The Mountain Bike Life

I’m an explorer at heart.

The simple joy of pedalling through the forests around Yarraman has uncovered some rich experiences for me.

I’ve been able to soak up dream-time echoes from one of the world’s oldest cultures, follow the old stock-routes of colonial pastoralists, retrace the steps of alluvial gold-miners on the banks of a rugged creek, and wander through logging tracks under cathedrals of hoop pine plantations.

Yarraman Creek
Yarraman Creek

 

"Pocket Lane" Hoop Pine Cathedral
Forestry Roads Hoop Pine Forest

Since the early 1900’s, the main industry around Yarraman has been timber. Early loggers harvested precious native Red Cedar. Later, the area was covered with thousands of hectares of Hoop Pine plantations. Today the forests are traversed by a network of forestry roads which are perfect for mountain biking. Hilly dirt roads wind through miles of Hoop Pines – you could hop on your bike at sunrise here, and keep pedalling all day on new trails. In some sections the trees are so tall they form what feels like an arched ceiling, blocking out the sun and providing an eerie coolness on a hot day.

Old Bridge Pylons
Old Railway Bridge Pylons

The state government built a railway line to Yarraman in 1913 to support the burgeoning timber industry. The railway service stopped running decades ago, but the rail trail is still there, along with the remnants of old railway bridges. It’s the easiest way to ride up the Great Dividing Range, and is a perfect trail for family rides.

Although incomplete in parts, it stretches about 170 km from Ipswich (west of Brisbane) to Yarraman.

Missing Bridge
Missing Railway Bridge

My sons and I have ridden parts of the rail trail several times. The first time he rode it, my youngest son was nine years old and loved the experience. Once we turned it into a two-day adventure, staying overnight at a B&B, then riding back down the mountain the next day. The gradient of the 22 km track up the mountain range between Linville and Blackbutt never exceeds 5% because it was designed for trains – this makes it a perfect grade for riders not used to long hill climbs, and provides a wonderful long descent back down again.
 

Yarraman Creek
Yarraman Creek

Before the loggers came the gold prospectors. They flocked to the area after the precious metal was discovered on the banks of Yarraman Creek in 1867. “Old Coach Road” runs through the diggings between Yarraman and Nanango. This rough old track is part of the Australian Bicentennial National Trail which stretches over 5,300 km from Cooktown in North Queensland to Healseville in Victoria.

On a recent ride along the Old Coach Road we crossed the creek several times. I was too busy worrying about how to keep my feet dry to look for flecks of gold in the water, but the locals say that even today you can still find small amounts of gold in the creek.

Cooyar Creaak
Cooyar Creek

Before the gold prospectors came the livestock. As early as the 1840’s, pastoralists like Charles Archer, and Borthwick & Oliver established huge properties to raise sheep and cattle. “Taromeo” (near present day Blackbutt) – was a sheep station that covered 200 square miles. Even larger, “Tarong” (near present day Nanango) covered 260 square miles.

Many of the old stock routes are still used today. Following well-worn paths along local creeks, they’re perfect for mountain biking, provided you don’t mind getting your feet wet occasionally 🙂

Rock Formations
Ancient Rock Formations
Rocky Whale Rock Face - Coomba Falls
Ancient Rock Formations Rock Face – Coomba Falls

Long before the pastoralists came the Wakka Wakka aboriginal people, to whom the amazing rock formations, water holes and creeks were part of a sacred network of wondrous places.

After riding our bikes along some old stock routes near the small town of Maidenwell, west of Yarraman, we set off on foot through a field of boulders stacked at impossible angles. In times past, the Wakka Wakka boulder field was a important ceremonial meeting place. Aboriginal people from hundreds of kilometres around would pass through this area their way to the nearby Bunya Mountains where they would harvest the fruit of the Bunya Pine, perform initiations, arrange marriages, dance and sing.

Coomba Falls
Coomba Falls

Walking through some of these sacred sites I tried to imagine what it would have been like thousands of years ago, and could almost hear the enchanting sound of clap sticks and dream-time songs echoing from the rocks.

