Jalapa del Valle, on dirt and pavement

A 45km loop, with an especially fine view from up top... and the promise of tasty memelas from down below.

Jalapa del Valle, to the west of Oaxaca, makes a satisfying destination for the gravel-enthusiast. But it’s the view that precedes it – from the route’s highest point – that really makes the journey for me. From up top, Jalapa’s sizeable whitewash church catches the eye within a tapestry of rolling, fertile fields, a land speckled with thorny acacia trees that cast delicate shadows throughout the day.

Gazing across the valley into the folded foothills of the Sierra Sur reminds me how many more dirt roads there are to explore!

My ‘day ride’ setup. The Jones is seen here leant up against a Ficus tree. It’s loaded up with a poncho, food, my camera, spares, and plenty of H20.

I’ve now ridden a variation of this loop twice, having been first introduced to the area by Larry, when I contacted him through his fantastic resource, Oaxaca MTB.

And it’s this very view that drew me back! Not the rest of the ride is bad either, especially the big, sweeping, dirt road descent to Jalapa del Valle itself. Quiet, isolated, and well-watered by the Rio Jalapay, the village feels a world away from downtown Oaxaca, even if it’s just 25km away from Santa Domingo.

Like other gravel routes running west into the Etla Valley, this ride requires 8km of trafficked roads before tyres hit dusty dirt. Otherwise, it rarely touches tarmac, using a network of unpaved rural roads to stay largely vehicle-free. There’s one significant climb to contend with – yep, the one with the big view – and a couple of other noteworthy undulations. But all in all it’s a relatively mellow ride, unless you’re tackling it in the heat of the day.

Plant-wise, we didn’t spot much new to report on. But that’s ok, because despite a scorchio day, the light was especially clear and the clouds treated us an impressive display of billowing.

Two fine examples of memelas. At 10 pesos a pop, these quick and simple snacks are especially delicious thanks to fresh and homemade ingredients. The masa base is like a corn tortilla, but a bit thicker and often oblong in shape.

A quick round of roadside memelas – toasted masa topped with beans, salsa, and queso fresco – on the way back into the city kept hunger at bay. Did you know Oaxaca claims at least 20 kinds of chillis in common use?!

Can you tell I’m having fun?

Route and gpx below!

Number nerdery: 46km, 2hr 50 moving time, 16.1kph, 759m of climbing

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