Mountain Biking Patagonia

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John Elk III / Alamy

The erratic singletrack in the Magellan region of Patagonia was originally carved into the landscape by sheep. Paths zigzag haphazardly across rolling ranch land, cutting schizophrenic lines through a seemingly infinite valley of golden-green grass. One path weaves between prickly shrubs that locals call “mother-in-law cushions,” veering sharply across a shallow river, and then back again into a herd of wild horses, who proceeded to run like hell.

“Sheep go where they go,” our guide Jose explained.

This is Christopher Purcell’s backyard, a Chilean native whose family owns several resorts in the country, including Tierra Patagonia, which sits next door to Torres del Paine National Park, a 370,000-acre UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Purcell went to school in Denver, Colorado, where he learned to mountain bike so he bought a fleet of Specialized hard tails when his hotel opened. But Purcell still had only so much to offer by way of routes so he hired a former pro mountain bike racer to scout lines and secured permission from the Torres del Paine rangers to wheel through the glacial glory.

The best ride is a point-to-point 30 minutes from the resort called Hunter’s Trail. It’s scenic, but demands a rider’s full attention, with a substantial climb in full view of the Cordillera del Paine – the park’s landmark 9,500-foot granite towers. At the apex are rocky outcroppings covered with cave paintings done by the Aonikenk, native Indians that occupied the area some 6,000 years ago. The downhill segment was punctuated by meadows full of guanacos, llama-like beasts that stopped grazing and stared as we pedaled past – our only audience in a full day of riding.

More information: Tierra Patagonia‘s Rates start at $600 per night and are all-inclusive.

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