We were meeting friends for a Mountain Bike adventure in Morton National Park for the weekend so we drove down from Brisbane and along the way checked out 6 NSW and ACT MTB parks. Here’s what we discovered.
Awaba MTB park – Newcastle
We had spent the previous day in the car – driving down the New England Highway to Newcastle – driving….all day and arriving about 6ish. We stayed in a little Motel at Toronto that was close enough to the highway that we didn’t need to drive into Newcastle and near enough to Awaba for us to visit the next morning. Checked in and our friendly host mentioned – it’s going to rain tomorrow, lots and lots! This didn’t really fit with our plan and the BOM backed him up mentioning a heavy dump of the wet stuff will indeed wreck our plans. Nevermind, we went to bed with a little bit of hope we could ride before it rained. Woke up to overcast sky’s and no rain so plan A was enacted and bike gear was put on and we drove the 20mins to Awaba MTB park. We passed a couple of burnt out cars along the way and parked in the middle of nowhere with not another soul around us. Not raining, so locked the car and took off on some single track with a sign on it with an arrow pointing this way. This is always a good sign – firstly you’ve found the place and secondly this is the general direction of flow.
We had chosen Awaba to ride at rather then Glenrock which also appealed to us, as we had checked a website and seen Glenrock was closed due to recent rain fall and Awaba was open. We reasoned that Awaba must withstand a bit of rain better then Glenrock. Riding around we found the trails to be of top quality, nice and flowing and easy to negotiate. There seemed to be one trail you could just keep following, so no real decisions on which way to ride needed to be made. Occasionally a sign would appear when you crossed a fire trail that pointed you back in the direction of the car park. We were having a great time riding but unfortunately we had also started to get rained on – just a little bit at first and then a bit more but not enough to stop riding yet. Then we came to one of those car park signs and thought – should we go back to the car or keep riding? So far these signs had been pretty regular, so we thought we would just keep riding till the next sign then head back so on we rode. About 5 minutes later it really started to rain on us – lots (just like the motel guy said) and about 30 minutes later we saw another of those car park signs but first we had to negotiate a “once was single track – but now unused” trail….we gave up carrying our bikes over the trees in the way and kept riding on the real single track instead. Awaba was holding its own to the rain and was still easy to ride too. I did not so much enjoy the big dips though, particularly the one that had me almost crawling up the muddy slippery track dragging my bike behind me.
We eventually found a sign pointing to the car park and decided we were wet enough and the trails didn’t need us on them so we high tailed it back to the car which miraculously was still there. Absolutely soaked through and it was bucketing down by this stage, I did a quick look around to see if anyone else was about or CCTV camera’s and then did a full strip down and jumped in the car and got dressed. A towel would of been handy, but clean clothes will dry on you too. Heater on and we pointed the car towards Woollongong and endured end of time rain until we reached Sydney. Awaba was an adventure, and wont be forgotten in a hurry.
What we liked about Awaba was the rakes we found on the trails with signs saying – rake a bit of trail and leave the rake for the next person! Sweet. Also lots of well constructed bridges and flowing trails to ride on. Awaba is 12km long and is on Mount Faulk Rd South of Newcastle in the Awaba Forest.
Majura Pines MTB Park – Canberra
We told people we were off to Canberra to ride and everyone said…you must visit Majura Pines, it’s been rebuilt due to road works and the grand opening date was for the weekend after we left – 31/5/2015. We had a map of the place so we could find it and it seemed close to where the road from Sydney comes in, making for an easy first choice as we arrived after lunch on the first day. Turn left and it is on Majura Road, next to Majura Parkway which runs parallel. Here we had some difficulty as Majura Parkway is also new and is a highway and it wasn’t on Google maps and it wasn’t on the car Garmin either – garmin thought we were driving in no mans land. So we drove the length of Majura Parkway to the mega shopping village and where Majura Rd starts and drove back and found it. Easy.
The car park is located between Majura Rd and Majura Parkway and so is the kids track, we did a quick warm up lap of the kids track on the left before heading under the Highway to the main tracks. We received some intel in the car park from some other riders saying we should take the first left. Trails on the left had lots of dips and logs and even a wicked A line that had you jumping over an abyss. I took the B line – much safer and watched as John lined up to do the unseen A line….I soon yelled – NO and he agreed the B line was more his style. We rode as far as the fire trail on the left and opted out of doing the final hills on that side due to a lingering head cold. Went down a fun trail called the Love Shack (lots of woohoo moments) and continued on back to the center fire trail and crossed over to the trails on the right. Here the trails start slowly climbing you upwards. You can opt out of the big hill but we continued on “Mr Squiggle” and then up the “Batcave” to the top where there is a nice log to sit on and admire the views and catch ones breath. From here it was “all downhill” and with lots of high berms and flowing fun and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. “Bombora” was next with lots of big dipping fun and then through “Bogs and Logs” to the fire trail again. Time was moving on, so we took off back under the Parkway and completed the ride with a quick lap of the kiddies loop on the left and then to the car. Sweet ride and we enjoyed it so much that the next day we came back on our way home from doing 30km at Sparrow Hill to do another lap of the right side again. It was more fun and faster the second time too!
