Located just 38 km east of Melbourne is Lysterfield Lake. This is one of Melbourne’s most popular mountain bike parks which was really put on the map when it hosted the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Some of the tracks that were specially built for the games still remain today, and are just as hard.
With a rise of popularity in gravel grinding. It’s a wonder that many road bike riders haven’t realised that many places such as Lysterfield Lake and the You Yangs. Places which are traditionally seen as mountain bikes only parks, actually have some great fire trails which you can easily ride a road bike on.
Today Geert and Brad came out with me to explore some of the wonders that this park holds.
We were treated to yet another beautiful crisp winter’s morning. The sun was yet to rise and we hit the trails with our lights lighting up the path in front of us. The park his home to quite a large population of Kangaroos, and for much of the ride we were dancing in and around them. It was unpredictable which direction they would choose to hop off onto.
We were lucky see some of the mothers with their joey’s poking their little heads out of their pouch.
We made our way up to Trig Point. The highest point at Lysterfield Lake, and the 3.2 km climb is quite a challenging one. This climb has a nasty bite towards the top with the gradient going upward of 18% on very loose gravel. And very little traction. I’ve climbed it enough times to know all you can do is suck it up and pretend there’s no pain.
We were treated to magnificent views up top, and of course more Kangaroos.
From here we descended down to the Churchill National Park. I prefer riding around here as the climbing is very steep, and usually you get the place to yourself. We made our way around the only flat part of the park. My intention was to take them up Bellbird track. Which is quite challenging, but felt they could do it. Next to this climb is the “Link Track”. This is a climb that I’ve always avoided like the plague as it’s just too hard to climb (see image below). I’ve only been up there once in the 50 odd times I’ve ridden around this park.
One of the guys pointed out the crazy track that goes up the side of the hill, and could hear WTF! I couldn’t help it, and made a change in plan. At the last second I swung my arm out and turned up this insanely steep path that’s quite corrugated and littered with loose gravel.
I won’t repeat what was said behind me. Suffice to say they left a nice tip in the swear jar.
This climb scares me and I was only expecting to get halfway before jumping off to walk. The boys, were sitting on my wheel and guess I figured if they could do it then I had to keep climbing. Halfway up I was feeling ok, and looked over my shoulder and had dropped them somewhat. I kept gliding and suddenly I had a feeling that I was going to do it. I chucked a quick glance over my shoulder, and noticed that Geert & Brad had gotten off to walk. Can imagine that they weren’t liking me at the moment.
The peak couldn’t come quick enough, and a major relief to crest the climb.
With limited time we only had time to do one more climb, so being me. I picked the hardest one I could think of. The Powerlines climb is over 1 km in distance averaging over 11%. Given a third of the climb only averages around 5%, you can imagine how steep this sucka is. Given that the path is quite rutted in places, and a tonne of loose rocks which offer nothing in the way of traction.
This climb has hurt me every single time I’ve climbed it.
Long story short, Geert & Brad got off to walk and I got cursed more.
Maybe it wasn’t the best of experiences, but I’m sure they’ll be back for more!
It was a shame that I had to get home to head off to work. But even a short ride is a good ride.
Both Lysterfield Lake & the Churchill National park have some amazing fire trails which are really enjoyable to ride. Just keep an eye out for those Kangaroos. We ended up seeing over 100 on our ride.
If you want to plan around Lysterfield Lake or Churchill National Park I have put together a number of pieces on all of the best climbs. Please click on the links below:
Click here for link to my Strava Activity.
Churchill National Park is located 30 km’s South-east of Melbourne and joins onto Lysterfield Park. This 271 hectare National Park offers a variety of Fire trails for Mountain Bikers or CX riders. There are a number of climbs throughout the park, which have a high degree of difficulty. Not only are they steep, but all of the trails are littered with gravel and traction is quite difficult. You will need a high level of fitness, to circumnavigate the park.
Churchill National Park is famous for its 173 different species of birds. Such as the Australian Wood Duck and the Pacific Black Duck. Most mammals are only active at night, so if you arrive early or leave late, you might be lucky enough to see one. The Park is also home to a large population of Wallabies & Kangaroos. Take care when riding to keep an eye out for them.
