Durango to Zacatecas – yet more dirt…

I’ve now made it to the cobbled, higgledy, hilly city of Zacatecas. I’m planning to rest up for the next few days, and then push on to the coast. It’s been a fantastic ride here, almost all on dirt, and a perfect way to celebrate my birthday – a beguiling combination of mellow hills, empty backroads and scenic pueblecitos…

In Durango, we tracked down some excellent maps issued by the Secretaria de Transportes, which has opened up a whole new world of dirt and quiet backroads. In fact, this stretch between Durango and Zacatecas has been a real highlight, and a definite Mexican Hall of Fame contender. Here’s a few pictures…

Local route expert Miguelito guided out of Durango on dirt roads, and we only ended up on the main highway for a short stint.

Multi modal transport: car, bike and horse.


And scenic colonial towns, unlike concrete-clad Chihuahua - like Nombre de Dios.

Truly off the beaten track.


Early evening riding…


And sublime camping…

He's got the right idea. An afternoon snooze.


Not much but us and the mountains: the track out of Mesillas.


And corridors of prickly pear cacti. A real find - the cut through between Ermito de los Correos and La Ordena.

This cobbled climb came as something of a surprise out in the desert.

The dirt won't always be there... A new highway in the making.

The dirt won't always be there... A new highway is in the making from Vincente Guerrero.

Orange houses, orange groves.


Flat terrain!

And for once, a tailwind! Cruisy.


Splashes of colour from a pueblocito mural.

Feed the belly. The inner working of a corn tortilla-making machine, a cyclist's best friend.


Old pickups frequent these dirt roads, their tired suspension sagging into every pothole.


As do fat tyre cruisers. And dogs who take chase as we ride by.

The local store at Santa Rosa.

Crazy coloured churches...

We camped the night in a field, to the bemusement of the cows.

Take five. Soaking up the views.

Quiet dirt road + gorgeous late afternoon light = happy riders


Hitting the high plains around Nueva Australia…

Before the descent towards Zacatecas.

The fascinating, finger-like branches of a yucca. There was a colony of these across the hillside.

The impressive dome of the church at El Maguey.

Our first night in Zacatecas was spent at Victor's, a member of a reggae band, through Couchsurfing. Four dusty, tired cyclists squeezed into his tiny student flat, bikes stacked up against the drum kit.


Time to rest up... The priceless view from my 7 dollar hostal where I settled in for a few days.

The Need to Know Section

Distance:  370km, via backroads.

Navigation: Roughly speaking, Durango-Nombre de Dios-Vincente Guerrero-Suchil-Mesillas-San Franciso-Guadelupe Trujilo-Santa Rosa-La Ordena-Nueva Australia-El Maguey-Zacatecas (finishing with a climb!)

Road conditions: a mix of quite paved backroads, lots of dirt, some cobbles, cacti and dust! Just 17km of highway, which had a good shoulder. Some climbs, but mostly pretty easy going compared to what we’ve experienced before.

Map: Durango and Zacatecas state maps, issued by the Secretaria de Communicaciones y Transportes. These are a pain to get, as you have to go to their office in a state capital city, collect a slip of paper, take it to the Banamex bank to pay, and return with a receipt to collect your map! But well worth it. The maps are laminated, and cost just 40 pesos each.

Cheap digs and food: plenty of great camping opportunities, and lots of pueblocitos with basic stores.

16 thoughts on “Durango to Zacatecas – yet more dirt…

  1. Jim from Vernal

    Happy birthday! Thanks for letting me tag along on your amazing adventure. Your posts are the highlight to my day.

    1. otbiking Post author

      Jim – great to hear from you and so glad to hear you are following the journey! Have you guys been riding much recently? I still fondly remember the ice cream deliberation evening!

  2. Matt

    Finally been back on the road for a week, including some back dirt roads, which has been a great change from the highways. Have been using Google maps to find them, as I’ve got no other reliable local maps. Am about 2 days’ ride to Puebla.
    If you are stopping in Guadalajara, I’ll get you in touch with my couchsurfing host (can’t remember if you are on couchsurfing or not but it doesn’t matter).

  3. Mark Cunnington

    Hi Cass, I noticed you were riding a Thorn with Odur forks. I have an Odur too and am trying to figure out how to mount a rack to it, and the only way seems to be to use the axle. But in this case the flare at the bottom of the forks gets in the way of the lower rack mount, which requires the use of a blow torch and file to bend and sculpt the bar so it clears the fork. I am wondering how you did it?

  4. otbiking Post author

    That address would be cool, Matt. Will email you.
    Hey Mark – I’m just using a standard Old Man Mountain Sherpa, no issues fitting the rack at all. Lower mounting point is a long quick release. I saw Tubus are launching a new suspension fork specific rack too, so that could be worth look into.

  5. Evan

    Happy BIrthday Cass! Nicole and I love your posts…I never in the world thought I would actually follow a blog, but yours is quite a great lens. Thanks for all of it. Our daughter, Neve, is now 3+ months and keeping us in great spirits. Keep in touch, Evan

  6. otbiking Post author

    So nice to hear from you Evan, and congratulations to you both – I was just wondering how things were going the other day. Thanks for the message and glad you are enjoying the blog!

  7. Don

    Hi Cass,

    Happy Birthday from DownUnder (South Australia).

    Your posts and photos are the best – I continue to enjoy the very high standard of your writing.

    I can’t help but compare your journey with that of the great Aime Tschiffley, who you probably know rode from Buenos Aires to Washington DC on horseback in the 1920’s. (He published a book of the journey in 1934.)

    I’m not sure how far you are planning to travel, but keep going, it’s far too good to stop!


  8. bridget

    Now thats what i call a perfect birthday – fab riding, great food and company. Happy days! Specially love the dog, door and m’donna shot!

  9. Simon Giles

    Happy birthday…looking forward to catching up soon. Can’t wait to be regaled with the stories of derring-do. I have a couple of dogs here who would love you to fuss over them!

    Safe travels and catch you soon…S

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  11. Bryan Keith

    Are the state maps issued by the Secretaria de Communicaciones y Transportes different from the state maps issued by INEGI? I’m trying to figure out what the best maps are for Chihuahua. I have 8 1:250K maps from INEGI, but when I compare the roads on those with what I see on Google Earth, many of the fun-to-ride dirt roads aren’t there. I’m starting my trip in the city of Chihuahua. I can arrange to be there on a weekday if it’s worth it to pick up a map. I only have about two weeks of biking days. I want to do a lot of up and down on dirt roads.

    1. otbiking Post author

      The INEGI maps looked good when I checked them out, though not sure how up to date they are, and there was some confusion over some tracks marked as motorable in the Barrancas del Cobre that are apparently only for hiking. And, we would have needed way too many to cover our journey, and they’re not cheap either. For longer distances, the Transportes maps seem to be by far the best. No topography though, and the scale can be out.

      1. Bryan Keith

        OK. I’ll have to consider the Transportes maps. At 30 pesos/map I thought the INEGI 1:250K maps were rather cheap actually. You’re certainly right about needing a lot of them. I bought 8 for my short trip, but I’m sure I won’t use them all. Too bad so many tracks are missing.

        I’ll probably hunt down the Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Transportes en Chihuahua and pick up a couple maps. Did you stop there? The whole bank thing is a pain, but INEGI’s the same way. No credit cards.

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