Editor’s Note: We now proudly present Part 3 of the The Baja Adventure Blog series. In this final posting, James goes into detail about the ride itself should you want to attempt the route here. Additionally, we have also included a Ride with GPS file for you to look at as well. WARNING DISCLAIMER: This ride is not a “Beginner” level ride and should only be conducted while using the proper equipment for this type of adventure, having enough hydration and nutrients to sustain you for the duration of the ride, and a complete understanding of how to use maps and navigation equipment.
Here is the link to the ride route: RidewithGPS Baja Adventure Route
We have designed our Baja route to be hard, but doable, for the everyday gravel rider. It is easy to complete in three days, with the first day allowing for travel time crossing the border. Sometimes bikepacking can look unattainable, and while we are all about the month-long epics, we felt that this three day weekend adventure would be a great contribution to the gravel community and a perfect intro to bikepacking.
The ride begins at La Bufadora, there’s a paid lot where you can park and get ready. If you have a car, we’d suggest leaving it in Ensenada and getting a ride here, that stretch of the 1 isn’t that pleasant to ride.
You’ll begin with a climb before quickly hitting the gravel, your legs should be nicely warmed up by the sharp climbs and sandy descents. There’s nothing leg or bike breaking here, so it’s a nice way to start your ride and check everything on your bike is working well. It should be noted that there’s a little bit of what is probably not public trail right before you re-enter the tarmac, ride this at your own risk.
On the tarmac you might encounter a checkpoint, these guys are pretty chill so just be cool and you’ll be on your way in no time. From there, it’s back onto the dirt and a steep climb that gradually flattens out and takes you to the rolling terrain and cattle pasture which will accompany you until you finally catch a glimpse of the ocean. Once your goal is in sight, you get to rip the best roads of the day, lightly rolling and trending downhill they are fast, flowing, and sometimes pretty sandy. Exercise caution as the roads get steep, but make sure to have fun! Once you reach sea level, it’s a few easy kilometers along the coast to Coyote Cal’s at mile 55 of the route.
Cal’s is a great spot, be sure to call ahead and let them know you’re coming. They’ll let you bring your bikes in and even clean them. The food from the resident Thai chef is outstanding, and if you are there early enough massages are available.
Day 2 is the biggest day of the ride, you’ll be on tarmac for most of the first few hours, so try to get out early before it gets hot. We’d suggest stopping just about any time you see water being sold. It’s easy to get caught out and I like to keep three big bottles pretty full at all times. It’s worth hitting San Vicente at mile 69 right before you turn onto the 1 south for a resupply. The roads here can be large, especially the federal 1 south, but they aren’t that busy and drivers are pretty courteous. Once you turn east off the one, you won’t see anyone for a long time and quickly find yourself on dirt. This dirt road climbs a lot, and it can get very hot, so be sure you are fully supplied with fluid.
The long gravel climb to Lazaro Cardenas is no joke, it is never that steep but you will be trending uphill form mile 91 of the route to the end of the day. We suggest at least a 1:1 gear for this section. In Lazaro Cardenas there’s a small shop around mile 117, the last you’ll see before Mike’s Sky Ranch. It’s a great place for a cold drink and a snack.
You’ll hop back on the road before an obvious right to Mike’s Sky Ranch, this is a gradual climb with only a couple of technical sections, but it hurts the legs after such an epic day. Make sure to spin easy when you can. Right before Mike’s the terrain starts to roll and you will cross a river and begin to see the lights of the ranch just after mile 147. Again, call ahead. Make sure to check out the legendary bar which is covered with motocross memorabilia. As an experienced off-road destination, Mike’s is more than happy to let you bring in the bikes and clean them. They’ll cook you dinner and breakfast as well, it might not be the same gourmet food that you can find in the Baja Wine Country, but it is delicious after a big day and a few cold Tecates!
Day three is long, but it trends downhill. Be prepared for a bit of climbing out of mikes before a ripping descent. I love the section from Mike’s to the road, it is one of the best gravel descents I have ever ridden, and it has everything from sand to slickrock to fast hardpack. Relish it!
After Mike’s you hit the road for a few km before taking a detour back to the same store in Lazaro Cardenas. Everyone will be impressed that you have not died, and more than happy to sell you ice cream and coke. Load up, form here you are on the tarmac and in the sun. There are plenty of water stops but be sure to drink a lot, those long hot climbs on the road take it out of you. Eventually you’ll begin to glimpse the ocean and the end will be in sight. We’ve finished our route in Downtown Ensenada and we’d suggest Hussong’s as a great way to end the ride with a classic cantina vibe. Maybe book a room at one of the many hotels, or the excellent Air B and Bs nearby so you can enjoy the growing local beer scene and delicious Baja wine before crossing the border north.