An in-depth guide to mountain biking in Jyrgalan, a gorgeous village in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan!
Jyrgalan is a small village, in the far East of Kyrgyzstan at the foothills of the Tian Shan mountains.
It was once a prosperous coal-mining village, however following the fall of the Soviet Union the mine closed and the local economy collapsed. Many people had to leave the area to find new work.
In 2016, six families from the village joined together to form a community-based tourism project called Destination Jyrgalan.
They believed that based on the area’s outstanding natural beauty, it had the potential to become a favorite destination for tourists looking for outdoor activities.
Tourism in the Jyrgalan Valley has steadily been growing since. While the village could never be described as busy, there is a small but steady flow of tourists arriving.
While much of the tourism focus is on hiking, horse-riding, and ski-touring, there has never been any doubt about the potential of Jyrgalan as a base for excellent mountain biking.
Whether you are a beginner looking for an easy route, or a more experienced rider looking for a serious adventure there is something for you here.
Best of all it’s still completely undiscovered, you will almost certainly have the trails to yourself, bar the odd horse or sheep!
Interested in visiting Kyrgyzstan? NOMADasaurus runs small group tours to this fascinating country – find more info here!
Table of Contents
When To Visit Jyrgalan
Mountain biking can be done as early as June and as late as September. However, July and August are the best months.
Getting To Jyrgalan
It is possible to arrange a private taxi to bring you directly from anywhere in Kyrgyzstan to Jyrgalan.
If coming by public transport you will first need to reach Karakol. From Karakol marshrutka (local minibus) number 331 leaves from Ak Tilek Bazaar at 8:30, 13:30 and 17:30. The journey to Jyrgalan takes about 2 hours, it is the very last stop.
Alternatively, it is possible to cycle from Karakol (62km 781m total elevation). The road is relatively quiet, navigation is very easy – there are even some signposts pointing the way.
Check out our complete guide to the best places to visit in Kyrgyzstan!
There is a range of accommodations in Jyrgalan, from hostels to more luxurious guest houses. The easiest way to check prices and availability, and make a reservation, is through the booking.com website.
There is no café or restaurant in the village. Meals can be provided through your accommodation. Your accommodation can also provide you with a lunchbox to take out with you.
There are a few small shops selling some basic food and snacks (bread, rice, chocolate bars, chips, ice creams etc.)
There is no ATM in Jyrgalan. Most places only take cash (Som is preferred, but Euro and USD may be accepted). Destination Jyrgalan can take card (Visa or Mastercard) for larger purchases.
So make sure you get cash out before you head to the village!
A Guide To Mountain Biking In Jyrgalan
Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are some more in-depth summaries of mountain biking routes around Jyrgalan. We’ll include info about the terrain, guides, and bike rentals. Plus we’ll list some of our favorite mountain biking routes and give a detailed description of each one!
The routes suggested in this article feature a variety of terrain from “road”, to single track, to completely off-road making your own track.
Be aware that “road” is very much relative to the Kyrgyzstan mountains, and more like mud/gravel trails – don’t expect to see tarmac. It is rare to see even 1 car on these routes, if you do experience “traffic” it will more likely be horses, cows, or sheep.
If you’re looking to hike as well, check out our guide to the Keskenkija Loop, also located in the Jyrgalan Valley!
It is possible to rent mountain bikes in Jyrgalan. The cost is 1500som per day. There is a limited supply so it’s best to book ahead to avoid disappointment.
The choice is limited to one model, so if you want something specific it might be worth hiring a bike in Karakol where there are more options. If you are planning to do a lot of mountain biking in Kyrgyzstan it may be worth considering bringing your own bike from home.
Some of the routes in this article suggest a Jeep pick-up/drop-off. You can organize this through Destination Jyrgalan, contact them for up-to-date prices ([email protected]).
It is envisioned that the routes in this article can be done without a guide. Navigation is fairly straight forward, and maps and GPS tracks are provided.
