Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail
Holiday time again and we were off to Victoria to explore. We’d visited Beechworth a year ago and loved what little bit we saw of the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail so this time wanted to ride it all. Ride it all and do it Bikepacking and camping along the way. I love this form of travelling…..something about it I find a little bit intrepid like. Everything you want, you have to carry, and your camping, so getting away from it all, relaxing and playing cards. All that, plus you get to use all the stuff in your camping cupboard that just itches to be used.
We struck gold by deciding to stay at Painter Island Caravan Park in Wangaratta the night before we set off. It’s right next door to Apex Park which is the start of the Rail Trail. Paul the owner is a friendly bloke and said yes before we’d even asked the question “Can we leave our car here?”
Day 1 Wangaratta to Beechworth
So, with great enthusiasm we set off for Beechworth at 8:30am. We saw a bridge at the end of the park, took an awesome selfie… and went over the bridge and then spent the next 30 minutes trying to find the start of the Rail Trail. I don’t want to go into it too much, but needless to say it involved a tour of some bike paths and back streets. John decided to take control of the map and we crossed the bridge again and followed the signs to the Rail Trail and low and behold……found this sign and hallelujah, the rail trail.
Well, that was a relief, I thought we’d be lost in Wangaratta forever. Instead our bikes were loaded up and finally heading in the right direction and there were smiles on our faces and wind in our hair. Let the holiday begin. The first 26 km is to Everton Station and is like any rail trail….relatively flat except for being slightly up hill all the way, so we coasted along quite nicely at about 20km/hour.
We also saw the first bit of wild life on the trail…..a snake!!! All of sudden it was right in front of my wheel and I screamed out and it quickly got such a fright it jumped up and slithered away. Phew. John said, “why didn’t you tell me there was a snake?” I said, code for snake was some form of shrieking sound for future knowledge!
Before long we arrived at Everton Station and I was ready for a stint in a cute little café and some poking around some country shops. However…. having a look around and then rechecking the map I soon worked out that Everton Town is 5kms away from the station!!!!! I was keen for that snack so we took off on White Post Road towards the big smoke of Everton. 5km, but it took no time at all as it was all downhill. Everton town is no big smoke. It had a campground, obligatory pub and then a post office, come general store, come coffee shop. Basic, but sold coffee and hot chocolates so we ordered one of each and relaxed in the shade. Today was hot, so it was nice to stop. We also met an older couple on a self guided rail trail tour. They had a detailed print out of where to ride, and where all the goodies where to call into along the way. Their stuff was getting sent on each day, and while in front of us we had the climb up to Beechworth, they’d done that yesterday the other way. “Hardly peddled once” she said. I said, “I’ll look forward to that tomorrow”! They took off happily and we wished them well.
John took hold of the map again and formulated a plan so we didn’t have to ride back up the road we’d just ridden down. Diffey road intersected the rail trail a bit further up and although it was still up hill it wasn’t as steep and it also meant we rode past the most awesome letter box.
Not far from here we joined the rail trail again and began the climb up to Beechworth. You climb about 300 meters over 14 km, so although not that steep, we both felt the difference with the bikes loaded up so took a break at a covered rest stop before carrying on up the trail. Riding along the rail trail was a bit of a slog up with a never ending trail in front of you until we arrived at the start of the Flame Trees MTB park. It’s not really a MTB park, but a network of single track trails on either side of the Rail Trail for you to enjoy. So much more fun on the single track and all of a sudden we forgot we where slowly climbing up. Instead we were concentrating on riding single track with a fully loaded bike. Down, up and around and over obstacles and pinchy climbs that I had no hope of getting up. The trails are rated “Green” and are mostly easily ridden with the bikes loaded up and we where loving it.
I think it goes along for about 5km until Baarmutha Station and the final push up to Beechworth which after the fun of Flame trees didn’t seem too bad now and also you arrive in Beechworth after a nice little downhill. After officially (finally) setting off at 9:30 in Wangaratta, we arrived in Beechworth at about 2pm.
Really hungry by now, so headed straight to the Bridge Road Brewers Pizza joint and ate up big, before heading out to the very lovely Lake Sambell Caravan Park. We have stayed here before and loved it and once again it didn’t disappoint. We spent the afternoon poking around cute shops, relaxing, playing cards and watching our now squeaky clean cycling gear dry.
Day 2 Beechworth to Myrtleford
The plan was to stop off in the famous Beechworth Bakery for some yummy treats before heading down hill to Everton, but somehow we forgot. Too excited over all that downhill and more Flame Tree’s MTB single track to ride I think.
