Following the bread trail. (A stunning hike a bike through Villarica national park)

It turns out my version of purgatory is probably similar to our stay in Conaripe, a overpopulated shitshow of a town which was well on its way down the same road as Pucon. We would have probably slept better had we each taken a dozen caffeine tablets rather than dealing with the screaming kids running around and tripping over our tent until midnight. This combined with our previous day of riding had put us in a state of desperation, escape cottage country at all cost.

From Pucon we’d left Danny and Tam and had taken Nathan’s recommended 4×4 track around the west side of volcan Villarica. It was certainly a beautiful route, but not exactly quiet. It seemed as if the days of peace and tranquility were becoming more and more difficult to suss with our general southward trend. Even the minor dirt proved fruitless, bathing in vehicle dust wasn’t our idea of fun. In Conaripe we had reached our last ounce of patience. We were both feeling demotivated and lethargic. After asking a few people about our planned route it seemed that we would be contending with high volumes of tourist traffic no matter which road we took. At this point we began to get interested in the GPT route which skirts the lower flanks of Volcan Quetrupillan. Beautiful to behold on satellite imagery, it would certainly not disappoint. A few emails back and forth with Jan and some advice from the locals in Coñaripe had us convinced. We were set up believing it would be a huge undertaking.

We left our ripe camp spot and set off on what we expected to be quite a challenging push/carry. However, what we got was beautiful single track with a bit of pushing as the terrain steepened. The transition from tree covered canopy to the rocky alpine scree zone was incredible. It felt as if we’d somehow teleported to Iceland, beautiful waterfalls gushing from rock faces, pockets of green contrasting the desolate grey. A bit of pushing had us toppling the 1900m pass where we were greeted by a small glacier to cross. Downwards on more beautiful singletrack we found ourselves on the edge of Laguna Azul, veering off on a small forest trail down to Carriringue followed by another shortcut along the river towards Choshuenco(Big thanks for the tip to Jorge, a fellow dirt road explorer we met along the way)

The route had so many breathtaking moments. It felt like a hikeabike without all the nasty carrying which is normally involved. It had the epic feel of something like Huayuash or Ausangate but infinitely more accessible and rideable. It’s also great for hike a bike virgins due to its short nature.

Trail breakdown
Pushing – 20%
Rideable and smooth 60%
Sandy or glacial 5%
Slightly technical 15%

Trail notes

GPX track can be viewed/downloaded here.

Pucón – Coñaripe – Carriringu – Coshuenco
We cycled from Pucón to Coñaripe, where we found out about the trail, and consequently went back up to do it. Here’s how to do it all in one go, avoiding the touristy (at least in summer) town Coñaripe and backtracking. (recommended 3-4 days). Thanks to Jan Dudeck for his trail suggestions.

From Pucón we took Nathan’s route towards Coñaripe which is well described here

200m north of the Thermas Rincon: a black gate, on the right side of it is a gate you can cross through to get on the trail. (See Photo)
2k: gate which you have to get your bike across
3k: gate, can be opened
Just a couple hundred meters later, at the last power pole, you’ll see a sign pointing to your right saying “Laguna azul”. Just after, a single track starts (next to a hut) which brings you to a river crossing. After a short push up you merge onto a beautiful forest trail (head left).
5.5k: It starts getting steeper. The trail surface continues to be very good throughout. You cross two streams on ” bridges” which will be your last water sources till k10. There are about two forks along the trail, both times stay on the left (markers in the trees)
7.5: for about 1k you’ll probably need to push due to the steepness
8.5: rideable again
10k: little stream crossing followed by one more steep push
11k: sign “Laguna azul” that points to your right. If you’re looking for a nice camp spot continue on a track straight ahead, cross the stream, push your bike uphill and choose a nice spot. From here on you have three more pushes with intermittent riding to the top
13.5: top, the downhill starts next to a glacier (Dan just went over it) and soon after you have to cross a glacier (only about 100m)
16: a little forest area by the lake. Common camping area (unfortunately many people have left garbage behind). Followed by lavaflow and a river crossing. Make sure to take the trail on the right, rather than the one continuing straight uphill.
16.5: until you reach a little stream, don’t continue straight on the trail, take the little trail to your right (uphill) that crosses the stream. From here on it’s pushing downhill through rocky terrain. You’ll cross the steam again at about 17k, followed by a muddy section and then a little push uphill. Then a beautiful forest trail takes you downhill.
20k: river crossing, little push uphill, possible camp spot on your left.
28: gate, openable
32: merge onto dirt road
35: take the left, and shortly after do a right turn. You then cross a river (widest on this trail but pretty shallow), continue on the trail and at a fork merge onto a bigger dirt track on your right.
36.5: go straight and cross the bridge
43.5 turn right onto a main dirt road
44.5: shop to your right in Carriringue
45: turn left to continue towards Choshuenco
45.5: shortcut: just after crossing a bridge, ride down a trail to your right. There’s a gate that can be opened. You may verify at the house there whether it’s OK for you to pass. Beautiful pretty flat dirt track (at any forks, choose left)
56: the dirt trail ends and you merge back onto the dirt road
72: Choshuenco.

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Definitely the worst puncture on this trip. Straight through the tire and out the backside of the tube protector.

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Look out for the trailhead. It’s used by the locals and avoids contact with the park office.

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Some dodgy bridges, they don’t inspire much confidence. Despite the first part of the trail being through forest, the path is very clear and easy to follow by bike.

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Coming out on top is the real treat of this trail.

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Our beautiful camp spot with views of Villarica.

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Cloud.

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A dramatic morning, we set off waiting to be blown away.

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A few steep bits invite for a short push.

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Incredible landscapes asking to be ridden. You could spend a week up here trying different little trails.

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Gina finds some snow!image
Further up, we start getting very near the glaciers.

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And eventually we have to cross a few.

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Slippery stuff, our tires slipped out. Even walking was a challenge

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Volcanoes popping up in every direction.

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It was as of the trail had been made purposefully for cyclists.

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At the time we passed by in early Feb, horseflys were in full effect. These little guys were the real heroes eating them all up. One even jumped on Gina’s shoe to snack on a dead horsefly.

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Beautiful lava flow, a slightly more difficult section to pass on bike. Still, it’s very short and beautiful to look at.

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Laguna Azul in the morning.

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The sound of muddy disc brakes. It reminds me of padding destroying Ecuador.

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Awesome singletrack/farmtrack downhill.

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Most of the way it’s smooth as pictured. Nearer to the bottom there are a few rockier sections which might be a bit more challenging but still extremely rideable.c

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