Where: Yarra Valley, Yarra Ranges, east of Melbourne
Terrain: a mix of hilly and flat
Surface: about 50/50 sealed/unsealed. Unsealed surfaces are well made and can be ridden on a road bike
What: attractive pastoral areas, fresh produce, wineries, Yarra River, tall mountain ash forest, rainforest, challenging climbs, fast descents, historical mining settlement, Victoria's tallest tree!
With low traffic, old-growth forest, challenging climbs and high-speed descents, the Yarra Ranges has some of the best road and gravel cycling in Victoria. This ride showcases the region, and also goes through the Yarra Valley, known for its beautiful scenery and gourmet local produce. You will ride through the towns of Marysville and Warburton, near the summits of Mt Donna Buang and Lake Mountain, and along the famous Acheron Way, one of Victoria's most scenic roads.
Starting in Lilydale, the first 40km of this ride is along the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail, one of the most beautiful trails in the state, and one of my all-time favorites. You'll pass a few small towns, forest, and agricultural areas. There are plenty of wineries and other gourmet attractions in this area. The surface is well-made crushed gravel, and can be easily ridden on a road bike.
Once you get to Warburton, you'll take a left onto Mt Donna Buang road and tackle the first major climb of the ride. It's a steady gradient, and after about 7km you will come to the intersection with Acheron Way. The rainforest gallery at this intersection is well worth a look. If you feel like bagging a peak, Mt Donna Buang Summit is to the left, and uphill. Otherwise, continue straight onto Acheron Way.
Acheron way is also gravel for a good part of it, but again, it's pretty well made and not too hard on a road bike. It's also one of the most scenic roads I've ridden on, and gets little traffic. You'll ride through magnificent stands of mountain ash forest, a unique and important environment that's under serious threat from logging and climate change.
At the end of the Acheron Way, turn right onto Marysville Road. This is a more major road that can carry more traffic, but you'll only be on it for 9km until you reach Marysville. Take Woods Point Road out of Marysville, and begin the second major climb. This one is a bit of a brute, with extended sections at over 10% gradient. On the way up you'll get some good views over the hills, and you'll see evidence of the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009, Australia's worst ever fires.
At the top it gets rainforesty again, and the road narrows. Get ready for some more exciting riding with twisty, high speed sections and beautiful scenery. 10km past Marysville is the turnoff to Lake Mountain—if you feel like bagging another peak—and another 6km further on is Cambarville, an abandoned former mining settlement. There are a few cool things to have a look at in this precinct, including the town itself, a waterfall, Victoria's tallest tree, and an old bridge (see 'attractions' below).
Shortly after Cambarville, turn right onto Warburton-Woods Point Road. Strap yourself in, because the descent to Reefton is very long and winding, and heaps of fun. From Reefton, the ride back to Warburton is undulating. From Warburton, take the rail trail back to Lilydale.
Rainforest Gallery (km47). Experience gorgeous temperate rainforest on this short walk.
Cambarville Historic Area (km101)—an abandoned mining settlement with historical information boards. Quite interesting and beautiful.
Cumberland Walk. Starting from the Old Cambarville Township, this 4km loop takes you past The Big Tree—a particularly large mountain ash, and Victoria's tallest tree—as well as Cora Lynn Falls and 'The Big Culvert,' a well preserved historic bridge. Also some beautiful rainforest. Well worth it.
In winter it can be very cold and wet in the Yarra Ranges, with snow at higher altitudes. This ride is better tackled in the warmer months.
The start/end point, Lilydale, can be accessed via Melbourne's Metro train network.
There are also a few areas that would be suitable for bush camping. See the map above for info. Remember, when camping on public land, be respectful and leave no trace.
Download GPX Track file of this route (free)
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Disclaimer: should you choose to cycle this route, you do so at your own risk. Although all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure its accuracy at the time of writing, Adventure Cycling Victoria cannot guarantee that the information herein is 100% correct. The information published is meant as a guide only, and should be combined with your own due diligence and planning. Adventure Cycling Victoria and its contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individuals following this route.