Route Summary

This ride was a complete surprise for us and one we won’t forget in a hurry! From Hanoi, we took a bus to Cao Bang as we wanted to visit the fourth widest waterfall in the world – Ban Gioc (pronounced Ban Zoc).

After the waterfall, we headed west, en route to the Ha Giang Loop. However, instead of following the highway, we took a smaller local road which hugged the Chinese border through spectacular valleys, mesmerising rice paddies, burnt orange cornfields and some of the most jaw dropping scenery we saw right across Vietnam!

Don’t tell the Ha Giang Loop, but we actually preferred these two days. So, whether you’re coming from the loop or heading towards it, DON’T miss this ride.

Quick Information

Distance & Elevation

  • Only 105km, but it’s gorgeous & hilly!
  • 2,370 meters of climbing
  • 2,360 meters of descending
  • We averaged 52km per day

Time Recommended

  • 2-3 days depending on riding style
  • 1 day if you’re going fast & light
  • We took 2 days, but would have liked to spend 3 days and stop over in the Xuan Trung Valley – ah hindsight!
  • We suggest taking it slow and really enjoying the scenery, people & energy.

Scenery

  • Karst mountains
  • Limestone valleys
  • Rice paddies
  • Corn fields
  • Ethic villages
  • Mountain passes
  • Switchbacks that’ll make you smile like a mad person
  • The most incredible valleys
  • Just ride it – trust us!

Road Considerations

  • Paved for the majority
  • Some sections can get quite muddy
  • One section of switchbacks (heading from Can Yen) was really tough due to very loose gravel and sharp as shit rocks (be careful of pinch flats here)

Important Considerations

  • Although it’s only 105km, it’s a pretty challenging ride. We’d suggest stoking up on water and some snacks. Those back to back switchbacks will take it out of you!

Route

Accidental heaven

We stumbled across this route by complete accident, but ever since we rode it, we’ve been telling anyone that’ll listen to us about it. We went to Cao Bang to see Ban Gioc Waterfall, but this ride was a showstopper & had to feature in our top routes!

Mymaps Link

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Komoot Link

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Our thoughts & reflections

Highlights

The Xuan Truong Valley

This valley epitomizes northern Vietnam. All those hopes & wishes you have about what it *might* look like can be found here. 

Bold, jagged mountains frame a small village etched with bright green rice paddies and sun burnt corn fields. As if that wasn’t enough, can you guess the entrance and exit to this wonderland? A stunning, serpentine road whose sharp switchbacks carve into the mountainside with striking beauty. 

Please Note: This ride/section is pretty tough. We actually found it more challenging than most of the Ha Giang Loop. The switchbacks are steep, but it’s not a long section. 

We cycled it at the end of the day, after 5-6 hours of climbing already. Perhaps that’s why it felt harder, perhaps it’s just pretty hard? Either way, our advice would be to plan this section and try avoid doing it after a solid day. 

Scenery before Can Yen

Coming from Cao Bang, we passed through Thong Nong forest and some beautiful scenery before reaching Can Yen.

We were there during harvest season and so all the rice paddies glistened a golden, yellow colour while the corn fields glowed like the embers of a fire, spreading their sun-kissed oranges throughout the landscape.

Deo Me Pia

Deo Me Pia is the large switchback section we mentioned in the last highlight. We climbed it (due to our direction) and it was magnificent, although pretty challenging. It’s a 15 stage switchback that winds its way up and up. We saw motorcycles struggle with their 100cc and passenger, but little by little we made our way to the top!

At the very top, you can see the magnificent switchback below you and it’s a perfect spot to get a photo of either your partner or yourself cycling this massive, impressive mountain pass. 

Doughnuts to die for

After a long day cycling, we were ready for food. Bec’s hanger was raging and I knew the only thing that could calm this beast was… fried food! 

As we entered Bao Lac we cycled past a little street food stall and the smell slapped us in the face. We stopped and filled our bellies with warm sugared doughnuts and the most amazing fried sweet potato with sweet chilli dipping sauce. 

We’ve marked it on the map so you don’t miss out…

Lowlights

No lowlights, just joy!

What we did have though was our most challenging day cycling in the Xuan Truong valley (yes more than Ha Giang Loop). But we consider this a highlight and one of our favorite days. 

Things we'd do differently

Up your snack game!

Due to the route being pretty remote there were times when we ran out of cycling snacks and water. Bec gets a bit hangry without treats, so we learnt from this and up’d our snack game considerably! 

Additional thoughts

This too, shall pass

Just remember friend. Even when those switchbacks are kicking your butt, they’re only temporary and we promise you, the scenery that you’ll see on this route will be worth it… 

Gallery