dandenong ranges cycling

Cycling to Sky High

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Sky High is the highest point in the Dandenong Ranges and is nothing short of breathtaking.  First established as a survey point in 1861, Sky High is now one of the Dandenong Ranges premiere tourist attractions.  The lookout overlooks the Dandenong Ranges National Park and offers a number of attractions such as a hedge maze. Café, BBQ and picnic areas, hiking, formal gardens and a spectacular views across Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.

Enjoy a ride up to Sky High

Cycling to Sky High is quite popular amongst cyclists.  It is the highest point cyclists can climb in the Dandenong Ranges.  At 633 meters above sea level, no matter how hard your climb to the top was.  The views will always make it worthwhile.  Sky High offers cyclists a great place to stop for a rest, toilet break, or to enjoy a meal up at the Bistro.

Make sure you get your camera out.  A climb up to Sky High wouldn’t be complete without getting a selfie or a photo of your bike at the Sky High lookout.

Sky High is located off Ridge Road and you can climb it from either Olinda or Kallorama.  There is an entry fee to the car park.  Thankfully the toll operator usually turns a blind eye to cyclists.

Things to do @ Sky High

  • Enjoy the spectacular views day or night
  • Dine at Sky High Bistro & Restaurant.  Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week (see
    website for opening times)
  • The lawns overlooking the panoramic views offer picnic and BBQ facilities and provide an ideal spot
    for family picnics
  • Have a wander through the English Garden
  • Go for a hike through the Dandenong Ranges National Park
  • Make a wish at the wishing tree (next to the English garden)
  • Visit Percy Possum’s House, the Giant’s Chair and the Australia Tree
  • Explore the SkyHigh Maze (entry fees apply)

          Adults $6
Children (under 12) & Seniors $4
Family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) $16

Notes

  • Dogs must be on a leash
  • Public toilet facilities available
  • No ball games allowed
  • Do alcohol allowed to be brought into Sky High

Location

 26 Observatory Road
Mount Dandenong 3767, View Map

Contact: (03) 9751 0443

Open daily

 Entry Fee:

$5 per car

Link to Sky High Facebook

Click here for Sky High Website

If you’re looking for ways you can climb up to Sky High, click on the links below for suggested Strava segments:

The 1 in 20 to Sky High

Distance:  13.6 km @ 3%

The Wall to Sky High

Distance:  10.7 km @ 3%

Montrose to Sky High

Distance:  7.9 km @ 5%

The Full Monty (Inverness to Sky High)

Distance:  7.4 km @ 6.6%

Terry’s Avenue to Sky High

Distance:  13 km @ 3%

Ridge Road “aka Five Ways climb” (Mount Dandenong)

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Distance:  2.2km
Average Gradient: 6%
Elevation Gain:  128 metres
Category:  4
Surface: Sealed
Traffic: Light

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

Apart from being an incredibly challenging climb.  This climb is worth going out of your way to do as it takes you past two of the Dandenong’s best scenic lookouts.  At the base of this climb is the Kallorama Lookout.  Which can be accessed by the car park on the intersection of Five Ways on the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road (see image below).  This lookout offers spectacular views over the Silvan Reservoir, surrounding foothills and the Yarra Ranges off in the distance.  It is easily one of the best lookouts in the Dandenong Ranges, and worth getting your camera out for a shot or three.

Opposite the lookout is a Tea house (see image below), and the climb I’m looking at today is directly behind this on Ridge Road.  This is quite a popular climb which takes you all the way up to Sky High.  The highest point in the Dandenong Ranges.  This climb is steep right from the outset, averaging 14% over the first 500 metres.  This may sound daunting, however the road surface is quite good and it’s easy to find a good rhythm.

Base of the climb

This is a residential street.  However the houses blend beautifully into the environment and it will feel like you’re climbing through a forest.  When you pass Falls Road to the left hand side of the road, you can enjoy a brief respite as the road flattens for around 300 metres.  The road will start to head skywards again as you pass the Mount Dandenong Arboretum to the left side of the road.  As you leave suburbia and enter the heart of the Mount Dandenong National Park.  You may find yourself in the pain cave as most do.

