The Ruta Chingaza is a week-long bikepacking loop that starts and ends in Bogotá, the capital of Colombia.The route, created by a team from Bikepacking.com and Conservation International, leads you 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. We spent six weeks scouting this route and I've personally ridden it three times-- twice touring and once to set the FKT. It's a wonderful and challenging experience at any pace with such diverse terrain and plenty of resupply to keep logistics fairly easy. Cycling is the most popular sport in Colombia and it's truly special to ride with the locals.Find the official route guide on BIKEPACKING.com:
visit bikepacking.com/routes/ruta-chingazaAlso, note that 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. The park anticipates being able to begin facilitating cycling experiences (including bikepacking) by sometime in 2021. Check the route guide at bikepacking.com for updates.
Starting at the Parque Nacional Enrique Olaya Herrara, the first day 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 Thursday or Sunday, when 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.Stop for arepas at the top of the paved climb before splitting off onto dirt to traverse a scenic ridge. From there, you’ll have an excellent descent on a series of dirt and gravel tracks before dropping into La Calera, a great spot for a hot meal and resupply. From La Calera, you’ll follow some fantastic and scenic countryside gravel roads before a fast 15 kilometer 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.
You’ll have a paved climb next, before the route changes to gravel roads that lead to Laguna Guatavita, one of the many sacred lakes for the Muisca people and the basis for the Legend of El Dorado. 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 good resupply stop with a grocery store and some great restaurants.You can spend the night in Guasca, but making it to the Chingaza campground before the 4pm 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.
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
It’s best to get an early start on this third day to ensure that you’ll have plenty of time to take scenic breaks in Chingaza and still make it to the campsite before the 4pm deadline.There’s a hefty climb to get to the park entry. The roads are beautiful and chunky, so take your time and use caution. Just before the park entrance, you’ll crest the first pass and start seeing frailejones, the endemic and iconic plant of the paramos that captures moisture from the air and naturally filters it to provide drinking water. They 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 impact of a ranch that has infringed on the páramo, showing a major threat to this terrain. Continue onward for more otherworldly vistas and viewpoints before you descend to the Chuza Reservoir and the campground.At the Chingaza Campground, you can explore the surroundings via several hiking trails. They also have a restaurant on site, although hours vary.
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 lakes.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), a location where they detained kidnapped victims. The town and surrounding areas have yet to fully recover from decades of conflict that gripped the region, despite the official declaration of peace signed in 2016.As ecotourism is beginning to take root in the area, locals are excited to welcome visitors and share the beauty of the area. A long term goal of the Ruta Chingaza is to increase locals’ financial opportunities for ecotourism while also promoting conservation on the landscapes that border Chingaza and its high cloud forests and páramo.
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.
The next morning we had a hearty breakfast at a small restaurant and carried on with a steep climb and more incredible dirt roads with fantastic scenery.Three significant climbs mark this penultimate day. The track continues through cloud forest and eventually climbs to a pass that marks the border crossing from Meta back into the Cundinamarca department.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.
The final day is a huge push. Leaving Fómeque, the ride starts with a fast descent and a gradual 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 is actually more manageable than 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, which is about 10 miles from the end of the route and would save about 2,000 feet (610 m) of climbing. Or, you could stop five miles short at the hummingbird observatory and shave off about 750 feet (230 m) 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 and steep double track that leads back to the capital city. After a final paved climb, you reach the finish, a large metal gate marking the top of Alto Patios.