Where to Go?

Linville to Yarraman Rail Trail

Linville Station
Linville Railway Station
Radnor Hotel
The Blackbutt Pub

This easy ride starts at the old railway town of Linville, 150 km north-west of Brisbane. Allow two hours to ride the gentle climb, ascending almost 400 metres up to Blackbutt.

The town has some delicious cafes, a great bakery, and an old-world pub that still has rings on the posts outside so you can tie up your horse. They also provide low cost overnight accommodation.

Hanes Kite Millar Road Blackbutt - Yarraman Railtrail
Forestry Road Descent Blackbutt – Yarraman Rail Trail

If you’re short on time, you can simply roll back down the hill.

For a bit more variety you can return via the old logging roads south of Blackbutt.

But if you’ve got a day or two, why not just keep following the rail trail all the way to Yarraman? It’s only a 90 minute ride from Blackbutt.

Maidenwell

Yarraman-Maidenwell Road Descent
The Quick Descent to Maidenwell

Not long ago a group of us stayed overnight at the Yarraman Caravan park and rode a 70 km loop through the hoop pine plantations west of Yarraman down to Maidenwell and back.

This day-long ride featured some great descents during the first part of the ride, but we had to pay this back in the latter half of the ride with an hour-long climb back up the hill.

Coomba Falls Nick and his Burger
Coomba Falls MOAB – Mother of all Burgers

The swimming hole at Coomba Falls near Maidenwell is a perfect spot to cool off on a hot day, and the local cafe makes some of the biggest hamburgers I’ve ever seen.

Rock Formations
Sacred Site

If you get a chance, take some time to soak up the atmosphere at the Wakka Wakka boulders.

Seven Mile Diggings 

Summit - Old Coach Road Bumpy Ride
At the top of Grahams Pinch Bumpy Ride

Another epic 85 km day-long ride from Yarraman follows the old stock routes north-west from Yarraman to the site of the 1860’s gold rush at the Seven Mile Diggings.

One “feature” of this ride is the tough climb up “Graham’s Pinch” – a really steep hill on one portion of the “Old Coach Road”. I had to push my bike up portions of this rutted, rocky monster of a hill. Some of the ruts in the road were so deep they would swallow a bike and rider whole. And I thought to myself…. “Old COACH Road??? So they actually drove stage-coaches along here?” Can you imagine?

Staines Rd Trail, Taromeo Gilla Station
Corduroy Bridge, Taromeo Gilla Railway Station

The last part of the ride follows the rail trail from Blackbutt back to Yarraman

Brisbane Valley

Brisbane River
Headwaters – Brisbane River

Hard core bike packers might like to try the big ride east from Nanango to Jimna via the Brisbane Valley.

This 90 km point-to-point drops steeply down the eastern slopes of the Great Dividing Range near Nanango, and follows the headwaters of the Brisbane Valley back towards Linville.

At this point, most riders might like to end the ride, but more adventurous souls can continue the trek eastwards along Monsildale Creek. The final challenge is a tough one-hour climb up Mount Buggery (yes it is really called that) to Jimna.

Ready to Go Somewhere near Nanango
Uncle Bob’s Cottage Somewhere Near Nanango

Before this ride we stayed the night at “Uncle Bobs Cottage”, a B&B run by local wine makers Rod and Celia Price. It didn’t take much arm-twisting to get us to sample their wonderful wines at dinner that night 🙂

This route is a perfect component of a multi-day ride from Brisbane up to Nanango and back via the Conondale Range.

Old Coach Road
Old Coach Road

If you’re an explorer at heart, why not go for a ride in this part of the world? Regardless of your fitness or your technical abilities, there are plenty of possibilities to keep any adventurer happy 🙂

Resources

Brisbane Valley Rail Trail
South Burnett Tourism – Yarraman
Biking the BNT – the blog of a Mountain Biker who rode the Bicentennial National Trail
The Wakka Wakka Aboriginal People

Kali Amara: Long Term Review
Perception Versus Reality: What You See Is Not All You Get!

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