The majestic Andes run the spine of Ecuador from north to south, so it should be no surprise that there are plenty of locations to practice mountain biking. In fact, pick a city in the Sierra of Ecuador, and there will be a popular trail nearby. Not for the faint of heart, these extreme trails offer an exhilarating experience for the intermediate to advanced rider.
This bike route is not for the faint of heart. It begins in the city of Quito near the neighborhood of Iñaquito Alto and proceeds uphill to a collection of antennas near the arrival point of the Teleferico, a cable car that takes tourists to the upper slopes of the Pichincha Volcano. The trail is a wide fire road, dusty in dry weather, muddy and often rutted when wet. The return is a wild ride back down with only switchbacks to control your momentum. In total, the trail is 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) round trip with a 1,157-meter (3,796-foot) change in elevation.
The old road between Nono and Mindo is perfect for long-distance mountain biking. Part gravel and dirt with a few portions of old cobblestone, this road once connected the city of Quito to the coast of Ecuador. Today, it is home to cow pastures, a trout farm, a shrine to the Virgin of Alambi, and cloud forests famous for attracting bird-watchers from around the world. The trail is 50 kilometers (31 miles) one way. After a steep eight-kilometer (4.9-mile) climb out of Nono, the road rises and falls but primarily heads downhill to Mindo.
The bike trail Baños Puñapi Lligua lies near the spa town of Baños de Agua Santa in the Tungurahua Province. Although much of the trail is paved, it is also steep in places, making this a tough ride for beginners. Part of the trail follows the Rio Pastaza and provides great views of many of the waterfalls that pour off the slopes of the Tungurahua Volcano into the river valley below. The loop trail is 23 kilometers (14.3 miles) with an elevation change of 746 meters (2,447.5 feet).
The road to the Cascada Condor Machay is a combination of cobblestone and dirt. Local farmers use the road to move herds of cattle from field to field. Traffic is light except on weekends and holidays when the weather is fine. The trail passes several access points to view waterfalls along the Rio Pita and ends at the trailhead to one of the tallest waterfalls in Ecuador, the Condor’s Nest Cascade. The round-trip journey is approximately 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) with a change of 804 meters (2,637.8 feet) in elevation.
Once a route for smuggling bootleg alcohol, the Mama Rumi trail is an 11-kilometer (6.8-mile) descent of 2,000 meters (6,561.5 feet) on the coastal side of the Andes near the small town of La Magdalena. Much of the route is heavily forested, with the trail merely a narrow cut into the reddish mountainside. Most days bring at least a layer of clouds, if not rain, so come prepared for changing weather patterns.
This loop trail begins and ends near the San Jorge Eco-Lodge on the outskirts of Quito and follows lightly used back country roads and hiking trails. The majority of the ride passes through protected high-altitude cloud forest, prime habitat for hummingbirds and colorful tanagers managed by the Jocotoco Foundation. Rain frequently falls in this area, filling small streams and waterfalls along the route. On clear days, views of the surrounding mountains are absolutely stunning. This loop is 44 kilometers (27.3 miles) in length with an elevation change of 850 meters (2,788.7 feet).
This bike trail combines visits to the pre-Incan archeology site at Cochasquí and the high-altitude Lake Mojanda on the outskirts of Otavalo. The terrain is montane forests of native trees, Andean paramo covered in tussocks of grass, an occasional farmhouse with high mountain pastures, and an alpine lake reflecting the peaks that surround it. In total, the route is 54 kilometers (33.5 miles) with a 1,500-meter (4921.3-foot) change in elevation.