Cycle Melbourne, Mountain Bike Ride, Smiths Gully Saunter
This ride featured in my first mountain bike book in 1998 and has proved to be hugely popular. It is based around water catchment areas not far from Melbourne’s north-east suburban fringe and has a surprising amount of singletrack, some fine views and quite varied terrain. At times there is a sense of isolation and there is a good chance of encountering kangaroos.
Smiths Gully has a strong gold mining history and there are many old graves from this era in Queenstown Cemetery, which you pass soon after the start of the ride. Further on you pass close by an old goldmine that was recently reopened. There are many places throughout the ride where the remains of old gold diggings can be seen.
Happy Valley Track is a very fast descent and you can see well ahead along most of it which is just as well because you will need to be aware of meeting kangaroos, particularly if riding early in the morning or close to dusk, and this really can happen. I was once riding with a few others down a fast ridgeline when a large roo collided with the rider in front of me. It was quite a sight to see the rider, the bike and the kangaroo flying off into the scrub but it is better to avoid this experience if you can!
There is one short section of sealed road and if you want to extend your ride by a few kilometres, you can turn left at 9.2km to visit Sugarloaf Reservoir. This involves quite a steep climb on sealed road, or alternatively you may want to drive in after your ride. It is a very beautiful sight with a large body of water nestled into the surrounding hills.
As you return to the dirt trail at around 10km, keep an eye open for new singletrack options to explore. Then, as you continue uphill you pass close to the boundary of the Rob Roy motor vehicle hill climb. This is one of only a couple of specially designed bitumen surfaced hill climbs in the world and was constructed in 1939. Historic and vintage cars have regular events at the site.
This ride has gradually evolved since I first researched it in 1998 and you may find new sections of singletrack to explore. On most weekends you will come across other riders at the general store who will share information about recent trail developments.
Smiths Gully is near St Andrews, approx 35km to northeast of Melbourne. Melway 264 E3. Start at Smiths Gully store. You can also get there by the Hurstbridge train. Take Cherry Tree Road to Kangaroo Ground-St Andrews Road. Turn left to Smiths Gully store.
Food and Drink
Smiths Gully general store has all you need and a popular haunt for the many cyclists who enjoy this ride.
Sugarloaf Reservoir (Melway map 273) is close by. It is set in a beautiful location with barbecue and picnic facilities. Sailing small yachts is a popular activity and large mobs of kangaroos roam the area. St Andrews market is an eclectic mix of local produce and alternative lifestyle people. It runs every Saturday near the main road through town.
18.818 km / 11.693 mi
478 m / 1,569 ft
316 m / 1,035 ft