Dirt Road Touring Peru: Cajamarca to Caraz

  • Distance

    285 Mi.

    (459 KM)
  • Days

    6

  • % Unpaved

    75%

  • % Singletrack

    0%

  • Difficulty (1-10)

    7

  • Total Ascent

    36,630'

    (11,165 M)
  • High Point

    13,746'

    (4,190 M)

Contributed By

Joe Cruz - Pedaling in Place

Joe Cruz

Pedaling in Place
3000 meter climbs out of deep valleys, hypoxic high altitude passes, glinting sapphire lakes, tiny villages bright with laughter and ice cream, cobbled and dirt roads, ancient civilizations and a politically energetic present...
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This is Peru, one of my favorite places to bikepack. Here is an up and down route that promises miles of dirt roads, canyons with river crossings, remote campsites, dust and loose rocks, boggling tunnels, and a towering peaks destination.

NOTE: This route was done in collaboration with Sarah Hedges and Tom Walwyn.

  • Highlights

    camera

  • Must Know

    alert

  • Camping

    home

  • Food/H2O

    drop

  • Route tops out at 13,700 feet (4175m).
  • A network of remote mining roads through a bare and rugged landscape.
  • Canyon water crossings.
  • A dirt road clinging to the cliff side and through tunnels in the Cañon del Pato.
  • This route shares the final section with The Pikes’ Cordillera Blanca, Northern Loop. Combine them to make a rugged and breathtaking two-week trip.
  • A very dirt capable bicycle will make this route more pleasant. The author found his fat bike ideal for the loose rocky sections.
  • Make sure your lights are in good working order for the tunnels in the Cañon del Pato.
  • Use this route as part of a north to south trip through South America by crossing the Ecuador/Peru border at La Balsa.
  • Do this section during the dry season, May-September.
  • Wild camping is straightforward, though may be more difficult very close to Caraz. Basic lodging can be found in most villages if you ask around.
  • A variety of accommodation, including relatively fancy, is available in Cajabamba and Caraz.
  • Supplies are readily available in Jesus, Cachachi, Cajabamba (a big town), Huamachuco, and Huallanca.
  • There is a small collection of stores at the intersection of roads 12 and 3N (at Mile 220 on the route map).
  • Even very modest villages typically have basic pantry items.
  • Be mindful of your water supply, especially in the section between Huamachuco and Mollepata. Pre-filter canyon water through a bandana to remove the silt.

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.

  • Jared Cole

    So I am planning a month long trip to Peru and I am wondering if anyone has suggestions on how to get myself and my bike from Lima to Cajamaraca? I know there is a bus route that goes that way, but I am not sure if bikes are allowed on the buses. Any help is appreciated, thanks!

  • Jared Cole

    Just finished my cycling trip in Peru and followed this route for a good portion of the ride. It’s a phenomenal route. There is one section that appears to be permanently closed though. When you descend down from Mollepata and ride along the river through the canyon, the road is overgrown with thorns and the bridge to cross the river is gone. It looks like that whole area has been destroyed by previous years of flooding. We ended up backtracking and detouring through Pallasca. It’s a shame because riding through the canyon had some beautiful views and great riding.

  • Nicholas Gault

    Thanks Jared Cole!! That would have been tedious.

  • Jared Cole

    The water was moving pretty quick and there was a huge drop off to get down to the river. Not a risk I was willing to take in such a remote area. Also, if you do decide to ride this section, make sure you’re tubeless. Goatheads EVERYWHERE. I think we had at least 10 flats on this section, which depleted my supply of tubes and patches.

  • Nicholas Gault

    Thanks Jared.

  • Brian Mulder

    Just finished coming north through here. A few notes:

    The canyon sections have been entirely paved except for the section down along the river Jared mentions below, which I bypassed by heading up to Pallasca.

    Riding north from Chuquicara, there’s a tienda in the village of Galgada and water in another tiny village (neither spots are on Openmtbmaps) a few km’s before the intersection heading to either the river section or up to Pallasca . A woman in that tiny village sells cold soda’s from her house (across the street from the tap by the side of the road).

