temperatures range from 18 to 20°C (64 to 68°F) and minimum temperatures from 6 to 9°C (43 to 48°F). Temperatures drop at higher elevations, where nightime temps can get quite cold. In Chingaza, temperatures can dip below freezing; the night we camped in the park challenged our 0°C (32°F)  sleeping bags.
  • This route crosses multiple climatic zones, so the rainy and dry seasons vary slightly depending on exact location. The dry seasons generally extend from January through March and from July through August. The rainy seasons hit between April and May and September through November. The páramos receive significant rainfall regardless of the season.

The Ideal Bike

  • We all rode different bikes on this trip with several of us on drop-bar rigs, and most on mountain bikes. Surly loaned us three Bridge Clubs for the Conservation International team, and end the end, we think that’s probably the perfect bike for this route. Voluminous 2.4″ tires certainly help tame the relentlessly bumpy dirt rods. And the Bridge Club also comes stock with a superb granny gear made possible through smaller diameter 27.5″ wheels and a large Eagle cassette. Bring your low gearing… the climbs are steep!
  • Looking for a bike shop or equipment in Bogotá? There are plenty of bike shops; 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

Travel Basics

  • A passport is required for foreign visitors to Colombia. Citizens of the US, EU, and many (99) other countries are not required to have visas for visits of 90 or fewer days. Go to cancilleria.gov.co to see the visa requirements based on your nationality.
  • Spanish is the official language of Colombia. If you do not know any Spanish, learn some of the basics before cycling this route.
  • Carry some cash. Credit cards are not widely accepted, especially in smaller communities. ATMS are available in larger towns, but withdrawals are limited, exchange rates are not favorable, and high fees are often imposed. Reliable currency exchange is available in the arrivals hall at the airport. Regular banks do not offer currency exchange.
  • There is conflicting advice regarding transportation to and from the airport in Bogotá. We were discouraged from accepting a ride with one of the multitude of unofficial taxi drivers that will approach you at the arrival gate. Ultimately, we accepted a ride without any problems. Uber is also now available, although it was shut down when we were visiting. The Cabify and Easy Taxi apps work pretty well, but if you are traveling with a large bicycle box it may be difficult to specify your need for a large vehicle. Another option is to book transportation ahead of your arrival through a limo/transportation service. Atenea Camacho at Tingua Hidden Journeys (+57 313 2810937) is highly reliable. The website address is hiddenjourneys.co.

Dangers and Annoyances

  • Ruta Chingaza should not be attempted by ill-prepared or poorly conditioned cyclists.
  • The route reaches elevations of over 12,000 feet (3,600 meters), so altitude sickness is a potential risk on this route. For individuals flying directly to Bogotá from low-lying areas, plan to spend a few days in the city before setting out on the route. Take hydration seriously and watch for signs and symptoms of altitude sickness. In the case that symptoms present themselves, descend to a lower elevation and/or seek medical attention. Altitude sickness can be deadly.
  • Stay abreast of current news and travel advisories. Armed groups are still active in Colombia, and some areas on this route (primarily in the department of Meta) have seen some relatively recent activity. Political protests are common events in larger cities. Police/protester confrontations frequently turn violent.
  • Stay safe. Do not travel after dark, especially in the barrios immediately surrounding Bogotá. Keep valuables secure, travel in groups, and use extra caution at ATMs.
  • From Guasca to San Juanito, there are no resupply options, and in the small villages of El Calvario and San Francisco there are only a handful of very small stores with limited options. Pack accordingly. See details under Food/H2O.
  • All riders should be equipped for inclement weather. Even during the dry season, rain showers occur and the cloud forests are frequently blanketed in mist. Temperatures are significantly lower at high elevations, so riders must be prepared for near-freezing temperatures. Fog can also be quite heavy, especially in Chingaza, where the weather is known to change abruptly.
  • We are currently working with the Colombian parks authorities to hammer out the details regarding entrance to Chingaza National Park. Riders will likely need to register in advance of their arrival with park authorities and may be required to have specific gear to ensure their safety. In addition, it’s likely that bikepackers will be required to travel in a group of two or more within the park for safety reasons. When travel is again permitted and advisable, we will update this route page with a boxout to indicate precise instructions.
  • The park’s entry fee is $53,500 COP or about $14 for adult foreigners for pre-existing tourism activities.
  • Finding lodging in Bogotá is easy. Hostels, hotels, and Airbnbs can be found in any neighborhood. For a more bohemian backpacker vibe, check out the tourist hotspot of La Candelaria. For some great restaurants, hip coffee shops, and a more centralized location, Chapinero is a great neighborhood.
  • Finding lodging along most of the route is fairly easy. The larger cities and towns all have hotels or Airbnbs available. There are even a few Airbnbs and farm stays located in the more remote towns.
  • Camping options are more limited. We do not advise that anyone attempt to poach a campsite. After decades of civil war, and other armed conflicts, many Colombians are justifiably wary of strangers. Additionally, members of illegal armed groups continue to be active in locations through which this route passes, primarily in the department of Meta. If you find yourself in need of a camping spot, always ask a local for help.
  • One great option for camping are centros deportivos. These covered sports courts are a great spot to escape from the rain. Many remote small towns have these even, and we found people to be more than happy for us to camp there. Just be prepared to play some basketball with the local children.
  • The only place to stay within Chingaza National Park is within the official campground or dorm in the Monterredondo section of the park. Contact Corpochingaza – Corporación de Ecoturismo Comunitario under contract with the Colombia Natural National Park System at 301-326-1114 or 312-427-6354 to make  arrangements. Each campsite has a covered picnic table and space where campers can comfortably set up their tents.
  • We were happy to learn that the water from the tap in Bogotá is considered some of the cleanest in the world, which is fitting considering where it comes from.
  • Generally speaking, there is no shortage of filterable water along the route; we brought both a Steripen and a Sawyer squeeze filtration system.
  • Food resupply points are plentiful through most of the route. The larger towns of Zipaquira, Sesquile, Guasca, Fomeque, and Choachi all have decent-sized grocery stores with plenty of options for meal preparation.
  • After that, resupply becomes more challenging. Between Guasca and San Juanito, there are no reliable options. The campground in Chingaza has a nice restaurant, but it appeared to have irregular hours of operation. In San Juanito there are several small restaurants, and there is a small store. In the villages of El Calvario and San Francisco there are only a handful of very small shops. It is advisable for riders to carry some food reserves to cover the distance between Guasca and Fomeque.
  • Most small shops don’t have too many options when it comes to preparable foods, but they have plenty of snacks.

