The Mountain Bike Life
Camp Mountain Lookout
Camp Mountain Lookout

It’s less than six kilometres from the middle of the third largest city in Australia to one of the most spectacular national parks in the country. D’Aguilar National Park stretches north-west from Brisbane’s doorstep in a seemingly endless network of trails that can keep the most avid Mountain Biker pedaling for weeks.

Cabbage Tree Range Road
Cabbage Tree Range Road

This 360 square kilometre environmental park covers the rolling hills of the D’Aguilar and Taylor Mountain Ranges with peaks rising as high as 770 metres (2,500 feet). While not high by international standards, this still means that many rides through this area involve long steep climbs and exhilarating descents.

Before it was a national park, much of this area was used for timber harvesting. As a result the park has a network of excellent fire roads and management trails which are perfect for mountain biking. Some of them, such as Cabbage Tree Range Road, take about an hour to climb from bottom to top on a bike. There’s no easy way for motor vehicles to get to the western side of the range. So if you want to enjoy a fast descent down the mountain westward, the only way you’re going to get back up to the top is via a long granny-ring climb.

The first time I tried to climb Cabbage Tree Range Road, I was by myself. I tried as hard as I could to ride up it, but halfway through I had to stop from exhaustion. I hate capitulating to hills, no matter how steep they are. This time I just sat by the side of the trail and despondently munched on a couple of chocolate bars. After about 5 minutes of psyching myself up, I tried again but still ended up walking for a few hundred metres.

On subsequent attempts I nailed the hill, with the added satisfaction of having a riding buddy along to watch me do it. There’s something deeply gratifying about conquering a tough hill for the first time.

Eventually I organized a social ride through the park which included Cabbage Tree Range Road. A few people had to walk parts of it. One crazy guy made it to the top in middle ring – he was waiting around quite a while at the top for the rest of us to catch up.

On social rides, I think long climbs provide a great way to get to know people better as you ride side-by-side, trying to have a conversation while breathing heavily 🙂

Goodes Road
Goodes Road

Some descents, such as Goodes Road are steep and fast on loose shale. They demand concentration to make sure you maintain traction on the unforgiving slopes. This can be frustrating, because Goodes Road has some stunning views on the way down. If you go too fast, you won’t have time to enjoy the view. And if you try to enjoy the view while speeding down the hill, it may be the last thing you will ever see.

Taylors Break Taylors Break
Nailing Taylors Break Walking Taylors Break

Other descents, such as Taylors Break, are more of a “controlled slide” in places which might best be described as a rock garden on a cliff-side. It’s definitely worth bragging about if you’re able to ride the entire descent without getting off the bike!

Many of my friends and I have all stacked it while trying to ride Taylors Break. Thankfully it has never been too serious because we take this descent quite slowly. One of my friends suffered a few scratches on his backside when he came off, and decided to wash himself in the creek at the bottom of the hill….

Caught with his pants down
Caught With His Pants Down

Unfortunately he forgot that one of the girls was on the trail behind him. She got quite a surprise when she came round the corner and caught him with his pants down. It’s amazing what “wildlife” you’ll see while out on the trail, but it’s always worthwhile having a camera ready 🙂

Somerset Lookout
Somerset Lookout

The stunning views from the lookouts are an excellent place to catch your breath after the exertion of a long climb. In some cases you don’t even have to ride your bike up a hill to get a view because it’s possible to drive your car right up to some lookouts such as Jolly’s, McAfeee’s, Camp Mountain and Western Window.

Where to Start?

With such a large area to cover, visitors can be spoilt for choice. Where do you start to explore such a wonderfully diverse area?

Gap Creek

"Dingo" Highwood Road
“Dingo Trail” – Gap Creek Highwood Road – Gap Creek

Nestled on the slopes of Mount Coot-tha, Gap Creek is only 10km from the city centre. It has a top class network of fire trails and single tracks graded from “Green Circle” to “Black Diamond”. The lovingly crafted berms, rock gardens, rollovers and switchbacks are the result of years of hard work by the local council and volunteer trail carers. With a large car park, picnic area and barbecues, this is an excellent place to bring the family for an hour or two.

