Manly Dam trail guide

By Dallas Hewett 4 September 2014
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Northern Sydney has some fantastic adventure options for walking, kayaking and mountain biking

The Manly Warringah War Memorial Park (Manly Dam) is indeed a unique oasis nestled behind one of Sydney’s most popular beach suburbs.

Located on the northern beaches of Sydney, this little gem offers something for everyone. The dam was created in 1892 when Curl Curl Creek was dammed to create Manly reservoir, providing drinking water for the growing population.

Before European settlement, the area was home to the Guringai people; you can still view rock paintings, shell middens and axe-grinding grooves in the park today.

The park provides much needed habitat for local wildlife, plant species and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The dam’s list of recreational opportunities is impressive considering is proximity to Australia’s biggest city. Swimming, paddling, walking and great trail running are all available in and around the dam.

Arguably, the dam’s most famous asset is its mountain biking trails. The 10.2 km main loop has something for every level of rider. The trail is a combination of single track, fire road, local access roads and some tarmac.

You can get your adventure fix and in minutes take a post-ride dip in the ocean or enjoy a bacon and egg roll washed down with a great coffee on the beachfront…not
too bad. 

Fact file

Distance: 10.2 km.

Time: 45 min single loop.

Start/Finish: Manly Vale Public School.

Nearest Town: Manly.

Terrain: Sandstone and bushland that characterises much of northern Sydney.

Accommodation: There are many hotel and hostel options in Manly.

Food/Drink: The coffee and food scene in Manly is huge; for a relaxed alternative hit the café strip on the Dee Why beachfront.  

Points of interest: No camping is permitted in the park, but there are great picnic facilities complete with BBQ’s and a kids playground right on the shore of the dam. Plenty of local bike shops are in the area for gear and tips.

Check out Bike Addiction (02) 9938 3511, Manly Cycles (02) 9977 1189, Belrose Bicycles (02) 9452 5105, and Northern Beaches Cycles (02) 9913 8455 or Dee Why Cycles (02) 9971 7659.     

Getting there: If driving from Sydney, head over the Harbour Bridge, following the exit to Mosman, follow Military Road and Spit Road, from Condamine Street in Manly Vale, turn left into Sunshine Street and follow the signs to the Manly Vale Public School, or take the left at King Street and park at the Hydraulics lab. The ferry from Circular Quay to Manly is the green alternative.

More Info:
Check out the local trail tips at the Manly Warringah MTB club site or the Northern Beaches MTB group site

The ride

1. Start/finish, the Manly Vale Public School is the easiest trail head to start your loop. Join the clay based fire road that leads out of the car park. The trail climbs its way to the highest point of the ride, taking in single track and local access roads. This is where the fun really starts.
2. The trail rolls behind the Seaforth bowling Club before entering the bush for some sandy single track that snacks its way through the scrub. This fantastic section is ideal for chasing your mates before hitting some small drops and challenging step ups to test your skills.

3. Turn right at the top junction (left leads straight to Wakehurst parkway) for a fast and open descent. This section of trail has some interesting sandy corners and sandstone slabs that will have your heart in your mouth if your keen to push yourself. The Manly Creek concludes the descent and begins the inevitable climb back out of the valley.

4. The aptly named Heartbreak Hill is always testing, providing a solid gradient with a real lung busting pinch. Have faith, it is over relatively quickly. Catch your breath at the top and enjoy the free flowing undulating fire trail. The trail leaves Eva’s Trail on the left which is for walkers only, and continues right.

5. The fire trail leads you into one last sustained, but gentle, climb before a right turn at the Heath Track junction that leads you into a short sharp single track section with a nice rock step down or drop, depending on your skill level. The narrow boardwalk opening that follows signifies the beginning of a fun, fast and technical decent that winds behind the houses (watch for walkers).

6. The trail steepens and winds its way to the bridge that brings you out at the dam wall, the road leads you past the Hydraulic laboratory and up a gentle climb, perfect for recounting the final frantic descent with your buddies. From Arana Street turn right into Gibbs Street which leads to the entry of the Manly Vale Public School. It is time to decide if another lap beckons or you’re going to hit the beach…