Cycling Warburton

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Beauty, serenity, adventure.  These are all things which you can experience when you take a ride out to Warburton.  This beautiful little town is situated to the east of the Yarra Valley and is a stunning place to visit, and an amazing place to ride.  The town lies in a valley at the base of Mount Little Joe and Mount Donna Buang.  The Yarra River flows through the town, and these are elements which are mixed beautifully in the one area.  Warburton is close enough to easily come down for a day trip, but also has enough variety to justify booking a night or three to spend some time in cycling paradise. 

Lilydale Warburton Trail

Here are 8 of the best rides you can do around Warburton:

1. Mount Donna Buang

Mount Donna Buang is one of Melbourne’s most popular climbs. It is 16.8 km in length with an average gradient of 6.4%. A high level of fitness is required to make the ascent to the top of Mount Donna Buang. This climb takes you through a stunning Rainforest.  Which is home to some magnificent tall Mountain Ash trees and ancient Myrtle Beech Trees.  Ferns, Mosses and other plants and an array of wildlife.  If you get lucky on a clear day you pass several lookouts.  Where you can see views of Warburton and the Yarra Valley which is a sight to behold.

Mount Donna Buang

2. Lilydale Warburton Trail

The Lilydale Warburton trail follows the old Warburton Railway line which was originally built in 1901.  And closed down in 1965.  The trail runs a distance of 40 km between Lilydale and Warburton.  Which passes through the beautiful Yarra Valley offering stunning scenery throughout. The trail provides a wonderfully relaxed and safe cycling experience.

The trail is suited to riders of all abilities and the surface is well-maintained, hard-packed gravel.  And can be ridden on any type of bike (including a Road Bike). This makes riding easy and safe for adults and children alike. The trail is fairly flat overall.  However there are a handful of climbs along the way that should be able to be climbed by riders of most abilities. Just be mindful that it is a shared trail, and you may come across walkers, runners & horse-riders.

The ride begins behind the Warburton Police Station.  Which is just behind the Visitor Tourist Information Centre.

Lilydale Warburton Trail

3. The O’Shannassy Aqueduct Trail

The O’Shannassy Aqueduct, was built in 1914.  It was instrumental in delivering water to the Melbourne metropolitan area for 82 years. The Aqueduct was decommissioned in 1996, and is now use as a recreation trail.  Which stretches 30 km in its entirety, and offers a wonderful cycling experience.  There is access to the car park at the top of Yuonga Road in Warburton. The trail is suited to a CX or Mountain Bike. The trail is quite isolated.  So make sure that you bring adequate supplies as there are no shops along the trail.

O’Shannassy’s Trail

4. The Reefton Spur

A short distance out of Warburton East is the Reefton SpurThis is a 20 km undulating climb which has an average gradient of 3% which is a pure joy to climb.  The climb winds its way through the Yarra Ranges National Park.  You’ll find several lookouts along the way which offer great photo opportunities.  You’ll soon discover why the Reefton Spur has a reputation as one of Victoria’s most popular tourist roads. 

The first 7 km of this climb is quite challenging.  Before the road flattens out and becomes quite undulating till you reach the Cumberland junction.  It is important that you bring adequate supplies and equipment as there is only one shop Between Warburton and the end of the Reefton Spur.

The Reefton Spur

5. Old Warburton Road

Old Warburton Road “aka Little Joe” is a tourist road which runs between Warburton to Millgrove.  It is an excellent detour if you want to avoid the traffic on the main highway.  The climb up Old Warburton Road fromWarburton is 4.3 km in length.  Even with a steep descent in-between has an average gradient of 5%. A high level of fitness is required.   This road will take you across the lower slopes of Mount Little Joe and is a must do by bike. 

After reaching the peak the descent down to Millgrove is fast & furious.  Please take care on the descent as there are several high speed technical corners. 

Old Warburton Road

6. Dirty Donna (part gravel)

The dirty Donna is fast becoming one of Melbourne’s most popular dirt climbs.  Which will venture through the western slopes of Mount Donna Buang.  There are many amazing photo opportunities along the way.  This road can be accessed via Don Road, which can be attempted from two directions:

  1. From Healesville, via Panton Gap.  The first 9.5km of this climb is sealed before hitting the gravel section. This climb is 24.5 km  in length with an average gradient of 5%
  2. From Launching Place via Don Valley.  This climb is 24.3km in length with an average gradient of 4%.  Whilst this side isn’t as steep as Panton Gap.  It has a much longer section of dirt road to contend with.  Offering a much more scenic ascent than the Panton Gap side.

Both sides require a high level of experience and fitness, and either may be climbed using a Road bike.  We recommended that you run at least a 25 mm tire. During the winter months Mount Donna Buang Road is closed to motorists.  And not maintained over the winter months.  This has become a popular ride for the adventure seekers to do over winter.  The road is covered in debris from fallen trees.   Offering a number of challenges and is a bucket list ride.