You’ll love it!

The next 800 metres undulates with several pinches in excess of 10% until you pass the exit for Sky High (a one-way only road).  Continue up Ridge Road for 400 metres where you will enjoy a brief descent.  Then turn right onto Observatory Road.  Whilst this final pinch is only 300 metres long.  It’s one of those climbs that you’re always tired by the time you hit it.  This small stretch of road has dished out a lot of pain and it is always a relief once you reach the gates to Sky High.  It is always a remarkable experience as you ride up to the lookout looking over metropolitan Melbourne.

Cycling up to Sky High is one of the greatest experiences that you can do in the Dandenong Ranges and well worth a detour.  There’s a Café up top which serves a mean Coffee and a view to a kill.

Five Ways climb

 

The Crescent (Sassafras)

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Length: 3.3 km
Height gain: 167 metres
Average gradient: 5%
Surface: Rough
Terrain: Forest/Residential
Traffic: Light

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

The Crescent has always been one of my favourite climbs in the Dandenong’s.  There’s something special about this climb that makes it such a pleasure to climb.  Its a climb that can easily lull you into a false sense of security.  The first 2.6 km offers a fairly easy climb through some of the Dandenong Ranges National most stunning Rain forest.  This climb has a nice surprise with the last 700 meters ramping up, and one final pinch which is quite nasty!

The climb begins at the intersection of Perrins Creek Road, and this climb which has two parts.  The first section of the climb is 2.6 km in length with an average gradient of 5%.  The road surface is quite course.  Even though the average gradient is quite an easy gradient to climb, you have to work for it.  It’s easy to be caught up in the serenity and tranquility that this climb has to offer.

Be mindful that part two has a real bite to it!


What I like most about this climb is the finish.  The last 1.4 km just gets steeper & steeper.  With 700 meters to go the road seriously ramps up as you enter the residential part of the Crescent.  This is where the road gets skyward until it hits you in the face with the final 200 meters of the climb averaging well in excess of 10%.  After 3 km of climbing your legs might not like you at this point.  You will need your granny gear to get up this one and if you’ve cooked yourself before you’ve hit this one, good luck!

The final pinch

History of Sassafras

Sassafras was originally called Sassafras Gully.  After the damp, hilly terrain and trees that grew in the area.  Sassafras Gully was open for small scale farming in 1893 where 500 ten-acre farms were put up for sale.  Little in the way of a township was established.  With only a Post Office (established in 1894), store, school (open in 1894) and a Mechanics hall.  In the early 1900’s tourism began to grow which helped the town to develop.  Around 1918 thirteen guest houses were built attracting a number of weekenders.  This made Sassafras one of the leading resorts in the Dandenong Ranges.  Around this time two churches & additional shops were built around the township.

Image courtesy of State Library Victoria

Today Sassafras is one of the Dandenong’s oldest and most popular towns.  Featuring a diverse collection of Cafes, Antique and craft shops.  It is very popular amongst cyclists who may stop to catch their breath after climbing one of the Dandenong’s most iconic climbs the 1 in 20.

The Crescent (Sassafras)

How to get there

The Dandenong Ranges are located approximately 45 km east of Melbourne.  The Crescent is located just of the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road in Sassafras.

Public transport

Train services available to the Dandenong Ranges, either using the Belgrave or Lilydale lines. Click here for Public Transport Victoria for train timetable.

During fire season

The Dandenong Ranges are in a fire district. Anyone entering parks and forests during the bushfire season needs to stay aware of forecast weather conditions. Check the Fire Danger Rating and for days of Total Fire Ban at www.cfa.vic.gov.au or call the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226.

