Mountains, lakes, creeks and forests… the Lockyer Valley is a spectacular playground for adventurers and explorers. My mountain biking friends and I think that it’s probably the best kept secret in South East Queensland.
Covering over 3,000 square kilometres, The Lockyer is a fertile flood plain surrounded by Mountain Ranges. There are easy rides on the plains around picturesque lakes and dams, with more challenging rides in the national parks and state forests in the surrounding mountain ranges.
The flat terrain alongside many small lakes is perfect for a low impact excursion on the bike. We found it easy to spend a few hours soaking up the pleasant views over the water, taking photos of the bird life, and enjoying unbroken views of the hills on the distant horizon.
In places we had to ride on quiet paved roads between the lakes, but with a little bit of investigation we found that there were many dirt roads, and rough tracks on old road reserves that are a lot of fun to ride.
|Redbank Creek – Lockyer National Park|
Some of my rides have been away from the plains in the state forests. The steeper tracks here are more challenging. Although there are no rivers in the area, there are many creeks, so be prepared to get your feet wet!
|“The Amphitheater” – Blackfellow Falls, Glen Rock State Forest|
I have found the most rewarding parts of the Lockyer Region to be on the mountains – especially towards the south in the Little Liverpool Range and the “Mistake” Mountains. We have followed rugged tracks along twisty creeks for miles up narrow valleys. In these places you need to be prepared for challenging climbs to places where you might not see another human for weeks.
|Bicentennial National Trail – Upper Tenthill|
Even more adventures await the intrepid rider brave enough to follow the magnificent Bicentennial National Trail (BNT) through the Lockyer Valley. The BNT spans the Australian continent from north to south, covering over 5,000km. Over a couple of weekends we followed it through the Lockyer Valley for about 120km from Ravensbourne to Edwards Gap. Southbound riders can expect to ascend over 3,500 metres on this leg, while Northbound riders will have to be able to climb a whopping 3,800 metres.
Where To Ride?
Lockyer has its own “Egypt” – a plateau in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range.
We started our ride at Withcott on the Warrego Highway, following the Bicentennial National Trail southwards towards Preston Peak Winery. The winery is open for wine, snacks and lunch on most weekends. The challenging ride from Withcott to the Winery is only 20km in length, but it took us over two hours because of all the climbs.
|Preston Peak Lookout|
Just past the winery, we found a spectacular unofficial lookout about 200 metres off Preston Boundary Road, with amazing 180 degree views over the Lockyer Valley to the east. The lookout isn’t marked, so if you’re not sure where to go, take a copy of my track log below.
At this point, in the cooler months, it’s wise to put on a jacket as an eye-watering ten kilometre descent follows. You drop over 500 metres into the remote locality of Rockmount before climbing up to the Egypt Plateau via Kennedys Road.
Every corner on this plateau offers a new vista of amazing views in a variety of different directions.
We found ourselves stopping frequently to enjoy the views and take photos.
My friends tell me that a few years ago, a gnarly Mountain Bike race called “The Epic” started from Preston Peak Winery and made its way eastward through this spectacular country, before finishing 110km later at “Old Hidden Vale”. I couldn’t imagine anything tougher (and more frustrating) than having to grind up those hills at maximum effort, without being able to take time to soak in the views on the way down.
Perhaps that’s why I don’t race 🙂
Our point-to-point ride over the Egypt Plateau and along the BNT to Mount Sylvia was about 85km in length, and took us all day. There were no towns or cafes along the way, so we had to bring all our food with us. If you’re running low on water, you can top up at the rain water tank behind the community hall at Ma Ma Creek.
Lockyer National Park
|Wallers Road – Lockyer National Park|
If you don’t have all day, and would like to sample a bit of everything that Lockyer has to offer, then a 3 hour loop through Lockyer National Park is a perfect place to start.
