La Paz to Chacaltaya

La Paz – Chacaltaya Ski Station – La Paz

An amazing day of cycling from La Paz up to the old ski station at Chacaltaya. At 5,260m this may be the highest place a standard car can reach in the Americas. The views from the ski station are stunning – Huayna Potosi, Mururata and Illimani in the Cordillera Real, La Paz and El Alto to the south, and if you look hard enough a tiny bit of Lake Titicaca can be seen to the west. If you still have the energy when you make it to the ski station you can climb up on a path the 100m or so to the top of Cerro Chacaltaya. This is a long day trip on unloaded bikes, even for the acclimatized.

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Total dist. Stage dist. Description
0km La Paz, Plaza Murillo (3,700m).
12.4km Go through streets of La Paz to the autopista. Climb to toll booth at top of autopista. Loads of traffic, but a good 3m-wide hard shoulder to cycle in.
12.4km Toll booth at top of autopista (4,090m – GPS01).
0.3km Continue on main road to junction.
12.7km Turn R at junction onto main 3-lane highway to Lago Titicaca.
1.3km Continue on 3-lane highway to first major turn-off to the R.
14km Junction to Zongo/Chacaltaya ski station (GPS02). Turn R, heading for Huayna Potosi in the distance. Ask for Zongo or the ski station if you need to ask a local for directions.
6km From junction with 3-lane highway continue heading straight for Huayna Potosi. Go along street filled with market stalls (when we were there), and straight over at 2 roundabouts. 3.5km (17.5km total) from the junction at GPS02 the ripio begins (GPS03). After a further 2.5km arrive at a signposted junction.
20.0km Signposted junction (GPS04). Go straight on to Zongo.
7.9km Climb to another junction.
27.9km Junction (4,600m – GPS05). Go R and climb to Chacaltaya (L descends and goes to Zongo).
10.0km Road improves and climbs gently for 4.7kms to first zigzag. Then climb gets steeper as you pedal 5.3kms up zigzags to the ski station.
37.9km Chacaltaya ski station (5,260m – GPS06). Great views of El Alto and the Cordillera Real.
37.9km Descend to La Paz by the same route. To join the autopista going in the direction of La Paz you need to cross the bridge over the autopista and loop round.
75.8km La Paz.
Time taken – 1 day and amount
climbed 1,760m
3 hours: La Paz to Zongo/Chacaltaya jn (GPS05).
2 hours: Junction to Chacaltaya ski station.
3 hours: Chacaltaya ski station to La Paz.
Traffic Loads until you hit the ripio, then a few tourist vehicles per hour up to Chacaltaya.
When we cycled Early August 2010.
Difficulty 3
How much we had to push on this route Not at all

GPS Point Description Lat/Long/Altitude
GPS01 Top of autopista 16.5010 S, 68.1629 W, 4,090m.
GPS02 Junction to Zongo/Chacaltaya ski station 16.4995 S, 68.1747 W, 4,090m.
GPS03 Ripio begins 16.4707 S, 68.1681 W, 4,190m.
GPS04 Junction (go straight) 16.4349 S, 68.1615 W, 4,310m.
GPS05 Junction (R to Chacaltaya) 16.3965 S, 68.1731 W, 4,600m.
GPS06 Chacaltaya ski station 16.3539 S, 68.1318 W, 5,260m.

Nearby routes:        La Paz to Sajama                 South Yungas                 North Yungas

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