Update: January 2022There are sometimes detours required on this trip as trails are affected by weather or developments occur. Thankfully Butters Bridge / Namarag are now open, but the Denman Prospect work requires a work around. More detail in Stromlo to Arbo.
Canberra’s Centenary Trail is iconic, and I can highly recommend it as a cycling route. I have done it in a long day, and if you are not up to the full ~145km loop the northern or southern halves are great options (for the south, see Southern Canberra ridges via Murrumbidgee). There are, however, some things that don’t quite make it an epic gravel cycling trail:
- There are some parts of the trail, particularly between Hall and Mulligans Flat, but also the Murrumbidgee corridor, that are single track. Whilst perfect for a MTB these aren’t highly suitable to gravel bikes. I won’t say you can’t do it on a gravel bike, but I wouldn’t.
- There are some long stretches on sealed shared paths – I’m thinking in particular between Greenway and Fadden, and between Black Mountain and Hall.
- Some of the real highlights of the trail (in particular mountain summits) are walking trails only.
Having said that, there are some great parts of the trail that I use a lot – they weave through many of Canberra’s Nature Parks, and a lot of the trail is solid track – fire trail quality and mostly well maintained. So, I present CyclingGravel’s alternative: the Epic Canberra Gravel Trail. Starting and finishing at Parliament House, the loop combines some of the best in-city gravel cycling that Canberra has to offer. Unfortunately, there are some sealed bits. Sorry about that. But hopefully you’ll agree that 77% gravel over 75km in the middle of our nation’s capital is hard to beat.
The Epic Canberra Gravel Trail
How to make this a day out
My previous articles (South Canberra ridges, Stromlo to Arbo, and Arboretum to Russell) provide a lot more detail about the route. I won’t repeat all that here, noting that there are some slight adjustments around the start of the Southern Canberra Ridges route given the starting location at Parliament House. Other than that, the trail combines these rides into a single loop.
Depending on your fitness and enthusiasm, this route should take 4½ to 5½ hours of cycling time. Given this, you may be interested in some breaks, water replenishment, and toilets. On the assumption that you are starting at Parliament House, my suggestions are:
- Coffee break at The Fox & Bow at Farrer shops (plan an easy detour from Farrer Ridge), or slightly more out of the way but also an excellent stop is A Bite to Eat in Chifley (plan a detour when leaving Mount Taylor, prior to crossing to Fisher and Cooleman Ridge).
- There are a number of places that you can refill water at Stromlo Forest Park, and also toilet facilities. Alternatively water and toilet facilities are available in the National Arboretum visitor centre. There is also a café here, and the coffee is perfectly fine. If you grab a takeaway, you can sit in the sun and enjoy the view from out the back of the visitor centre (below). The “back” is the best way to approach on a bicycle if you want to keep an eye on your bike, and there is a rack.
- Towards the end of the ride, in Braddon, my suggestions are Lonsdale Street Café and Bentspoke. If pressing on, at Russell/Campbell I can recommend The Pedlar – for coffee or beers, or if early enough in the day the coffee and food at Intra.
If you do the ride, and have some feedback or comments, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you.