William Ricketts Sanctuary

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William Ricketts Sanctuary is one of the most inspiring and tranquil places In the Dandenong Ranges.  The sanctuary is set in amongst a stunning rain forest.  Visitors have a chance to wander the grounds and to discover all of the amazing sculptures.  These are carved into rocks and tree trunks that line the paths that run throughout the sanctuary.  This is a place of quiet reflection and wonder.  With over 90 different sculptures depicting the Aboriginal people engaging with the Earth.

About William Rickett

William Rickett (1898 – 1993) was an Australian potter and sculptor of the arts and crafts.  He spent much of his life creating a sanctuary in the Dandenong Ranges.  William found this to be a place for quiet reflection and to replenish the spirit. He was a firm believer that all Australians should adopt Aboriginal philosophies.  Respecting the spirituality of the mother earth and all things in the natural world. Some of his works throughout the grounds depict his feelings on the devastation of white man.  Their destruction of the natural environment.

From 1949 to 1960 William made frequent trips to Central Australia.  Where he lived with the Pitjantjatjara and Arrernte Aboriginal people.   Their traditions and culture helped to inspired many of his sculptures. Later in life, William Ricketts sold the sanctuary to the Victorian Government in the 1960’s who turned it into a public park.

William Ricketts continued to live at the sanctuary developing his art.  Living there until his death in 1993.

William Ricketts Sanctuary

The Sanctuary is a must visit, and is one of the Dandenong Ranges most popular tourist attractions.  Many travelers come from all across the globe to visit this Internationally renown Sanctuary.

Address:

1,402 Mount Dandenong Tourist Road,
Mount Dandenong

Operating Hours:

William Ricketts Sanctuary is open daily from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm daily (except Christmas Day).

Entry is free

Parking:

Disability and short-term drop-off parking is available directly in front of the sanctuary.   The main carpark is located directly across the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road. Visitors need to take extreme caution when crossing the road.

Enquiries

Phone: (03) 9751 1300

Email: info@parks.vic.gov.au

Birdsland Reserve (Belgrave Heights)

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Birdsland Reserve

Location:  Belgrave Heights
Surface:   Generally smooth dirt or gravel track
Various climbs to choose from

This truly amazing Reserve is a great area to explore by bike.  It’s one of the Dandenong Ranges best kept secrets. Birdsland Reserve is located in the southern part of the Dandenong’s, in the suburb of Belgrave Heights.  This reserve offers some truly amazing scenery and if you love your climbs.  The reserve offers quite a few really short, sharp brutal climbs.  These have been known to have the hardiest of climbers get of their bikes to walk up.

Birdsland Reserve

The entrance to the reserve is off McNichol Road.  There is a single track in and out of the reserve.  This takes you through a series of small lakes and makes its way across to Wellington Road.  If you wanted to continue an adventure of dirt, links you up to Lysterfield Lake.  One of Melbourne’s most popular Mountain Bike parks.  The path is generally smooth dirt or gravel track and can be ridden on a road bike.  Although a CX or Mountain Bike would be more suitable.  Birdsland Reserve offers are a number of walking tracks which are all incredibly steep.  The condition of some of these trails can be rough and are only suited for a Mountain Bike.  Navigating your way around the park is quite easy.  All of the walking tracks link back to the main path so you won’t get lost.

History of Birdsland Reserve

Birdsland Reserve is a 75 Hectare Park and is home to a diverse range of wildlife.  The area was originally owned by the Birds family.  The property was originally used for sheep farming, and was originally known as “Birds Paddock”.  The local government purchased the site in 1981 and was opened to the public.  This has become a very popular park for hikers, picnic goers and Mountain Bikers.

Experience the serenity of Birdsland Reserve

Birdsland Reserve has always been seen as a Mountain Bikers paradise, but why let them have all the fun.  This reserve is one of the most scenic areas you can explore by bike in the Dandenong Ranges.  And a great place to visit all year round.

