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Sydney is an amazing city for so many reasons. Photo: Ash Wheatley.

Sydney isn’t necessarily somewhere that comes to mind when you think of mountain biking, but there are myriad trails scattered across the city. While there are no hills unless you head west to the Blue Mountains, the terrain isn’t totally flat, and what it lacks in elevation, it makes up for in technical features. If you’re planning an Australian MTB trip, Sydney is worth including, partly for its trails, and partly because it’s a great city.

Sydney is a huge, sprawling city, but luckily it has a lot of green areas and National Parks scattered about. None of the trails are particularly long, but you can access a few different networks with relative ease from anywhere in the city. It does help to have a car, because some trails are harder to get to using public transport, but it can be done. The following, while by no means exhaustive, is a collection of some of the better places I found to ride while living in Sydney for a year.

It’s worth noting that the trails here often close after rain, but it doesn’t take long for them to dry out; they’re usually open again the next day. The winter is a great time to ride because it’s not particularly wet, and the daytime temperature is typically in the low teens. Compare this to mid- to high- 30s in the summer!

Deep Creek – Narrabeen

Fun features on the Deep Creek trails!

Deep Creek in Narrabeen on the Northern Beaches is known as one of the better trail networks around Sydney. The network consists of a pretty technical climbing trail and a bunch of descents that mostly start and end in the same place. The climbing trail ascends around 150m, and though the elevation is small, it’s hard going. There’s no real break to the technicality, with big rocks and roots to climb over.

The climb is worth it though, as the descents are a lot of fun, with some equally technical features. Blasting through native bush there are big drops off sandstone boulders, steep technical sections, and some jumps thrown in for good measure.

The trails are mostly rated black/double black with no real easy options, so the trails are not particularly beginner-friendly. More advanced riders will love it here as it’s easy enough to get back to the top.

One of the best things about riding Deep Creek Reserve is that it’s also very easy to link up with a bunch of other trails in the area including Red Hill to the south, and a glut of trails in the Oxford Falls area to the East.

Parking for Deep Creek trails is at the Deep Creek Reserve, right off Wakehurst Parkway.

Mill Creek – Menai/Lucas Heights

Slab action at Mill Creek!

Mill Creek in Lucas Heights is in this writer’s opinion a hidden gem in Sydney’s trail network. Built and maintained by volunteers, the trails aren’t long but are great fun with features all over the place. Tucked away in the bush next to Lucas Heights dump, the trail builders have done a great job of using land that is of little interest to anyone else.

The trails are mostly natural feeling, using as much of the available terrain and natural features as possible. Trails are designated green/blue, however, I’d definitely grade them a little harder than that. Beginner and intermediate riders should take care on their first run, as there are some technical features like rock rolls that could easily catch riders out.

Pump Action is a favorite descent, steep in places with loose rocks, big boulders, and technical sections. Black Hawk Down is another fun descent starting from the same place, but it’s smoother and more sculpted with lots of optional gaps and jumps that you will need some real speed for. There is a new jump line, opened at the end of 2018 by the Santa Cruz Syndicate on their pre-Cannonball tour. Different from the rest of the trails, it utilizes some of the flatter ground that’s pretty smooth but massive fun. The well-sculpted jumps start small and progressively get bigger, up to around 6-10 feet, all with a rollable line and most with a bigger optional line.

It only takes a couple of hours to explore all the trails here, and they’re all a lot of fun so multiple laps are usually on the cards!

Parking is along the side of the A6 by the entrance to the dump, or at the ANSTO car park a few hundred meters down the A6.

Old Man’s Valley – Hornsby

The new jump trail at Mill Creek starts small and flows the whole way

Old Man’s Valley in Hornsby is a classic Sydney venue, and again considered one of the best trail networks in the city. The trails were closed for a few years while the quarry in the center worked for some recent Westconnex infrastructure upgrades. Following negotiations, tunnels were built around the entrances and exits to the quarry so that mountain bikers could once again access the trails. Whilst the work was being carried out, the trails themselves were also upgraded.

A small section reopened in early 2017 and the rest of the trails followed in late 2017. There are around 20km of trails now, suitable for a range of abilities from beginners to more experienced riders. A main intermediate blue trail snakes the entire way around, the start of which is a little easier, but is mostly flowy and smooth with big berms through dense bush. There are optional lines all over the place, some easier and some quite difficult. A shorter green trail sits at the south end and is easily accessible, though honestly I found the blue trails to be easier.

One of the shorter black trails at Old Man’s Valley, Hornsby.

There are a couple of fun, black-graded lines near the trailhead, but they’re short, comprised of some technical climbing, and a short but fun off-camber descent with some rock features and boardwalk rollers. More experienced riders might want to look elsewhere to find their thrills, but Hornsby suits beginner and intermediate riders well.

Parking for Old Man’s Valley is on Quarry Road in Hornsby, just a few hundred meters out of town. The trail is well signposted and relatively easy to find.

Techy uphill at Hornsby? Check.

Manly Dam – Manly

The ferry ride over to Manly is pretty spectacular.

Manly Dam is a northern beaches favorite, located just a couple of kilometers northeast of the bustling beach suburb of Manly. There are some great trails, and it’s a good contrast to the busy life all around.

The main trail is a circular loop around Manly reservoir, and It’s easy to feel like you’re in the middle of the bush. Don’t be surprised if you see water dragons, pelicans, and bush turkeys. In reality, you’re pretty close to suburban life the entire time, which you’re reminded of in a few places around the trail.

