King of the Mountain

WRITTEN BY: Mike Blewitt

Our broad continent is a gift for mountain bikers, with wide open spaces to explore along the length and breadth of Australia. Here’s our handy guide to the 11 best spots in the land.

1. SMITHFIELD MTB PARK

Where: Smithfield, Tropical North Queensland
Length: Up to 45km

Located right behind James Cook University, Smithfield Mountain Bike Park is the spiritual home of mountain biking in the tropical north. The trails that weave through rainforest and tropical scrub were etched into the red dirt over decades, with huge investments made for numerous World Cup races and World Championship events, most recently in 2017. While we don’t recommend launching yourself down the World Championship Downhill course—or attacking the infamous Jacob’s Ladder, Croc Slide or Rodeo Drop—you can follow the trail guides in the carpark to match your ability to each route. The trails follow skiing’s usual green, blue and black trail ratings. If you need some more thrills, the trails are also next door to bungy jumping. 

Full trail maps are online: www.parks.des.qld.gov.au

2. BLUE DERBY TRAILS

Where: Derby, Tasmania
Length: Approx. 100km

Derby and Mountain biking put life back into this area of Tasmania’s north-east. With a long history of mining and forestry, it’s now ribbons of singletrack through tall timber that keep the wheels of commerce turning in this tiny town. Thanks to a beautiful setting and smart design, any mountain biker will have a ball on this innovative, interesting network. Kids and big kids will love the pump track by the river and the lakeside trail suits an easy pedal or a scoot on a balance like (and adults, yes, that is a floating sauna you can look into). For more adrenalin, book a shuttle to Black Stump, where you can take on iconic trails like Kumma Gutza, Flickity Sticks and many others. You can tackle Blue Derby’s trails at any pace you fancy, but there is no mistaking the fact that this is Australia’s best mountain bike town.

Catch all the trail details online: www.ridebluederby.com.au/trails/derby-trails 

 3. GAP CREEK MTB PARK

Where: Mt Coot-tha, Queensland
Length: Up to 53km
 
Within Cooee of the Brisbane CBD, the Gap Creek trails are popular among city escapees and a host of enthusiastic others in south-east Queensland. Sitting on the side of Mt Coot-tha, Gap Creek’s trails mostly end up in a picnic area, where there are water, toilets, a skills park, picnic tables, covered areas, lots of grass and even a coffee cart. Now that’s civilised. With trails following the usual grading system, it’s easy to use the maps provided to find your way around. Most trails are two-way, unlike a lot of trail networks, and while riders travelling uphill have right of way in all situations, caution and a ‘G’day’ always ease the way. Rocket Frog and Dingo are a couple of classic trails that shouldn’t be missed, but remember you do need to climb to earn your descents at Gap Creek, so it’s a great place to take an e-bike. There’s plenty of easy, rolling trails for those who don’t want to push their limits and don’t miss the view across Brisbane and to the Bay from the Mt Coot-tha Lookout. 
 
The Brisbane City Council website has further details about the trails at Gap Creek: www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/brisbetter/explore/mt-coot-tha-reserve-guide-to-mountain-bike-riding

4. THREDBO VALLEY TRAIL

Where: Snowy Mountains, New South Wales
Length: Up to 35km
 
Only recently finished, this one-of-a-kind trail links three trail areas via one long, descending ribbon. Starting at Friday Flat in Thredbo Village, the Thredbo Valley Trail (or TVT) has a gradual descent that follows the river all the way to Lake Eucumbene and the trout hatchery. As the 35km length can seem daunting, it’s common for people to tackle just one or two segments and there are shuttle services that can arrange a drop-off and pick-up. More advanced riders might prefer starting at Lake Crackenback Resort, while families often enjoy the first section, then ride to the Rangers Station and return to Thredbo Village. 
 
Check for details and trail status at: www.thredbo.com.au 

5. FALLS CREEK ALPINE RESORT

Where: Australian Alps, Victoria
Length: 40km+

With so many alpine resorts investing in the expanding green season, any visit to the High Country should include a stop at Falls Creek. Not only is the drive up from Mt Beauty or Omeo stunning (both are worth doing), the trails atop the plateau have variety to suit almost anyone you have in tow. From the easy aqueduct trails and popular routes like Big Fella and Flowtown, most of the resort’s tracks keep you close to the village. This is perfect for testing the waters on a hire bike and the shuttle service can keep you descending trails all day. But if you’re okay with a map, make a plan, pack some essentials and head into the high country. There are some beaut routes that travel to old stock huts and beyond. You can even descend off-road all the way back to Mt Beauty. If you’re in the High Country, you’d be mad not to stop in at Bright as well. Go for Mystic MTB Park, stay for Bright Brewery.

