The last five years have seen mountain bike based tourism boom in Australia. With regional towns looking for alternatives to defunct industries, the number of new – and revitalised – MTB trail networks has grown exponentially. This is, of course, fantastic news for mountain bikers; today’s new trails are built to cater for riders of all ages and skill levels, so no matter which destination of the many hundreds in Australia you visit for a ride, your whole family will have an absolute ball. Check out some of our favourite Aussie MTB destinations here, plan that road trip, and hit the trails!
Alice Springs, NT
Distance: 54.4km Grade: Easy to Advanced
Hugged tightly against Alice Springs is an extensive mountain bike trail network, radiating from the town’s very edges. The ever-expanding network is divided into two sections, Westside and Eastside, with more than 100km of trails between them.
The central trailhead is at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, north of town, from where trails spiral out across the desert sands. Three-quarters of the trails are graded Blue (Intermediate), with a couple of Black (Expert) runs and a smattering of Greens (Easy). There’s a beautifully natural feel to the design of the network, with trails rolling over slabs of rock, dipping through dry creek beds and ascending the low hills that dot the desert.
The Eastside trails stay fairly close to Alice, wriggling out past the town’s north-eastern side, and contain some of the network’s more technical features. The Westside trails begin across the Stuart Highway, crossing open country towards John Flynn’s Grave and the Tjoritja/West MacDonnell Ranges.
For a full day out, making the network’s longest loop, set out from the Telegraph Station on Arrwe, linking up to Apwelantye and Road Train on the Eastside trails. Beside the Ghan railway, Road Train meets Hell Line, part of the Westside trails. The longest trail in the network, Hell Line loops out west along low hills with big views of the West MacDonnnells and Heavitree Gap, before crossing the Larapinta Trail as it turns back east to meet Bus or Locomotive trails on its return to Alice’s western edge. A 3km section of the Larapinta Trail, between Apwelantye and the Stuart Highway, can also be cycled.
Majura Pines, ACT
Distance: 20km + Grade: Easy to Intermediate
The Majura Pines trail network is one of the ACT’s (and Australia’s) oldest mountain bike networks and one that is a tick-off item for all riders, from beginners to expert. The network contains more than 20km of signposted trails and it’s an ideal family riding destination thanks to its famous Green Loop (6km) and beginners’ area, right near the car park off Majura Parkway (The Flash and Crazy Crab Walk are ideal for beginners/kids and there’s also a pump track, named Majurassic Park, here). The Green Loop includes trails such as Wombat and Cannery Row with some climbs mixed in – and all easily followed thanks to the green arrows.
The Blue Loop is our pick for the best ‘Majura experience’ for intermediate and expert riders as it includes some of the location’s most famous trails, such as Planet Claire (a fantastic descent in the forest’s southern section), Sleepy Hollow and, in the northern part (nearer to the winery) , the climb up Mr Squiggle (yep, we love the names, too) and along Batcave, before another fun descent, following Pinot Grinio and Bombora back down before returning south along Mata Hari and then on to the junction with the underpass trail back to the carpark. There are numerous other trail combinations for a full day, so be sure to check out the other options while you’re there.
West Coast, TAS
Distance: 60km + Grade: Easy to Advanced
They call it Tasmania’s wild west coast for many reasons. The weather is wild, the scenery is wild, and the history of the area is pretty darn wild too, from penal settlements to environmental protests. Now, you can add wild mountain bike tracks to all that.
At the very top of the heap – and Mount Owen, a peak overlooking Queenstown – is a gravity trail called Natural Selection. This trail opened in 2021, but some people are already claiming it’s Australia’s wildest ride. Steep, rocky, steep, loose, exposed to the elements on the bare mountainside and – did we mention? – steep. It’s the sort of trail only experts need apply to ride and only then with full-bore enduro or downhill rigs and the complete package of protective gear.
If that doesn’t quite sound like your scene, don’t worry, you’re not alone. The trail network, developed by local MTBers, with the backing of the West Coast Council, and state and federal government funding, has something for everyone. Most trails are carved out on the flanks of Mount Owen. Generally, the higher you go the harder it gets. The easier trails start right out of Queenstown, but shuttles are mandatory for the likes of Natural Selection; the ride to the trailhead is a hair-raising experience.