After the hard slog of yesterday, it took about an hour to get to Everton even including riding Flame Trees (15km). We once again detoured along Diffey Road and coasted into Everton for a coffee and hot chocolate and eat from our stash of muesli bars
On we rode to Myrtleford and went through the only 2 gates on the M2M Rail Trail. Brisbane Valley Rail Trail….this is something to aspire to!
We also had an up hill push to Taylor’s Gap, which didn’t seem to bother us too much. Along the way if we stopped at any time, I would open up the Geocaching app on the phone and see what was around us. The Murray to Mountain Rail trail is well stocked with Geocaches, and so far we’d found a few, which was keeping us (me) entertained.
The only advantage of riding up Taylors Gap, was enjoying the ride down, but all of a sudden John screeched to a halt when this little echidna was trying to quickly cross the trail in front of him.
Outside of Myrtleford we came across the first winery, so lush and green compared with the dry countryside we’d been riding past.
I heard intel later from another rider that the cheese tasting plate was amazing. We rode onto Myrtleford and weaved our way through the back streets to town looking for a non existent “Myrtleford Station” sign. Instead found a place to eat and then checked out the local caravan park. It didn’t look a patch on Lake Sambell, so continued on exploring town before happening upon Ardern’s Caravan Park. It looked a bit nicer so after getting sprung having a poke around we set up camp here. Once again the owner’s were lovely people and made sure they put us nowhere near where a large group of school kids were camping tonight! We got into Myrtleford at about 1pm so spent the afternoon checking out town and riding the 4.5km Oven’s River loop. The Oven’s river is in Wangaratta as well and we followed and crossed over it all the way to Bright.
Day 3 Myrtleford to Bright and return
We decided to stay 2 nights in Myrtleford so we could ride back the 64km to Wangaratta the next day, we also didn’t need to tote all our gear to Bright. Eager to make the most of the day we rolled out of town at 8am riding past some beautiful countryside. Cow paddocks and mountains in the background.
Just riding along with such terrific weather in late November was so enjoyable. Also enjoying the ride where the entire fly population of Victoria!!!! If you went under 20km/hour you gave the flies a free ride on your back and hovering around your face trying to get in your mouth. Ride and swat flies is how we did every hill climb.
Just past Eurobin Station we saw a sign for the Berry Farm. The owners had conveniently mowed a path from the Rail Trail for easy access, so we felt compelled to check it out. It’s a working farm with a little café in the shed and a pretty relaxed atmosphere with awesome hot chocolates and even more awesome Cherry Pies. We enjoyed taking a break here for a while.
The next town was Porepunkah, which is such a cute little town on the Ovens River. There were plenty of places to stop and look at on this section of the rail trail too. Winery’s and cafes, but we had our eyes set on Bright and kept heading that way.
Bright is the big smoke and marks the end of the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail. We spent the day here poking around all the shops and enjoying a pizza at the Bright Brewery. By the time it came to leave though, we realized that the day had become really hot. We rode back to Porepunkah and found a little path heading towards the river, so decided to explore that. It was a relief to get out of the hot sun and under some trees, and also fun to be trying to ride along single track/a walking track. It turned out to be the Porepunkah river walk and snaked along the Ovens River and was a very enjoyable detour.
Not far out of Porepunkah we turned off into Feathertop Winery to escape the heat. Neither of us drink wine, but they said they make a mean milkshake so we got two of those and cooled off in the slight breeze for an hour or so.
By the time we left, the day wasn’t so hot any more and it was also all slightly downhill back to Myrtleford. We stopped one more time on the way back to check out a big second hand goods place which was fun to poke around and also to say hello to another echidna! Arrived back at 5pm.
Day 4 Myrtleford to Wangaratta
Today was supposed to be hotter than yesterday so we took off at 7:30 to cover the 64kms back to Wangaratta. Head down and ride was the theme today, only stop if we see an echidna (which we didn’t). Made quick time getting up Taylors Gap (swatting flies and riding) and enjoyed the brilliant downhill run without flies on the other side. Before long we were in quiet Everton but this time zoomed straight through to hook onto the Milawa road link.
We were now following the blue markers through the most beautiful quiet back roads on our way to Milawa.
At Milawa the rail trail starts again and heads into Wangaratta. Nice easy flat riding past yet more winery’s eg Brown Brothers.
16km from Milawa the rail trail stops and a bike path leads you into town. Some how we lost our way again and popped out in downtown Wangaratta and backtracked to Apex Park and to Painters Island Caravan Park. Our car was still there, thanks Paul. It was 11:30am and stinking hot, good job we started early. Time to pack up the car and head back to Myrtleford to collect the tent gear and spend a couple of days in Bright checking out the MTB park and also Mt Beauty and Falls Creek. Bright is a great place to base yourself for a MTB holiday.
Another great adventure that we would highly recommend.