Where: Melbourne, Yarra Valley, Yarra Ranges
Length: 187km OR 134km (two route options)
Terrain: flat and hilly
Surface: sealed & well-made gravel. Can be done comfortably on a road bike, though some may prefer a gravel bike.
What: challenging climbs, fast descents, temperate rainforest, farmland, Yarra River, small towns, gourmet food & wine
This varied and challenging ride has a little bit of everything: big hills, fast descents, gravel, bitumen, rail-trail, rainforest, farmland, gourmet food and wine, and small towns.
There are two alternate starting points for this ride. If you feel like riding all the way out of the city on some bike tracks, then you can start at Flinders St station. If you want to avoid the bike tracks and start outside of Melbourne, you can jump on the train to Hurstbridge.
If you decide to start from Flinders St, you will be riding about 50km along the Main Yarra Trail and the Diamond Creek Trail before you get onto the road at the outskirts of town. Allow a few hours because it's quite windy and slow, and if you haven't done it before, you will probably get lost a few times. This is because, whilst the trails are 'marked', there are many points where it's not obvious where to go. Don't be afraid to ask people-local knowledge is very helpful-otherwise you could consult your device or this guide to cycling in Melbourne: Bike Paths and Rail Trails
Probably the most important turn to remember is where the Diamond Creek Trail branches off from the Main Yarra Trail, which happens at km37, shortly after Westerfolds Park. There is a bridge across the river to the left at the bottom of a short gravel slope. Apart from this just attempt to follow the signage for the various trails and allow plenty of time. Also worth noting is that the 5km of road between Diamond Creek and Hurstbridge is pretty busy and doesn't always have a good shoulder. Though having said all this, the ride out of the city is really quite pleasant, with riverside riding, lots of bushland and some nice places to stop for refreshments. (see map)
If you choose to start in Hurstbridge, things are much more straightforward. Take a left out of the station car-park and follow the signs to Kinglake. The 20km to Kinglake is on a fairly narrow and winding, though scenic, road. You will ride into forested hills where the remnant burnt tree trunks of the Black Saturday fires are still visible. Generally the traffic is not too bad though it can get a bit busy on a nice weekend. Some confidence riding in traffic will help here. On this stretch you will also tackle the first major climb of the ride-a medium-sized uphill with a gentle gradient.
You can also expect a little traffic on the undulating road from Kinglake to Toolangi. This 15km section is very pretty, taking you through tall and lush eucalypt forest. Shortly after Toolangi take a left onto Myers Creek Road, which you'll follow to Healesville. This road is quiet and features a fun, narrow and twisty descent. There's also a few nice looking B&B style places, and a high tea place on Myers Creek Road if that's your bag.
After Healesville the punishment begins, with the climb up Mt Donna Buang. This really is one of the cycling gems of Victoria-it's close to Melbourne, the road is quiet and very beautiful, and there are some fantastic views along the way. It's a big climb with some gravel and some steep sections, so settle in for the long haul. There are a couple of spots where you can fill up your bottle from natural streams, and the summit is a couple of kms detour to the left once you get onto the main road. The descent on the other side is fully sealed, fast and a bucket of fun.
This descent will spit you out into Warburton pumped full of adrenaline, from where you will join the more sedate Lilydale-Warburton Rail Trail for the highly pleasant 40km trip to Lilydale. Another cycling gem, this trail meanders through the Yarrra Valley's lush farmland and small towns, with many cafes, wineries and such en-route. Click here for a great overview of said attractions.
Lilydale, the end point, is at the end of the metro train line which you can take you back to Flinders St.
Yarra Valley-known for its wineries, local produce, etc.
Mt Donna Buang summit-km 131
Mt Donna Buang rainforest gallery-km 139
Healesville Sanctuary-renowned wildlife sanctuary-km 111
Fairfield Boathouse-historic boathouse and a lovely place to stop for a coffee-km 18
Abbotsford Convent-historic convent with a Lentil As Anything in it and Collingwood Childrens Farm and cafe next to it-km 12
Mt Donna Buang often sees snow in winter, so if you're going at that time, be prepared for that. Heat can be extreme in summer. Roads will be busier in peak holiday times.
Start and end points can be accessed via Melbourne's metro train network.
Download GPX Track file of this route
Bike Paths and Rail Trails booklet-handy for the Yarra and Diamond Creek Trail
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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.