Flash bikepacking weekender: Canberra to Binalong

This is the start of a new flash bikepacking weekender series. Keeping a bikepacking trip to a short and sweet weekend makes it easy to fit into life, and there are quite a few pubs that are a decent day trip from Canberra. So stay tuned for more when I get the chance….

In planning these trips, I’ve applied some principles to make it fun:

  • Avoid main roads as much as possible, even when this adds a detour.
  • Maximal gravel – take the dirt wherever available.
  • Use different outbound and inbound routes.
  • Seek out breaks along the way, optimally at least one mid-ride.

Challenge accepted, and over 131km of gravel achieved!

Day 1: Canberra to Binalong

The first part of this ride takes roads I have covered before – heading out of town via Spring Range Road and then connecting to Dicks Creek Road. See, for example, Gunning Gravel, Gundaroo Gravel, and Yass on-road for more on these roads. There is a short highway-based run between the ACT border and Spring Range Road which hopefully will have a really nice verge when Barton Highway duplication of this segment is complete in 2023.

Next up were roads to Yass that were new to me, and they provided an awesome gravel route. Starting down Boutchers Drive, the route remained quite similar to Dicks Creek Road – well maintained gravel and some nice views thrown in.

At some point the road ceases being “Boutchers Drive”, and becomes “Boutchers Lane” – there is a big sign saying so! Overall there isn’t a massive change in the road although in parts it is more lane-like in width than a road – it just makes it a little more challenging if a vehicle comes the other way. In a couple of places the lane become a bit more track like but I expect it would be addressed in the next scheduled council grade.

At the end of the lane and after a quick traverse of the Yass River you can continue on into Yass the entire way on Yass River Road: that is the shortest and least hilly option. The problem with this route is that it connects to Yass Valley Way and this road has a high traffic volume as it connects Yass to the Hume Highway. This is not terrible, but the verge can be limited in places and I prefer to avoid it.

A much better option is to take Manton Road (which becomes Old Gap Road), cross straight over Yass Valley Way, and use Lucernvale Road. This does involve a decent hill climb, but nothing too strenuous. After descending back down into the Yass valley and crossing underneath the Barton highway, Hardwicke Lane takes you into town via a new bridge over the (expanded) river dam and back streets. Perfect for a mid-ride stop at Trader & Co.

Heading out of Yass, the quiet route of Wargeila Road takes you north, crossing the Hume Highway (via a bridge, also the main Sydney-Melbourne train line) and soon turning to gravel again on the very scenic Laverstock Road. This runs roughly parallel to the Lachlan Valley Way – a road that is best avoided given its significant volume of car, caravan and truck traffic – and this gravel is super nice. A really recommended route – even when you need to turn into Moorbys Lane the surface is mostly in decent condition even after some reasonable rain.

Moorbys Lane ends on Lachlan Valley Way, and you will be glad it is only 2km before heading back off-road on Bendenine Road. I’m not saying it is dangerous, but be aware that whilst there is mostly some verge it can be limited and it is a high speed high volume of traffic route. Thankfully, Bendenine Road is a lovely gravel route that takes you all the way to Binalong with clear signposting pointing out where to go at each intersection. This road really is a pleasure, offering rolling hill and farm views with some gentle ups and downs as you run the final 19km (mostly down) to town. Perfect prelude to a shower and beer.

Day 2: Binalong to Canberra

I chose to return to Canberra via Bowning. I have previously cycled between Binalong and Bowning via Burley Griffin Way and Red Hill Road (see the Harden to Canberra leg of a previous bikepacking trip). Whilst not as bad as Lachlan Valley Way, it can also have lots of high speed vehicles and certainly doesn’t keep to the principle of maximum gravel. So, after heading back out via Bendenine Road, I again sought to minimise any time on Lachlan Valley Way by travelling via Bendenine Stock Road.

This road is a great reminder of just what a pleasure travelling by bike can be. I don’t know how many car trips I would have taken on the Lachlan Valley and Burley Griffin Ways (a few!), but the opportunity to really see the scenery while travelling on quiet backroads is awesome. I loved this part of the trip – the photos really don’t do the views justice.

Unfortunately the lovely gravel comes to an end and to get to Bowning a short 3km stint on Lachlan Valley Way is again required, although being a weekend morning the traffic seemed lighter. The sealed Walls Junction Road provides the connection to Bowning, where breakfast can be had at Rollonin Cafe.

Heading out of Bowning to Yass, I have discovered the route via Common Road and Black Range Road, best accessed via the northern exit from Bowning and then very briefly on the Hume Highway. These provide a quiet link to return to Yass, and a combination of gravel and quiet sealed road.

I have cycled south from Yass many times and never enjoyed exiting on Yass Valley Way – because of the aforementioned fact it is the main connection between Yass and the Hume Highway. I was surprised to figure out I’d being doing it wrong all this time by ignoring the Gums Lane option. This proved much more enjoyable, connecting to Dog Trap Road via the slightly less high quality Long Rail Gully Road – more reasonably termed a track.

After passing the turnoff to Murrumbateman and traversing the majority of Dog Trap Road, a stop at Granitevale Estate is in order (see below). From here there is a small amount of gravel remaining (I still can’t figure out that square metal sculpture at the end of Dog Trap Road….) before the tarmac of Kaveneys Road returns you to Canberra via the Barton Highway. Thankfully the highway verge to the ACT border is generous but again, bring on completion of the duplication!

Tips, recommendations and things I’d change

I’m really not sure that I’d change much about this trip. I would definitely recommend the hotel and winery visited along the way.

Hotel Binalong

I liked this pub. The owners were really welcoming, including identifying a place in the back shed where the bike could be locked out of sight. I think I was the only guest in the 20+ rooms, but the same could not be said for the bar and restaurant on a Friday night – it was full-on inside and even had takers outside at the fire pit in July. The $15 dinner special was great value and $60 for a single gets you a warm and comfortable shared amenities room that is also pretty quiet despite activity downstairs.

Granitevale Estate

Although I’ve ridden Dog Trap Road quite a few times I have never stopped on this route itself – instead in Yass or Murrumbateman. These are, however, not anywhere on (or really very near) Dog Trap Road – particularly when travelling back to Canberra. Granitevale Estate offers just what a cyclist needs – Kransky. Adding a glass of red hits the spot – but be warned you may need space in your bike bags to leave with a bottle or two. Hosts Greg and Leigh are up for a chat, and their Jack Russells will love your attention if you are so inclined. Raging fireplaces in winter are nice, and I expect summer outside would be tremendous.

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