“An 8,000' DH ride in the Colombian Andes through cloud forests and coffee farms, offering high speeds & sweeping vistas.”
— UnWise Owl
An 8,000'+ descent in the Western Cordillera of the Colombian Andes! This route offers it all; fast, rural, gravel road rides, choppy loose turns, sweeping views, mountain pueblos, coffee fincas, mountain steam baths, a 'short' but challenging climb and some techy singletrack towards the end of the ride to challenge more adventurous riders in more ways than one!
Need to Know
• This is a public road. While it does not receive heavy traffic, keep an eye out on blind corners for slow moving vehicles. It is also serviced by a rural bus service, so expect to encounter at least one bus traveling uphill.
• This route starts at ~9,100’ and ends around ~2,300’ of elevation so expect to start the ride out cool and end up in more tropical weather conditions.
• There are a couple tiendas along the route where you can buy snacks. There is one in Horizontes and another rural tienda about ½ way through the trek. Bring cash for hydration!
• There is a cool mountain stream at the bridge after the long climb.
• If desired, this ride can end at Piscina Sopetran, a beautiful circular pool surrounded by lush tropical forest.
• The Colombian Mountain Bike Junkies offer a one-day tour on this route which includes bike rental, shuttle from and to Medellin, lunch and a post ride beer. colombianbikejunkies.com/me…
This downhill, shuttle route offers a ton of variety along its ~8,000+' descent. Starting at over 9,000' near a statue of the Virgin Mary, it begins by following a narrow gravel mountain road through the cloud forest before making its way into coffee and farm country. Don't forget to offer a prayer to the Virgin before you head down the hill asking her to look after you on your way down the mountain!
After four miles, the road heads into the high mountain pueblo of Horizontes. The single lane of this village is basically the only paved section of the ride, which is lined by about 50 concrete casitas with colorful and nicely adorned facades. There are a few tiendas in town. The locals are very friendly. I'd recommend stopping in at one of the establishments.
After passing through this single lane village, the road continues to drop through farm country offering sweeping vistas of the Rio Cauca Valley far below. Small casitas and fincas become more abundant as you continue to descend. An easy to pass overlook offers an amazing view of the river valley including the Puente de Occidente (Bridge of the West), approximately 3.5 miles to the west and over 5,000' below. Completed in 1895 and spanning over 900', it was the longest suspension bridge in Latin America.
After checking out the view, continue down till the 10.5-mile point, and you'll notice the temperature begins to rise as you lose elevation. There is a small tienda and bar on the right side of the road offering water, snacks, soda and cerveza should you choose this option. Think you are a pool shark? Challenge a local to a game on the table in the back room, which happens to have an open window offering a sweeping view of the Rio Cuaca.
After about 12 miles, the road rises for about two miles and climbs about 800 feet. Maybe the most challenging part of the climb is its exposure to the sun. Gotta earn those turns! The climb summits near a ridgeline and begins a moderate descent towards a ravine shrouded by cloud forest. Don't miss this waypoint because it’s an opportunity to cool off in a small forest stream. Dunk your head or chill out to recover for the singletrack sections which are getting close.
Continue down the mountain road to the ~17.5-mile point. At this point, the road makes a sharp curve to the right as it bends around the ridgeline. A small driveway intersects with the road on the right. A small, unfinished red block farmhouse sits at this intersection. This is the 'trailhead' for the first of seven singletrack sections.
These singletrack sections follow a more direct route down the ridgeline. Their entrances are not marked so you’ll just have to keep an eye out for the foot trails descending from the road if you don’t have a guide. These singletracks are foot and horse trails used by local farmers and now provide a unique mountain biking opportunity. Each section is relatively short as they intersect the meandering road several times. These tracks present unique challenges but they all share a similar flavor. They follow a relatively direct path down the ridge and have become eroded to various degrees, making for a chunky challenge. Some are littered with loose baby-head cobbles, others are leaf-covered and some sections closer to the road are wide and fast. Loose surfaces are common (beware of leaves), along with a few rocky roll-downs. Exposure is present in a few places, but nothing really to freak you out too much.
I would rank most of these singletrack sections as blacks or double blacks, since they are relatively steep and technical, and without side lines to avoid the hard stuff. However, there is nothing really so technical that you can’t ride it blind. If you need to put a foot down or wipe out, it can be challenging to get riding again because they are so incised there is little room for your pedal if your crank arm is in the 'down position'. They also present a physical challenge as you'll likely be worn out from the first 17 miles and they are too technical sit.
After Perro Saltador
, turn left onto Santa Fe de Antioquia-Sopetrán looking for the Piscina Sopetrán on your right for a well-deserved beverage and cool-down dip.
History & Background
The singletrack segments are likely very old and probably pre-date the road. They were likely the original means by which coffee farmers traveled by foot and horse between their fincas and nearby towns in the river valley below. Unlike many purpose-built trails, these segments of singletrack go straight up the ridge line. Water funnels down them instead of across, so due to the high levels of precipitation this area receives, many sections have become deeply incised. This offers a very different experience than most trails in the US, since often times you're forced to follow a single line. Many areas are also very steep, giving you the sensation of riding through a high-pitched gorge.