Bike Touring Colombia – Mocoa to Pasto via Trampolin del Muerte

The route from Mocoa to Pasto was one of my most anticipated routes. Unlike some of our other adventure routes, we knew a lot more about this connection because other people had motorcycled, driven, and biked it – and documented their experiences online.

Two Colombian cycle tourists that we met along the way.  These guys were on their 7th day, planning to ride all the way to Argentina.  Once in Argentina, they plan to start school.  School is free to everyone in Argentina, including foreigners.  They hope to study 3D design.

Two Colombian cycle tourists that we met along the way. These guys were on their 7th day, planning to ride all the way to Argentina. Once in Argentina, they plan to start school. School is free to everyone in Argentina, including foreigners. They hope to study 3D design.

These two guys wanted to avoid the big hills of Trampolin del Muerte, and would instead take a warmer, low land route into Ecuador.

We see many people riding bikes without any brakes, or with just one brake.  We met some Colombian cycle tourists on their 7th day, and they had already sheared off their brake post.  Colombian routes are extremely hard on equipment.  Regular touring bikes are simply not up to the task; only high quality mountain bikes will get you through the very steep off road climbs and descents.

We see many people riding bikes without any brakes, or with just one brake. We met some Colombian cycle tourists on their 7th day, and they had already sheared off their brake post. Colombian routes are extremely hard on equipment. Regular touring bikes are simply not up to the task; only high quality mountain bikes will get you through the very steep off road climbs and descents.

Fin del Mundo Waterfall

Before we rode across the Trampolin del Muerte, we wanted to make sure we saw everything near the city of Mocoa… So, what’s the best thing to see near Mocoa? The Fin del Mundo Waterfall! This waterfall is found on a hike that begins here: (01.09510° N 76.63047° W). Those coordinates take you to a place where you can park your bike (or car), and cross a bridge to begin hiking on a trail to the falls. Some people write that you can start hiking from the “Casa del Rio” hostel, but the distance on road is unrealistic unless you have a bicycle. You may have seen pictures of these falls, but no picture has ever come close to the sensation you get when standing at the top. Sometimes, pictures are better than real life, but in this case, every picture you’ve ever seen is worse than real life.

Waterfalls seen along the walking route to Fin del Mundo.

Waterfalls seen along the walking route to Fin del Mundo.

We decided to take our bike along the trail. The trail from the waypoints given above is a long climb, followed by a short descent that takes you to a series of falls. After nearly a mile, you come to a place where you pay your entry fee (2,500 COP per person (less than $1.00 USD)). We decided to leave our bike here; it was hard work to get the bike this far in, but it felt much safer leaving it here. They ask if you want to pay for rescue insurance here, but it is optional. They give you a little talk, show you some pictures, and send you off, telling you to be careful.

Janet sitting on top of Fin del Mundo Waterfall.  This is the showcase falls of the route, but there are plenty of others along the way.  From the place I took this picture, there is also a cliffy trail that goes to the bottom of the falls.

Janet sitting on top of Fin del Mundo Waterfall. This is the showcase falls of the route, but there are plenty of others along the way. From the place I took this picture, there is also a cliffy trail that goes to the bottom of the falls.

There are many places to jump into beautiful pools along the hike to Fin del Mundo.

There are many places to jump into beautiful pools along the hike to Fin del Mundo.

If you get there early enough, you will also have time to visit “Ojo de Dios.” They want you to use a guide to visit this fall because it is considered to be a sacred location. Sometimes, I scoff at hiring guides for locations you could easily find and visit with a little intuition and research – but this seems to be a valid reason to hire a guide.

Trampolin del Muerte

If you’ve studied anything about cycling roads in South America, you’ve probably heard of Bolivia’s “death road.” The road is named this because of the high number of deaths that occur from vehicles falling off the road. Per mile, I think that Bolivia’s road is the “winner.” Colombia has a similar road named “Trampolin del Muerte.” In fact, it’s a better name than just “death road.”

Trampolin del Muerte

Trampolin del Muerte

For cyclists who love climbing, and don’t mind mud and river crossings, it’s a destination in itself. Having done it, I’d rank the route as the top 5 most amazing routes I’ve ever cycled. It’s like a very long, beautiful mountain bike trail, but with some cars. Also, it’s far less dangerous for cycling than it is for driving. Below, I’ve grabbed one of the many YouTube videos of people driving along the road, which as you can imagine is much more nerve wracking:

 

Trampolin del Muerte

Trampolin del Muerte

There aren’t many services along the route; most people cycle this section in 2-3 days, camping along the way. Janet and I did it in one, very long day, which allowed us to get a nice shower at the end. I’ve detailed the locations of all of the available services in the captions below:

The restaurant stall at El Mirador - perfect timing for lunch if you've been moving quickly, starting from Mocoa.  There are a couple of places to eat here: 01.06941° N 76.73718° W  If you don't think you can ride the entire distance, We have some friends who were allowed to camp here at Los Cristales Restaurant: <a target='_blank' href='https://www.google.com/maps/place//@01.07423,-76.75604,16z/' data-tcjp-recalc-dims=