Details

  • Toilets
  • B.B.Q and picnic facility available
  • Pram friendly walks
  • Dogs allowed
  • Parking available on Mount Morton Road, Birdsland Reserve car park.  And on Wellington Road

The 1 in 20 (The Basin)

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Distance: 6.8 km
Average Gradient: 4%

Elevation gain: 277 meters
Traffic: Light traffic
Surface: Sealed
Category:
3

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

There is an aura surrounding the 1 in 20.  This is easily one Melbourne’s most iconic climbs.  Which takes riders up a journey along the Mountain Highway through the Dandenong Ranges National Park. The 1 in 20 is 6.8km in length and has an average gradient of 4%.  Its a climb which appeals to riders of all abilities.  And is a climb which riders use as a benchmark to test how fast they are uphill.  In a friendly manner the 1 in 20 is Melbourne’s biggest pissing contest.  It’s common for riders to compare their 1 in 20 times against their mates.

The 1 in 20

The name 1 in 20 came from its average gradient.  Which is funny as technically 1/20 represents 5% not the climbs 4% average.  As it’s such a cool sounding name no one’s seemed to complain about a little technicality.

The climb takes you through the Dandenong Ranges National Park.  Which is truly breathtaking offering temperate Rainforest and a wide variety of native flora and fauna. The road winds its way up Mountain Highway between The Basin and Sassafras,.  It is a gentle climb which is great for cyclists of all abilities to test themselves.

I’ve heard some riders call the 1 in 20 an easy climb.  I’m of the opinion that there is no such thing as an easy climb.   If you’re finding a climb easy then you’re probably not hitting it hard enough.  Much of the enjoyment of climbing the 1 in 20 comes from the fact that the gradient subtly changes throughout.  The climb  has many nuances which keep you on your toes.  Its important to pace yourself and to ride  it smart.  It’s a climb that you really have to have experience to get a feel for the best way to attack it.

View of Sky High from the 1 in 20

Everesting

When you next climb this iconic climb spare a thought for Hells 500 rider.  Martin English. He is the current record holder for the most consecutive laps of the 1 in 20.  Spanning over a 33 hour period.  On the 1 in 20.  Every kilometer there is a a painted sign to the left hand side of the road letting you know how far you have to climb.  With 500 metres to go, these are painted every 50 metres.  They’re a great tool to help pace yourself up to the top, and riders use these to gauge how far they have to climb.  Still I wonder how useless these were to Martin who climbed the 1 in 20 a whopping 36 times.  Accumulating 10,818 vertical metres and covering a distance of 508km.  Which at the time was a record longest Everest attempt.  That ride would have hurt!

Martin English on his Everest attempt

Here is a link to his Strava Activity here:

The 1 in 20 has also been Everested by:

  1. John Van Seters
  2. Gary Beazley
  3. Lewis Greenhalgh
  4. Con Xenos
Official finish to the climb, however there’s still a little bit of climbing to go

This is a true icon of the Dandenong’s, and if you get a chance next time you’re out there, pay it a visit.

Talking about a pissing contest.  What is your PB up the 1 in 20?


Bet you can go faster……

Plan your ride

Public transport

Train service available to “Ferntree Gully” and “Mooroolbark” train stations.  Click here for Public Transport Victoria for train timetable.

The 1 in 20 Parking

The 1 in 20 has limited parking at base of climb.  It is advised to park in the car park next to the Basin Fire Brigade.  There is parking available in front of the shops in the Basin, however these have parking restrictions.

Public toilets are available:

  • At the base of the 1:20
  • In Sassafras at the top of the 1:20

Water

Available at the top and the base of the 1 in 20

Terry’s Avenue (Belgrave)

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Terry’s Avenue & Belgrave – Ferny Creek Road

Distance: 3.2km
Average Gradient: 8%
Elevation gain: 258 metres
Category: 3
Traffic: Light traffic
Terrain: Residential/National Park
Road Surface: Good

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

One of the original residents of Belgrave was Mr Terry. Who owned a lot of land which was known as Terry’s Hill. He sub-divided it into one and a half acre blocks which were sold for £15 each. A road was put through here which was to be known as Terry’s Avenue.  There are two separate climbs on Terry’s Avenue.  Either of them could be considered amongst the Dandenong’s toughest climbs.  Terry’s has been used as the Queen climb in the Climbing Cyclists Dirty Dozen Domestique series in the Dandenong’s on serveral occasions.

