Cycling isn’t just a pursuit in Victoria’s High Country, it’s a passion. Rail trails roll through valleys, road rides ascend to alpine summits, mountain bikes flow down trails, and gravel rides radiate far from trafficked roads. Pedal around any bend and there’s a coffee (or perhaps a wine…) almost in sight, and day’s end has the promise of a craft brewery, fine restaurants, and restorative accommodation. The High Country will be your bike’s happy place.
Ride a rail trail to discover the High Country
To ride a bike in these mountains doesn’t necessarily mean you need to take to the mountains. Laid out below the peaks are three of Australia’s finest rail trails, including the longest in Victoria and arguably the most famous rail trail in the country.
The heart of the latter, the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, runs for almost 100km through the Ovens Valley between Wangaratta and Bright, with side trails to Yackandandah (via Beechworth), Milawa and Wahgunyah (via Rutherglen). Produce as much as pedalling is the ride’s focus, with the likes of wineries, berry farms and cheesemakers strung along its length.
The Great Victorian Rail Trail stretches things out even further, with the state’s longest rail trail exceeding 120km between Tallarook and Mansfield, with a beautiful side trail through Eglinton Gap to Alexandra. Along its journey, the ride bores through the longest tunnel on any rail trail in Victoria and crosses high above Lake Eildon on a 387m-long bridge at Bonnie Doon. With lingering stops in historic towns such as Yea, Yarck and Alexandra, it’s a ride you can easily stretch across a few days.
The southern shores of Lake Hume are the centrepiece of the High Country Rail Trail. From Wodonga, the 80km ride ascends to its finish in Shelley, once the site of the highest railway station in Victoria, but not before passing the remnants of Old Tallangatta, a town relocated and then flooded when Lake Hume was created in the 1950s.
Mountain biking heaven
Settle in – there are nine mountain bike parks sprinkled across the High Country, and that’s only the tip of the riding options. Spend a night in Mt Buller Village where you’ll find plenty of bike-friendly lodges, before taking to the Alpine Epic, the only trail in Australia rated as an ‘Epic’ by the International Mountain Bicycling Association.
Leaving from the edge of the village, the 46km descent (with a few challenging climbs along the way to break things up) ends at Mirrimbah, at the foot of the mountain, where there’s a shuttle bus back to the summit, or you can head on down to Mansfield to spin trail tales at one of its pubs or the beer garden at Anvil Brewing.
Ned Kelly might have pioneered the wearing of helmets around the area, but these days Beechworth abounds with bike helmets. Head out to the Beechworth Mountain Bike Park for 15km of bush trails or crisscross the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail on the Flame Trees cross-country loop.
Everywhere needs a hero trail, and in Bright it’s even named Hero Trail. Modelled on Whistler’s legendary A-line (one of the world’s most famous mountain-bike trails), Hero plunges for 3km down the slopes of Bright’s Mystic Mountain Bike Park – jump it or roll it, this descent is fun however you ride.
These two mountain bike parks are on the very edge of their respective towns, which are noted for their fine restaurants, craft breweries and proximity to vineyards, providing plenty of distraction for those hours off the bike.
Go high on alpine road rides
For road cyclists, it’s hard to resist the call of the mountains. The 7 Peaks Ride is Australia’s ultimate road test, challenging cyclists to pedal to the summits of Mt Hotham, Dinner Plain, Mt Buffalo, Falls Creek, Mt Buller, Mt Baw Baw and Lake Mountain.
In the manner of Europe’s grand Alpine climbs, each ride calls on strength and stamina, stringing together climbs of between 740m and 1320m. Paradoxically, it’s the lowest of those climbs – the 740m ascent to Mt Baw Baw – that packs the greatest punch, with an average gradient of more than 11%, including pinches above 20%. You can ride all seven peaks in a week, or stretch them out across several summers, totalling up more than 7000m of ascent. Most of the rides top out at ski resorts that have summer cycling habits, with cafes and lodges open throughout the summer.
For every mountain climb in the region, there’s also a valley ride, be it into the Buckland Valley from Bright, out to Lake Buffalo from Myrtleford, or mixing it up – valleys and climbs – on the 76km Stanley and Myrtleford loop out of Beechworth. Each ride begins and ends in a town, providing caffeine starts to fuel the day and quality accommodation and dining each night.
Explore the High Country backroads on a gravel ride
What’s not to love about a gravel ride named for its signature snack stop? Among the myriad gravel rides in this region fast cementing itself as one of Australia’s top gravel destinations, the Percorso di Cruffin is immediately delicious. With a name that’s Italian for “Road to Cruffins”, this 56km ride sets out from tiny Moyhu, looping north through Milawa, where the Milawa Kitchen serves up the namesake cruffins at around the ride’s halfway mark (Brown Brothers Winery is also right on the route if you prefer liquid refreshment).
Beechworth has become one of Australia’s great gravel-riding bases, with a long and varied selection of unsealed routes. If you’re new to gravel, or riding with kids in tow, begin on the 25km Stanley Intro Loop, or the 18km Lap o’ Town. Longer day rides include Mt Pilot Lookout (a 58km figure-of-eight circuit ascending to the highest point in Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park) or scale it up to the Myrtleford Monster, a 123km classic out of Myrtleford, taking in the King Valley and Lake Buffalo, along with cafe stops at The Oven in Cheshunt and Hobbledehoy Cafe and Distillery in Whitfield.
There are plenty of good multi-day High Country bikepacking routes to be found online at Gravelmob, including a week-long High Country Breweries 550 cycling tour that happily finishes each day beside one of the region’s craft breweries.
Go to Ride High Country for even more information on bike rides, accommodation and other attractions in the Victorian High Country.