01.07423° N 76.75604° W. If you make it farther, but not all the way to San Francisco, we were also told that we could camp at a school here: 01.12638° N 76.84189° W. This location looked very nice, and there was a restaurant / store across the road. There are no other services other than those mentioned above." width="720" height="540" class="size-large wp-image-2553" srcset="https://i2.wp.com/www.brianlucido.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/IMG_2403.jpg?resize=1024%2C768 1024w, https://i2.wp.com/www.brianlucido.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/IMG_2403.jpg?resize=300%2C225 300w, https://i2.wp.com/www.brianlucido.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/IMG_2403.jpg?resize=768%2C576 768w, https://i2.wp.com/www.brianlucido.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/IMG_2403.jpg?w=2000 2000w, https://i2.wp.com/www.brianlucido.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/IMG_2403.jpg?w=3000 3000w" sizes="(max-width: 720px) 100vw, 720px" /> The restaurant stall at El Mirador – perfect timing for lunch if you’ve been moving quickly, starting from Mocoa. There are a couple of places to eat here (01.06941° N 76.73718° W). If you don’t think you can ride the entire distance, We have some friends who were allowed to camp here at Los Cristales Restaurant: (01.07423° N 76.75604° W). If you make it farther, but not all the way to San Francisco, we were also told that we could camp at a school here: (01.12638° N 76.84189° W). This location looked very nice, and there was a restaurant / store across the road. There are no other services other than those mentioned above.

Even in the dry season, there are numerous at-grade stream and river crossings.  We were fortunate enough to only receive a few rain sprinkles.  Most people encounter rain along this wet route, and crossing the water could become challenging if rain has been heavy.

Even in the dry season, there are numerous at-grade stream and river crossings. We were fortunate enough to only receive a few rain sprinkles. Most people encounter rain along this wet route, and crossing the water could become challenging if rain has been heavy.

This is the route, heading back up into the mountains!

This is the route, heading back up into the mountains!

There are numerous cliffs and tight turns along the route.  It is dangerous for cars being 1 to 1-1/2 lanes wide... but there is plenty of room to make it safe for bicycles.

There are numerous cliffs and tight turns along the route. It is dangerous for cars being 1 to 1-1/2 lanes wide… but there is plenty of room to make it safe for bicycles.

You will see countless waterfalls along Trampolin del Muerte - even in the dry season.

You will see countless waterfalls along Trampolin del Muerte – even in the dry season.

Pavement begins at San Francisco, and continues all the way West to Pasto. The riding from San Francisco is not as beautiful, but welcomingly easy after the Trampolin! There are some hot springs located in the nearby town of Colon if you believe you deserve a treat after such a difficult route.

The view from our hotel room "Almirante."  Location: 01.17538° N 76.87836° W. As far as we could tell, there is only one hotel in San Francisco.  It took us a 12 hour day to ride form Mocoa to San Francisco.  All the cycle tourists we communicated with divided this difficult section up into two days.  If you do it in two days, there is no lodging in between, which means camping.  We were advised that you could camp at "Los Cristales" which is another hour beyond the small area called El Mirador.  There is food at El Mirador.  Mirador.  For locations, see caption for the picture of me eating at the restaurant stall above.

The view from our hotel room “Almirante.” Location: 01.17538° N 76.87836° W. As far as we could tell, there is only one hotel in San Francisco.

The plaza in the center square of San Francisco, Colombia.

The plaza in the center square of San Francisco, Colombia.

Trout is available everywhere in Colombia - no matter how far you are from a body of water.  This is how they do it.

Trout is available everywhere in Colombia – no matter how far you are from a body of water. This is how they do it.

This is the Ambiaku tourist center in the town of Colon, Colombia.  We had trouble finding the location of the hot springs in town, as there isn't information about them online or on any maps (just local word of mouth).  Location: 01.18424° N 76.97217° W

This is the Ambiaku tourist center in the town of Colon, Colombia. We had trouble finding the location of the hot springs in town, as there isn’t information about them online or on any maps (just local word of mouth). Location: 01.18424° N 76.97217° W

These are the pools at the Colon, Colombia Hot Springs.

These are the pools at the Colon, Colombia Hot Springs.

The one last tourist attraction is Laguna de la Cocha. There are two roads that take you near the shores of the lake (see our map below). We did not go to the island, but you can. Also, there are a number of places to lodge within a short ride from here: (01.13990° N 77.14182° W). Prices range from 15,000 COP per person at Hostal Quechua to 35,000 COP pp further down the road to “too expensive to ask” on the lake shore.

This is Laguna de la Cocha.  You can take a boat to the island in the background form the hotel pictured in the foreground.  The island is a nature preserve.

This is Laguna de la Cocha. You can take a boat to the island in the background form the hotel pictured in the foreground. The island is a nature preserve.

This is the map for the entire route discussed in this post. To Export GPX files, click on the three horizontal bars in the upper right hand corner of the map and select Export selected map data…
To see a live map of this entire tour, click here (opens in new window)

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1 Response

  1. Mark says:

    Thank you for a detailed report. Interesting about Argentina education. Leaves one to wonder if there are some USA colleges that will accept transfer units.

    Also, now I want to know your “top ten” day rides.

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