High country

Billy Goat Bluff trail

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Distance: 7.3 km
Average Gradient: 15%
Elevation Gained: 1,123 meters
Surface: Hard packed dirt, rocks, stones and gravel

Click here for link to the Strava segment.

Billy Goat Bluff trail is a 4WD road which is located in the Alpine National Park, near Dargo. This road may well be Australia’s toughest road climb.  To survive to the top you have to ascend 1,200 very rocky and bumpy meters in little over 7 kilometres.

Given how hard this climb is, very few have ever braved to climb to the summit.

Billy Goat Bluff trail
Image taken by balaji shankar venkatachari

Billy Goat Bluff track begins at the intersection of Wonnangatta Road and Billy Goat Bluff track.

This steep track edged with cliff faces has a reputation as one of the tougher 4WD climbs in the high country. If a 4WD struggles up it, can you imagine how your poor little legs will go?  The track can be quite narrow in places and it’s a very long climb with rocks to dodge almost the whole way. The lower section has a couple of sharp corners during steep sections that are guaranteed to test every fibre of your body.  Given the climb averages 15%, I’ll leave it to your imagination  how steep this climb gets.

Warning: This climb should only be attempted by riders with a very, very, very high level of fitness.

Image by Felix Dance

This is a 4WD track and if you hear a vehicle coming along I would strongly advise to pull safely off the road and give them right of way.  The last thing they would expect to see is a crazy cyclist trying to get up this monster of a climb.

This climb takes you up to the Pinnacles lookout, which sits at 1,450 meters above sea level.  The views from this lookout are absolutely breathtaking.

Warnings

  • DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS CLIMB IN BAD WEATHER!
  • Mountain bike or CX only
  • Be prepared to get off and walk
  • Some sections will become slippery when wet
  • Visibility may be impaired when there is a low hanging mist
  • This climb is very isolated.  You will need to bring adequate provisions with you
  • There is no mechanical assistance. If your bike breaks down, envision a long walk back
  • The road is quite narrow and the last thing a 4WD’s will be looking out for is a cyclist. If you hear a 4WD coming either way then best to get safely off the track to let them pass
  • This area is very isolated. Please let someone know where you are
  • The climb is heavily littered with rocks. Bring lots of spare inner tubes with you
  • ONLY ATTEMPT THIS CLIMB IF YOU ARE CONFIDENT THAT YOUR DESCENDING SKILLS WILL SAFELY GET YOU DOWN AND USE EXTREME CAUTION
  • The track is closed over winter
Image by chook1964

This climb is a popular 4WD track and there are quite a number of websites which have reviews of this climb.  I would highly recommend that if you wanted to consider doing a climb like this you search through these sites for further information .

If you can arrange for someone to meet you at the top of the climb with a 4WD to safely transport you down would be the best option.

Image taken by 70_mud

How to get there

Billy Goat Bluff track is located approximately 339 km north east of Melbourne, and you can get there either heading north from Bairnsdale or south from Mount Hotham.  Billy Goat Bluff track is situated near Dargo in the High Country.  The track itself is only accessible by 4WD, and any cyclist mad enough to ride up it…..

The Dargo Hotel

If you get a chance you should visit the historic Dargo Hotel which was built in 1898.  Mention that your headed for Billy Goat Bluff Track and the locals will proceed to tell you that your crazy but still wish you good luck. After finishing such a challenging climb I’m sure you’ll need a cold pot of beer….

Billy Goat Bluff track
Image taken by Royston Rascals

Mount Hotham

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Length:  30.8km
Altitude:
1740m
Height Gain:
1322m
Average Gradient:
4.2%
Maximum gradient:
18%

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

Mount Hotham is one of Australia’s most epic climbs and is known for its unforgettable moon-like summit.  The climb provides spectacular views of Mount Buffalo, Mount Feathertop as well as the high plains.  Mount Hotham is a climb which essentially is broken up into 3 distinct sections.  The opening 11 km are steep followed by a 9 km false-flat.  The last 10 km from the Buckland Gate has made many grown men cry.  It is a roller-coaster of super steep uphill & downhill.  The super steep pinches on Mount Hotham are so formidable they have their own names! “The Meg” and “CRB  Hill” which will be indelibly etched into your memory forever. Many have succumbed and walked these beasts.