We started our ride near the Correctional Centre on Millers Road, our track meandering along Redbank Creek. We rode through open Eucalyptus forests, and under sandstone cliffs as we slowly climbed up the range.
|Wallers Road – Lockyer National Park|
Once we reached the top, we enjoyed a quick ride down Wallers Road back to Gatton. It’s mostly downhill for about 10km with a fantastic steep section right at the bottom that required our intense concentration.
|Olympian Jared Graves at Adare XC Track. Photo: John Pinnell|
Adare XC MTB Racing Track is located at the bottom of the range next to Lockyer National Park. Adare is a private homestead with over 7 km of flowing single tracks lovingly tended by homestead owner, John Pinnell and members of The Riders Club (TRC).
Public access to the track is available on race days which are held several times per year.
At other times, TRC has regular club rides at the track. If you don’t want to race there, the best way to experience Adare is to tag along on one of the TRC club rides or to contact John.
|Tough Country – A gnarly climb at Murphys Creek, Queensland|
We started another day-long adventure at the small Lockyer Valley town of Helidon, and slowly climbed up the mountain range to an amazing lookout via Murphys Creek.
Murphys Creek sits right on the edge of the Great Dividing Range, so anywhere north of here involves a lot of climbing. About a dozen of us rode through here recently. We were all able to ride most of the tracks. There were only one or two short sections where we needed to push the bikes.
Our route followed the BNT northwards along “Fifteen Mile Road” to a cafe serving delicious food at Hampton, followed by a short stop at Gus Beutels Lookout which has some amazing views southwards over the Lockyer Valley.
The final leg of this trip involved an exhilarating descent down “Seventeen Mile Road” back to our starting point at Helidon. Like the name suggests, the road is about 17 miles (30km) in length, and is mostly downhill with one or two short climbs. It’s an ideal way to finish a ride!
|East Haldon Valley – Glen Rock National Park|
Of all the rides I’ve done in the Lockyer Valley, I think Glen Rock must be the most challenging, and the most rewarding.
We arranged for a friend to drop us and our bikes off at the car park in Goomburra National Park.
We then rode up into the rain forests on the mountain tops of Goomburra. Following one of the steepest and roughest tracks I have ever seen, we dropped down the other side of the mountain into the rugged country of Glen Rock. On the way down, the views were stunning. We could see for miles northwards along the East Haldon Valley, with imposing mountains either side.
It took us almost four and a half hours to ride 25 km from the Goomburra Car Park to the “Bottom Yards” rest area where we had lunch
Our track crossed the creek a dozen times on the way out before we eventually made it to East Haldon Road. This point-to-point adventure finally ended at the quiet farming town of Mount Sylvia where I had left my vehicle the previous day.
Needless to say there are no cafes or towns on this remote ride. If you attempt it, bring all your food, and be prepared for a tough day in the saddle.
For a more “chilled out” ride, the flat plains between Lake Clarendon and Lake Atkinson offer some easy, relaxing rides.
Start your ride at Lake Clarendon, and follow the dirt roads northwards towards Lake Atkinson. There are numerous ways to do this. On our trip, we followed “Main Green Swamp Road”. It’s paved in parts, a dirt road in other parts, and for a few kilometres it’s a rough stock route which is a lot of fun on a mountain bike.
There are a couple of small, simple cafes in either of the two camping areas at Lake Atkinson, so there’s no need to bring your lunch.
After lunch it’s an easy ride back south to your starting point following the eastern shoreline of the lake.
We included this area as part of a larger ride through Lockyer National Park.
Here’s a map showing the location of the Lockyer Valley in relation to some of the other places I’ve told you about in South-East Queensland
Many of the national parks and state forests in this part of the world are adjacent to each other, so it’s easy to stitch together long multi-day rides through spectacular locations covering hundreds of kilometres
Something for Everyone
The Lockyer Valley has a variety of adventures to suit any mountain biking style – whether you want a multi-day epic adventure through the mountains, or a low-impact simple afternoon ride with the kids.
It’s only short trip by car from Brisbane or Toowoomba.
What are you waiting for?