Mount Banks Trail

Cycle Sydney, Mountain Bike Ride, Mount Banks Trail

Mt Banks would arguably have to be one of the best views available in the Blue Mountains, and you can pedal your bike all the way there! This easy ride follows a fire trail around the base of Mt Banks before eventually reaching two fantastic lookouts over the Grose Valley gorge. For the energetic a side trip can be taken to the summit of Mt Banks itself where more views await. After your ride relax with a spot of lunch in the picnic area which has tables and a pit toilet.

Terrain

Fire trail with some areas of loose surface.

Traffic

Vehicle traffic for first half of ride then only walkers and other cyclists once through locked gate.

Access

If travelling by car, from Richmond take the Bells Line of Road. A few kilometres past the turn off to Mt Tomah Gardens look for a turn to the left signposted Mt Banks picnic area. You can either park here where the dirt starts in a few limited spots or continue on the dirt for another 2km to the picnic area and car park.

If arriving by train, the ride can be accessed from Bell Station via the Bells Line of Road and this option

Food and Drink

No food or drink at the trail head, closest cafe would be at the nearby Mt Tomah botanic gardens. Nearest shops would be at Lithgow approximately 30km away.

Side Trip

A trip to the summit of Mt Banks.

 

More Details

Mt Banks is one of the highest peaks in the Blue Mountains standing at 1062 metres and can be seen from most of the Grose Valley lookouts and on a good day from Sydney. It was originally known as Mt King George but was renamed Mt Banks after Sir Joseph Banks by the botanist and explorer George Caley. Mt Banks was the furthest place reached by Caley in his 1804 expedition to find a way across the mountains.

After climbing to the summit of Mt Banks and seeing the impenetrable Grose Valley before him he realised that there was no way across and returned defeated to Parramatta. This ride is reasonably short and whilst it is a fair drive from Sydney in my opinion the views make the effort more than worthwhile. Why not make a day of it and visit the nearby Mt Tomah botanic gardens or bring a packed lunch and enjoy the picnic area at Mt Banks.

This ride can also be done on the way to or back from some of the other longer rides in the upper mountains or Lithgow area. I have opted to start this ride from the picnic area around 2km along the dirt road from the initial turn off with Bells Line of Road. There is ample parking here and at this point the trail is free from vehicle traffic. For those wanting to extend the ride there are a few parking spots where the road first turns to dirt. This starting point will add a few more kilometres of dirt to the ride and a reasonable climb out from the picnic area.

If you are still looking to add some extra kilometres into the mix you always have the option of starting from Bell station and following Bells Line of Road to Mt Banks. This will add an extra 28km of on road riding and will also include a decent amount of climbing on the trip back to Bell. This ride takes place on fire trail and contains no major technical challenges and is relatively flat and suitable for riders of all fitness levels. In spots the trail surface is a little rough and littered with numerous loose small rocks and the odd sandy patch. Caution should be exercised here but most riders should have no troubles.

Finally, this ride is exposed to the elements with little shade or tree cover and can be windy at the lookouts, so the extremes of seasons are best avoided. 

 

Ride Log

  • 0.0 From the picnic area/car park locate the start of the fire trail noticeable by a locked gate. Continue around the gate and follow this trail which will soon start to climb slightly and wind around the base of Mt Banks. You will see a sign which states ‘Walkers Only’: this is meant to keep vehicles out but cycling is permitted.
  • 2.5 Note the trail off to the right this is the trail to the summit of Mt Banks which can be done as an optional side trip. If you do not wish to take this side trip continue on.
  • 3.5 A small causeway is crossed, continue on straight ahead
  • 4.8 Fire trail emerges into a large open area with amazing views into the Grose Valley. Locate the double track continuing along the ridge line to your left and follow this.
  • 5.7 Look out for a double track trail off to your right heading uphill, this leads to a fantastic lookout. Bikes should be walked for this final section to the lookout to avoid damage to the trail. Once you have taken in your fair share of views simply retrace your steps back to the main trail.
  • 6.4 Turn left back at the main trail and retrace steps back to the camping area. If you are keen for some more riding you can turn right and follow the fire trail on further. Be warned the trail condition soon deteriorates and becomes overgrown but still rideable. I followed this trail for another 2.5km before turning back due to poor light. The topographical map shows it can be followed for another 1.5km or so before coming to a dead end.
  • 13.0 Return to picnic area and end of ride.
  • Trail map

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    Back

    12.089 km / 7.512 mi

    Total Distance

    436 m / 1,429 ft

    Total Ascent

    431 m / 1,414 ft

    Total Descent

    891 m / 2,922 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Sightseeing
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Commuter
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Gravel
    Various
    Difficulty: Easy (Blue)
    Ride Duration: 1-2 hrs
    Fitness Level: Low
    Terrain:
    Shared Bike Path - Paved
    Shared Bike Path - Dirt
    On-Road Bike Lane
    On-Road
    Off-Road - Fire Trail
    Off-Road - Rail Trail
    Off-Road - Single Track
    Off-Road - Downhill
    Mobile Coverage: Limited
    Estimated Distance: 13.0
    Elevation Gain: 489
    Services:
    Water
    Food
    First Aid
    Toilets
    Bike hire
    Carparking
    Bike servicing
    Accessible by bike
    Accessible by car
    Accessible by public transport
    Accessible by shuttle / uber
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