Mount Donna Buang Road

7. The Acheron Way (mainly gravel)

The Acheron Way is a 28 km gentle climb which joins onto the Mount Donna Buang climb at Cement Creek.  The views along the way are amazing.  Through dense Rain forest and a seemingly endless array of giant Ferns.  The Acheron Way is a pure joy to ride. The road is sealed over the first 14.6 km out from Narbethong.  This has a consistent false flat with an average gradient of 2%.  The last 13 km of this road is over gravel, and its a great road to ride.  You’ll have to keep an eagle eye on the road. Loose gravel, animals, corrugations and the odd pothole are all dangers that you will want to avoid. I’ve ridden this road on a Road bike with 23 mm tires.  But would recommend that you run at least a 25 mm or 28 mm tire yourself.

Whilst there aren’t many steep pinches along the way, this is a long climb and will test you.  The gravel section has subtle gradient changes throughout, and is a pleasure to climb. When you get to Cement Creek.  If you’re a hill junkie you might want to turn right and climb to the summit of Mount Donna Buang. 

The Acheron Way is quite secluded and if you attempt to ride this road you should bring adequate provisions to get you safely home.

Acheron Way image taken by Greenalias

8. The Roads less travelled

Some of the best climbing that Warburton has to offer is within the town itself. The town has dozens of sealed and unsealed backstreet climbs.  All are incredibly steep! Martyr’s Road is the most famous of these climbs.  Holding the reputation as one of Victoria’s steepest residential streets which peaks at close to 30%. This is a climb will sort the men from the boys.  Its one of those climbs which will cement your reputation as a mountain goat if you can get up it in one piece.  There is a number of backstreet climbs which we could recommend.  If you want the most fun you would have is by getting out there and exploring them for yourself. 

Martyr Road Image taken by Ewan Hilsdon

Cylcing around Warburton

There isn’t another town within the state of Victoria which has as many great riding options that Warburton has on offer.   There are a number of other great ride options that I haven’t mentioned.  Such as taking the dirt ride out to the Ada tree.  This is a giant Mountain Ash that is estimated to be at least 300 years old and stands about 76 meters high with a circumference of 15 meters.  You can visit the Californian Redwood Forest in Warburton East.  Or take a pleasant stroll across any of the three historical bridges in town.  Not to mention there’s some truly amazing Mountain Bike experiences.  Next time you’re out here go and explore. Do a choose your own adventure ride. Warburton is quite a special place to ride all year round.

Californian Redwood Forest

Directions:                                           Warburton is approximately 72 km east of Melbourne

                                                              on the Warburton Highway

Accomodation Options:                      Visit Warburton Info Website

Information Centre:                            Warburton Highway

Cog Cafe:                                              For all of your bike needs, the Cog Café offers great

                                                               food & Coffee.  Bike rentals as well as bike repairs. 

                                                               You’ll find the Café located just behind the Police

                                                               Station at the start of the Lilydale Warburton Trail.

                                                                Visit Cog Café Website

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6 thoughts on “Cycling Warburton

    Preview of the 2016 Dirty Dozen « dandenongranges said:
    September 1, 2016 at 2:06 am

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    Frosty Remo said:
    September 18, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    Great article on Warbuton ; any suggestions on a route to take to the Ada tree ( I have a Cx bike).

      Brendan Edwards responded:
      September 19, 2016 at 11:17 pm

      Sadly, can’t really say as I’ve only driven out there once. If you take the 4WD tracks, there’s good signage directing you to the Ada tree, though found my car struggled up a couple of climbs, & there’s some tough riding out there. Looks a good route if you loop back through Poweltown, & possibly finish with the Lilydale Warburton trail? Don’t quote me, but there may be hiking trails that go from Warburton to the Ada tree, but haven’t done them. Whichever way you choose expect some very steep climbing 🙂

    Lance said:
    March 2, 2017 at 3:37 am

    Great write up Brendan. Such a great part of the world, eh!
    I’m doing a bit of exploring recently (on MTB and CX) between Warby and Powelltown.
    SO. MANY. OPTIONS. and easy to route plan on the go if you grab yourself a Yarra Valley West Gippsland Rooftop Map. Super detailed info and the ‘waterproof’ ones are reasonably robust for jersey pocket shoving! 🙂

    Christine Birch said:
    July 12, 2017 at 4:13 am

    What a great article, thank you.
    We are lucky enough be recent owners of Oscar’s on the Yarra, just off the Lilydale-Warby Rail Trail 2km before Warburton. Our guests often ask for the best local rides – i’ll be able to forward them this article if you don’t mind.
    If any future readers of this post are looking for accommodation or a meal to refuel while experiencing this area and all these amazing rides we’d love to help you out!

      Brendan Edwards responded:
      July 12, 2017 at 11:09 am

      You’re lucky to live in such a wonderful location, and always happy to help out a fellow cyclist looking for adventure, and appreciate if you shared this piece. Had a look at your website. Such an amazing view and can’t wait till my next adventure down your way.

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