So, you’ve made it to Tumut. Well done! Not quite fancying that return climb from Brindabella to Piccadilly Circus? I don’t blame you. Whilst the climb from Tumut and then descent to Brindabella is not easy, it is the climb up from Brindabella that is quite steep and challenging. With this in mind, you may want to consider the longer, but less steep, return via Wee Jasper.
After crossing the river leaving Tumut, there is a short flat ride past the airport before the climb starts. Marked for a roadies KOM of 2.7km, this scenic climb offers great views – particularly around sunrise.
At the top of the climb, the gravel starts, and the road between here and Billapaloola Road is in really good condition. Undulating between farms and with infrequent traffic, the route provides some tremendous scenery as well as modestly sloped climbs. Overall this provides something quite different to the pine forests passed on Brindabella Road.
Billapaloola Road to Wee Jasper
After the short dog leg at Billapaloola Road, there are a number of parts of the road that are sealed – adding to the safety of the descents and the speed at which it is possible to travel. Having said that, the gravel remains in good condition most of the way to Wee Jasper.
The final climbs return to forest, offering shade on a warmer day before the descent. Overall the descent is on a narrower road, with tight turns and occasional rutting from water run off. None of this is particularly challenging unless you are seeking to set a speed record.
Soon, the road widens again with views through the valley, followed by some further switchbacks as you make the final part of the trip to Wee Jasper. This final 5km or so is well graded but does have a lot of loose rock – so taking a little caution is worthwhile.
Wee Jasper to Canberra
Being the adventurous type, I decided to try a return that included Sawyers Gully Road, instead of simply staying on the sealed Wee Jasper Road to connect with Mountain Creek Road. On the plus side, this route offers some epic views, with great descents. The gravel road is also ok most of the way, but in some parts is loose with very washed out culverts.
The trouble with this route is the climb towards the end of the road. It is well over 10% gradient and very loose – making a safe ascent very difficult. This meant that for some parts my cycling partner and I walked – not something you really want to do having travelled 95km. If travelling in the opposite direction this hill could also be quite treacherous to descend. Overall, if riding to/from Tumut again, I would skip Sawyers Gully Road and stick to the tarmac.
Having reconnected with Mountain Creek Road, the route is quite smooth with light traffic. The only real downside is the three sisters ascent from Uriarra Crossing!
Via Brindabella or via Wee Jasper?
So, when considering a trip, which route to Tumut should you take? My recommendation is that you consider at least one of each. Having said that, here are the pros and cons of each:
- Traffic. Both routes have limited traffic. Between Canberra and Wee Jasper there is the most traffic of any route, but this still modest and the road is sealed. The most challenging traffic is between Uriarra and Brindabella as this is often 4WDs that create a lot of dust. It is also not fun to have traffic pass on the bluestone gravel near Micalong State Forest as this can force you into the dodgier tracks.
- Climbing. In total metres, there is limited difference between the two routes. The climbing/descending is steeper via Brindabella, particularly between Piccadilly and Brindabella. Having said that, the long fast descent into Tumut when coming via Brindabella is sealed and very enjoyable. Overall the climbing is gentler on the Wee Jasper route, and does not climb as high – avoiding the winter closures that can arise via Brindabella.
- Road surface. I strongly dislike the bluestone gravel on Brindabella Road around Micalong State Forest. It is not so bad when ascending from Tumut, but on the descent makes for slow and cautious travel.
- Scenery. Both are nice. More farmland via Wee Jasper, bush and pine forest via Brindabella.
- Distance. It is much shorter to go via Brindabella – the extra distance of Wee Jasper means that the ride doesn’t take less time.
- Water. Both routes lack a decent stop (ie a cafe!), although both do offer rivers where it is possible to obtain good water for filtering. Wee Jasper does have potable water at the reserves.
Details of this ride
See my other article on Tumut for recommendations: the brewery, hotel and pubs.
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