Cycling in Chile

Route tip: Lonquimay to Ralco (Chile)

by Bicycle Junkies

A hidden route in the Rio Bio Bio region in Chile for you to explore on your bicycle. As long as you love volcanos, pushing your bike up steep hills and crossing knee-dep rivers you should put this one on your bucket list.

After cycling through the Volcanic Lake district region most cyclists end up in Curacautin and choose either to cycle the boring PanAm Highway 5 or cycle towards Argentina and Las Lajas. We saw a tiny dotted route on our map along the Bio Bio river and thought we should check it out! And so should you!

Starting point is the tiny village of Lonquimay where you can get groceries for the next couple of days. A rough, sandy and hilly ride brings you to the Bio Bio river that we followed for about 60 kilometers. It’s up and down on this section mostly at an elevation at around 900 meters. We enjoyed river views with tall trees along the track, tiny settlements and nearly no traffic.

Cycling in Chile

Cycling from Lonquimay to Ralco

When we reached a large bridge, we noticed that the main road (R-785) crosses the Rio Bio Bio. At this point we took a right turn on a rarely used track and the obsticles began! After a couple of hundred meters we first hit a narrow and dark tunnel. Barely wide enough for a car! Followed by a large gate where the private track starts and not far from this point we set up our first camp in the woods.

The pushing starts, the track makes a turns for the worse; very rocky and steep. At parts we have to push one bike at a time! It takes us about 7 hours to do only 15 kilometers! It’s nothing more than a steep dirt track and we see absolutely no cars or people for that matter. We cross an unknown pass and have to walk down, since the steep track is full of loose sand and rocks. Totally exhausted we hit the bottom of the valley where the grass is green and small streams flow, a great place to pitch our tent for a second night.

Cycling in Chile

Pushing our bikes up the rocky hill

Cycling in Chile

Crossing a river

We wake up with a blue sky and the sun low at the horizon. We see different tracks, but follow the one that leads down to the river. No bridge, nothing. We scout for a good place to cross the freezing waters. There’s nothing on the other side, but we keep pushing until we reach a better track, passing a tiny village. After one more steep push we can enjoy a long downhill back to the Rio Bio Bio, where the up and down starts again! Our treat that evening is a camp site with hot springs to soak our tired bodies in! From here it’s a long day ride to the big city of Los Angeles and in between are a few towns to shop for groceries.



Practical information:


Distance: 233 km

Difficulty: 7

Total Ascent: 3681m

High Point: 1256m


If you ever ride this track, please let us know your story and leave a comment below!


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Eduardo Sepúlveda April 23, 2016 - 03:36

Wow. Speechless. Geweldig!
I think i’ll become soon a bike junkies junky;)
Was it 2014? …I think judging by the tracking info.

Frank Hartwig June 25, 2016 - 20:29

Wow absolutely amazing photos! The part of river crossing is so cool. Could you please give some more tips of how to do that with your bike? Is it just simply pushing the bike and walking it?

Thank you!

Parthiv July 1, 2016 - 06:28

Nice images, you seems to be pro:) Have you done any hardcore mountain biking yet? It will be a piece of cake for you

Bicycle Junkies July 3, 2016 - 13:32

Sorry for the late reply! But yes, it was 2014. 😉

Bicycle Junkies July 3, 2016 - 13:33

@Frank: well, yes, in this case it was. It was a wide (and cold) crossing, but it didn’t look too deep, so we just went in! In other parts we took the bags off and walked back and forth a couple of times. 😉

Bicycle Junkies July 3, 2016 - 13:35

Haha! Thanks! No, not really done any hardcore mountain biking (yet). Who knows, maybe someday!

Mark October 27, 2016 - 03:05

Wow Looks like a lot of legs workout with that weight on the bike and walking through the water, I know the amount of power it needs to just walk in water, I have been training for abs and had that one exercise. looks good!!

Bob de Ruiter February 19, 2017 - 10:15

Hi Bicycle Junkies, met veel plezier lezen wij jullie website en wat een informatie. Perfect ter voorbereiding van onze trip door Zuid Amerika.Vooral deze route klinkt als een mooie toevoeging op onze reis. Het lukt mij echter niet om het GPX bestand te downloaden, doe ik iets verkeerd of is deze niet meer beschikbaar? Alvast bedankt voor de respons and keep riding :).


Bicycle Junkies February 19, 2017 - 15:01

Hi Bob,
Graag gedaan en leuk dat we jullie hebben kunnen inspireren!
Ik heb de link aangepast, die klopte inderdaad niet. Lukt het nu wel?
Zo nee, dan ga ik de route snel uploaden naar een andere plek.
Veel plezier!

Groet, Ellen

Franzi September 12, 2019 - 08:50

Helaas de link werkt niet. Hier ook erg benieuwd naar de routes 😉

Bicycle Junkies September 17, 2019 - 09:16

Sorry Franzi, ik heb nog gekeken of ik deze route ergens terug kan vinden, maar ik kan de GPX niet meer terughalen. Ook niet bij Garmin. Ik heb de link maar weggehaald. 🙁


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