LOCAL LOOPS: Mount Beauty to Mount Hotham off-road

LOCAL LOOPS: Mount Beauty to Mount Hotham off-road

Sarah and Jesse recently spent a week at Mount Beauty, enjoying the big off-road climbs on offer.
Mount Beauty is a small town in northeastern Victoria, Australia. The town lies alongside the Kiewa River and lies at the base of the popular road climb up Falls Creek. Mount Bogong is also part of this region, the highest mountain in Victoria. It is a popular destination for cyclists, hikers or anyone looking for a quiet relaxing place. 
The ride from Mount Beauty to the top of Mount Hotham is not easy, and we recommend you have some experience with riding steep, rocky trails. We suggest you have a MTB bike for this ride. Or a gravel bike that accommodates a larger tyre - 2”.

Leaving town, you’ll head onto Simmons Creek road, where the climbing starts immediately. These gravel roads are in good condition and have little traffic, it also runs along the Kiewa river, so the sound of the water and the birds here is beautiful. Continuing on, you'll take Pyramid Hill Firetrack, then Dungey Track and finally onto Kiewa Logging Track, where the riding gets much steeper as you push further into the forest.

Kiewa Logging Track has a couple of water crossings over the Kiewa river; it wasn’t too deep when we passed through, but not rideable. We opted to keep our shoes dry and removed our shoes and socks being early in the ride. There are sections along this track where you can choose the high road or low road. A good rule is a low road normally means a water crossing, a high road ultimately means more unnecessary climbing. The roads will always rejoin. You will reach the end of the West Kiewa Logging Road and start on Machinery Spur Track. 
This is where the real climbing starts. It’s close to 10 kilometres from this track's start to Mount Hotham's summit.
This is where a MTB tyre and slow and steady come into play. Not only is this section incredibly steep, but it’s also heavy with chunky rock. This means you’ll work hard to pick your line whilst pedalling slowly to hold traction. For those with patience, the reward is the view as you get higher. Expansive mountain surrounds, all those amazing layers of different shades of blue littered with ghost gums. You won’t have much traffic this way either; we had one Parks Vic vehicle the whole day.
Before reaching Hotham, you’ll skirt around Mount Loch, which is higher than Mount Hotham. The summit for Mount Loch is marked by a rock formation and a walking path to the top. We stashed our bikes and walked to the top (300m at most). The views are spectacular.

After this, you have a few more kilometres before reaching the main road into Hotham village. You’ll pop out where the main tunnel entrance into town is located. At this point, you will have ridden 45 kilometres and knocked out 2400 vm, a tough slog!
After Hotham, your options are varied. We descended the sealed road down Mount Hotham back to Harrietville. After all the slow climbing, letting it rip down a fast descent was nice. In Harrietville, you can grab a drink or snack at the cafe/pub. The last section takes you along the main road towards Freeburgh, where you will head inland again and rejoin Dungey Track from the other side of Tawonga Gap. This is the gravel version of the popular road climb over Tawonga. It is a gradual climb, much like its road equivalent, and very pretty if you hit this section at sundown as we did. Once over the top, you descend back into Mount Beauty on the tracks you used to ride out that morning.
All up, it's a big day at 120 kilometres and 3100 vm climbing.
This is not a ride to take on without experience with steep loose gravel climbs. You’ll need to pack plenty of snacks and water too.

You can find the ride file HERE

Sarah rode her Big Kev, with carbon 29r Dirt Hoops, whilst Jesse was on a GMX+ with the same wheelset. 

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    Thanks for the report! After reading this blog I rode down Machinery Spur and West Kiewa Logging Road within a bike-packing trip. It was very beautiful, and we had a great camp-site at Blair’s Hut. I was on 40mm tyres which was OK but a bit tough down Machinery Spur.

    Kieran Perkins

    You can now avoid riding the main road between Harrietville and Freeburgh as the Great Valley Trail is now completed, which links Harrietville and Bright. Just follow the GVT path out of Harrietville and you meet the link track to Snowy Creek Road one bridge back from the bitumen turn off, it’ll come out where it turns to dirt.

    Bec Caskey

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