Paso Agua Negra

Jachal – Las Flores – Paso Agua Negra – Vicuña

This is a nice way of crossing the Andes between Argentina and Chile. After climbing away from the desert near Las Flores, the road enters a scenic valley and stays in this for most of the way to the pass. The descent is equally picturesque as far as the village of Rivadavia in Chile. After this the scenery becomes dull, and there’s lots of traffic on the road to Vicuña.

Paso Agua Negra is the easiest of all the 4000m passes linking Argentina and Chile. The road surface is mostly paved, or good ripio (though road work is being done on both sides of the pass, so currently there are some short bad sections), the gradients are gentle, and the road is above 4000m for less than 35km – a far smaller distance than on all the high passes to the north.

A tunnel is proposed (at an altitude of about 4100m), so in the future the crossing will be much easier, particularly as it will all be paved. At present around 100 vehicles a day cross the pass, making it, along with Paso Jama, the busiest of the high Argentina-Chile routes.

Note that Paso Agua Negra is only open in summer – snows normally close the route between May and October. If you’re planning on crossing early or late in the season, check with the authorities beforehand that the road is still passable. This PDF (in Spanish) has loads of useful info:

Dist (km) Altitude (m) Description
0 1160 Jachal. Town with no internet. Paved.
45.2 1610 Straight. L goes to Rodeo.
63.5 1890 R to Agua Negra. L goes to Las Flores.
64.8 1920 Argentina Immigration. No water for the next 25km+.
99.6 2930 Gendarmeria Argentina.
105 3170 Ripio starts.
113.4 3630 Ojos de Agua, water. Regular sources after this.
128.6 4280 Turn off to tunnel (construction yet to begin).
144 4610 Last water this side of pass, in Quebrada de Sarmiento.
149.7 4770 Paso Agua Negra. Soon take the first of 3 ‘down’ shortcuts, which save many kms. If coming in the opposite direction you’ll want to stick to the ‘up’ tracks which are far less steep.
157.4 4070 First water and campsite on Chile side. Then lots of options.
220.5 2090 Chilean Immigration. Paving starts.
262.1 1210 Huanta. First village. Basic shop.
290 860 Rivadavia. Road becomes busy.
307 630 Vicuña. Town with regular buses to La Serena.

Jachal – Vicuña Details
Distance (of which paved) 307km (191km)
Time taken 3 days
Amount climbed 4200m
Traffic About 100 cars a day cross the pass. Between Rivadavia and Vicuña is very busy.
Best time to cycle December – March. (The pass is normally open November – May.)
When we cycled February 2014
Difficulty 3
How much we had to push on this route Not at all.

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