However, a guide can certainly add to your experience; taking away the stress of having to worry about navigation, finding you the best lines in places, and providing information about the local area.
There are a limited number of mountain biking guides, so best to book well in advance. Contact Destination Jyrgalan to make a reservation!
Read more about the Jyrgalan Valley and why it’s our favorite place in Kyrgyzstan!
Jyrgalan Mountain Biking Routes
New Mine Road
An easy route suitable for families and beginners.
- Distance: 7.4km
- Climbing: 187m
- Descent: 187m
- Technical difficulty: Easy
- Physical difficulty: Easy
- Map and GPS download: https://www.wikiloc.com/mountain-biking-trails/new-mine-road-jyrgalan-139646294
The route starts at the main entrance to the village at the Welcome to Jyrgalan sign. Cross the bridge heading out of the village, and immediately turn right and stay right at the fork. From there just follow the road all the way to the new coal mine.
Along the way you have nice views; starting with the old mine, and then of a nice green valley with lots of yurts and animals.
There are no steep or technically difficult sections, and the road is extremely quiet. The ride back to the village from the mine is almost entirely downhill, and very enjoyable.
Even for people without any cycling fitness you can expect the route to take less than 2 hours. If you would like to make this into a longer trip, you can cycle a little past the mine and then continue on foot to Kok Bel Waterfall.
Birch Grove Loop (with Tulpar Tash)
A fun and relatively easy Jyrgalan classic half-day ride, with a side trip to Tulpar Tash.
- Distance: 16km
- Climbing: 350m
- Descent: 350m
- Technical difficulty: Fairly easy, except for a short steep rocky section on the way to Tulpar Tash, where you may need to walk (if concerned you can skip the detour to Tulpar Tash).
- Physical difficulty: Easy
- Map with GPS download: https://www.wikiloc.com/mountain-biking-trails/birch-grove-loop-with-tulpar-tash-detour-jyrgalan-139883250
The route begins at the bridge over the Jyrgalan River at the South end of the village. Proceed over the bridge and follow the jeep track to the right, there are some nice panoramic views of the village from this section. The road eventually flattens out and turns left, before forking. The left track goes to Tulpar Tash, the right track is the Birch Grove Loop.
After the fork, the first section of the track to Tulpar Tash is steep and rocky. Don’t be surprised if you have to get off the bike and walk up this section, it’s by far the hardest part of this route.
After this, the trail begins to level off and you will reach a nice wide-open plateau with fantastic 360-degree views. Keep following the jeep tracks over rolling terrain up to the very large rock – Tulpar Tash.
Tulpar Tash (Horse Rock) is part of the Manas Legend. It is said that Manas rode his horse off the rock, jumping into battle and scaring away the invading Chinese. You can still see the horse footprints on the rock. It’s a nice place to rest for a few minutes and enjoy the views.
From Tulpar Tash descend the way you came up. When you get back to the fork this time take the other trail, this is the start of the Birch Grove Loop. Keep following the jeep trail through the Birch forests.
For the most part, it’s a nice easy flowing descent, with the occasional slightly steeper section and one small stream to cross (it’s very shallow and possible to ride through).
Eventually you will reach the road, where you take a sharp right turning back on yourself slightly (there is a sign here directing you towards Jyrgalan). Follow the road all the way back to the bridge on the North side of the village. If you still have the time and energy instead of going into the village you can join the New Mine Road trail here.
Temirlan Tash Loop
A tough but rewarding day getting well off the beaten path!
- Distance: 60km
- Climbing: 1070m
- Descent: 1070m
- Technical difficulty: Easy-Medium (A couple of little streams you may prefer to walk the bike over, and 2 short steep rocky sections on the way up to Kok Bel Pass. However, these make up <1% of the total route.)
