Paso Pichachen


South of Santiago and north of the Carretera Austral, this route links the Panamerican in Chile to Ruta 40 in Argentina via a low-traffic dirt pass. Alternatively, anyone wanting to return immediately to Chile via a potential hike-and-bike pass could skip Ruta 40 and turn off from El Cholar south towards Copahue, dropping back into Chile in Araucania.

Leaving Los Angeles in Chile, look left and right along the paved road as you steadily climb past a commercial logging forest. The trees branching out in the main plaza in Antuco offer up a resting place in the central valley heat. A few kilometers later, the pavement ends as you approach the Parque Nacional Laguna de Laja. Enter the park, and the road ramps up, bringing you to a slightly sandy washboard road along la Laguna de Laja, with snow-capped peaks rising up in the distance. Roadside memorial plaques and flags bear witness to the Tragedy of Antuco, when in 2005 45 Chilean soldiers died in a sudden blizzard during training manoeuvers on Volcán Antuco. The Chilean immigration office waits at the end of the park, and seems to see little traffic of any kind.

45km of No Man’s Land lies between Chilean and Argentinean immigrations, cut through by Paso Pichachen. Nice camp opportunities abound in between, with huasos and guachos out to keep you company. The Chilean climbs tend to be steeper than in Argentina.

Water is readily available from Los Angeles to El Cholar. From El Cholar in Argentina, the options to continue are to head east to Ruta 40 near Chos Malal, or head south to Copahue and cross back into Chile via a hike-n-bike pass. Little water is available between El Cholar and Chos Malal.

This route goes from VIII Region de Biobio (Chile) to Neuquen (Argentina).

* Thanks to Samuel Hochheimer for riding and compiling the information about this route.

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Distance Elevation Description
0km 100m Los Angeles (GPS01). Large town with accommodation, shops, restaurants, ATM.
~25km >100m Starting ~25km out of Los Angeles towards Antuco, road is lined on both sides by pine forests, looked to be for commercial logging. Forest is fenced off by barbed wire, but there are enough breaks or places to duck under that it would be a nice option to camp instead of staying in Los Angeles. Forest continues a significant distance towards Antuco.
64km 550m Plaza Antuco (GPS02), Antuco. Accommodation, shops. Free municipal wifi in the plaza.
81km 844m Pavement ends (GPS03). Plenty of snack shops, etc reasonably spaced along the paved road to here.
87km 950m Park entrance (GPS04). These coordinates might be slightly off, but in the overall right place. Roadside stands selling empanadas & similar near the park entrance. Gate at entrance for cars, etc to pay, presumably it’s free for cyclists. Road ramps up after the entrance.
95km 1403m Houses/ranger station (GPS05). Might be some shops here, except for the ranger station everything looked closed or abandoned though. Fill up on water here if camping at GPS06. Road surface brings flashbacks to Bolivian sand/washboard from here to Chilean immigrations.
116km 1439m Chilean immigrations (GPS06). 30km rolling from here to the pass.
141km 2100m Paso Pichachen (GPS07). Steeper climb on the Chilean side than Argentinean side.
159km 1486m Argentinean immigrations (GPS08). Plenty of good camping opportunities between the 2 immigration offices.
209km 1200m El Cholar, municipal campground (GPS09). Shops, campground. Tourist info office on the east side of town. Camping A$50 for 1 person, 1 tent per night. There are nice spots to wild camp before El Cholar.
271km 900m Chos Malal (GPS10). Shops, accommodation, everything. Free wifi in municipal campground. The road between El Cholar and Chos Malal is dirt until meeting Ruta 40 a few km south of Chos Malal.
(209km + 102km) 2000m Alternative: Copahue. Fairly certain the entire road to Copahue is dirt.

Time taken – 2 days, ridden El Cholar to Los Angeles If riding from Los Angeles to Chos Malal: 3700m climbing.

If riding from Chos Malal to Los Angeles: 3000m climbing.

Distance (of which paved): 271km (86km)

Traffic Standard busy paved road from Los Angeles until the dirt road starts. Very little traffic from the park in Chile to El Cholar. Little traffic from El Cholar to the intersection of Ruta 40 if going to Chos Malal.
When cycled Early January 2015
Difficulty 3
How much we had to push on this route None.

GPS Point Description Lat/Long/Alt.
GPS01 Los Angeles. 37.45335 S, 72.34138 W, 100m.
GPS02 Plaza Antuco, Antuco. 37.32952 S, 71.679055 W, 550m.
GPS03 Pavement ends. 37.37288 S, 71.49342 W, 844m.
GPS04 Park entrance? Coordinates might be slightly off. 37.39819 S, 71.43692 W, 950m.
GPS05 Houses/ranger station. 37.38336 S, 71.37689 W, 1403m.
GPS06 Chilean immigration. 37.47716 S, 71.31722 W, 1439m.
GPS07 Paso Pichachen. 37.45385 S, 71.12405 W, 2100m.
GPS08 Argentinean immigration. 37.36826 S, 71.00863 W, 1486m.
GPS09 El Cholar, municipal campground. 37.44206 S, 70.64194 W, 1200m.
GPS10 Chos Malal 37.39614 S, 70.26995 W, 900m.


Coming soon…