But the wild west coast also encompasses rides closer to towns like Strahan and Zeehan and include much more family-friendly experiences like the 1.8km Ocean Beach Trail. As you cruise along this smooth multi-use ride consider the next landfall westward is 9600km away in South Africa. It’s glorious, mind-boggling and utterly, yes, wild.
Distance: 230m-6.6km Grade: Easy to Advanced
Scratched into the slopes of Mt Remarkable, the Melrose mountain bike network covers around 100km, split into three sections: Melrose Town Trails, Bartagunyah and Willowie Forest.
The Melrose Town Trails form the heart of the network. Leaving from the very centre of town, they set off in all directions across and up the slopes of the mountain. The signature trails are arguably Weaving Camels and Dodging Bullets. The former is a 1km blue (intermediate) trail that rolls along the banks of Willochra Creek, set beautifully among large river red gums and functioning as an access trail to the network’s southern end. Here, the blue Big Rhua and a selection of black trails coil up the slopes to Wilburs Watch, a ridge-top building with extensive views over Melrose and the flat earth well beyond.
Dodging Bullets is a playful Black run that dips through a concrete pipe and, near its end, cuts through the middle of a tumbledown farmhouse – how many chances will you ever get to ride through a house?
The Town Trails are, by nature, exposed, with trails hanging over steep drops, with plenty of exposure, meaning they are graded higher than they might be on less precipitous terrain. Willowie Forest, 8km north of town, has good offerings for novice riders, especially on the flowing Twisted Sisters.
Distance: 30km (increasing to 90km+ this year) Grade: Easy to Intermediate/Advanced
The pretty NSW far south coast town of Narooma is famous for fishing and its beaches, but is now earning a deserved reputation as a spectacular mountain biking destination, thanks to its trail network located in Bodalla State Forest. With its mix of Easy and Intermediate trails, this network has something for every rider; you can link any number of trails, such as Kents, Seven to Two and Re-Group for shorter loops through lush, dense rainforest, with a few creek crossings thrown in.
Built by the hard-working members of Narooma MTB Club, this already amazing network has just received a huge expansion of another 70km or so this year. With names like Shakey Goanna, Side Tracked, Snoodle and Python’s Path, there are loads of different routes and sections you can connect to allow hours of riding, with both undulating and relatively flat trail sections to choose from.
As well as enjoying the landscape, keep an eye out for the prolific birdlife found here, as well as reptiles, wallabies and more. Looking from above, it’s hard to believe bike trails can be found in some of the really thick rainforest sections – but they are, and that is what makes riding here such a joy – you are totally immersed in a wild environment, but still only five minutes away from the cafes, pubs and beaches of Narooma township for that crucial after-ride chill-out.
Flowtown, Falls Creek, VIC
Distance: 5.1km Grade: Easy-Advanced
Falls Creek is one of several Victorian Alpine resorts that have embraced bicycling as a summer recreational alternative to the traditional focus on winter skiing.
The trails (a mix of easy through to advanced; the beginners’ loop is awesome for kids) spread out from the village like a spider’s web, making out-and-back rides easy to navigate. There’s also a shuttle service running in the appropriate months for those disinclined to labour back up the hill. There are now about 45km of trails devoted to gravity mountain biking, with another 40km to come in the next few years. The resort’s star attraction (for the experienced rider) is definitely Flowtown, an absolute hoot of a 5.1km descent.
From the edge of the village to Howmans Gap ticket box, Flowtown incorporates rollercoaster berms, wide bridges and massive rollers, taking riders through snow gum-dotted, rocky landscapes, as it drops 324 metres down through sub-alpine forest before entering lush green forests of hardwood and ferns, and crossing a number of small creeks before the end.
For a truly glorious longer downhill run, you can link to Flowtown from some of Falls Creeks other trails, such as Wishing Well or Blackout, both accessed via the Aqueduct Trail. Once at the bottom of Flowtown – and once you’ve caught your breath – climb back up via Packhorse and, if you want to (and you will), repeat one of the greatest MTB descents in Australia.
Distance: 20km + Grade: Easy to Intermediate
Often the destination of school camps, Dwellingup is far enough away from Perth to feel like a holiday but close enough for a day trip. It buzzes with riders on most weekends.
