We are blessed by gravel roads around the ACT, but there are even a few legitimate gravel roads inside the Territory as well. This ride combines some ACT gravel roads with a return via NSW. This is a ride that is ripe for tailoring to your own location and interests, and I hope this route provides some inspiration for your own journey.
Getting to Tharwa
I’ve started this ride route in Bonython, close to the Tuggeranong Town Centre. The primary reason? A gravel short cut with great views. Starting beside Stranger Pond, the ride offers great views of Bullen Range, the Murrumbidgee River valley, and the Brindabellas. It is another classic example Canberra gravel: if you don’t know it’s there, you miss out on some of the very best scenery and gravel riding. This short use of the Bicentennial National Trail comes to an end in Gordon, after which the route heads towards Tharwa over Point Hut Crossing. Point Hut Road is a lovely country road where the traffic is thin and accommodating of cyclists.
Turning into Tidbinbilla Road, the country scenery continues – beautiful farmland and mountain views. It is worth a stop at Lambrigg’s Lookout – partly for the view, but also for the information boards about the farm’s history, William Farrer, and the connection of this location to the growth of the Australian wheat industry.
Tharwa to Angle Crossing
At Tharwa, it is possible to stop for a drink or snack at the General Store. I’d love to be able to tell you what the coffee is like, but on a Saturday at 10am the coffee machine was “not warmed up yet”. Go figure.
Leaving Tharwa on Naas Road, it is a short ride until Smiths Road. This is on the left as you pass the “Sports Flyers Club”. Often when I’ve passed on weekends there has been remote control flying taking place, which is worth a stickybeak. After crossing Gudgenby River, there is a reasonably steep climb that is sealed initially but becomes gravel soon after. From here, it is fair to say that the road leaves quite a bit to be desired. Compared with many NSW gravel roads surrounding the ACT, this well-travelled road is in poor condition. The same applies after the turn into Angle Crossing Road which includes a dodgy crossing of Reedy Creek. It is all perfectly manageable on a gravel bike, but it does make you wonder where the ACT Government’s grading program is at.
Angle Crossing to Williamsdale
The descent to Angle Crossing includes some nice views, but does get steep with a tight switchback so be aware. Before riding across Angle Crossing: stop! Whilst the crossing is in good condition, it is important to take the time to assess the water depth as it can deceive. In the photo, the water depth well-exceeded the pedal stroke, and this is ‘situation normal’ unless things have been very dry. Given this, my recommendation is to default to walking over barefoot. In good news, this is absolutely fine when the crossing is open – the crossing surface is concrete and smooth.
After the crossing, it is a steep climb up out of the valley before a quick descent towards the Monaro Highway. On this eastern side of the river the road is in much better condition, potentially due to the water and power infrastructure that is accessible here. I find this road to be a nice place for a break on the route, particularly on a sunny day. Enjoy the serenity.
Crossing to Williamsdale Road from Angle Crossing Road involves a very short ride on the Monaro Highway. Fear not: the verge is enormous and getting there is safe. Shortly after entering Williamsdale Road you cross into NSW and cross the old Queanbeyan to Cooma rail trail. It would be remiss of me not to highlight how amazing it would be for a rail trail to replace this disused line. I have ridden to Cooma through Namadgi National Park, which avoids the highway but is a tough route. A Monaro Rail Trail, heading first to Cooma and then on to Bombala, would be absolutely amazing.
Williamsdale Road is one of my favourite gravel roads around the ACT. As a standalone piece of gravel I have generally found it in good condition, and it offers great views alongside a number of climbs and descents. Unfortunately, approaching Burra, the tarmac returns.
Returning to Queanbeyan
Getting back to Queanbeyan from Burra involves using Burra Road. If you take the trip that is included in the Komoot the road does have some narrow twisty bits with limited or no verge. Thankfully there is typically light traffic, and the road itself makes for a fun ride provided you are not passed by many vehicles. From Burra Road, the route connects with Old Cooma Road. This road has improved significantly in recent years, with excellent verge and cycle lanes through to Karabar (except one straight section around Fernleigh Drive). It makes for a much more comfortable cycle on what is also a much busier road.
Not a fan of Burra Road’s narrowness? After more gravel? An alternative to following Burra Road all the way is to turn off at London Bridge Road, and connect up with the Western Foreshores walk (the route is included in the article Googong Dam Circuit). This provides a slower but more scenic and gravel-focussed return to connect with Old Cooma Road where all duplication is complete with excellent cycle path and cycle lane options.
At the end of this ride, there are plenty of options for coffee or more in Queanbeyan. My ‘go to’ is Ciao Coffee and Cakes – the pies are great, the coffee good and you can sit outside in the sunshine before returning home.
Details of this ride
- This route can be disrupted by rain with the closure of Point Hut and Angle Crossings. Unfortunately the ACT Government online advice is often out-of-date – typically closures are quickly identified but re-opening not so much.
- An alternative to riding through Queanbeyan is to exit Old Cooma Road on Edwin Land Parkway through Jerrabomberra and then Lanyon Drive to the Monaro Highway. The highway here has extensive verge and is safe for bikes.