CyclingGravel is a fan of the Canberra Centenary Trail, particularly the gravel bits. Having said that, there are two under-promoted single track parts that provide some of the most interesting views and “out of the city” experiences: the Murrumbidgee corridor between Greenway and Kambah Pool, and the Northern Border trail.
The Northern Border trail between Forde and Hall is definitely single-track mountain bike territory unless you are supremely adventurous. It does, however, offer some of the most sweeping views of Canberra that you can find – particularly of Gungahlin. Therefore, when combined with the sweet gravel roads in the Goorooyarroo and Mulligans Flat Nature reserves, this makes for one of Canberra’s best off-road routes.
Goorooyarroo & Mulligans
The entry to Goorooyarroo is from a roadside pull in off Horse Park Drive. The safest way to get there by bike is from the southern-side cycle path or, if you are coming from Gungahlin, from the road cycle lane. If you feel so inclined there is plenty of parking here too – folks regularly off-load bicycles here. It is pretty obvious how to get in – through the massive security fence, designed to contribute to the biodiversity project of these two reserves.
It is interesting that the trails are somewhat different between Goorooyarroo and Mulligans Flat. I suspect that in part this reflects the history of the two reserves (Mulligans was a wildlife sanctuary well before Goorooyarroo), but both have well maintained gravel roads that are easy to follow. Goorooyarroo offers the pick of the views.
Both of these reserves clearly used to be used as grazing farmland, and inside Mulligans the farming history is most obvious – with a large dam and old farm sheds retained. It also has some early European history retained with the Old Coach Road. I always enjoy Mulligans as no matter which way you go it is first a shallow ascent, followed by a shallow descent – lots of fun.
After exiting Mulligans Flat, there is a short climb and then drop to the cycle path that follows the old Gundaroo Road. If you need water replenishment, the corner (with gazebo and seating and a large Mulligans Flat sign) is the place to get it. The cycle path takes you to Mulligans Flat Road, and directly across there are unfriendly stairs to continue the route. These are challenging with a bike. The alternative is to cycle up Mulligans Flat Road to the roundabout, and head left up the gravel road (Duke Road) to the horse-friendly entrance – much easier with a bicycle.
Single-track to Hall
After navigating the fence the first part of the trail to Hall runs parallel to a private gravel road – you in the ACT and the road in NSW. Soon you arrive at a steep pinch up Oak Hill. Don’t be too discouraged if you feel the need to hike-a-bike up here – it is the steepest and most difficult part of the whole trail. The climb continues a bit after here but the trail starts to become much more single-track and open up views over the suburb of Bonner towards the rest of Canberra.
Soon more single track arrives and a descent to the Northern Border campsite – with toilets and picnic shelters if you’d like a break. The most technical parts of the descent are well signposted – but nothing more challenging than a green run at Stromlo.
After the campground there is 7km of undulating trail to the rise up One Tree Hill. There are some parts of this that are awful when it has been very wet – thankfully it was all dry this summer day and it is also a relatively short stretch when it is bad. Once through the woodlands the views really start to open up – both north west into NSW and also back into Canberra and the ACT (such as in the title photo for this article). Sometimes it is worth just stopping and taking in the views.
The final 4km of trail to Hall is a lovely descent through cattle paddocks and hillside trails. This is a great way to cap off the trail, and exit into Hall for a coffee and onward journey back to town.
Details of this ride
- One of the best ways to get to the start at Goorooyarroo / Horse Park Drive is to take one of the few up-to-date pieces of Canberra cycling infrastructure – the Paul Truebridge path along the Majura Parkway.
- At the end of this ride, there are cafe options in Hall for a refuel when done. Mid-ride, CyclingGravel is a fan of and frequent visitor to Frankies at Forde.