With a wealth of wild terrain along beaches, on old railways routes and forestry or mining roads, as well as some purpose-built parks and tracks, Tasmania’s reputation as a drawcard for mountain bike riding is growing by the year.
On the North-West and West Coasts you can take your pick from cross-country to exhilarating downhill, to relaxing rides along quiet country roads with scenic coastal views.
The Penguin MTB Park is unique in the state with some man-made jumps and features. Here you can ride an old disused speedway, a corkscrew bridge, north shore features and massive berms. Once you’re through head to Dial Range for longer tracks with higher elevations. This rugged area is a mixture of forestry-trails, motocross trails and wooden tramways – an infrequently ridden world of climbing and descending.
If you like your mountain-biking a little wilder and a lot rougher head down the coast to discover why Lonely Planet listed the Wild West MTB Trails as one of the best cycling routes in the world.
In Zeehan you can ride out to the Spray Tunnel and then continue out around the Mt Heemskirk loop, go for an amazing ride to Montezuma Falls along the old railway line, or head down to the coastal town of Trial Harbour and test yourself on Climies track. The Sterling Valley track, between Tullah and Rosebery is another testing track which many would identify as the highlight on the West Coast. All of these routes are old tracks and tramways, so plan to get wet and muddy. Don’t always expect trail head signs or mobile coverage – it’s advisable to download the GPS routes before you go.
Travelling to the state with a bike is easy. Grab a bike box or bike bag from your local bike store before you book your flights (don’t forget to include the excess weight) then rent a vehicle with bike racks. Campervans offer a cosy alternative, and the Spirit of Tasmania ferry has room for bags, bikes and your car, so you can just drive on in Melbourne and drive off in Devonport.
Mountain bike enthusiasts can look forward to even more opportunities to get out an about on the Cradle Coast in the future, with plans underway and funding promised for extensions and new projects. The Penguin MTB Park is working on stage one of a three-stage plan to build 60km of trail in the Dial Range while the Wild Mersey Mountain Bike project will also be embarking on stage one, constructing around 70km of tracks, including some challenging loop trails.
Ready to saddle up
If you’re setting out for the first time to discover the best mountain biking that the Cradle Coast has to offer, take some time to get to know what you’re in for. For more in-depth information make sure to check out the www.tassietrails.org website.
Here’s some top tracks to add to your itinerary:
35km return (can be done one way with car shuffle) – 4-6 hours – intermediate/difficult
This route follows the coastal Climies Track from Granville Harbour to Trial Harbour, but his is no easy ride. Out and back you’ll be climbing nearly 1000 metres with pinches as steep as 15%. The trail is a mountain biking mix-up for the fit and adventurous as you tackle sandy trails, flowing granite, rocky patches, mud and creeks, and the many hills.
22km – 2-4hrs – intermediate/difficult
Thanks to the efforts of the Cradle Coast Mountain Bike Club, many of the old forestry trails in the Dial Range have now been stitched together with some single track sections to provide a wonderful world of climbing and descending.
Magnet Mine Township (Philospher’s Falls)
28km – 3-6 hrs – intermediate
This remote loop on the edge of the Tarkine takes you down nine kilometres of abandoned railway, dropping you out at the old Magnet township and mine. After exploring the old township, it’s a gut busting climb up to the highway and back to your car. The track also include a detour off to the Philosopher’s Falls walk.
55km (shorter options possible) – 4-6 hours – easy/intermediate
This would have to be the number one ride on your agenda. The route follows an old railway line through some beautiful forests to the 449m Montezuma Falls. The route can be broken into a number of sections from a short (11km) out and back ride along a gentle, easy to ride trail from the northern end of the track though to a 55km out and back epic starting and ending in Zeehan. For the well-prepared and adventurous the final 8km from Melba Flats to Zeehan crosses through button grass plains providing expansive views as you push, bash and swim your bike along the old railway line.
Penguin MTB Park
2-3km – 1+ hours – intermediate/difficult
This MTB park was built by the Cradle Coast Mountain Bike Club who have the lease over the site. There’s only a few kilometres of singletrail in the park, but it’s the man-made features that will make you want to stay. There is also a new skills park above the race track and some impressive jumps are being installed inside the old speedway.
Zeehan and Mt Heemskirk Loop
30km – 3-5 hours – intermediate/difficult
This mountain bike route starts and finishes in Zeehan, and in between it manages to combine the fun of cycling a 100-metre tunnel, some great riding along an old tramway line and some awesome, though technical, riding out along old gravel 4WD trails along the foothills of Mt Heemskirk. Experienced riders will love the challenge this route provides, however even moderate riders who are prepared to walk a few sections will really enjoy this ride.
Wolfram Mine (Patons Road)
45km – 5-7 hours – intermediate
Heading up the Upper Forth valley, this track takes you on a journey into the World Heritage Area along what was, up until the mid 1980s, a road to the Oakleigh Creek Wolfram Mines. The first section is still regularly used by kayakers seeking to paddle the Forth River and is fairly well maintained, but as you make your way further up the valley the track deteriorates. Not for the inexperienced, unprepared or those looking for groomed single track, riders will also need to gain permission as it crosses private property.
Sterling Valley Track
21km (long loop) or 9km (short loop) – 1-4 hours – intermediate/difficult
The heart of the Sterling Valley Track is a short, hard-to-find section of technical single trail which descends from the flanks of Mt Murchison down into Rosebery, however if you start back near Tullah and tackle the climb up as well, then you’ll be treated to a lovely one-way ride. It’s a track best enjoyed during the later summer months when it may have dried out a bit.