With a high-altitude atmosphere, steep descents, and highly dangerous tight curves, mountain biking in the north of Vietnam will turn you from a traveler to an adventurer. Even so, helloVietnam recommends you to avoid the rainy season, which ranges from June to October with high chances of earth slide and slippery roads.
Ma Pi Leng pass, Ha Giang
Ma Pi Leng pass (Source: Internet)
The king of climbs in the North and the hardest road in Vietnam, the legendary Ma Pi Leng pass is a real challenge even for hardcore cyclists. First built over 50 years ago by volunteers of 16 ethnic hill tribes in Ha Giang, a large number of lives have been lost in the making of Ma Pi Leng. There are steep drops along the entire route and several serpentine twists and turns along the mountainside. The way to the summit consists of a winding mountain drive with sharp, blind curves and hairpin switchbacks that will surely get your adrenaline pumping. Ma Pi Leng pass is set against seriously stunning backdrops that provide a commanding view over the whole region and carpets of wild bushes falling away in sheer drops to a hidden river below.
To get to Ma Pi Leng from Ha Noi, head to Lang Hoa Lac; turn right onto route 21until you reach Trung Hoa and Phong Chau Bridge. Next, take route 70 to Lao Cai and then Pho Rang, turn left onto route 279 to reach Ha Giang City. Next, head to Dong Van; continue for 10 km to Meo Vac to begin the climb.
Khau Pha Pass, Yen Bai
The view from Khau Pha Pass (Source: Internet)
Few climbs have such formidable reputation as Khau Pha. It is said to be one of the most dangerous roads in Vietnam and not for the faint-hearted. Biking on Khau Pha pass is fun yet fast-paced, as there a dozens of tight and blind curves along the way. To make it even more dangerous, everywhere around Khau Pha is shrouded in clouds. The surface is rough at first but gradually improves when it approaches Tu Le. Wait until the mist clears to unveil a gorgeous view of tiny houses framed in verdant patches of cascading rice terrace fading far into the distance.
From Ha Noi, head to Vinh Yen (Vinh Phuc Province), then pass Viet Tri City until you reach Doan Hung T-section, continue for 40 km to reach Yen Bai City. Then take route 32 passed Nghia Lo, continue on the road and you will reach Khau Pha entrance.
O Quy Ho Pass, Lao Cai
O Quy Ho Pass (Source: Internet)
If Ma Pi Leng Pass is the king of climbs in the North, O Quy Ho is its rightful queen, slightly less curved but no less ruthless. The road along the pass is very winding and there is thick mist rolling across the peak all year round. The pass is famous for causing several fatal road accidents and has therefore become very desirable to adrenaline junkies. Due to the height of Hoang Lien Son range, the weather on the two halves of the pass is strikingly different. In winter, while the freezing wind is sweeping through the Sapa half, on the other side, the weather in Tam Duong is still warm.
From Sapa, go passed Silver Waterfall and Hoang Lien Son National Park entrance for a few kilometers.
Pha Din Pass, Son La and Lai Chau
Pha Din pass (Source: Internet)
A true monster of climb located on the borders between Son La and Lai Chau. The terrain here is very rugged with cliffs on one side and abyss on the other. The slope of the pass ranges between 12% and 19%. The road zigzags along the mountainside with several hair-pin curves and re-entrant curves. Right on the summit of the pass you will be greeted by a spectacular view of the iconic tiny bungalows clustered in cascading rice terraces. Pha Din also boasts several twisting and blind curves.
From Ha Noi, take route 6 go and passed Son La to reach Pha Din.
Learn more about Northern Vietnam here: