Your mountain biking "trailhead" to Oaxaca, Mexico
Category: Trail Info
Trails are logically distinct components. A trail can be ten meters long or 100,000 meters. Trail Info category indicates a post that has detailed specific information describing a particular trail. For posts describing a suggested route that uses one or more trails, use the Ride Route category INSTEAD.
There is no shortage of flowing trails around San Pablo Etla, a suburb on the north side of Oaxaca city. This Sunday afternoon ride follows a popular trail (almost identical to the San Pablo Mountain Park Loop Two reported elsewhere on this web site). Fact is, there are so many intersecting trails in these parts it is possible to make a thousand variations so there is always something new, even when you’ve ridden the area many times over.
The bulk of the ride is on singletrack trail that pretty much follows the contour lines of the hills — though there are some rather steep ups and downs. The trail is quite narrow, for the most part, and often runs off-camber. There is a good assortment of rocky sections to keep you on your toes, and lots of thorny shrubbery waiting to draw blood from passing bikers.
The loop ride shown on the map below covers 6.0 miles (9.65 km) with a gain and loss of 1002 feet (305 meters) on the circuit. The high point just touches the 6000 foot mark (1829 meters), while the low point tips the altimeter at 5500 feet (1676 meters).
The dirt roads and backcountry trails that abound in the Pueblos Mancomunados are a continual lure to mountain bikers living in Oaxaca. On this particular Sunday in February some friends lit out for the high country intent on riding to some place new. Without much discussion we found ourselves in Cuajimoloyas looking for the start of the hiking trail going to Yavesia. A couple of friendly guides at the ecotourism office, though, dissuaded us by saying it would be much better just to stick to the dirt roads linking the two villages. Bowing to their knowledge of the area, we did just that – and were later grateful for the advice.
As you can see on the elevation chart below, Yavesia sits some 3485 feet (1062 meters) lower in altitude than Cuajimoloyas. The road between them has a grade of over 17% in places, making for an exhilarating descent but a brutal climb back up. The singletrack trail could only be even more daunting. We sailed the 12 mile (19 km) distance to Yavesia in about 75 minutes; the leg- and lung-searing return took a good two hours longer.
In all honesty, one has to wonder if this ride is worth the effort. Like my motorcycle trip from Kansas City, Kansas to Fairbanks, Alaska, I can say that I am glad I did it — but once was quite enough, thank you. The route is in heavy forest throughout, with hardly a mountain vista to inspire and nothing of note along the way. While Cuajimoloyas has a certain charm, Yavesia has little to recommend it. If you want a memorable ride, there are better choices — unless your REALLY like grunting uphill for twelve miles.
In November of last year (2013) we visited Ixtlan de Juarez. Unfortunately, cold, rainy weather cut short our exploration of the miles of logging roads that create a maze in the hills above the town. We returned yesterday (5 January 2014) in excellent weather and rode a very satisfying 11 mile (17.7 km) loop, beginning and ending at the main church in town.
Except for the small portion on paved city streets, the entire loop is on dirt roads which are in relatively good condition and have decent gradient. There are numerous junctions with lesser trafficked logging roads (we stayed on what seemed to be the most-used road) along the route and a couple of single track trails that dropped off into the woods.
The loop can be ridden in either direction, but clockwise is recommended, as that way the grade going uphill is a manageable 5.8%, whereas the descent averages a “Yee-haw!” 9% for a fast paced, brake-burning downhill run.
The ride begins in the center of town, at an elevation of 6505 feet (1983 meters) and tops out at 8556 feet (2608 meters). The total elevation gain pedaling 7.0 miles (11.3 km) to the top amounts to 2119 feet (646 meters), with a scant 33 feet (10 meters) of downhill along the way. The blistering 4.0 mile (6.4 km) descent is even more consistent, with a meager 20 feet (6 meters) of climbing thrown in for grins.
Give yourself a whole day to play in the forest and enjoy riding this and other nearby trails.
Oaxaca recently completed another section of the “Rails to Trails” project converting the old railroad line running from Oaxaca city to the town of Tule into a dedicated bicycle path. The latest addition takes bike riders to a point in Tule just a few blocks from the parish church where the famous gigantic cedar tree towers over the landscape. The newest segment is nicely paved and features solar-powered street lamps to light the path at night. While a portion of the new bike path shares the right-of-way with a four-lane road, the major part is well away from vehicular traffic. Unfortunately, the bike trail starts well away from the center of Oaxaca and may be difficult for some to locate – the bike path starts at the intersection of Ferrocarril and Norte Cinco.
On a bright Saturday morning a group of friends, five in number, set out from Oaxaca city into the Sierra Norte, eager for a pleasant ride in the mountains. Looking for some place new, Ixtlan de Juárez seemed a good candidate for the day’s exploration.
A look at Google Earth shows a tantalizing network of dirt roads north of the town center. But as so often happens, the weather in the Sierra Norte did not match that in Oaxaca city. Where the Valles Centrales basked in sunshine, Ixtlan had a heavy cloud cover and intermittent light rain. We got in one satisfying loop, with a visit to the Mirador on the hilltop near town, before the clouds grew more threatening. We decided to break for lunch and zipped downhill on Highway 175 to the nearby town of Guelatao – famous as the birthplace of Benito Juarez. Just as we finished chowing down, the heavens opened up and we abandoned any hope of more biking in the afternoon.
While the ride shown on the map below is satisfying, it is rather short. However, you can zoom in and will see some of the dirt roads that excited our interest. If you have better luck with the weather, you will doubtless enjoy many additional miles of riding in the area.