Start: Harrietville General Store, Great Alpine Road.

This challenging ride commences in the gateway town of Harrietville.  The first part of this climb is flanked by a tall forest, which was effected by bush fires in 2013.  Fires raged uncontrollably around the Alpine National Park which destroyed much of the vegetation around the area. On the lower slopes of Mount Hotham, there has been much regrowth.  The higher you climb.  You will see more extensive damage.  Hopefully one day this area can return to its former beauty.

The Meg

After 5.6 km of tough climbing.   You will come upon a corner with a road sign letting you know that you have reached the Meg.  Whenever you take on any Mountain ascent, you may find that it seems to have a life of its own.  There are sections which will be etched into cyclists memories forever.  As a rule of thumb.  If you come upon a section of a Mountain ascent which has its own name.  It will hurt!

Nearing the Meg

No matter how much climbing experience you have, rounding that bend to the Meg is a cyclists worst nightmare.  Whilst the Meg is only 300 meters long, the road goes skywards.  With an average gradient of 11.8% and peaking at 14%.  If you have to get off and walk your bike up this pinch we won’t think any less of you.  The Meg is truly brutal.

The Buckland Gate

With 9 km of false flat ahead of you.  This is time to sit back and do whatever necessary to pace yourself to get to the top.  When you reach the Buckland gate, this is where your climb to the summit of Mount Hotham begins.  The closer you get to the summit, the more the road opens up. The climb offers amazing views to both sides of the road.  The scenery is simply stunning!  You will be tempted to pull over a number of times to take photos.  If you look over your shoulder, you can see much of the climb below.  You’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come.  When you turn around you can also see how far you’ve still got to go.  Ouch!

After you crest the first of the steep climbs, you will come across the first of the steep downhills.  Gear yourself up as they are all followed by big kickers.

CRB Hill

If you were hitting CRB on fresh legs it would be hard.  Hitting it with 23 km of climbing in your legs is pure evil.  CRB Hill is a 700 metre stretch with gradients in excess of 10%.  What does CRB stand for?  Climbing is ridiculous brutal.  Climbing is really brutal.  You may think up a few variations of your own as you attempt to ascend this beast.  Maybe it should be renamed to CBF’d hill

Over the top you will be thankful of a brief respite down a fast technical descent.  Save something in reserve as there’s still one last pinch to get up, and it is guaranteed to hurt.

Finish: Hotham Corral Day Car park, Great Alpine Road, Hotham (next to Hotham RMB building, opposite Hotham Central).

Heading under the bridge you’re now going downhill into the Hotham Heights village.  No matter your fitness level, you will feel a sense of accomplishment making the ascent up to Mount Hotham.

Mount Hotham

Tips

Mount Hotham starts steep and it finishes steep, and is quite a formidable climb.  Here are some tips on how to survive:

  • There are three distinct sections to this climb.  Focus on breaking your climb into these three sections
  • Mount Hotham can be exposed to the elements. There can be considerably different conditions from the base to the summit.  Check weather conditions and plan your ride appropriately
  • Avoid climbing Mount Hotham on a really windy day.  The descents can be quite dangerous
  • One of the high countries greatest climbs
  • During the summer months, there may not be anything open at the top.  Bring adequate supplies to get you through your ride
  • Cycling over the winter months due to snow falls & icy roads is not recommended
  • Please use extreme caution on the descent

Cycling High country

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Victoria’s High Country is internationally renowned for its wineries and offers a range of activities for just about everyone.  There are so many great outdoor activities for you to do.  Take a scenic drive or a hike in one of the many National Parks.  Go fishing, mountain biking, horse riding or even go on a 4WD adventure.  These are amongst some of the other great adventures to be had.

The High Country is also renowned for its award-winning restaurants and wineries.  And produce a number of local delicacies, such as cheeses and small goods.  No matter what activities you go out and do.

Victoria’s High Country has something for everyone.