Terry’s Avenue climb

The climb begins from the big roundabout on the Burwood Highway & Terry’s Avenue.  Immediately the road ramps above 20% in gradient.  A large number of riders use the mail delivery system to get up such a steep gradient. This involves zig-zagging from one post box to the next.  In order to help the rider get the ascendancy to get up such a steep climb.

Terry’s Avenue is a real lung-buster and you will need legs of steel to get up this beast.

Once over the top you will find a new appreciation for oxygen.  A as you desperately try sucking as much into your depleted lungs as you can.  Before you hit the next climb there is 1 km of descending.  After the torture of Terry’s, it is a major challenge to get your body & mind ready for round 2…..

Belgrave – Ferny Creek Road

When you leave the residential area and enter the Dandenong Ranges National Park.  The road goes skywards yet again (after you pass Sandells Road).  Even though you’re on the same road.  The name of the road changes to Belgrave-Ferny Creek Road.

Belgrave Ferny Creek Road isn’t quite as steep as Terry’s.  But it is still very, very, very, very steep and much longer.  The scenery is quite stunning, but you’ll be so far into the red zone that you won’t notice much.  If you harbour any doubts about this climb don’t.  It will hurt like a MF getting up this thing.  I can quite assure you getting off and walking up this hill will hurt you a lot more.

This road offers arguably the most challenging sealed climb in the Dandenong Ranges.  If you want to see yourself as a climber.  There is a right of passage to have the ability to get up a climb like this in one piece.  That is without getting off to walk.

If you’ve got a tale about Terry’s Avenue that you would like to share.  Please let us know in the comments section below.

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Thank’s for reading

 

Inverness Road (Mount Evelyn)

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Distance: 2.5km
Average Gradient: 9.1%
Elevation gain: 232 meters
Traffic: Light traffic
Surface: Sealed
Category: 3

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

One of the Dandenong’s most infamous climbs.  Inverness is part of the Crucifix which challenges riders to climb the Devil’s Elbow, the 1:20, The Wall & Inverness in the one ride.  The name came about as on a map the image of this ride looks like a cross.  Inverness is considered the hardest of the four corners.  And has a reputation as one of the harder climbs you can do in the Dandenong’s.

The climb commences at the intersection of York Road & Inverness Road.

Inverness Road climb

Right from the outset the climbing is steep.  With a fairly consistent gradient and one of the smoothest surfaces in the Dandenong’s it is easy to get into a rhythm.

After you pass Warrawee Road.  The road ramps up and expect gradients between 10 – 15% before you reach a hairpin.

The road narrows to one lane.  It can get tricky through here is another vehicle is trying to get through.  For the next 900 meters there is a residential section & the road flattens somewhat.

What makes this climb so special is its final 400 meters.  It starts mega steep and just continues to get steeper and steeper.  Until it peaks well in excess of 20%.  Its a lot steeper than the average 14% suggests.  Inverness Road easily boasts one of the most difficult endings to a road climb in the Dandenong Ranges.

The final pinch

 

Once you reach the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road.  You will be guaranteed to be gasping for breath and many a rider may have thrown up at the top.  The top is a very popular spot for riders to recover from Inverness Road.  A climb which instills fear in many.

Top of the climb

What is great about this climb is that it keeps on going.  There are three extended climbs you can do from the top.  Click on the links below for Strava segments.

  1. Inverness to Jaspers Road; 4.5km @ 8%
  2. Inverness to Sky High; 7.9km @ 5%
  3. Inverness to Olinda; 11.1km @ 3.4%
Enjoy views of the Yarra Valley along the way

Perrins Creek Road (Kallista)

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Distance: 2.4 km
Average Gradient: 7%
Elevation gain: 182 metres
Traffic:Light traffic
Terrain: Good
Category: 3

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

Perrins Creek Road is one of the Dandenong Ranges most iconic climbs, and situated near one of the Dandenong Ranges most popular climbs; the 1 in 20.  This climb takes you through some of the nicest Rainforest the Dandenong’s has to offer, and is a great one to do as you rarely see much traffic on it.

