One of the most famous canals in the world is the Panama Canal, which cuts through the Central American jungle at one of its narrowest points. Bikers have long been attracted to canal paths as a means of getting away from car-clogged roads on cross-country trips, and also because canal paths are virtually flat. Neither of these applies to the Panama Canal, as there is no path in the usual sense. However, the canal itself is only 48 miles long, and does have access to a number of features that make it a worthy ride for mountain bikers looking for a little jungle adventure.
No Tow Path
For security reasons, there is no roadway that runs directly alongside the Panama Canal, so do not expect a tow path like those running alongside many North American and European Canals dating to before the 20th Century. This means that a biker will be sharing the road with cars and trucks, and will not have an easy, flat journey. However, there are roads that follow a roughly parallel route, and allow a biker to keep fairly close to the canal for part of the journey.
The canal route starts in Balboa, near Panama City, and follows back roads near the Old Canal Zone until coming out on the national road 145D. From here it veers far from the canal towards Aguas Buenas and the Madden Dam. A biker should not go to Gamboa if they are going along the Canal and coast-to-coast, as Gamboa is a dead-end. This long way around is the shortest path around Lake Gatun. Once past Madden Dam, the route follows the road and veers back towards the lake and the canal, eventually arriving at Colon on the other side.
Soberania National Park
A bike trip down and around the Panama Canal cuts very close to Soberania National Park. Covering about 85 square miles, the area is popular with bird watchers and is also home to several species of monkey, as well as the green iguana. As opposed to veering away from Gamboa, a biker should instead follow the road towards it. This will lead to the access road from the park. There are several companies offering mountain bike tours of the park for between $80 and $100, including lunch and a bike rental. However, strictly speaking this is not necessary.
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Article Written By Edwin Thomas
Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.