The Crucifix

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%

The Dandenong Ranges steepest climbs

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For the mountain goats  who love their climbs to be super steep.  Have you ever wondered what the steepest climbs in the Dandenong Ranges are?  Would it be Terry’s Avenue, Mast Gully Road or perhaps Inverness instead?

I have put together a list of 10 of The Dandenong Ranges steepest climbs, on sealed roads.  Each climb has a gradient which will peak in excess of 20% and anyone who can get up one of these deserves the utmost respect.

 

Kia Ora Parade (Upper Ferntree Gully)

Distance: 400 metres
Average gradient:  15%
Maximum gradient:  24%

Click here for link to the write-up
Click here for link to Strava segment.

Kia Ora Parade offers the steepest start to any climb in the Dandenong Ranges with a pinch that hits 24% at its base. Ironically, Kia Ora is a Maori word for greeting, or welcome.  On this street it means pain.

Roma Parade (Upwey)

Distance: 200 metres
Average gradient: 23%
Maximum gradient: 24%

Click here for climb write-up
Click here for link to Strava segment

This is one of the hardest short climbs that you can do in the Dandenong Ranges.  This climb starts at the base of the court, and given the steepness of the gradient, you have to do this one from a standing start.  The only way to climb this is by riding sideways just to clip in on this one without falling flat on your arse.  Whilst only 200 metres in length, the gradient never dips under 20% and this is one scary little climb.

Mast Gully Road (Upwey)

Distance: 1.5 km
Average gradient: 13.5%
Maximum gradient:  27%

Click here for link to climb write-up
Click here for link to Strava segment

Mast Gully Road was named due to the fact that trees were felled in order to make mast poles for sailing ships.  Mast Gully is rated as one of the hardest climbs in the Dandenong Ranges.  Offering one of the hardest ends to a climb in the Ranges, which peaks at a scary 27%.  This climb will test every fibre of your body and is a battle of body and mind against Mast Gully Road.

Lacy Street (Selby)

Distance: 400 metres
Average gradient: 17%
Maximum gradient: 32%

Click here for climb write-up
Click here for link to Strava segment

There is the Charlotta Tye Memorial Church located appropriately at the base of the climb.  You may need to pray to get up this one.  The majority of this climb is gravel, which is super steep and super bumpy.  When you come around the first bend.  There’s a small stretch of road which was so steep that they needed to pave it.  The paved section is quite botchy and peaks at over 32%.

Terry’s Avenue (Belgrave)

Distance: 3.2 km
Average gradient:  8%
Maximum gradient:  20%

Click here for climb write-up
Click here for link to Strava segment.

This road is made up of two separate climbs, with a descent in-between.  Both climbs would make the top ten of this list.  Terry’s Avenue is one of the nastiest looking climbs in the Dandenong’s.  The first pinch out of Belgrave is on the wrong side of 20% and continues skywards for 800 metres.  This is considered one of the hardest climbs in the Dandenong Ranges.  Which has brought tears to many a poor fool who’s had to get off and walk their bikes up this monster.

Invermay Road (Monbulk)

Distance: 1.1 km
Average gradient: 10%
Maximum gradient:  24%

Click here for climb write-up
Click here for link to Strava segment.

Also known as “Inver(dis)may” this climb is beauty and the beast rolled into one.  There are some truly incredible views which if you’re lucky will distract you from the pain that you’re in.  There is a short pinch half-way up this climb which averages close 20% for 300 metres that will bring tears to your eyes.

Hughes Street (Upwey)

Distance:  1.8 km
Average gradient: 8%
Maximum gradient:  24%

Click here for climb write-up
Click here for link to Strava segment.

You’ll need a Hughes effort to get up this super steep backstreet.  This climb takes you through the quiet suburbia through Upwey and out through the Dandenong Ranges National Park.

The whole climb is tough, but there’s one small section that will be etched into your mind forever.  The pinch past Olivette Avenue is pure evil.  200 metres @ 17%, and enough to put fear in even the toughest of climbers.

McCarthy Road (Monbulk)

Distance:  500 metres
Average gradient:  22%
Maximum gradient:  24%

Click here for climb write-up
Click here for link to Strava segment.

If anyone bothered to place a call to the Guiness Book of Records, this road could well and truly break a record.  With an average of 22% for 500 metres.  McCarthy has arguably one of the steepest average gradients for a residential climb in Australia.  If you’re averaging over 6 km/h on this sucker you’re doing well.

Inverness Road (Mount Evelyn)

Distance:  2.5 km
Average gradient:  9%
Maximum gradient:  27%

Click here for link to climb write-up
Click here for link to Strava segment.

Inverness Road is part of the Crucifix, and considered the toughest of the four ascents.  It has arguably the toughest finish to any climb in the Dandenong Ranges. You’ve got to climb over 2.5 km of insane climbing to get to the steepest part of this climb.  Which peaks at 27%.  Not for the feint hearted.

Talaskia Avenue (Upper Ferntree Gully)

Distance:  100 metres
Average gradient:  17%
Maximum gradient:  33%

Click here for climb write-up
Click here for link to Strava segment.

If you go and look at this climb I can assure you will think twice about climbing it.  Whilst only short this climb peaks at 33%, and offers the Dandenong Ranges steepest paved road.  This climb is conveniently located next to the Angliss Hospital.  It’s comforting to know that if you fall on a climb like this you won’t have far to get yourself to hospital…..

What do you consider the Dandenong Ranges steepest climbs

Click on the links below to be directed to the write-up.