The nearby Marrinup Trail is always a classic, with new trails being built to connect it to the main street. Nearby Turner Hill is also a classic technical singletrack and a favourite on the race circuit. A recent refresh has given it a fresh lease on life, but the majority of the focus every weekend is the Murray Valley just below the town.
Formerly, this area was a downhill destination, but once the pine plantations were logged and the old trails destroyed, steps were taken to build something better for the wider riding community. The resulting trails have a shuttle road and a network of options. Crowd favourites include Inzamia and Karrakatoa, which have you in hyperdrive whooping down the hill. The Munda Biddi Trail also passes through this network, giving riders of all abilities the opportunity to sample great rides.
Every year in September, the town explodes with trail runners and mountain bikers participating in the Dwellingup 100, a race which sews together a complex network of singletrack and trails challenging riders to ride up to 100km in the day. You can camp next to the stream at the base of the trails and the city feels much further away than it actually is.
Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park, QLD
Distance: 54.4km Grade: Easy to Advanced
Atherton is about an hour inland from the Tropical North Queensland ‘capital’ of Cairns, on the tablelands at a lofty 800 metres above sea level. Atherton is less busy (and a lot smaller) than Cairns, but with one big cycling-based asset: this town of 7000 is home to one of Australia’s most sensational trail networks – the Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park.
Atherton meets all the ‘successful mountain bike town’ criteria: a great climate, awesome terrain, and the chance to ride to the trail network directly from town. Indeed, the trailhead (with change rooms and bike-wash facilities) is right on the main street, with the link trail out to the network, for easy trail access/return.
The 54.4km trail network sprawls over Baldy Mountain Forest Reserve and Herberton Range State Forest. Most of the riding is ‘flow’ trail, best suited to cross-country or trail bikes. There’s nothing too technical, although the ease with which you garner speed should be enough to keep you focused.
You will find the easier trails in the lowlands, while intermediate trails cloverleaf off, taking you out into the hills. It’s a smart layout that’s ideal for groups of mixed abilities; in short, everyone has an awesome time riding, regardless of skill levels. The official trail maps are numbered; highlights include the bobsled descent of Trail 9 and the epic Trail 12, which loops off onto a life-changing descent and a scenic, gradual climb that takes you to the park’s highest point. For shorter loops, climb up to The Roundabout, and link up Trails 6 and 7.
Hot tips! 5 handy mountain bike maintenance skills
Here are a few tips to keep you and your bike rolling over the trails for years to come.
Free services are the best services: When you buy your new bike from a cycling retailer, they will usually offer you the first service for free. This service is the most important one in your bike’s lifecycle, so make sure you take them up on the offer!
Like any piece of mechanical equipment, a new bike needs a little time for bolts to settle in and for cables to stretch a bit. Once these items are checked and re-tensioned, your bike will run sweetly for far longer.
Tyres are the ticket: The tyres on your bike are the only thing between you and terra firma, so keeping them at the optimum pressure is one of the best – and easiest – things you can to do to make your ride more enjoyable. Softer pressures are best in the dirt, and firmer pressures are ideal for hard-packed gravel and tarmac.
Take tools with you: Ask your local bike shop which multi-tool suits your bike best – and take it with you. Add a spare tube (even if you have tubeless tyres) and a pump to your backpack, and you’ve got a get-out-of-trouble kit. Chuck in a $10 note, glueless patches and a spare chain connector and you’re even more prepared. Why the cash? It can be used to cover a large gash in a tyre.
Ready, set, suspension: Like your tyres, suspension settings are a vital part of every ride. Most bikes are equipped with air-sprung suspension, which can also be tweaked to suit ability and terrain. More speed? Stiffen things up. Want to eat up bumps? Softer is the solution.
Less lube, more often: Specialist cycling lubricant is the best product to use on your bike’s drivetrain (chain, front rings and rear cassette). It’s slightly more expensive than other options, but you only need tiny amounts, and it doesn’t act like a magnet for dirt and grit. Buy once, buy right!
And, there’s more!
You want even more bike riding destinations? Click here for Aus Geo Adventure’s favourite family bike ride destinations.