It’s also an ideal starting point for longer epic rides up into the rest of the national park.

Mount Nebo

Which way? Boombanas Cafe
South Boundary Road Cafe at Mount Nebo

 

Adventurous riders can pedal west from Gap Creek along South Boundary Road. This undulating fire trail stretches 25 km up to Mount Nebo, and involves over 800 metres of vertical ascent.

There are several cafe’s and B&B’s in the village of Mount Nebo, which is a popular place for Mountain bikers to refuel before continuing their journey.

Less adventurous riders can drive a similar distance on the tarmac up Mount Nebo Road and start from the village.

Samford

Poiny Trails
Samford Pony Trail
Rail Trail
Samford Rail Trail

Samford is a picturesque town in the valley east of the D’Aguilar Range with a full range of restaurants, cafe’s, accommodation and shops. It’s connected to the national park via a wonderful series of Pony Trails following local creeks and corridors between surrounding rural properties.

Goat Track
The Goat Track

One popular way up to Mount Nebo from the Samford Valley is via the “Goat Track”. At one stage this road was trafficable for motor vehicles. Heavy rainfall caused a series of landslides which rendered the road unusable to cars, but perfect for hikers and mountain bikers. The views eastward to Moreton Bay from the Goat Track are stunning.

Don't give up
Camp Mountain – The “Short” Climb

Another more difficult way up to Mount Nebo from the Samford Valley is via Camp Mountain. A couple of steep trails rise up the side of the mountain demanding an intense ten minute granny ring climb. Some riders may prefer to push the bike 🙂

Where to Go? 

Once you’ve made it “up the hill” onto the D’Aguilar Range, there are limitless possibilities for adventure:

Nebo Summit

Nebo Lookout
Mount Nebo Summit

This ride starts at the Goat Track and ascends almost 500m to the Mount Nebo Summit over about 6 km. The moderate climb isn’t difficult, but it will take you about an hour to reach the summit. The views to Moreton Bay are spectacular. The descent from the summit is fast and rough – beware of several large water bars on bends in the track.

Allow about 2 hours for this 20 km trip, plus an extra half hour if you’d like to refuel at the local cafe.

When I took my friend Paul to the Nebo Summit, I suspected he might have trouble with the climb up, because he was new to mountain biking. So when the gradient of the hill started to increase, I deviously started asking him complex computer-related questions – he’s in the software industry….

Paul’s mind started mulling over my questions – he worked out some really clever answers, but more importantly he forgot that he was pedalling a bike up a hill.

When we reached the top of the hill, and he had made it all the way, I confessed that my questions were a ruse to keep him going.

I think we were both impressed at the difference it made.

Joyners Ridge Road

Joyners Ridge Road Mt Glorious Cafe
Joyners Ridge Road Mount Glorious Cafe
Goanna Crimson Rosella
Goanna Crimson Rosella

It’s easiest to do this loop in a clockwise direction because of the very steep slope on Goodes Road. This 35km loop has some wonderful highlights.

Keep an eye out for brightly colored rosellas and large goannas (Lace Monitors) that live in this area. Despite their size (up to 1.5m), goannas are harmless. They have a frustrating habit of hiding behind tree trunks when you try to photograph them.

There is a water tank at the top of Goodes Road at its intersection with Dundas Road, but it is advisable to purify any water from the tank before drinking it.

The 5 km descent down Goodes Road is exhilarating. If you’ve never done it before, take it slowly and stop halfway down to enjoy the panoramic view westwards.

England Creek at the bottom of the descent is a great place for a quick stop. The bubbling creek and gravelly creek crossing are beautiful, although if you don’t concentrate, it’s easy to lose your balance on the bike and fall in.

The 12 km climb up Joyners Ridge Road takes over an hour as it ascends over 500m. On a hot day, enjoy the cool respite of the rainforest at the top of the climb.

