Copiapo to Maricunga (for Paso San Francisco)

Copiapo – Salar de Maricunga

Thanks to Steve Fabes for contributing the information and photos on this page. His account of cycling from Copiapo to Fiambala, a small part of a much larger quest to cycle the length of 6 continents, can be found at his Cycling The 6 blog.

This page provides route information from Copiapo to the Salar de Maricunga, the Chilean immigration post for those heading to Argentina over Paso San Francisco. 40km after the immigration post the road joins the Fiambala to Villa Union route. For those cycling from Copiapo to Fiambala over Paso San Franscisco the full route is covered by these two pages.

Between Copiapo and Fiambala there are no places you can rely on finding supplies, so bring all you need with you. A lot of work is being carried out by teams paving the road from Copiapo to Paso San Francisco, so surface conditions are subject to change. At the time of cycling the surface was a mixture of slightly bumpy tarmac (the majority) and good, graded unpaved until Chilean immigration and unless otherwise stated. Altitudes in the route description table are taken from a barometric altimeter.

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Total dist. Stage dist. Description
0km Copiapo (500m). Large city.
25km 8km along main road towards Tierra Amarilla then turn left. Another 17km to the junction for Paso San Francisco. Lots of mine vehicles.
25km Junction (750m) – turn right towards Paso San Francisco.
35km Slow ascent.
60km Ruins of Puquois (1,350m). No water.
35km 18 km after the ruins you come to the junction for La Puerta and Laguna Santa Rosa on the right. Continue straight on. A few hundred metres after this junction are a few houses. Water available, plus possible to buy bread and perhaps basic supplies. 23km after the ruins you climb more steeply for 5km (from 1,825m to 2,150m). Towards the top of this climb is a small clear stream.
95km Junction to La Cortadera (2,330m). Continue straight on.
37km Steeper climb for 3km. 5km after the junction are a few houses where you can get water. 1km after the houses the road runs by fields which would be suitable for wild camping.
132km Mine and campamento (3,260m). Water.
26.5km In 2km reach the junction to Mantos de Oro. Turn right to Paso San Francisco (signposted). Much less traffic from now on. 15km after the junction the climb gets steeper and there are a series of switchbacks. 22km after the junction the main road swings to the right, another road comes off to the left and then splits into two. All these roads eventually meet up again but the road to the left is a slightly shorter and much steeper option.
158.5km High point (4,310m).
20.5km Descend to the picturesque Salar de Maricunga. Some washboard and loose stones.
179km Chilean immigration at Salar de Maricunga (3,800m). Water. May be possible to spend the night.
~39.5km Smooth tarmac for 21km (work in progress). No significant shift in altitude for 29.5km, then steeper climb for 5km, from 4,075m to 4,325m. Lots of road workers. Surface often bad as road under construction. 33.5km after immigration there is a road that branches off to the right and descends to the river, perhaps a good spot to camp, otherwise continue past this junction. Climb ends (at 4,325m) 34.5km after immigration. From here it is approximately 5km to junction GPS02 where you join the Fiambala to Villa Union route.
~218.5km Junction GPS02 in the Fiambala to Villa Union route description. From this junction it is 71km to Paso San Francisco; and 275km to Fiambala. See Fiambala to Villa Union for route description.
Time taken – 3 days and total climbed – 4,360m 2 ½ days: Copiapo – Chilean Immigration (3,810m climb).
½ day: Chilean Immigration to junction GPS02 (550m climb).
(1 day: Junction GPS02 to Paso San Francisco.
1 ½ days: Paso San Francisco to Fiambala.)
Date cycled Late February 2012.
Difficulty 3
Pushing required None

View Copiapo to Maricunga in a larger map
Nearby routes:        Pasos San Francisco and Pircas Negras

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