The Mule Trail course extends from the Panamanian border in southern Costa Rica all the way to the Nicaraguan border, in the northern part of this small but rugged Central American country.
The Mule Trail course is a mix of mainly gravel roads, primitive dirt trails, one beach section and a few short connecting sections on pavement. A complete GPX file will be provided to all registered participants along with detailed cue sheets. However, for information and planning purposes, the course has been broken down into six individual sections based on their unique terrain, weather or land use purpose.
The first 70 kilometers will take you from the Panamanian border to the highest point of the entire course (Cerro Paraguas at 1,500 meters above sea level) then down to the Terraba river crossing, but before reaching the mighty river, you'll climb multiple ridges with steep climbs and high humidity as you loose overall elevation. On this stage, you'll climb around 2,500 meters yet you'll be finishing near sea level.
This is by far the toughest portion of the course and one of the main reasons for running the event south to north. Once on the other side of the Terraba river the climbing doesn't stop. It continues on for the next 100+ KMs until you reach the mountains in front of Dominical Beach, then it's a quick downhill to the ocean.
Beach and Palm Plantations
This third portion is also the start of the 450 course. The difficulty of the climbs after this point is a little more gentle, although not completely flat. It starts with a 15 KM ride on the beach before turning inland into the vast maze of oil palm plantations. There will be some climbing after crossing the Savegre river before dipping down to another sea of palms and flat roads
Welcome to the Jungle
This is the shortest portion, but a tough one. After leaving behind the palms, the course ventures into the thick jungles of the Carara National Forest. Wet, muddy and humid. This portion, though short, is one we recommend to be well rested and prepared. It's also not advisable to tackle this segment at night, due to the dense jungle.
Sugar Cane Plantations
After leaving behind the Carara jungle, the course reaches the town of Orotina, where the 280 KM course joins the race. After Orotina, the course drops down towards the coast using abandoned railroad tracks until it it reaches portions of the original colonial Mule Trail. From here the route continues northwest, among sugar cane, pineapple, watermelon and other tropical plantations that thrive in the heat and humidity. This is the hottest and longest section but also the fastest.
Land of Volcanoes
This is the final segment, however it will be a challenging one. A gradual climb will take you away from the sugar cane fields to the slopes of the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano. Once you climb towards the backside of one of the dormant craters, you'll cross into the northern sub-basin which drains towards Lake Nicaragua and eventually to the Caribbean Sea.
After a 10 KM downhill, you'll still have to make it across the Buenos Aires reserve, but after that it's just false flats and big rollers all the way to the Finish Line on the Nicaraguan border.