Soaring gum trees, crystal clear creeks, lush rain forest, and rugged mountains.
Do you think you have what it takes to ride the Conondale Range?
|Mountain in the Mist – Bellthorpe|
|Cloudy Summit on Sunday Creel Road|
The Conondale Range is a beautiful part of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, just a one-hour drive north of Brisbane.
Located between the towns of Maleny, Kilcoy, Kenilworth and Jimna. it forms part of Australia’s Great Dividing Range. It provides the headwaters of the gorgeous Mary River, and the northern most catchment area for the Brisbane River.
But more importantly, it includes some of the toughest cross-country mountain bike trails you can ride.
|The Devils Staircase|
Anywhere you ride in this part of the world, you’re going to have to climb a big hill. But that’s OK – because the views and the descents are amazing
Last weekend, my friends and I encountered this monster of a hill in a hoop pine forest towards the east of the national park near Kenilworth.
We dubbed it “The Devils Staircase”.
It’s painful to climb up, but the ride down the hill on the other side is amazing!
|Ten Mile Road|
Some downhill tracks, such as Ten Mile Road to the west of the national park, descend hundreds of metres over several kilometres. It takes weeks to wipe the smile off your face 🙂
|Natural Jacuzzi||It’s Cold!|
The Conondale Range also contains many unspoilt creeks, water holes and cascades. Last summer, after spending a steamy hour and a half climbing through the rain forest, we had a lunch break at Booloumba Falls where a few of us took the opportunity to cool down in the icy water.
Where to Ride?
|Climbing Stony Creek Road|
The town of Woodford, to the south, is a hub for many mountain bike adventures because of its close proximity to three national parks: The Glasshouse Mountains, D’Aguilar National Park and Conondale National Park.
Most rides into the Bellthorpe section of the Conondale Range start at Woodford with a long slow climb up Stony Creek Road. It’s a 500 metre ascent and takes about an hour.
At the top of the climb, there are a number of options depending on how far you want to go, but one of the easier options follows the paved Bellthorpe Range Road eastwards for about five kilometres before dropping back down into the rough roads in the forest.
|Wooden Wheels – Bellthorpe||Creek Crossing – Bellthorpe|
The descents into the forest from Bellthorpe Range Road are steep, rough and rocky.
The rain forest is thick here, and there are many creek crossings.
It can be muddy after rain, and the creeks easily flood, so it’s best to attempt this ride in the drier months during the middle of the year.
|Looking East from Bellthorpe Forest towards the Glasshouse Mountains|
There are some great views towards the coast as you make the final rapid descent back into Woodford.
This 50 km loop takes about 5 hours, with about 1,200 metres of vertical ascent.
Charlie Moreland Park
Charlie Moreland Park is a camping ground to the east of the Conondale Range near the town of Kenilworth.
Set amidst the state forest on the banks of Sunday Creek, it’s a perfect spot to pitch a tent and spend a weekend on the bike. Cool off after your ride in the nearby rock pools, surrounded by the calls of of Bellbirds ringing in the trees like hundreds of little bells.
There are several riding options from the camp ground:
A short loop southwards along Sunday Creek through hoop-pine plantation forest. This easy 10km circuit will take about an hour, and has no major hill climbs. It’s a perfect “chill-out” ride for the end of the day without working your legs too hard.
|Hoop Pine Forest near Charlie Moreland Park|
Another option is to head northwards through more plantation forest towards Kenilworth.
This involves climbing “The Devils Staircase”, so expect a tough climb with gradients of up to 45% in some parts. It’s definitely a hike-a-bike climb for some of the way.
|Lookout – Sunday Creek Road|
For a nice big loop from Charlie Moreland Park, ride westwards up Sunday Creek Road. This involves a 12km climb during which you ascend over 500 metres.
We rode it in a group of about 15 riders of all different skills. We found it hard work, but broke the climb into two parts by taking a rest at the lookout near the top of Sunday Creek Road. It was an ideal spot to soak in the panorama while we all caught our breath.
This loop passes by Booloumba Falls, is a great place to stop for lunch and (in warmer weather) a swim.
The final part of the ride involves an exhilarating long descent down Booloumba Creek Road, through several wide creek crossings before rolling back into the camp ground.
|Sunday Creek Road near Jimna|
This ride starts from the small town of Jimna to the west of the National Park.
It’s mostly uphill for the first 15km of the ride as you ascend the western end of Sunday Creek Road passing through forests of impossibly tall, straight Blue Gums.
|Crossing Summer Creek|
The second half of the ride heads westwards along Summer Creek Road through some remote, rugged country with steep climbs.
Not many people use this section of the park. Some of the tracks are muddy and overgrown, so it’s important to carry enough food and spares in case of an emergency.
The final part of the loop heads back into Jimna through some bumpy cattle properties. Although it’s called “McAulays Road” on the map, it is really just a couple of tyre tracks through the grass – a perfect way to finish a big day of mountain biking!
This 55 km loop takes about 7 hours and involves almost 1,900 metres of climbing. It’s a difficult ride.
|Ten Mile Road|
This epic all-day loop also starts at Jimna to the west of the park.
The route heads southwards through the forest, with a wonderful long descent down Ten Mile Road.
The second half of the route follows Monsildale Road northwards where you have to “pay back” your debt to the law of gravity by working hard on a couple of long hill climbs.
|Keeping Feet Dry|
Monsildale Road also twists through some pleasant open plains with fun creek crossings.
The final slow climb back up to Jimna takes about 45 minutes.
This 75 km loop takes about 5 hours, with about 1,700 metres of ascent.
There is one small store and a camping ground in Jimna. They welcome overnight visitors.
|Bunya Dreaming – Gubbi Gubbi Dancers|
This area is part of the traditional country of the Gubbi Gubbi / Kabi aboriginal people. The Bunya Pine (Araucaria Bidwillii) which grows here is sacred to them as a food source and a focus of cultural activities. In 1842, New South Wales colonial Governor Gipps recognized this, and made it illegal to clear any land north of Moreton Bay if it contained Bunyas. This postponed European settlement of the Sunshine Coast hinterland until the new Queensland Government repealed the edict in 1860.
It wasn’t until 110 years later in the 1970′s that the Conondale National Park was established after a campaign by conservationist group, The Conondale Range Committee.
To their great credit, the local Gubbi Gubbi / Kabi people were instrumental in setting up the “Great Walk” trail – a popular route through the national park for many hikers today.
Here’s a map showing the location of the Conondale Range in relation to some of the other places I’ve told you about in South-East Queensland
The national parks and state forests are adjacent to each other, so it’s easy to stitch together long multi-day rides through spectacular locations covering hundreds of kilometres