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Wollemi National Park

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Modified on 2012/04/17 14:38 by Administrator Categorized as Blue Mountains, MTB
Wollemi National Park, starting in Lithgow, following State Mine Gully Road to the Glow-Worm Tunnel, descending to Newnes, Wolgan Road back out to meet Blackfellow's Hand Track, which is followed back to State Mine Gully Road and the start point.

Speedfox at Wollemi National Park Entrance

Speedfox at Wollemi National Park Entrance


My particular version of this ride was based off some other suggested trails and some previous experience in a Land Rover. Trailflix suggests the first section, but recommends return to Lithgow on bitumen, and numerous others mention potters around on the Wolgan Road itself. A little map study, however, reveals the Blackfellow's Hand and Beecroft Tracks, which cross back towards State Mine Gully through a wooded and rocky area, nicely avoiding the vast majority of blacktop riding. The only tarmac I saw all day was the relatively new surface of the big climb out of the Wolgan itself.

I started by parking just up from the State Mine Heritage Park in Lithgow. Starting from the station or one of the local pubs adds a few extra kms (and gives a more logical start/finish point), but I was driving in alone, so I found a parking spot just before the hills started along SMG Road and saddled up. The first section from my parking spot is nearly 4km of climbing, a good wake-up call for the legs. The top of the first big climb has a nice introductory view, so you don't have to thrash too hard and do the whole thing, but soon you find yourself on a downward-trending gravel road. This is much frequented by 4WD enthusiasts and tourists heading for the tunnel, so take care and keep an ear open for approaching engines. In dry conditions, it's speedy, but on my day there were frequent mires churned up by passing vehicles, meaning I had to abandon my planned fast pace and adopt a slightly more relaxed attitude.

There are a few branches in the track, some of which seem to be temporary logging roads. Generally, I tended left, since the route describes a large, counterclockwise circle, and soon, I was ready to leave the logged area and entered the Wollemi National Park itself (famed for the Wollemi Pine, among other things), at a sign imprecating "no firearms".

Here the road becomes ever more downhill and you can pick up some serious speed. The track surface improves and soon you're at the first tunnel. You did remember your lights, right?

Tunnel done, it's all downhill from here to the Glow-Worm Tunnel car park, and a good spot to stop for a snack. At this point, the walking track leads down to the tunnel itself. You should probably push the bike, and carry your lights (or take a headtorch). At the centre of the tunnel, turn off the lights and admire the glow-worms, actually a type of fungus gnat, Arachnocampa richardsae. Don't disturb them!

From the bottom of the tunnel, the path trends round to the right along a streambed, and becomes very difficult to ride. There are frequent washouts where the railway line originally had bridges, lots of rock-garden areas to scratch up your cranks and quite a few eroded sections with big drops to the left. Your average speed will plummet along this section. It could really do with some path care, and a few wooden bridges wouldn't go amiss, but eventually the path emerges into the bottom of the Wolgan Valley and the riding becomes easier, opening up into a drivable trail into Newnes (though optionally the distance can be shortened here by crossing the river to the Wolgan Road at a Weir). Warning: There are lots of nettles here. Bare-legged riders beware the stings, which can last longer than is tolerable.

At Newnes, after the ford crossing done on stepping stones with dry feet, there's a kiosk open at weekends and camping facilities. You're sort-of-halfway, so this could be a spot to stop if you're looking for two shorter days of riding. I wasn't. Fill up with water here (I didn't, unwisely), have a break, take some pictures and have a poke around the museum, then steel yourself for the road out.

It's upwards-trending gravel, with a lot of corrugations, and becomes absurdly difficult in bad weather. I drove this by 4WD a few years back and almost got stuck, but in dry conditions it's easily passable by standard 2WD cars. There are plenty of undulations and some fast sections downhill on loose gravel, and again there's potential to meet traffic, most of which will leave you choking in dust clouds or cursing thrown mud, depending on the weather. You'll pass the Wolgan Valley Resort entrance and after about 25km you hit the big climb out. You'll know it when you see it.

This used to be a steep gravel road with frequent rockfall, but since the Wolgan Resort opened it's been significantly reprofiled and tarmac-sealed. It's probably a good thing, too, since my GPS rated it at 6.7% (second major climb of the day, category 2). I rode all ~250 vertical metres - in under 4km - for the hell of it, and was quite glad when I reached the top and met the road down into Lidsdale for some short respite. On the way up, I'd been regaled by several bogan carloads who shouted slogans along the lines of "FUCKENGOODONYERYERFUCKER". Which was, oddly, encouraging.

You follow the Lidsdale road for a short distance until a firetrail becomes obvious on the left. It's signposted so that you can only read the sign on the way up the hill, so easy to overshoot. At the time, it still read "Blackfellows Hand Trail", though the track has been renamed and the sign may change at some point. The first section is uphill and was appallingly muddy on the day, and with 4WD traffic coming downwards there was another reason to get the hell off the bike and lose average speed. As if to make things worse, the rain returned as I got over the crest and entered a zone of steep cliffs and canyons. There are some fantastic rock formations and some aboriginal paintings along this track, but I didn't stop, since a thunderstorm was rapidly approaching.

Mobile reception returned for a while through here (first time since I left the car), so I ran my GPS for a while to make sure my routefinding was on-track - because I had some periods of mild doubt - but as the thunderstorm exploded overhead I soon returned it to my pocket and donned my Goretex for the final section. Again, this section is popular with 4WD so there are plenty of mires, ruts and corrugations to get in the way as you wind through the woods. After a while, though, I rejoined the relatively busy thoroughfare of State Mine Gully Road and came back to the car via a fast, brake-cooking downhill, logging just over 93km for the day.

A fantastic ride overall, combining industrial history, entomology, bogan translation skills and hill climbing. Four stars.


Find more Bike Ride in State Mine Gully, NE

 

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