From ski resorts that transform into mountain bike mecca’s in the Summer, to all year-round bike parks and dedicated trails snaking through National Parks, there’s no shortage of dirt to ride in New South Wales.
With the help of Destination NSW and some of our dirt crazed mates, we’ve compiled a list of mountain bike locations, trails, and events in NSW.
Here are some of NSW’s best trails for riders of all abilities across the state.
Situated in South Eastern NSW, the Snowy Mountain Region, in particular, Thredbo, is fast becoming a cycling mecca. The roads are home to the annual L’Étape Australia by le Tour de France. A one day road event which this year will feature the reigning Tour de France champion, Chris Froome riding alongside amateur cyclists while trails in this area have long been used for National-level competition over Australia’s mountain bike history.
Travelling to the region by car takes around five and a half hours from Sydney, two and a half hours from Canberra or seven hours from Melbourne. For those wanting a more direct route, Regional Express (REX) airlines offer flights from Sydney to nearby Cooma Airport, a short one hour drive from the region.
The scenery in this region is spectacular, with Australia’s highest peaks, alpine lakes, forests and giant boulders on the rolling Monaro Plains. Bike hire is available in several towns, including Cooma, Jindabyne, and Thredbo. You can also hire bikes at the Lake Crackenback Resort, which offers a day pass to access its 25km of mountain bike tracks and a pump and flow track designed by mountain bike world champion Caroline Buchanan.
Thredbo offers NSW’s only chair-lift access mountain bike park, making accessing a host of purpose built trails on Australia’s highest peak a cinch. A pass is required to access the lifts, but the cost is soon negated by how simple it makes traversing back up the slopes to bomb down another trail.
In recent years the trail network has been greatly expanded and there’s something for everyone. For downhill and gravity riders, the original Cannonball downhill trail offers an exhilarating ride. Featuring jumps and rock drops amongst other technical features, it’s the marquee trail in the region. For newer, less confident riders or lovers of speed the Mount Kosciuszko Flow Track offers up 5.8km of smooth, fast flowing fun. The All Mountain Trail is well suited for those on Trail or Enduro bikes wanting to test their skills.
For riders wanting to take in the sights, the Thredbo Valley track is an undulating 16.2km ride that snakes its way through the Thredbo Valley. The dual purpose hiking/XC (cross country) trail crosses a number of photogenic suspension bridges as it follows the river from Thredbo Alpine Village down to the historic Bullocks hut.
Situated only 35km from Thredbo is Jindabyne. The small alpine town is quickly making a name for itself in the mountain biking world, continually adding to an expansive trail network that takes in some of the best riding that the region has to offer. The Tyrolean trail network consists of a number of hand cut lines, purpose built trails and shared walk ways that snake from Jindabyne to Tyrolean village. The trail network is continually being updated and added too as works continue on the Mill Creek Trail.
Upon completion, the Mill Creek trail will clock in at over 75km in length. The trail is being constructed to link the communities around Lake Jindabyne, making the area a perfect place for a weekend long mountain bike adventure.
Around two hours away from Sydney lies the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains. Peppered with some of Australia’s most exhilarating and scenic mountain bike trails, the Blue Mountain region features a host of trails suited to all ability levels from beginner through to advanced. Travelling to the region from Sydney takes around 90 minutes by car to the town of Katoomba or a little over two hours by train.
For beginners, or riders wanting an easy pedal amongst stunning scenery, the Faulconbridge Point ride is one of many popular Blue Mountains ridge top rides in the region. Following a narrow fire road, the trail clocks in at an easy 7km. Riders should allow an hour each way to account for time spent taking in the scenery.
Riders seeking an all-day adventure are encouraged to check out Anderson’s Fire Trail (Ando’s for short). A nice test of fitness for intermediate riders, the route travels (mostly downhill) from Wentworth Falls to Woodford through the central wilderness of the Blue Mountains National Park. The route is 31km one way including a savage climb at the end.
In Woodford, you’ll find the famous ‘Oaks Fire Trail’. A similar distance, yet easier gradients and terrain compared to Anderson’s, the Oaks is an extremely popular day out for beginner and intermediate riders.
Both Anderson’s and Oak’s trails can be joined to create either a 60km ride or a truly epic 120km with some serious climbing. If the latter sounds like too much, the train is your best method of getting up the hill prior to your ride, stopping at either Wentworth Falls or Woodford depending on exactly which ride you’re undertaking.
So whether you want beauty or adrenalin, the Blue Mountains bike tracks are hard to beat and certainly worth adding to your travel itinerary.
North Sydney Region
Manly Dam and Bantry Bay
Located just 16km north east from the Sydney CBD is Manly Dam. With an estimated 150,000 users per year, it's one of Sydney’s most popular rides, as well as one of the most used trail networks in the entire country. The 10km loop is beginner friendly and consists of a mix of rocky single track, fire road, and tarmac.
For those wanting a little more of a challenge, there a number of technical sections and route options sure to keep more capable riders satisfied.
The Bantry Bay trails located across the road from Manly Dam are ground-breaking, being the first purpose built single track to be approved by NSW National Parks. These trails make use of the local sandstone to provide tight and technical trail and are more challenging than a lap of Manly Dam.