    The rivers down to and up from Chuquicara are nasty. I wouldn’t count on getting water from them unless no other option. Heading north from Chuquicara stock up in that last village mentioned above before you hit the river route/Pallasca alternate intersection.

    I took a longer alternate out of Mollebamba – essentially the eastern legs of the “triangle” if the original leg to Huamacucho is the hypotenuse. A rocky climb to the pass but worth the effort and the upper valleys connecting back to the main route are quite nice. Two days with hardly any people in sight. No services. Plenty of water options heading up the pass, but none after the pass until you get further down the valley towards Huamacucho.

    http://www.outforawhile.com.

  • Jamie

    I have a few great questions for all of you who are reading or listening.

    1) Would any of you attempt something of this magnitude with very little long distance bikepacking experience? If not, what would you recommend instead? Something in the US/Canada? I’m in Canada myself but the options are mostly out West (Alberta, British Columbia)
    2) Those who fly into a place like Lima or Cusco, how long did you wait to acclimatize to the region before setting out on your bike adventure?
    3) Do any of you train or ride specific distances to get ready for a trip such as this?
    4) What was your first bikepacking trip? Were you solo? Would it make a difference if you had to go alone?

    Regards,

    Jamie

  • Chris

    Hi guys we rode this route following your gpx track some days ago and just wanted to let you know that the part leaving from LI-115 to Miraflores and Santa Clara de Tulpo is absolutely not cyclable on a normal touring bike, I’m sure it’s exactly the same on a lightweight bikepacking rig and this is why :

    Most of the road is a rocky mess, with washed out sections, new water canals, which have ruined the roads. It’s not like you have many rocks on solid ground, it’s ONLY rocks. Going downhill was nightmare but possible, uphill forget it. We were pushing for two days.

    Thought it was a deserted mining road, but after all the pushing you arrive at a security guy with a shotgun, which gave me the creeps. After that the road was freshly opened with a machine, probably for the mining company and it’s loose dirt and stones, not rideable at most sections especially on the uphills.

    I would avoid this part of the road, although I don not know of any good alternative, expect the one going to Pampas, but some cyclists were robed at gunpoint there…

    Happy bikepacking and be safe!

  • Gaye Bourke

    Hi there, based on Chris’s comments below we avoided the LI-115 by turning off the route about 20k past Huamachuco & heading to Cachicadan. From here we followed the dirt 3N until we rejoined the route at Mollepata. The canyon section was interesting – excellent through to the first river crossing (knee deep, fast flowing but no problem) & then some riverbed pushing & about another 6-7k until we reached the point where around 250m of track has collapsed 15m into the river. We backtracked a few hundred metres to a point where we could climb down to the river edge (look for the rock cairn on the rim). It took about 3 hrs to climb over rocks carrying our gear in stages to get past this section. Then we could push/drag bikes (we have BOB trailers) to the 2nd river crossing where there is a rough bridge. From this point there are a couple of landslides to carry across & some more hike ‘n bike but eventually you reach a decent track which takes you out to meet the sealed narrow road (& a basic store with water/drinks), which descends from Pallasca into the canyon. Amazing scenery out to Chuquicara then sealed road all the way to Caraz.
    Cheers, Gaye

  • Jo haines

    Came thru the Tablachaca gorge section June 2018, riding from Mollepata to Chuquicara. Fantastic riding but beware especially if you are heavily laden and on skinny tyres; first river crossing (about 14km down) we crossed two to a bike, not too swift if you chose a good spot. Then 4 or so km on road on the far side. Next crossing there are 2 pole ‘bridges’ across 2 branches of the river. We crossed in the river to avoid first ‘bridge’, then gave some money to some guys panning, to carry our bikes across the 2nd sturdier set of poles – not easy and river too swift to wade. Saw where a bridge may have been in the past but no longer – see http://www.alberttown.co.nz/low-days-in-peru/ for more info and photos.