Just before the Covid-19 pandemic, I got the chance to visit Rancho Cacachilas, a new and expanding adventure ranch located in Mexico’s Baja peninsula. One of the ranch’s main attractions is their guided cross country mountain biking, but what’s equally impressive is their dedication to creating an eco-friendly, sustainable operation.
Rancho Cacachilas (pronounced ka-ka-chee-las) began their tourism operations about four years ago, but they have already built over 60 km’s of trails, which were all constructed following IMBA standards. The ranch is open from October to May, making it an ideal cold weather escape for anyone who’s battling through winter at that time. Their network of trails lining the surrounding mountains is bound to impress, but the crew’s hospitality, the authentic Mexican food and glamping-style accommodations impart a cultural experience that makes a visit here much more memorable than just going somewhere warm to shred.
Editor’s Note: As the Covid-19 pandemic takes its toll throughout the world, the ability to travel to new riding destinations was one of the first luxuries that we had to concede. But our hope is that this is something short lived. Not just for our ability to ride, but for the health and safety of our readers and their families and friends around the globe. When we do finally get the “All Clear” to travel, destinations that rely on tourism dollars to survive will be in dire need of new patrons to stay afloat, and you’ll likely see quite a few deals to entice people to explore the world once again. Until then, we hope stories like these will help feed your hunger for adventure util you’re able to get out there on your own!
Rancho Cacachilas location and facilities:
Rancho Cacachilas is located 30 minutes South of La Paz by car. The El Chivato base camp is nestled on a hillside overlooking La Ventana. Those flying into Los Cabos International airport must take a bus or private car from San José Del Cabo to La Paz (about two hours). All multi-day tours include shuttle transportation from La Paz to the ranch. For single day tours guests must get themselves to Rancho Cacachilas’ The Mountain and Bike Hub bike shop in El Sargento.
The El Chivato camp has one main building which serves as the daily meetup/hangout spot, the kitchen, and the dining area. Each night, our crew gathered around the nearby fire pit to warm up and wind down. Internet access is available in the building, although it’s not always fast; it took more than a day for an email I sent to get through Gmail’s server, but Facebook and text messages went through just fine.
My group stayed in Rancho Cacachilas’ glamping tents, which was a cool experience. Each tent houses two guests, and is outfitted with two cots and a few tables inside, plus a table and chairs out front. It gets pretty cool when the sun goes down, but the thick blankets on the beds kept me warm. There is one building with four indoor rooms available for those who aren’t into the tent idea.
Each tent gets its own composting toilet and outdoor sink. As for showers, here’s where you’ll learn a traditional way of life: With a gravity-fed water supply, bucket showers are the only option here – You fill a large bucket with warm water, and use a smaller pail to dump it over yourself. The ranch has one cluster of shower booths, plus several sinks and mirrors for grooming. Soap is provided in the booths, but bring your own shampoo and anything else you may require.
There is a small pool at the main building, but since it’s not heated you’ll probably only jump in if the weather is quite hot. No-one on my early March trip went for a swim, but we enjoyed the fire pit every night!
If you have any apprehensions about going to Mexico for safety reasons, you’ll be glad to hear Rancho Cacachilas is situated way out in the countryside, on their own 14,000 acre property with gated entrances. This was my first visit to Mexico, and I felt totally safe at the ranch. It’s also very reassuring to know the ranch’s water supply comes directly from natural springs, and all the water on-site is filtered. No one on my trip got sick from any of the food or water.
Rancho Cacachilas’ network of trails winds around the Sierra de las Cacachilas mountains in a very XC-manner, with plenty of climbs and descents and a low level of technicality. The trails we rode were primarily multi-directional trails made with gravel, packed earth and some armoured rock sections.
Our group was riding 100mm travel XC bikes with 120mm forks, but some of the guides were on hardtails. This is kneepad-optional terrain, where the ride is more about exploring the mountains than picking a survivable line through root gardens or rock beds. The tight switchback corners were usually a bit loose, so you can’t rip around them like you would a nice tacky berm… but since you’re completely surrounded by cacti, it’s a good thing that the trails aren’t constantly threatening to throw you into the greenery!
The crew at Rancho Cacachilas plans to continue expanding upon their trail network. Future developments will include one longer trail that explores the high alpine (to be called the Sky Trail or Skyline Trail) and some rockier, more technical downhill-only trails. Crowding won’t be a problem – the only people riding this private ranch are the guests and crew! There’s also a pumptrack to warm up on next to the ranch’s bike shop.
The Guides and the Bikes:
Rancho Cacachilas’ guides are mostly locals who know the trails well and clearly love their jobs! One of our guides was an up-and-coming cross country racer named Joél (pronounced Ho-ell) Ramirez. Ramirez has an inspiring story; He’s a local who comes from a humble upbringing, but now enjoys support from Rancho Cacachilas, Specialized and SRAM.
After winning an XC race on a 24” wheeled hardtail, somebody tipped off legendary trainer Warren Gibson that this kid was looking fast. Now 20 years old, Ramirez lives and trains with Gibson full-time, and is pushing hard to become Mexico’s first male rider to compete at global XC races. Ramirez got up each morning for sunrise photo shoots, casually rode every group ride all week, and I don’t think he ever broke a sweat!
All of Rancho Cacachilas’ guides speak English, and carry radios to keep in touch with home base. Most of them also work as mechanics at The Mountain and Bike Hub, and they carry essential repair items like multi tools, pumps, chain links, tubes, sealant, etc. on every ride. Senior guides also have Wilderness First Responder first aid training.
Should you need repairs or replacement parts, Rancho Cacachilas’ The Mountain and Bike Hub is located just outside the ranch in El Sargento. If you plan to rent a bike, the shop offers Giant Stance 1’s with 120mm travel and 27.5” wheels.
Beyond the riding, Rancho Cacachilas’ efforts to provide a sustainable, eco-friendly experience are thoughtful and impressive. The ranch is totally off-grid, with solar panels providing all their electricity (which never ran out on us despite mostly overcast weather). The composting toilets use no water and help enrich the soil, the bucket showers minimize water and electricity usage, and all grey water is collected and used to help feed the ranch’s natural vegetation.
Most of the food served is grown and prepared on-site, and there’s a creamery on the ranch that produces several different kinds of goat cheese and goat milk (plus their own honey). Rancho Cacachilas also has chickens, grows its own seed garden, they’ve employed vermiculture composting, and they’re working to retain as much usable soil as possible so they can re-green the landscape. We saw tons of different crops on the property including carrots, beets, salad greens, radishes, papayas, passion fruit, tomatoes, herbs, and much more.
After my first visit to Rancho Cacachilas, I’d wholeheartedly recommend checking this place out to any mountain biker. The trails are well built and fun to ride, and they afford excellent views of the cacti covered mountains and the Sea of Cortez. For many of us it’s a great place to get some riding in when it’s cold and snowy at home, and the ranch is already drawing the attention of certain pro riders and teams for training purposes.
Beyond the riding, the eco-friendly practices Rancho Cacachilas is following are intelligent, efficient, and inspirational. All the food was delicious and the staff were friendly and just as stoked to ride as the guests. Gracias, Rancho Cacachilas!