Get the low down on all the trails at Falls Creek on their website: www.fallscreek.com.au/summer/mtb 

6. MAYDENA BIKE PARK

Where: Maydena, Tasmania
Length: Over 62 trails

Maydena Bike Park is a global gravity park that has landed about an hour out of Hobart. With 820m of vertical terrain in the wild country of Tasmania’s south-west, the tag line for the park—‘Step into the wilderness’—isn’t overstating affairs. While there are multiple trails designed for the world’s best riders, there are also long, winding green-rated trails that make their way from the top of the mountain to the bottom. With a shuttle running to the top of the hill, mid-way and part way up, you can choose where and how you want to ride. Each trail intersection is marked and trail maps are plentiful. With so many routes, it’s easy to feel isolated, despite being in a mountain bike park that is making the country buzz. Don’t miss the Wilderness Trail if you’re an intermediate rider—it’s truly special.

Find out more about Maydena Bike Park: www.maydenabikepark.com 

7. BAY OF FIRES TRAIL

Where: St Helens, Tasmania
Length: 45km

While St Helens itself is building up to 100km of purpose-built mountain bike trail, the Bay of Fires Trail is a true wilderness ride that can introduce you to the variety of Tasmania’s north-east. Starting atop the Blue Tier, the trail is best accessed via a shuttle service, providing plenty of time to be psyched out by riders who have ridden the trail before. Fear not, the blue-rated trail only gets hard with speed, but you do want to be comfortable riding off-road on a variety of surfaces and gradients. Starting in sub-alpine beech forest, the trail dips and dives at warp speed for about 10km, at which point you can try to stop grinning and pry your fingers off the handlebars. A cruise through drier forest takes you to sandy trails and rock features, until the coast comes into sight and the trail plummets through berms and over jumps, finally spitting you out at Swimcart Beach. Make it a perfect ride by booking your shuttles with St Helens MTB Adventures, who will meet you at the beach with fresh oysters, brews and all the finest local produce. 

Get your head around the St Helens trails online: www.sthelensmtbtrails.com.au 

8. STROMLO FOREST PARK

Where: Mt Stromlo, Australian Capital Territory
Length:
50km+

It should come as no surprise that the nation’s capital has one of the best mountain bike parks around. The forests around Mt Stromlo featured singletrack that drew mountain bikers from around the country, but when that all went up in smoke, a master plan was created for a proper mountain bike and multisport facility. Stromlo Forest Park has it all and while it hosted a World Cup and World Championships about a decade ago, the park hasn’t stood still. There are difficult routes like Vapour Trail, which will really put your air time skills to the test, and The Playground, which is suited to working on skills. Oh, and a pump track that now has a café and bar to boot. With showers and toilets also on site and an aquatics centre opening soon, Stromlo is Canberra’s most exciting nonpartisan rollercoaster.

The Stromlo Forest Park site will keep you up to date: www.stromloforestpark.com.au 

9. TELEGRAPH STATION TRAILS

Where: Alice Springs, Northern Territory 
Length:
30km+

A visit to Alice Springs should not be done without a mountain bike ride—but don’t worry, you can rent one while there. With a myriad of paths and trails surrounding the town, the best place to start is the Telegraph Station. Grab a coffee, take in the historical sites and then hit the track. Whether you ride along the riverside trail with the kids, or tackle some of the rockier test pieces, you’ll find the beauty of riding in Alice is how the trails flow with the terrain. While the rocks are sharp, plants are rough and thorny, and the sun is usually hot enough to melt your spine, the trails are a blast to ride, with many being built by passionate locals, who followed animal trails and developed them further. With small undulations and no big hills, it’s easy to slip over a rise, gaze at the Western MacDonnell Ranges and feel a million miles from anywhere. Which you sort of are.

You can find maps online: www.alicespringstelegraphstation.com.au 

10. COMPARTMENT 10 TRAILS

Where: Margaret River, Western Australia
Length: 10km (and more)

Made famous by Cape to Cape, one of the biggest mountain bike events in the southern hemisphere, Margaret River is a hot spot not just for surfers, foodies and wine buffs, but also for mountain bikers. The rich red soils around Margaret River township are riddled with singletrack and access roads—the perfect way to work up a thirst for a wine tasting or work off your visit to the fudge factory. The Compartment 10 trails have been built over the past five years with a focus on big berms and big smiles—you’ll be surfing dirt in the forest for hours if you let time get away from you. There’s lots more to ride and drop in to the Rotary Park or Hairy Marron bike café for more details.

Get more information on mountain biking in the region online: www.margaretriver.com/activities/cycling/mountain-biking 

11. MELROSE TRAILS

Where: Melrose, South Australia
Length: 75km

South Australia is a bit of a sleeper on the mountain bike scene—until you visit. The City of Churches has a number of mountain bike riding options, but the best may be the multi-day Mawson Trail. The Melrose Trails, of which it is part, traverse private land, but are open to the public. With accommodation options close to hand, the option to be riding from your doorstep is of big appeal for those cyclists who live to ride. For those looking for some fun with the family, you know your transport time from bike to bed will be kept to a minimum—which means a quick return home and zero tantrums if a family member has had enough. 

Find out more about Melrose right here: www.melrosemountainbike.com/melrose-mountain-bike-trails 

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