In Bogotá

Bogotá is full of incredible restaurants. We recommend indulging a little before you start the route or replenishing calories afterwards. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Mini Mal – A fantastic small restaurant specializing indigenous recipes and local ingredients.
  • Sauvage – A relative newcomer on the Bogotá food scene, this intimate restaurant has amazing food in an atmosphere that’s hard to beat. Their cocktail menu is genius.
  • Wok – An excellent local chain that makes Asian-inspired dishes using local ingredients and sustainably caught seafood. The company promotes socially and environmentally responsible practices through their work with indigenous communities and micro-businesses.

Food Highlights

  • Arepás. Their styles differ depending on location. Our favorites were the arepás de choclo (sweet corn). Arepás can be found all over the region and make a great bikepacking food for lunch, dinner, or breakfast.
  • Ajiaco soup (a specialty of Bogotá)
  • Tamales (the variety in Choachi were particularly hearty)
  • Empanadas
  • Changua (soup) for breakfast
  • Amazing fruits, including granadilla
  • Hot chocolate and cheese
  • Aguapanela
  • Bocadillos or guava paste snacks (these make for great pedaling fuel)
  • Pan de yucca

In Bogotá

Before you ride (and/or after), be sure to take in some of the excellent must-see places in Bogotá:

  • Ciclovia! Every Sunday between 7:00 AM and 2:00 PM, cyclists, pedestrians, skaters, and street vendors take over Bogotá as approximately 75 miles (121km) of its otherwise traffic-jammed streets are closed to engine-driven/automobile traffic. Join with the 1.7-2 million locals (approximately ¼ of the city’s population) who regularly take part in this weekly event and finish it off with the steep climb up Patios for a sublime view and exhilarating descent back into town.
  • Bogotá’s Museo de Oro is an anthropological treasure. The museum collection of more than 34,000 pre-Columbian gold artifacts and relics is the largest on earth, and the stories behind many of them are fascinating. A highlight of the museum includes an installation in which visitors can see the layered treasures found in Laguna Guatavita, shedding light on the historical and spiritual significance of the site.
  • Take a street art tour with Bogotá Graffiti Tour. While you can just walk around the city on your own and find plenty of amazing art, the tour provides great insight into the history and politics behind the work. The guides are highly educated, passionate, and entertaining. This is a must, and we might recommend doing it before your bike trip as it provides valuable cultural and historical insight.
  • Check out some local markets. The Paloquemao is incredible. You can find organized tours to the market or do it on your own. The displays of fruits and vegetables are amazing, as are the fish and flower markets. Arrive early (6:00 AM) to see the market when it’s the most lively.
  • Visit the Observatorio de Colibries (or hummingbird observatory), located in La Calera, just on the outskirts of Bogotá at the end of the route. This sanctuary is frequented by over 14 different species of hummingbirds, including the swordbill and adorable puffleg species. The property itself is beautiful and offers overnight accomodations.