The trails were groomed to perfection and over the 12km we road we hardly sore a twig or even a pine leaf (if that’s what you call them) on the trail. Our favorite trails where Bombora and the Batcave – I wanted to get my cape out!
Sparrow Hill MTB Park – Kowen Forest
We visited Sparrow Hill for the first time last year and had so much fun we had to come back and do it all over again. The plan was for +30km of single track fun and Sparrow Hill didn’t disappoint. We met someone at Stromlo the next day who told us that the bloke who designed the track thought there was enough hard stuff in Canberra so he just made this track flowing and fun. I don’t know if that quote is correct or not but it certainly seemed that way to us. Firstly they have made it easy for you by taking all the track decisions away from you so you can just ride, ride, ride. The sign at the gate tells you what you are up for – either chose the short loop or the long loop and then multiple signs along the way tell you in plenty of time so you can just keep riding.
All tracks go up and down hills, so you’ll get a good work out, but you can still cover a lot of km’s easily. It is also a typical mountain bike park with the usual interesting names for trails like Lickety Split, Heavy Cow, Pigs Hollow and loads, loads more to wonder who names these trails as you enjoy the ride. “The Big Dipper” looked pretty self explanatory though and knowing my dislike of the fast descent of big dippy bits, we gave that little loop a miss and rode on, following the Long Loop signs all the way. One of the other bonuses of riding in a massive pine forest is all the very cute red toadstools you ride past, I had to stop myself from taking pictures of them all. We stopped a couple of times to sit in the sun on the fire trails and eat and soak up some warmth – it was 4 degrees when we started riding and didn’t really get much higher than that in the pine forest. We ended up riding just over 30km and only saw 2 other riders. It was a week day in Canberra so maybe that had something to do with it, but last time we came here it was Anzac Day in 2014 and although the car park was packed full of cars we also didn’t come across too many other riders. I guess that is one of the advantages of Sparrow Hill – with 40+ km of single track and everyone going the same way (although not compulsory) you shouldn’t come across too many other riders unless they pass you or you pass them.
We finally popped out of the forest again and went through the gate and under the highway and the last 4km’s of the Long Loop sign tempted us…..but we also saw the sign to the car park and decided to fix those hunger pains and head there instead. One day I’ll have to return and leave enough in the tank for that bit too.
Where is it….Off the King Highway (B52) heading out of Canberra towards Bateman Bay. Turn left onto Sparrow Hill Rd which is just after Charcoal Kiln Rd and drive down until you see a clearing multiple cars can park at on the right. Sparrow Hill has a loo too, you just have to ride up to it (it is near the highway and you pass by it on the way to single track heaven). Also if you lose your gear on the track it has a lost property bucket at the entrance, neat.
Stromlo Forest Park
This was our second time visiting Stromlo and we were excited to be here again, and who wouldn’t be – it is a Mountain Biking Playground. It has everything – scary wicked downhill tracks, heaps of well marked Blue, Green and even easy White runs and a “Playground” to hone your skills. All tracks are one way only so you’ll never have to step off the track to let someone get past you. When you arrive, Stromlo has a selection of information/map boards to look at to help you choose your ride.
We chose loop 3 today, having already done the green ride up loop 2 the first time we visited. Loop 2 takes you all the way to the top to the Observatory for a fantastic view over the ACT, today though involved more blue run climbs and I was enjoying the challenge more than last time we were here on my new bike. Lots of rocks and obstacles to conquer and also a moderate amount of huffing and puffing. We followed the number 3 loop and it was easy to follow, as soon as you pop out on one glorious trail a sign with the loop numbers on them points you to your next trail, easy. We were travelling along nicely until we suddenly found our next trail closed! This worked out well anyway as we were now on the top of the mountain and eager to ride some of the trails we enjoyed last time and weren’t on Loop 3. So we hightailed it up a firetrail that just got steeper and steeper until I decided I’d walk instead and ended up at the start of Skyline. This is an amazing trail – flowing and fast and fun and it finishes at the Bridge. The bridge is where the downhill track crosses the XC track and the view is amazing. It is also where the trail called the Luge starts and this is what I’d remembered the most about Stromlo and was I super excited to be here again and riding the Luge. High berms and more high berms and more berms….yes….this is what it is all about and why Stromlo is so great. We continued the fun following the green trails back down the mountain arriving back down at the info boards not sure if we were done riding yet? We’d been out for about 2 hours by now and covered 15km so stopped for a bite to eat and contemplated our next step.