The climb up Perrins Creek Road

The official start to the climb begins at the intersection of Perrins Creek Road & the Crescent.  However there is climbing all the way from Coonara Road.

Perrins Creek Road is quite deceptive in how challenging it is.  It has a course surface that gets you working that little harder, and whilst the road doesn’t start out that steep.  The higher you climb, the harder this one gets. If you keep an eye on your Garmin you’ll see the gradient subtly continue to get steeper until shortly before you reach the hairpin where the road peaks at 11%.

This is one of those climbs that are a pleasure to climb whether its fast or slow.  It truly emodies the spirit of the Dandenong Ranges and a climb which you will find yourself coming back for more.

After coming out of the hairpin, the final 700 metres is much easier to climb, averaging just over 6%.

The climb finishes at the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road.

End of the climb

Plan your ride

  • Toilets and water available in Sassafras

Best times to ride

Monday – Friday:

Avoid peak hour traffic and ride between 9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Weekend:

The Dandenong’s attracts a large number of tourist traffic over the weekend.  It is best to schedule your rides early in the morning.

Public transport

Train services available to “Upper Ferntree Gully” train station.  From the train station there is an easy 500 metre climb to the official start of the Devil’s Elbow climb.  Click here for Public Transport Victoria for train timetable.

 

Perrins Creek Road

During fire season

The Dandenong Ranges are in a fire district. Anyone entering parks and forests during the bushfire season needs to stay aware of forecast weather conditions. Check the Fire Danger Rating and for days of Total Fire Ban at www.cfa.vic.gov.au or call the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226.

The Serpentine (Upwey)

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The Serpentine
Distance: 700 m
Average Gradient: 13%
Elevation gain: 91 meters
Traffic: Light traffic
Surface: Sealed
Category: 4

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

The switchback design of this road was the only way to reduce the hills naturally steep gradient.  This road was appropriately named “the Serpentine”.  This came about due to the fact that the road looks like a coiled snake on the map.  This is a must do climb which you have to try at least once.  You’ll feel the sharp sting as you each switchback is incredibly challenging and brutal.  And whilst only short in distance, your heart rate will be going through the roof.   Virtually every rider who attempts this climb is forced to rest at the top.  Dry reaching and gasping for breath.   Its an iconic climb which was made popular by being featured in several editions of the Dirty Dozen series.

The Serpentine

 

The Serpentine climb

The climb begins at the corner of Sandells Road & the Serpentine.

 

The Serpentine is a tough climb as the surface can be rough.  And the road is just over a car length wide & it is a two way street so keep an eye out for traffic.  There aren’t that many houses on this road.  Thankfully you will most likely encounter local traffic only and rarely will see a car on this climb.  The gradient does not drop under 10% and is steep throughout. The climb consists of 5 switchbacks.  The hardest parts are the corners where the gradient ramps up well in excess of 20% each corner.  Each corner wearing away more and more at your legs.

 

The climb finishes when you reach the intersection at Terry’s Avenue .  This is considered one of the Dandenong’s toughest climb.  If you have anything left in the legs after climbing the Serpentine its well worth hitting Terry’s as well.

What to expect

  • Very narrow street (two way traffic)
  • Incredibly steep and brutal climb
  • Local traffic only
  • The steepest part of the climb are in the corners which peak at around 20%
  • Well shaded climb

Plan your ride

Upwey is located approximately 40 km east of Melbourne.  If you’re taking public transport.  Train services are available to “Upwey” train station.  Click here for Public Transport Victoria for train timetable.

During fire season

The Dandenong Ranges are in a fire district. Anyone entering parks and forests during the bushfire season needs to stay aware of forecast weather conditions. Check the Fire Danger Rating and for days of Total Fire Ban at www.cfa.vic.gov.au or call the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226.