Seven-day Itinerary

This seven-day itinerary is moderately aggressive. To follow this schedule, riders should be in very good shape and comfortable with climbing 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) or more in a day with a loaded bicycle at elevations exceeding well over 8,000 feet (2,400 meters). This ride can be easily extended to 8 or 9 days by adding stops at Laguna Guatavita or Guasca and Choachi or the Hummingbird Sanctuary. Alternatively, there are other small towns along the way where one could potentially camp at a centros deportivos (sports center—see Camping & Lodging for details).

Day 1: Bogotá – Zipaquirá

55 miles / 3800’ (88km / 1158 m)
Starting at the Parque Nacional Enrique Olaya Herrara, day one starts out with a 19 kilometer paved climb up the Bogotá-Choachi road known as El Verjon. This road is cycled regularly, but there have also been reports of bike theft along the roadway during non-peak hours. Leave early in the day, cycle as a group, or leave on a Sunday—the road is promoted and secured for cycling and large groups come out to climb it. An alternate is to start at Patios, but you’ll miss a wonderful arepa stop and a beautiful dirt road ride.

After a must-stop arepa break at km 13.7, you’ll carry on that road a bit before splitting off and traversing a scenic ridge on dirt. From there, you’ll have an excellent descent on a series of dirt and gravel before dropping into La Calera where there’s another phenomenal arepa waiting for you (marked on the map). From La Calera, you’ll follow some fantastic and scenic countryside gravel roads before a fast 15km paved section into Zipaquirá.

There are plenty of hotels in Zipaquirá. We stayed at the Hotel Cacique Real. If you’ve got the time, the Catedral de Sal in Zipaquirá is a very popular tourist attraction. This functioning Roman Catholic church was built 660 feet (200 meters) underground within the tunnels of an old salt mine. Admission is $18 USD per adult foreigner.

Day 2: Zipaquirá – Buenavista

60 miles / 4600’ (97km / 1402m)
On day two, the ride starts out on the bike lane leaving the city and eventually hits a long stretch of relatively fast, rolling gravel roads. You’ll traverse the countryside across flower farms and sprawling ranch lands before you get to Sesquilé. Be sure to have a bite in town. We recommend Delicias de Boyacá (good coffee and amazing arepas), which is marked on the map.

Leaving town, you’ll have a paved climb before the route changes to gravel roads that lead to Laguna Guatavita. On this more hurried itinerary, you likely won’t have time to stop for a tour of the lagoon, which is quite nice. If you are interested, add a day, camp nearby, and have a tour. There’s also a restaurant nearby and vendors at the lake entrance.

From Lake Guatavita, you’ll have a long and hilly ride over beautiful foothills flanked by the high páramos to the east as you draw closer to Chingaza. Guasca makes a nice resupply stop with a grocery store and some good restaurants. You can spend the night in Guasca, but making it to the Chingaza campground before the 4:00 PM deadline would be difficult. For that reason, this day ends in Buenavista. That said, Buenavista isn’t really a town, and there are only a few options for lodging. See the map for details.

Day 3: Buenavista – Chingaza

26 miles / 3,400’ (42km / 1036m)
It’s best to get an early start to ensure that you’ll have plenty of time to take scenic breaks in Chingaza and still make it to the campsite before the 4:00 PM deadline. There’s a hefty climb to get to the park entry. The roads are beautifully chunky, so take your time and use caution. Just before the park entrance, you’ll crest the first pass and start seeing frailejones, which are spectacular and best seen in the morning light. You’ll need to register at the park gate. There’s also a coffee shop onsite with a few snacks.

From the gate, you’ll climb again and begin the march toward the vista de Laguna Seca, the highest point on route. The areas before and after this are spectacular, so be sure to allow plenty of time to soak it all in. From the viewpoint you can see the devastation of a ranch that  has infringed on the páramo. Continue onward for more otherworld vistas and viewpoints before you descend to el Rio Chuza and the campground. At the Chingaza Campground, you can explore the surroundings via several hiking trails. They also have a restaurant on site, the hours of which seem to vary.

Day 4: Chingaza – San Juanito

30 miles / 3000’ (48km / 914m)
On day four, your second day cycling through the national park, the incredible scenery continues as you work your way toward Laguna Chingaza, the park’s namesake and one of the Muisca’s most sacred lagoons. As long as the weather is clear, the skyline is dominated by the massive ~4,000-meter peaks that form the natural boundary between the Cundinamarca and Meta departments. Watch for deer and the elusive spectacled bear as you traverse this incredible landscape.

