By Ambassador Delia Massey
Photos by Kinsey Smith and Delia Massey

Usually bikepacking is challenging enough by itself, but why not throw in some bonus singletrack riding on the “rest days”? My fiancé and I recently completed the Cape Loop section of the Baja Divide, which was our longest bikepacking trip ever at 13 days and 320 miles. While I was planning our trip, I learned that we would pass through a couple of towns with developed singletrack systems that looked worth riding. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add in some fun shredding into our mostly doubletrack and ranch road adventure, so we added in 4 days of singletrack.
In order to make the trail riding as fun as possible, we offloaded most of our bikepacking gear at safe places like a coffee shop or a bike shop where we had formed a relationship with the owner. We planned our singletrack excursions based on Trailforks, other blog posts, and by asking locals. Below I share my insights and impressions of the singletrack we rode. I highly recommend trying to make time to hit some of these trails if you can!
Todos Santos

This was our first “rest” day, and it was a hot one. We had made it over the Sierra de la Laguna mountains for the first time (we crossed them a total of three times), and were grateful to be back in civilization. We met the very kind owner, Dave, of Over the Edge Baja bike shop. He directed us to camp at Los Mangos on the Pacific Ocean, and it was a beautiful spot with whales, dolphins, and jumping bat rays. Dave recommended we do the Sierra Madre loop northeast of town, which was a good XC ride with a mix of technical climbing and some flowy descents, with views out over the ocean. We learned not to take blind corners too fast, because you never know when there might be a cactus there (and there usually was!). We had a bit of a scare near the end of our ride, when I bombed through a sandy section, and all of a sudden heard Kinsey screaming behind me. I must have run over a rattlesnake and pissed it off, and Kinsey had to pick his legs up and hope it wouldn’t strike! We finished the ride without any snake bites, but I was much more cautious of looking ahead after that.

La Ventana

After two more long and very hot days crossing the Sierra de la Laguna mountains again, we were ready for a break. We took our only true rest day in La Ventana, and relaxed in the hot springs that form at the edge of the beach at Playa Aguas Calientes. There is supposed to be a great trail system in the hills above the beach, and I regret not getting to sample them, but my body was grateful I chose to rest. On our way out of town, we rode through the Cardon forest, which is full of fun, flowy green circle trails that weave in and out of the massive elephant cactus. This was the only singletrack we did with fully loaded bikes, and it was all quite rideable. We followed this singletrack out to an arroyo and headed south into San Juan de los Planes on sandy ranch roads to avoid riding on the highway.

Los Barriles

The town of Los Barriles was a strange experience. I’m not sure how else to describe it, but imagine Mad Max, except everyone is from South Dakota. This is a popular spot for American and Canadian snowbirds, and many of them use ATVs to get from their RVs into town, which was a stark contrast to the remoteness of the rest of the route. Everyone spoke great English, and we had some surprisingly good sushi at a restaurant in town–which was surprising, but a nice respite from bagged refried beans! Despite the odd vibe in town, the singletrack was top notch. The trail system here was probably the most developed of any of the other towns, and it was obvious that someone spent a lot of time building and maintaining it. We were excited to find cow grates that you could ride over, instead of having to get off your bike and open and close a gate. We enjoyed the technical rocky climbing and the flowy descents, and could have easily spent a few more days riding all of the trails. There were more rock features than the other trails we rode, and had more flow. Of course we had to hit the only double black trail, Longhorn, which had one tricky section with some exposure and a few rock moves, but overall wasn’t too challenging.

Cabo Pulmo

Cabo Pulmo was the absolute highlight of the trip. This national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is simply magical, with abundant wildlife, the only living coral reef on the west coast of North America, a sleepy little town, and gorgeous views. We spent our first night camped at Los Arbolitos, where you can rent snorkel gear and hit the best snorkel spots in town right off the beach. We swam with two sea turtles, one of whom was missing a flipper, and saw so many beautiful fish in the coral reef. After snorkeling we packed up to camp closer to town, and just happened to see an older guy on a nice e-bike headed out for a ride. Kinsey chased him down and we instantly hit it off and decided to ride the singletrack loop near town together. Our new friend François was from Vancouver Island but was living in Baja for the winter in an RV and riding as much of the MTB trails as he could.. The trail system in Cabo Pulmo is not on Trailforks, but you can get directions from the businesses in town, and they are well marked once you find them. The singletrack here was really fun and had amazing views of the Sea of Cortez, and I wished there was more of it! The riding here reminded me of the adventure rides we do at home in the North Cascades, and it was the best way to finish our trip. We spent the evening sharing travel stories with Francois over beers, and then set off for our final night in the mountains before returning to Cabo.

Here are the bike builds we used for the route. We were very happy with our setup, and were able to ride almost everything except for a few small sections with deep sand:
-Steel Kona Honzos
-27.5 x 2.8” tires (Maxxis Rekon with SilkShield, no issues with tire clearance on the frame)
-SRAM 12-speed drivetrain, with a 30t cog in the front and a 10-50t cassette,
-150mm RockShox Pike/Lyrik so we could really rip on the singletrack bonus rides,
-PNW Components Bachelor dropper posts, with the Wolftooth Valais to attach our seatbags.
Here’s our route on Ride With GPS (doesn’t include singletrack): 

Here’s a link to my Strava, which has all of the singletrack segments: