Last night a few of us were watching the sunset at Playa Flamingo and someone threw out the idea of taking a mountain bike ride this morning. At first we discussed just riding the great single track at Las Catalinas, but then someone suggested a nice 1.5 hour loop leaving from Potrero, riding to the nearby town of Tempate, then heading over a ridge to Nuevo Colon before returning back to Pura Vida Ride at Las Catalinas through the Zapotal Valley.
1.5 hours? Not. 4.5 hours later with over 4,000 vertical feet of climbing, we limped into Pura Vida Ride with a few bloody elbows and cramping legs. It was an epic adventure to say the least although our spouses were not amused (to say the least).
The climb out of Potrero to Tempate is the first "warm up," with 450 vertical feet climbed over the course of 1 mile. The descent into Tempate is fast and furious, before making a sharp turn up into the hills to the East. This section of trail is spectacular. Many of the ranch houses are old and were built in the true Gauancastecan style with ornate doors, high ceilings, and intricate carvings with screened in ventilation near the roofs.
Leaving town, the trail here gets steep and climbs a staggering 800 vertical feet in the space of one mile. From the crest, the views are panoramic and distant, looking south to Cartagena and beyond. Dropping east over the ridge the descent is on true single track, much of it rutted out which makes for a technical and challenging descent. The single track slowly transforms into ever widening and improved tracks, then local roads. Here is an interactive trail map that you can play with to see the route, elevation gain/loss, speed of travel, and other interesting metrics.
The highlight of the ride was discovering a roughly 35 foot high waterfall cut into granite with a swimming hole deep enough to allow for plunges from the top! We took 10 minutes to rest, swim, and jump, before heading down the track further. The wildlife, culture, architecture, and sense of place along this stretch of trail is otherwordly. Its what Costa Rica must have felt like 100 years ago... yet its still here, right behind us! It takes a bit of effort to get to, but the rewards are inspiring.
Multiple river crossings, more climbing, descents, and water breaks later, we worked our way back to Pura Vida Ride via Zapotal Valley. The last mile or so of the ride we joined up with the downhill stretch of the single track at Las Catalinas, which was the cherry on top of an amazing ride. Here is a 2 minute video showing the highlights of trip.
The best part of this loop is that it can be customized to all levels of riders. Hard core riders that want the punishment and reward can do the full 4.5 hours, intermediate riders can skip some of the hardest climbs, and beginners can be delivered and picked up along the route to enjoy the flattest, most scenic, and most enjoyable parts of the loop. The best part of it is that all 3 riding levels get to experience the waterfall!
Contact us for more information and to book a ride with one of our guides! We have an amazing selection of Kona 29er, Trek 26", and now full suspension Rocky Mountain and other great quality mountain bikes for you to use!