Hornsby Old Man’s Valley
A purpose built trail network that offers a range of trails for various skill levels. This loop trail is fun regardless of whether you’re on a cross country, trail or enduro bike.
St Ives and Duffys Forest
Beginner riders will surely have a great time riding the fire trails of Duffys Forrest. The Perimeter and Long trail offer easy riding and impressive scenery. These are shared-use trails, so be sure to give-way to walkers and horse riders.
The South Coast of Sydney offers a great mix of trails for those not wanting to stray too far from the big smoke.
Royal National Park
Around an hour’s drive from both Sydney and Wollongong lies the Royal National Park. Featuring a mix of fire trail and single track rides and with a range of trail options on offer, there’s something for all riders, regardless of skill level.
Lady Carrington Drive is perfect for a family group ride, or beginners wanting to get their wheels dirty. For intermediate riders, the Loftus Oval loop offers up a healthy mix of singletrack and fire trail over its 26km length.
Nowra and Currambene Forest
If you don’t mind a little bit more of a drive, around 20km south of Nowra is where the Currambene and Nowra state forests converge and are littered with XC (cross country) trails and fire roads. Nowra itself is around 160km (2 ½ hour) drive south of Sydney.
Some key trails in the area include Coondoo, which features a few short climbs and technical sections over the 10km long loop. For those chasing a more technical trail, Superbowl, located a further five minutes down the road should cater to your needs. Featuring a mix of technical sections, punchy climbs, and fast flowing downhill sections over a 6km lap, this ride delivers.
Other top-notch cycling can also be found down around Batemans Bay and Narooma on the NSW south coast, with action-packed trails also found in Morton and Murramarang National Park.
Hunter Valley Region
Starting from Newcastle and extending up through Muswellbrook, the picturesque Hunter Valley is well known as one of Australia’s premier wine regions. Along with what grows on the vine, the region is also home to a range of stellar mountain bike trails. Cessnock, the southern gateway to the Hunter Valley is situated two hours north of Sydney and serves as a great base for visitors to the area.
Werakata National Park
Situated a short drive from Cessnock is Deadmans Loop in the Werakata National Park. The leisurely 8km loop serves as a great way to spend some two-wheeled time with the family admiring the scenery riding along the well-groomed gravel track.
Yengo National Park
For intermediate riders seeking something a little more technical, the 22km Big Yango loop trail traverses through the Yengo and Wollemi wilderness areas in Yengo National Park. Featuring a mix of steep climbs, challenging descents, and tight switchbacks, the Yango Loop has something for riders of all disciplines.
A little closer to Newcastle lies the Glenrock State Conservation Area which is home to over 34km of trails. With everything from beginner friendly, smooth and flowing fire trails, short punchy climbs and technical single tracks, it’s no surprise that Glenrock is considered the home of mountain biking in Newcastle.
Although not technically in the Hunter Valley, Awaba mountain bike park is well worth bending the rules for. Situated a half hour drive from Newcastle (or an hour and a half from Sydney) on the edge of the Watagans National Park, Awaba mountain bike park is a maze of purpose built trails ranging in difficulty from green (beginner friendly) through to black diamond (advanced). If you’re heading down in a convoy, don’t despair, with room for 200 cars in the parking lot, Awaba is a perfect spot to spend the day shredding the trails.
Highlights of the park include a 12km XC (cross-country) hard packed single track loop which boasts amazing rainforest scenery and frequently hosts races. The course itself is suitable for beginners however it increases in difficulty the more speed you throw into the mix. The Monkey-Face DH (downhill) track is one of the wildest in the country and is recommended for advanced riders only. Featuring a solid mix of technical, and fast flowing sections over its 3km length, this trail is sure to whet the appetite of gravity focused riders.
Lord Howe Island
Not your traditional MTB destination, but we all need an island escape every now and then, right? At just 12km long, Lord Howe Island lends itself well to discovery on two wheels. There is a blanket 25kph limit placed on all roads on the island, leaving bikes to rule the roost as the preferred transportation method.
For riders wanting to hit the dirt, there are a number of shared walking tracks on the Island that take in sites such as Malabar Hill and Mt Eliza. Pedestrians have right of way on these tracks, but the tracks themselves should still provide enough of a challenge to riders needing a dirt fix while soaking up the rays in paradise. The on-road tracks wind around the Island’s lush rainforests and scenic roadways making Lord Howe a great place to clock up some leisurely k’s with the family, or your significant other.
This content is sponsored by Destination Australia in promotion of L’Etape Australia by le Tour de France. L’Étape Australia by le Tour de France is a unique road cycle event that provides an experience for an amateur rider that’s as close to riding in the Tour de France as you can get. Staged on 160km of fully closed roads and run under professional Tour de France Race conditions, the route includes a 350m Sprint section and two challenging King of the Mountain sections.
To learn more about the rides or regions listed above, head on over to visitnsw.com.au for more information.
Staff of BikeExchange Australia wrote this content with help from Destination New South Wales. Imagery courtesy of Destination NSW