The gourmet food and breathtaking views at the Mount Glorious Cafe are always worth enjoying after the long climb back up the range.

Lake Manchester

Lake Manchester Camping Shelter
Lake Manchester Lightline Road Camp

Lake Manchester is one of three water reservoirs built within the park. This 50km loop takes about 5 hours to complete. It starts with a 10 km descent down Light Line Road past one of the several camping shelters you can find in the park.

You’ll need to take all your drinking water with you as there are no shops along the way, and in dry weather the creek water is not drinkable. There is a water tank at the top of Cabbage Tree Range Road at its intersection with Dundas Road, but it is advisable to purify any water from the tank before drinking it.

The middle section of this loop follows a track along Branch Creek. In wet weather this track can become very boggy and unpleasant to ride on.

Allow an hour to complete the 8 km climb ascending 500m back up Cabbage Tree Range Road.

Northbrook Mountain

England Creek Road England Creek
View from Northbrook Mountain England Creek

All my mountain biking friends call this 50km loop the “Super-V” because of the long steep descent to England Creek, followed by the long climb out. You need moderate to high fitness to enjoy this ride.

It’s easier to ride this loop in an anti-clockwise direction because of the long slope on England Creek Road.

Start your descent in the rainforest at the top of Lawton Road. Wet weather has caused landslides on this road, so it would be wise to check track conditions on the National Park website before setting off.

There is a water tank at the top of Lawton Road, but it is advisable to purify any water from the tank before drinking it.

The England Creek Road descent follows a ridge line into the valley which means you can enjoy wonderful views to the east and west as you descend.

For longer voyages there is a camping ground beside England Creek, but unlike other camps in the forest, this one doesn’t have a shelter, so you’ll need to bring a tent if you’re staying overnight.

Most riders complete the loop by riding up Joyners Ridge Road. If you’re feeling really energetic try pushing the limits of your endurance by riding up Goodes Road instead.

Fernvale

The Wall of Dirt
“The Wall of Dirt”
Savages Crossing, Fernvale
Savages Crossing

This wonderful point-to-point epic takes advantage of the railway network to get you back home, allowing you to cover more distance without having to worry about the logistics of support vehicles.

You’ll cover about 70 km, ascending about 1,400m in about 7 hours including breaks.

Start at Ferny Grove Railway Station and follow the Samford Pony Trails and the Goat Track to Mount Nebo.

One of the highlights of this ride is “Whoa Boy Break” – a steep 500m descent which includes about 50 water bars on the way down. It’s like a roller-coaster, and it’s important not to get carried away as you accelerate down the hill. The slope increases in steepness as you descend. If you’ve got too much speed, at some point it’s likely you’ll lose control over one of the water bars.

Another “feature” of this ride is “The Wall of Dirt”. Think of it as a challenge. No one we know has ever ridden up it. In fact one one of our rides we had a competition (complete with T-shirt) to see who could get furthest up it. The winner only made it about ten percent of the way up. It would be safe to assume you will be pushing your bike for a couple of hundred metres up this little demon of a hill.

After crossing the Brisbane River at Savages Crossing, it’s not far to the small town of Fernvale with plenty of cafe’s to satisfy the hunger of a hardworking mountain biker.

To complete the journey, we followed the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail southwards from Fernvale, and then some quiet gravel roads and a couple of paved roads towards the small town of Walloon. From here, after refuelling at the local pub, it’s a two hour rail journey back to Ferny Grove.

Mountain Biking Mates
Mountain Bikers Catch the Train

Our group ride across the mountains to Walloon was a wonderful adventure. Because of the point-to-point nature of the ride we were able to cover much more ground than usual,. We rode through amazingly varied terrain and ended up at a remote rural railway station in the middle of nowhere. I think some of my friends were surprised at how far they could get on a bike in one day.

Epic expeditions with friends, like this one, are one of the reasons I keep coming back for more.

Resources

Queensland Government. D’Aguilar National Park
Gap Creek Trail Alliance

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