- Physical difficulty: Hard
- Map with GPS download: https://www.wikiloc.com/mountain-biking-trails/termilan-tash-loop-jyrgalan-138910196
The route leaves Jyrgalan on the road towards Karakol. After some short gravel descents, turn right at the fork in the road, and continue until the right turn at the Jyrgalan Valley sign post. From here you begin climbing steadily before it eventually ramps up to the first pass of the day.
From the pass take the left fork descending down into the valley a little. The next 6km slowly climbs over rolling terrain surrounded by green hills full of yurts and animals. This Jailoo (high pasture area) is a particularly remote stretch, well off the beaten path. Don’t be surprised if the local Shepherds look a little surprised to see a foreigner on a bike!
After a slightly technical and bumpy descent, you will reach the road going to the border crossing with Kazakhstan. Turn right and follow this road until the right turn at the bottom of the Tyup Valley.
After around 1km you will reach a small bridge, after crossing there is a trail leaving the road to the left which takes you to Temirlan Tash (Temirlan Stones). If you don’t want to make this short detour you can still see them from the road.
The story behind these rocks is that Temirlan — the ruler of Samarkand during the medieval ages – asked his soldiers to each place a rock on the pasture before going into battle against the Chinese. When they returned each soldier removed one rock from the pile. The remaining rocks show the number of soldiers that died in the battle.
Continue heading South up Tyup Valley. It’s a beautiful wide-open green valley very, full of; animals, yurts, and old railway carriages that have been converted into accommodation for shepherds. You will reach a bridge crossing the river, which is a particularly nice photo spot.
Cross the bridge and go straight into the valley ahead. There is an obvious trail using an old road which is now mostly destroyed. This is where the last big climb up to Kok Bel Pass really begins.
The first section is particularly tricky due to its steepness and rocks. Keep climbing, at some points it’s actually easier to climb next to the trail in the grass, just try to pick the easiest line.
Eventually you will reach Kok Bel Pass which offers fantastic views all the way down to Jyrgalan Village. There are multiple possible descents. The easiest option is to use the jeep track the North Side of the valley. A more interesting route with a few slightly technical rocky descents can be seen here.
Chong Ashu Pass
An absolutely epic descent! From high in the mountains in the snow descend all the way down to a lush green valley. If only doing one mountain bike ride in Jyrgalan this is the one to do.
- Distance: 44km
- Climbing: 147m
- Descent: 2051m
- Technical difficulty: Easy-Medium
- Physical difficulty: Easy
- Map and GPS download: https://www.wikiloc.com/mountain-biking-trails/north-descent-from-chong-ashu-pass-3800m-139564142
From Jyrgalan a jeep takes you and the bikes up to Chong Ashu Pass at 3800m. From here you have nice views of the Tian Shan mountains.
The route begins directly from the pass. It is not unusual to still have 7ft+ snowbanks on the side of the road here at the start of summer. The descent follows an obvious road, there are no navigation skills required.
Simply enjoy the first 18km descent, dropping down from snow-capped peaks all the way to the lush green Turgon Ak Su valley. For most, this will be around 30mins of barely (if at all) having to touch the pedals, with non-stop great views.
Once in the valley, the terrain is flatter with a few rolling hills, but always trending downwards. Take your time enjoying the beautiful wide valley full of yurts, horses, and a roaring turquoise river. There are many nice viewpoints perfect to stop for lunch.
You will eventually reach another nice long descent down to the bridge crossing the Turgon Ak Su River. After the bridge, there is a short climb, before a final last descent on nice smooth roads down to Ak Bulak Village, where the jeep will be waiting to take you back to Jyrgalan.
If you still have energy the jeep can drop you off at the turn point for the Birch Grove Loop, where you can ride back to Jyrgalan via Tulpar Tash and a nice panorama of the village.
(It is possible to do this route without jeep support, cycling from Jyrgalan to the pass and back. However, it is an extremely tough physical challenge (129km with 2500m elevation gain). Even for a fit cyclist that is acclimatized to the altitude expect the round trip to take 8+ hours.)