To ride up the mountain again…..or ride loop 1 – The Beginners Loop! I don’t know how many riders have a crack at Loop 1 but to us it ended up being an unexpected delight. Firstly, we only really did one side of it – the one that goes towards the crit track and it is predominantly flat. It has info boards along the way giving you “how to MTB” tips when you come across a slightly tricky bit. Then we were just cruising along and I saw a kangaroo, so I stopped to check him out…..turns out there where about 20 of them just sitting there soaking up the rays and not caring about the crazies riding bikes at all. I never tire of seeing kangaroos, I think it is so neat you just cycle among them. The main reason we chose Loop 1 though was because it took us close to the Bush Fire Memorial and we wanted to check it out and get some sort of handle of what happened here in 2003. Stromlo Forest and also over 500 homes where burnt down and as a result Stromlo Forest Park was constructed. The memorial was done well and I recommend anyone enjoying the trails take a look and see what can be born out of such devastation. Back on Loop 1 we suddenly found ourselves at the “playground” so we had some fun riding the fun stuff and then back to the car again.
Stromlo is not just for Mountain Biking, apparently other activities can also be done. Like horse riding, skinny wheeled biking around the crit track and ditching the bike to use the cross country track too.
Taree MTB – Tinonee
Sometimes you get lucky – today was one of those times. We parked opposite the tip on The Bucketts Way just before 2pm, got us and our driving legs out of the car and got ready to ride. Found a sign with an arrow pointing to some single track and were about to take off when a car pulls up. It’s Dallas and this is his local track. His mates all bailed on him so he’s offered to take us on a tour of the park – sweet. What followed was 2 hours of action packed riding following Dallas around as he rode all the jumps, scary downhill bits and mud covered tree roots. Boy, did we get a lesson on riding from Dallas who has had his mountain bike for 6 months. “You just gotta ride it” was his motto. So Dallas took us up to some scary stuff where we had to pass the bikes down into a gully and grab onto trees to safely get down (Dallas rode this) and another track that had a roll over and then 2 mighty jumps and then another huge roll over….eeeek. . After that intro though we got shown some pretty sweet tracks that were easy to ride and a couple of hills too that where also easy to ride. He mainly kept us riding up on the higher tracks instead of the main track down the bottom as it was still muddy from last Fridays “end of time rain”, so we were happy we’d survived the black runs and had Dallas to show us around otherwise we’d of just done a ride in mud. After 2 hours of intense riding we made it back to the cars and were immediately getting sucked dry by all the mosquitos in NSW. Quickly covered up and then washed our bikes…..yes that’s right, the car park has a high pressure hose to clean your bike with!
Tinonee at Taree is for dry weather only, I wouldn’t go near it if it’s raining. There is kilometers of single tracks with hardly any marked so make sure you are lucky enough to find a local to show you around. Thanks Dallas, we loved it.
Bom Bom MTB Park at Gafton
One ride I was really looking forward to all week was at Bom Bom. We arranged to meet some locals we knew for a ride and it ended up being the best way to end a week of mountain bike adventures. We got to know some Grafton locals as the family regularly come to race in Southeast Queensland MTB events, so it was great for us to get a tour and not have worry about which track we should do next. They also arranged for two more members of the Bom Bom MTB club to come along as well, so with young race fit Henry up the front and 3 grown men chasing him there was no chance I was going to keep up. Mark volunteered to ride at the back with me and that’s how we managed to pump out 15km in an hour of ride time at Bom Bom. We were out there for about 2 hours so I’m I think a fair amount of chatting went on too. Bom Bom forest just south of Grafton is relatively flat with only a couple of inclines to conquer. All the trails are well maintained and ridden on and flow well. There are some good jumps and logs and A line type stuff it that’s your thing, but everything also has a B line around it making it fun for everyone wanting to have a go. Great berms too and a run where it is all just big dips and berms had me terrified but the boys are loving it.
There is over 20km of single track to ride and they are constantly making more trails and also have plans for a “MTB playground” too. To get here just head south out of Grafton and turn right up Lilypool road till you see a gate and drive in and park where the sign is. You won’t be disappointed.
Where is your favorite place to ride? What did we miss out on?