Near kilometer 141 you’ll need to show your passport at the park control before continuing onward. Just after Laguna Chingaza, you’ll begin the relatively short but stout (and chunky) ascent to the last and perhaps most breathtaking pass before leaving the páramo and descending into the Guatiquía Valley. From here you’ll begin a steep and rocky descent toward San Juanito, and, once again, see grazing lands encroaching on the páramos and cloud forest.

San Juanito is a small town that was, in the not-so-distant past, a stronghold for the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) who reportedly detained many of their kidnapping victims there. The town and surrounding areas have yet to fully recover from the decades of conflict that gripped the region, despite the official declaration of peace that was signed in 2016. As ecotourism is beginning to take root in the area, we hope it increases locals’  financial opportunities while also promoting conservation on the landscapes that border Chingaza and its high cloud forests and páramo.

In town you’ll find a couple small shops and a great restaurant above the town square with friendly owners (see map). One camping option may be the centro deportivo on the outskirts of town. Google maps also lists two “hotels” in town. Note that we’ll be adding more information about places to stay in this area very soon.

Day 5: San Juanito – San Francisco

29 miles / 4700’ (47km / 1433m)
Leaving San Juanito, the most challenging (but rewarding) part of the route begins. The road parallels Cañón del río Guatiquía, an incredible, remote, and cloud-forested canyon cut by el río Guatiquía. The doubletrack jeep road is chunky, steep, narrow, and, at times, quite challenging. There are also several stream crossings, which can sometimes be knee deep. We were also told that they may be impassable after a big downpour.

Despite the difficulty, the rewards are plentiful. If you ride the route just after the wet season, there are dozens of massive waterfalls that cloak the walls of the canyon. Also, Colombia is home to more species of birds than anywhere on the planet, and this area seems to be a prime location for spotting many of the more interesting species.

Leaving the canyon, you’ll climb up to El Calvario, which has a couple of small shops to grab a snack. From there, you’ll descend back to the river before beginning a long and incredibly beautiful 3,400-foot dirt climb through a thick cloud forest with massive ferns, moss, and waterfalls. The day ends in San Francisco, a small town full of friendly people who gladly let us camp in their covered sports center.

Day 6: San Francisco – Fómeque

29 miles / 5700’ (47km / 1737m)
The next morning we had a hearty breakfast at a small unmarked restaurant and carried on with a steep climb and more incredible dirt roads with fantastic scenery. The track continues through cloud forest and eventually climbs to a pass that marks the border crossing from Meta back into the Cundinamarca department. After a big descent, there’s another hefty climb before the terrain increasingly changes to more arid farmland and eventually leads to the bustling town of Fómeque. The central park makes a nice rest stop and there are plenty of places to eat around town, as well as a small hotel just at the northwest corner of the park.

Day 7: Fómeque – Altos Patios

37 miles / 6600’ (60km / 2011m)
The final day is the biggest one. Leaving Fómeque, the ride starts with a fast descent and a paved climb into Choachí. Be sure to stop for a coffee and snack before the even bigger climb starts. The 6,600 feet of climbing may sound intimidating, but it wasn’t as bad as we predicted. The grades can be a little steep at times, but they are generally consistent and the gravel isn’t too chunky. If you want to stop early you could check into La Gloria Reserva Forestal (eco resort—lagloriareserva.com), which is about 10 miles from the end of the route and would save about 2,000 feet (610m) of climbing. Or, you could stop five miles short at the hummingbird observatory and shave off about 750 feet (230m) of climbing. Both of these places require advanced booking.

After a beautiful, scenic climb with views across the valley of the mountains leading up to Chingaza, the route gives way to a final stretch of dusty gravel roads leading back toward the capital city. After a final paved climb, you reach the finish, a large metal gate marking the top of Alto Patios.

Related Routes

There are two other routes that can be joine to incorporate Ruta Chingaza. Starting in San Gil, riders might be riding all three in a linear fashion, southbound.

  • Páramos Conexión – A 138-mile (222km) linear route connecting Oh Boyaca! to Ruta Chingasa
  • Oh Boyaca! – A very well-regarded 375 mile (604km) route from San Gil to Villa de Leyva that takes in the magnificent Sierra Nevado El Cocuy

Other Resources

Terms of Use: As with each bikepacking route guide published on BIKEPACKING.com, should you choose to cycle this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While riding, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. BIKEPACKING.com LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individual riders cycling or following this route.

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