The Devils Elbow

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The Devils Elbow
Location: Upper Ferntree Gully
Length: 5.1 km
Average Gradient: 8%
Total Ascent: 415 meters
Climb Category: 3
Finish: One Tree Hill Road – Ferny Creek

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

– The expression “Devils Elbow” has been used since at least the 1860’s to describe a difficult bend or curve in a road or river.

The Devils Elbows is considered the gateway to the Dandenong Ranges.  And one of the true icons for climbing enthusiasts. The climb is deceptively steep.  And includes two sharp hairpins as it winds its way through the Dandenong Ranges National Park.  Which passes by the 1,000 Steps which is the Dandenong’s most popular walk.

The Devils Elbow climb

The traditional start to the climb starts at the corner of Burwood Highway and Mount Dandenong Tourist Road. However there is a fair bit of climbing up the Burwood Highway to get to the start.  The Devil’s Elbow takes you up the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road until you reach Churchill Drive. Here you make a left turn onto this road until you reach One Tree Hill Road.  Make a right hand turn for the final part of this climb. The gradient drops on One Tree Hill.  However the final stretch is undulating.  Which can be quite challenging!  Depending on how much fuel you’ve got left in your tank to get to the top of this climb.  This climb is one of the Dandenong Ranges most iconic climbs.  Also one of the most difficult.

Churchill Drive

The Devils Elbow offers a really good challenge.  Riders are rewarded with great views as you move from the steep slopes of Mount Dandenong.  To the wet temperature forest of One Tree Hill which provides a welcome relief on hot days.

The Devils Elbow is part of one of the Dandenong Ranges biggest challenge rides; the Crucifix.  Which challenges riders to take on the 1 in 20, The Wall, Inverness Avenue and the Devil’s Elbow in the one ride. It doesn’t matter which order you do this challenge.  Just that you survive it!

The Devils Elbow

Plan your ride

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.

Parking
  • The Devil’s Elbow has ample parking available at the Upper Ferntree Gully Train station on Burwood Highway.
  • Alternatively there is car parking available off Dawson Street, Upper Ferntree Gully
Toilets

Public toilets are available at the Upper Ferntree Gully trainstation.

How to get there

Upper Ferntree Gully is located approximately 39 km east of Melbourne and accessed off the Burwood Highway.  The traditional start to the climb starts at the corner of Burwood Highway and Mount Dandenong Tourist Road, shortly after you pass under the railway bridge.

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

One Tree Hill (Ferny Creek)

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Distance: 2.1 km
Average Gradient: 7%
Elevation gain: 159 meters
Traffic: Light traffic
Surface: Sealed
Category: 4

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

One Tree Hill is one of the most popular areas in the Dandenong’s.  Which is visited by a large number of exercise junkies who flock in their thousands to visit the famous 1,000 steps walk in Ferntree Gully. It is also a popular climb for cyclists.  Who use it as an extension for a number of the Dandenong’s most challenging climbs.  Which include the Devil’s Elbow (part of the Crucifix), the Satan’s Elbow & the Devil’s Advocate climbs.

The name “One Tree Hill” is a bit deceptive.

You’ll notice straight away that there are in fact thousands of trees in the area.  Back in the 1860’s the forest was cleared except one solitary tree which was left as a survey marker.  This is where One Tree got its name.  The forest has since regrown and One Tree Hill is now part of the Ferntree Gully National Park.  Occupying almost 600 hactares of land.  The area experiences high rainfall.  Due to its geography its forests and fern gullies remains lush all year round.  Making it one of the most scenic roads to ride in the Dandenong’s.

The climb commences at the intersection of the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road & Churchill Drive

Churchill Drive is one of the most pleasant climbs to do in the Dandenong’s. Although its gradient is quite steep.  It has one of the best road surfaces in the Dandy’s and offers one of the most consistent gradients.  Which makes it easy to find a good rhythm on.

The climb gently winds its way up to One Tree Hill through some stunning fern gullies.

Turn right at One Tree Hill Road

There is a short descent before you turn right onto One Tree Hill Road.  Here you will experience well over a kilometer of undulating climbing before the road descends towards the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road.

History

One Tree Hill once supplied navigational assistance to boats sailing up to Port Philip Bay. The trees around One Tree Hill were cut down to make it possible to see Western Port and Port Phillip bays from its peak.

A lookout tower was erected, but was left to go to ruin and was shut down after urgent repairs were needed. No funding was made available to make the necessary repairs and the tower went to waste.  Park management decided to stop trimming trees in front of the tower.  This significantly reduced the views of Melbourne and the bays and the tower was dismantled after a couple of people climbed the tower and an incident occurred.

Original tower lookout @ One Tree Hill

KOKODA TRACK MEMORIAL WALK (1,000 steps)

One Tree Hill’s most popular attraction is the Kokoda Track memorial walk “aka the 1,000 steps. It’s always a running joke that there aren’t actually 1,000 steps.  If you want to know the exact number you’ll have to go and count them yourself.  Plaques along the trail depict the lives of the soldiers who fought and died on the real Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea.  During World War II and the area has historical significance.

The walk was created in the early 1900’s and goes from Ferntree Gully to the top of One Tree Hill. The path was originally made from the trunks of tree ferns laid along the wetter areas of the track.  In order to make the climb a little easier.  Concrete steps were installed in 1950.  The walk is incredibly challenging and continues to get steeper and steeper as you get to the top .  It is one of the most popular walking tracks around Melbourne and isn’t for the feint hearted.  Averaging a whopping 25% in gradient.  The 1,000 steps continue all the way to the top of One Tree Hill.

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.

How to get there

Churchill Drive is located approximately 41 km east of Melbourne, and accessed from Mount Dandenong Tourist Road.