The High Country’s biggest attraction are Victoria’s Alps, where the mountain air is clear and invigorating.  It’s a mountain playground that attract skiers and snowboarders in winter.  Outside of the snow season, these mountains provide the perfect location for cycling, bushwalking, horseback riding, or go fishing.  With some of the best mountains such as Mount Buffalo, Mount Hotham, Falls Creek and Dinner Plain.

The High Country is located in the north-east of Victoria, and I below are a list of the best places I can recommend to spend on your bike.

Cycling High country

Please click on the links to be directed to the climb write-ups.  If there’s a climb which you would like me to review then get in contact and we can discuss.

Email:  thedandenongranges77@yahoo.com

Link to climb write-up Location Distance Gradient % Category
Falls Creek Falls Creek 30.9 km 5 HC
Taminick Gap East & West Glenrowan Various 3
The Horn Mount Buffalo 2.3 km 5.2 3
Tawonga Gap (Mt Beauty side) Mount Beauty 7.6 km 6.5 2
Murray to Mountains Rail Trail  116 km Flat N/A
Mount Hotham Harrietville 30.8 km 4 HC
Cathedral climb Mount Buffalo  3.9 km 6 3
Great Victorian Rail Trail  Tallarook to Mansfield 134 km Flat N/A

Thankyou for reading.

The Great Victorian Rail Trail

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Start/end: Tallarook to Mansfield (extension to Alexandra)
Distance: 134 km
Surface: Fine gravel
Suitable for: Hybrids, touring bikes and mountain bikes

The Great Victorian Rail Trail  officially opened in June 2012 and is the longest rail trail in Australia. It stretches 121 km from Mansfield, and along the Great Dividing Range past Yea to Tallarook.  The trail follows the route of the former railway line, and includes a 13 km extension  into Alexandra.

Bonnie Doon

Escape to the great outdoors and explore central Victoria in the best possible fashion.  The trail offer a safe and enjoyable way to experience the great outdoors and can be ridden by riders of all abilities.  Its a journey which will not only take you back to nature.  But will take you to a world where you will remember the simple pleasure of riding your bike.  Away from the hustle & bustle from traffic, it is a pleasure to go cycling across the quiet open stretches of rail trail.

The highlight of the trail is Cheviot Tunnel which was originally built in 1899 at a cost of £88,661/2/11.  There were many compications with the work delayed by accidents, floods and several industrial disputes.  The tunnel runs through the Black Range at McLouglin’s Gap.  Roughly half-way between Yea and Molesworth.  The tunnel is over 200 meters in length.  With the tunnel being built from an estimated 675,000 handmade bricks that were sourced locally from Quinlan’s pit in a nearby paddock.  Just west of the tunnel.

The Cheviot Tunnel

Due to its length, its best to choose a small stretch of this trail to ride.  If you want to do the whole trail you will most likely have to stay overnight, at one of the many towns along the trail.  It will most likely take several days to make the return journey from Mansfield to Tallarook (or even vice versa).  This trail has been an important boost to tourism to the area, and its refreshing to travel to distant towns that welcome cyclists with open arms.

History

The original railway line which was used to transport passengers and cargo between 1882 to the 1970’s.
Apart from the Bonnie-Doon bridge.  Which opened in 2000, the  first major stage of the rail trail opened in August 2010.  The entire trail was opened by Autumn 2012. In January 2014, branding as the Great Victorian Rail Trail was completed.

The Great Victorian Rail Trail (at a glance)

  • Australia’s longest rail trail
  • Features the only tunnel on a rail trail in Victoria
  • The long bridge crossing across Lake Eildon is a truly amazing experience
  • There are several crossings of major rural highways (take extreme caution)
  • The surface is either a bitumised granite, and compacted gravel
  • Public transport options  via V-Line stops at Tallarook Station.
Section near Mansfield

Major access points are:

  • Tallarook
  • Trawool
  • Homewoood
  • Yea
  • Molesworth
  • Cathkin
  • Merton
  • Bonnie Doon
  • Mansfield – Visitor Information Centre
  • Alexandra – Old railway station
Start of the rail trail in Mansfield

Please note that this rail trail was previously known as the Goulburn River High Country Rail Trail.