The last weeks have been characterized by a mix of road conditions by following a combination of different routes in Argentina’s Lake District. We found ourselves on beautiful dirt roads of the Patagonia beer trail bikepacking route, we made some fast progress on the famous Ruta de Los Siete Lagos (7 lakes), ánd we even included some trail exploration on the Sendero Huella Andina hiking trail.
After a few days of rest and sheltering from the rain in Villarrica, we were ready to hit the road again. Being in Patagonia in January, the number of cyclists we meet on the road has increased exponentially. There are sooo, many, cyclists! The locals don’t look up anymore when we pass by on our bike; a cyclist is as common as any other type of traveler in this part of the world.
The feeling of cycling in remote and wild places, therefore, is a bit gone. But there is a good reason why there are so many of us; the Siete Lagos area is a beautiful region with intense blue lakes and vivid green mountains. There is a good infrastructure for cyclists and gradients of the roads are very accessible. Cycling in this part of the world is, therefore, rightfully so on many cyclists’ bucket list.
Crossing Chile – Argentina border: Paso Carirriñe and Siete Lagos
We crossed the border to Argentina via Paso Carirriñe. A beautiful route that goes right through the heart of national park Lanin, with its dense forest, blue lakes, and snow-capped volcanoes. We were happy to be back in Argentina. A country we fell in love with two months earlier when cycling in northern Argentina’s wine region around Cafayate and the famous Ruta 40 around Mendoza.
Note: There are three passes to cross the border from Villarrica/Pucon (Chile) to San Martin de Los Andes (Argentina). You can check if the passes are open via the app ‘fronteras argentinas‘ or check the status on twitter.
- Paso Mamuil Malal – relatively quiet and paved road (10 km unpaved on Argentina’s side)
- Paso Carirriñe – very quiet following mostly dirt roads. It goes right through the heart of park Lanin
- Paso Hua Hum – little traffic, requires to take a ferry in Chile and mostly ripio road in Argentina
Bikepacking route – Patagonia beer trail
We arrived in the touristic town of San Martin de Los Andes. There is even a bike hostel with an owner who is a bike fanatic. He can help with any bike issue, should you have one. It was a very nice stay.
We longed for some ‘remoteness’ again and therefore decided to ride the Patagonia beer trail from bikepacking.com. It is a good alternative to the Argentinian Siete Lagos route, which is busy and crowded with tourists in high season. The scenery on the routes from bikepacking.com has so far not disappointed us, and also this route kept up to its promise.
The camping spots on this route were mesmerizing with clear turquoise colored rivers filled with trout. Riding this route right in the middle of the high season there were more cars than we expected, resulting in some very dusty roads. Luckily, a river or lake was always nearby for a refreshing dive at the end of the day to wash off all the dust.
The Patagonia beer trail might sound like there is a lot of breweries on this trail, but actually there aren’t. You have to go into the larger towns of San Martin de Los Andes, Bariloche or El Bolson to try one the artisanal beers of the region. It was not our original plan to ride into Bariloche, but we quite spontaneously decided that morning to ride into Bariloche for a rest day and cut the beer trail in half. At that point, we didn’t know yet what the visit would result in.
Before we knew we were having beers with 7 other long-distance cyclists, including Kyle who we met earlier in Cusco. He invited us to join him to explore some hiking trails on the bike…
Without hesitation, we dropped our plan to cycle the second part of the Patagonia beer trail and ride hiking trails instead. The next days we repacked our panniers and send a whopping 27 kilos (!) of luggage ahead to El Bolson. We wanted to go as light as possible and only kept what we needed for a few days.
Bariloche is beautifully situated on the shore of the Nahuel Huapi lake. It is built on a mountainside with views on the lake and Andes mountains from almost every part of the city. The busy road to get into Bariloche was far from cyclist friendly with aggressive drivers and traffic sheering by. It might even be one of the worst traffic experiences we encountered in South America.
Bikepacking Sendero Huella Andina
Sendero Huella Andina is a 564 km long-distance hiking trail through the Argentine side of the Patagonian Andes around Bariloche. The route has been developed in 2008 as one of the first thru-hikes of Argentina. It crosses 3 provinces (Neuquén, Río Negro and Chubut) and goes through multiple national parks including Park Lanín, Nahuel Huapi, Los Arrayanes, Lago Puelo, and Los Alerces.
Full of enthusiasm we left Bariloche with only the bare necessities. We were so ready for a new adventure! The original idea was to document the route in detail for other cyclists. Although the Huella Andina trail is marked, including signposts and route information, the trail is hardly used, not by cyclists nor by hikers. The trails haven’t been maintained for at least 3 years. Branches and fallen trees made it quite a struggle to actually ride the trails.
But we didn’t care. We were happy, it felt like a new start: cycling with a light setup, crossing rivers, pushing our boundaries, lifting our bikes over fallen trees and bushwhacking our way through overgrown trails. It was all part of the fun and experience.
It was also a nice experience to embark on this adventure with Kyle. Kyle turned out to be a parilla (Argentine barbeque) chef extraordinaire, and he showed Pim the basics of fly fishing. With success, Pim caught his first fish!
We can’t really say that we highly recommend the Huella Andina to other cyclists as a ‘bikepacking route’. So instead of developing a detailed route description, we leave it to this blog and really fun experience. If interested, you could contact the people from ‘Patagonia Bike trips’ who are developing routes in this region and know all the ins and outs of cycling the Huella Andina.
Fly fishing in Patagonia
We found our way back to the main road of Ruta de Los Siete Lagos. We had our share of adventure (and scratches). We made fast progress on the perfectly paved Ruta de Los Siete Lagos and arrived in El Bolson earlier than anticipated. We collected our 27 kg of luggage and put all our gear back on the bike. We even added a bit more luggage: Pim bought a fly fishing rod.
We continued southwards via national park Los Alerces and crossed the border at Futaleufú back to Chile for our long-awaited dream: cycling the Carretera Austral. The road through national park Los Alerces provided some excellent camping. Campsites are from now one selected on the potential to fly fish. Patagonia seems to be the perfect location for this. Trout-filled rivers and lakes are abundant. So far Pim has been practicing his skills every day! It is another dream to come true on this trip. I guess we sometimes forget how lucky we are to be here and experiencing all these beautiful moments, day in day out.