The trail itself is suitable for intermediate riders. Flowy in places, with a few short technical sections thrown in. It’s a mix of singletrack and service road. The loop is about 8km or so, and many riders might choose to ride it twice.

Where the main trail runs parallel with Wakehurst Parkway, you can jump over the other side of the road to the Bantry Bay trails where there are another few kilometers of trail that are well worth riding. You can re-join Manly Dam trail in the same place you left.

The best place to park is on the street around Gibbs Street/King Street by Manly Vale Public School. The trailhead is right by the school. If you don’t drive, you can catch a ferry to Manly from Circular Quay, which is easily accessible by train. Both forms of transportation are easy to get bikes on.

After your ride, it’s a short drive or ride into Manly where there are great bars and restaurants (I’d recommend Four Pines Brewery), and some good beaches for a post-ride swim or surf if you’re so inclined!

Royal National Park

Photo by Fezbot2000 on Unsplash

Royal National Park is at the south end of Sydney. It divides Sydney from Wollongong and the associated suburbs. It’s one of the oldest National Parks in the world, and is a beautiful place, full of dense bush and with great cliffs and beaches where it meets the ocean in the west.

Photo by Rob Sheahan on Unsplash

The trail info for Royal National Park (or Nasho as the locals call it) is a little sparse, with little in the way of maps. The best thing to do is to park at Loftus Oval and start exploring from there. It will definitely help to have some map software on your phone. Royal National Park is fairly large and is mostly dense bush, so it can be easy to get lost.

The park has a bunch of very different trails, some legal and some probably not so legal. The beauty of the nature of the place is that you can make your ride as short or as long as you like. A lot of the trails are marked here on Singletracks. Head straight into the forest over the train tracks, down Temptation Creek Track/service road, and on your right (south) will be a singletrack trail a few hundred meters down. You can follow this all the way to Heathcote where it will join a fire road with various singletrack options coming off of it. It’s a there-and-back sort of trail, and is mostly easy, depending on the options you take, suitable for novice to intermediate riders, with some more advanced features dropping off the main trail if you know where to look.

To the north side of the Temptation Creek trail is a smaller network of trails that essentially drops off a sandstone ridge, with varying levels of technicality, and some that are pretty gnarly. These trails re-join a loop called Saville’s Creek that loops off the main Temptation Creek track and can be ridden in either direction. Bobcats is one such trail that’s a lot of fun, with some short technical pinch climbs, rock rollers, and drops. Not an easy trail, it’s a real technical challenge.

There’s plenty of parking at Loftus Oval to ride here, and Loftus train station is also close by and pretty accessible from the city.

Wylde MTB Park – Western Sydney

Wylde MTB park is a flatter XC style trail, that’s a lot of fun, especially on a hardtail.

Wylde is a purpose built MTB park over in the Western Sydney Parklands, out toward the Blue Mountains. The terrain is a little different from the rest of the Sydney trails, more open and undulating with smaller hills and fewer technical features. There’s plenty of wildlife, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to see a few kangaroos.

Wylde is definitely more of a pure XC trail, with a lot of pedaling most of the way around and not a lot of technical riding. This does make it great for beginner and intermediate riders, as well as more advanced riders that just want to stretch their legs. I always found it fun for a relaxing solo ride, or to just work up a sweat.

The trails essentially consist of one main circular route with a few different bail-out points that shorten it to 3km, 6km or 12km for the full loop. The further around you ride, the more technical the trail becomes, but it’s never really more difficult than a blue trail. There are a few features thrown in with some gap jumps about half way around, some boardwalk, and a few drops.

At the trailhead, there is a small pump track and a BMX track with some jumps that are fun to session. The facilities are better than most, with toilets, a bike wash, and drinking water.

Parking for Wylde is beside the Sydney International Shooting Centre, just off Elizabeth Drive in the Cecil Park area.

There’s great variety in the Sydney trails for sure.

Further afield: Canberra, Wingello, and Blue Mountains

It’s worth mentioning the Blue Mountains outside Sydney. It’s a National Park, so there is little in the way of sanctioned MTB trails, however, there are many gravel roads, some of which are popular with mountain bikers. One such trail (75% fire road) is The Oaks, starting from Woodford and ending in Glenbrook. The trail is about 25km of descending, dropping around 850 vertical meters. The train tracks run along the road, so it’s possible to park at one end of the trail and take the train up the mountains to the trailhead.

Wingello was one of my favorite rides just out of Sydney. Located in Wingello State Forest, about an hour and a half south of Sydney and a few kilometers off the Hume Highway (M31), the trailhead features a free campsite tucked away in a quiet pine forest. There are rarely many people there unless it’s a holiday weekend so it’s a great camping spot, and you can ride right from your tent. The ride is about 20km and 90% marked singletrack. It’s not technical, but it’s fun and pretty serene compared to a lot of Sydney’s trails around the city.

About three hours south of Sydney is the country’s capital city of Canberra. Located at the north end of the Snowy Mountains, Canberra is a fairly small city, with a good amount of trails. It’s absolutely worth a visit, and you can check out our article on Canberra here.

Take a visit to Canberra for trails like this – Mt Stromlo.

What is your favorite trail system in or near Sydney?

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# Comments

  • Jason Donnellan

    Any visitors can add Ourimbah to the list of trails to check out, an hour north of Sydney features gravity trails (shuttles suitable) and a very nice XC loop. Builders have been busy there in recent months resulting in immaculate big jumps at the top of DH section, also a new flowing jump line about to open.

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