Crossing the Codru Moma mountains by MTB

Our first more serious MTB tour in 2016 started in Moneasa and we planned to cross the lesser-known Codru Moma Mountains (part of the Apuseni Mountains). These mountains were going to be a surprise for us as well since we didn’t explore them too much until now. We hoped for nice surprises 🙂

Brief useful information:
Date: 23rd of July 2016
Route: Moneasa – Ursești – Șuștiu – Lunca – Băleni – Mierag – Tărcăița – Tinoasa Plateau – Moneasa
Distance: 66.5 km
Slope: +400 m/ – 400 m
Duration: 9.5 h (incl. 1h long break + smaller pauses for photos)
Difficulty: easy/medium (easy climbs on the valleys from Moneasa and Tărcăița towards the mountains, a steeper climb between Mierag and Tărcăița)
Water sources: in the villages
The best place to start this circuit is in the close vicinity of Hotel Moneasa. This is where the trail we are going on meets the trail we will come back on. You can see it in the first picture. We started by going to the right and cam back from the left 🙂

Soon after we hop on our bikes we leave Moneasa and the asphalt behind and continue through a nice valley following the signposting. 5.7 km from the start point we leave the signposting by taking the road to the left while the signposting continues to the right (image below). Both ways go up to the mountain ridge but we had business in the Northern part 🙂
Slowly but surely we gain altitude and we enjoy the gentle climb through the forest. We set a relaxed rhythm, perfect for having a conversation about this surprisingly beautiful valley which takes from Moneasa up to the mountain top.

Exactly 10 km after we started we reach the top of our first climb at over 700 m altitude (image above). From here on we are left with 12 km of gently going down the mountain 🙂 The forest road gets wider and wider as we approach Șuștiu, the first village we encounter after Moneasa. We even get asphalt from now on 🙂
After Ursești we get to Șuștiu and this is the place where you need to watch out navigation – wise. We wanted to avoid the busy DN 76/ E 79 highway and the alternative was to go through the villages which link Șuștiu to Lazuri de Beiuș.

So, in Șuștiu, you need to take a sudden left before getting to a bridge over a river. Just in case you should ask a local about the shortcut to Lunca village. This shortcut is a 2.5 km long agricultural road which can be pretty bumpy. After you reach Lunca you’ll get asphalt once again and you must follow the signs towards Beiuș which will lead you through the following villages: LuncaHotărelGhighșeniCucuieniCusuiușLazuri de Beiuș and Băleni.
We took a longer break in Băleni since this is a place where I have a few relatives and it so happened than it was half way up our circuit 😀 It was a good stop since we managed to recharge our batteries with food and drinks. After this hour long break we were ready to continue with the second half of our tour.

The road leading up to Băleni crosses many villages and is very picturesque. It’s very nice as well because there is almost no traffic here during the weekends and the hills we are crossing are beautiful.
From Băleni we had to reach Tărcăița and we had two options: through Mierag over the hill (shorter) or through Tărcaia (7 km longer). We chose going over the hill through Mierag which was a bad choise. We ended up doing push bike for a half an hour. At least we got to rest on a meadow with a nice panorama 🙂

After we reached the top of the hill we had to cross a steep down hill section which is not meant for our XC MTBs. So if you want to do this route choose the longer route through Tărcaia which is pretty flat and there is asphalt. Overall we lost an hour going on this route.
Soon after we leave Tărcăița things start to get very interesting. We enter a valley and from this point on, for a few kilometres, we’ll cross the most spectacular part of our tour 🙂 We follow the creek for a long period of time as well.

At first the valley is wide enough to host beautiful and green meadows which could be perfect for a picnic in nature. Then the valley narrows and we are surrounded by a beautiful forest which forms a perfect colour set together with the dirt road and dead leaves. It’s simply perfect and beautiful! 🙂 More images below.
We had so much fun on this valley and we enjoyed it so much that it’s hard to describe the feeling. It’s simply a place where you can absorb nature and where you can feel the bond that we, humans, still have with nature. It’s really nice here and I urge you to come and explore this valley for yourself.

The climb on this valley is gentle, very similar to the valley we went up on starting from Moneasa. In total you will climb for about 12 km. The only steeper climb is in the last kilometre and a half, just before you reach the top of the climb at 850 m altitude.
After the last bit of steep climb, you will have a fast descent, only 2.5 km long, that will lead you to the Tinoasa Karst Plateau above Moneasa 😀 Here on this plateau we also did a longer break in order to rest and admire the last sunshine of the day.

This plateau is very special to me. It’s a place where you can come to think, to meditate, to discover yourself or simply admire the beauty and calmness of nature. A hike here is very easy and you won’t regret spending the time to get here 🙂

After a photo session at the panorama point of this plateau we continued our descent to Moneasa which from here is only 5.5 km away. We did this distance in 11 minutes, averaging 28 km/h and a max. of 45 km/h! 😀

Our route on the map:

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