The entrance to the Park is off Churchill Park Drive. You can easily combine a ride around the Churchill National Park up to Lysterfield Lake. Just be mindful that the climb out of the Churchill National Park up to Trig Point is extremely steep. Many a cyclist has walked up it, however there are 360 degree views up the top that will make it all worthwhile.
If you haven’t visited the Churchill National Park, I would highly recommend it.
- Entry via Churchill Park Drive, Bergins Road and Lysterfield Lake
- 24 hour parking available on Curchill Park Drive
- Parking is available within the park (observe gate closing times)
- Picnic & B.B.Q facilities (next to main car park)
- Toileting facilities (next to main car park)
- No dogs allowed (National Park regulations)
- Joins onto Lysterfield Lake
Click on this link for a map of the Churchill National Park from Parks Victoria.
The Churchill National Park
Distance: 1 km
Average Gradient: 10%
Elevation gain: 106 metres
Traffic: Walking track
Terrain: Gravel (MTB or CX only)
Road Surface: Loose gravel
Here is a link to the Strava segment here
I’ve always considered this one of the hardest climbs I’ve ever done. Towards the top of this climb is a small section of gravel which peaks at 20%. This is always incredibly challenging to get up and hurts like a MF. It took me 12 attempts before I was able to climb this one without walking. This track joins the Churchill National Park to Lysterfield Lake. Which offers some stunning 360 degree views from the top. And would recommend to see at night.
Trig Point climb
The climb starts at the intersection of the Stonemasons Track & Lysterfields Hill Track. This climb is 1 km @ 10%, This is hard enough on its own. But there is a lot of loose gravel on this climb and it is challenging getting traction at times.
Keep an eye out as there is a large population of Kangaroos & Wallabies.
Once you reach the fence you leave Churchill N.P & enter Lysterfield Lake. You’ll need to pace yourself. Once you pass the second hairpin the path goes skywards. With the gradient sitting on 15% over the next 250 meters.
Your lungs will be bursting. Instead of offering respite the path gets steeper and as you approach this corner the path peaks at 20%. This is made extra challenging as the path is quite often in bad shape. It can be hard to find a good line to ride into.
The gradient decreases, but you’re heart will be racing so hard all you will be thinking of is getting to the top. Once you reach the sign pictured above turn left. There is only a short climb to the lookout. It is hard as there is no path, and you need to ride over the grass. The gradient isn’t steep, but after 900 metres of incredibly steep climbing there’s no shame in your legs giving up on you here.
The end of the climb is at the funny looking dish thing.
Lysterfield Park is situated approximately 30 kilometres south-east of Melbourne. The park has over 20 km of Mountain Bike single trails, as well as a network of fire trails. Its popularity has stemmed from the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and a network of single-tracks were created specifically for this event. These bike trails cater to riders of all ages and skill levels.
The great thing about riding around Lysterfield Lake is that you can choose your own adventure. You can easily mix up your rides. Choose a ride that winds its way through rock gullies. Bushes, boardwalks and flowing descents, or take on one of the parks many climbs. I have profiled a number of the most challenging & popular climbs in the park. Due to rough surfaces all of these climbs are much harder than the length or average gradient would suggest and would recommend for you to climb them on a CX or MTB.
Click on the links below to be directed to the climb write-ups:
|Link to climb write-up||Distance||Gradient %|
|Lysterfield Lake Preview|
|Glen Track||600 metres||4|
|Granite Track||800 metres||5|
|Trig Point (Lysterfield side)||3.2 km||4|
|Trig Point (Churchill side)||1 km||10|
|Woodlands Walk||1 km||10|
- Toilets available at main car park
- Fire trails are shared paths and riders need to be courteous to walkers
- Trails are all two-way traffic. You will need to keep an eye out for riders coming the other way. There is no rule over who has to give right of way. Heads up that there will be aggressive riders who will expect you to move out of their way, and will ride through you if you don’t. As a rule of thumb if you’re not in a hurry just pull over. Its much safer.
- Parking available at a number of spots around the park
- Lysterfield Lake is open 24 hours a day