Destination Showcase: High Country Victoria, Australia

Jan 29, 2020
by Jay French  
A beautiful sunset from the launchpad on our first day in Bright.
A beautiful sunset from the launchpad on our first day in Bright.

VICTORIAN HIGH COUNTRY
Australia's premier cycling destination
Photography & Words: Jay French
Riders: Gaelen Slaney and Josh Tanzen
Presented by Ride High Country


Since our trip to Victoria's High Country, the region has been affected by bushfires. However, we are relieved to report that all of the mountain bike trails, towns, and businesses featured in this article were unaffected, despite some occasional smoke. The area looks forward to welcoming you as soon as you can pack your bags, saying that is the most effective way to support the region.

Rolling down the tree-lined avenues into Bright, you could be forgiven for feeling like you were somewhere else. Generally, Australia is known for its wide-open spaces, beachside cities, and red sand desert, but as you enter the Victorian High Country, you are surrounded by thickly forested hills and winding mountain roads. The township itself bears comparison with many small mountain towns from around the world, nestled amongst tall pines in the foothills. Its quaint shops and quiet main street in stark contrast with Australia’s second-largest city, the bustling metropolis that is Melbourne, with its tall buildings and laneways, only a little over three hours away.

Cycling has become one of the key reasons to visit the Victorian High Country. On the weekends you’ll spot group after group of road cyclists enjoying the diverse scenery, and of course, mountain bikers, coming from all over the state and the country to discover one of the seven areas open to explore. On this trip, we were able to sample three of the seven destinations, Bright, Beechworth, and Falls Creek. Joining us on this trip, two local riders, each from a different discipline, but with plenty of experience on these trails between them. Gaelen “Lenny” Slaney, from a freeride and slopestyle background, and Josh Tanzen, straight off the downhill track. Living close, they were the perfect pair to show us around the area, all the good trails, places to eat and drink and a few local secret spots too.

Day One: Bright

As you ride (or get shuttled) up the access road, the first thing that strikes you is the sculpted jump line that’s easily the most well-known trail when you ask anyone about Bright. The trail, called ‘Hero’ makes its way down the hill parallel to the road, and offers ‘A’ and ‘B’ lines, to help progression. The second thing you notice, which becomes almost overwhelming, is the constant roar of the Cicada’s, pulsing through the trees. The cacophony of these insects develops a ringing in your ears that grows and recedes as you pass through different sections of bush.

Bright offers a wide range of riding. Flow trails with sweeping berms, multiple jump lines for those wanting to part ways with the ground, rough and loose singletrack, and even a decent downhill track for the bigger bikes. They’ve even put in an uphill bermed trail called “Up DJ” which would be a hoot on an e-bike (which are allowed).

After riding you can head down to the river to cool off or go and grab something from one of the local cafes. In our time there we ate mainly health food. Started the day with pancakes, syrup and ice cream, had to try the Bright Ice Creamery, of course, visited ‘The Chicken Shop’ where they serve a fantastic ‘Holy Schnit’ burger and some of the best hot chips I’ve ever tasted (worth the trip just for these). After a huge day of riding, it’s important to know that everything in Bright closes earlier than you might be used to. You want to try and be there by 8 pm latest. However, there was one lone place still serving food when we got down after sunset and that was Il Centro, where we got some of the cheesiest, most stacked pizzas we could have hoped for!


Josh and Lenny get creative with the wallride on Hero
Josh and Lenny get creative with the wallride on 'Hero'.

Hero a fast and flowy track among young pine trees.
Hero, a fast and flowy track among young pine trees.

Gaelen chases Josh down the flow section after the jumps on Hero .
Gaelen chases Josh down the flow section after the jumps on 'Hero'.

Gaelen with a clicked table.
Gaelen with a clicked table.

An adult Cicada taking a little rest from being the noisiest thing on the mountain.
An adult Cicada, taking a little rest from being the noisiest thing on the mountain.
A Cicada shell found on a tree after the Cicada shed it s skin.
A Cicada shell, found on a tree after the Cicada shed its skin.

The sound of the Cicada’s in the trees is deafening. You have to shout to be heard in places. They overwhelm the sound of even the most aggressive Chris King hub, and after a while, you develop ringing in your ears. When you leave the forest and go inside where it’s quiet, you feel like something is missing. The Cicada spends the majority of its life underground. When they emerge for their brief adulthood they climb the nearest tree, shed their exoskeleton, and emerge with wings ready to start looking for a mate, which is what all the noise is about. It’s said that the loudest Cicada in Australia can produce up to 120 decibels at a close range. These Cicada’s neither bite nor sting, they just make a real racket! You can see the exoskeletons littered all over the forest, still clinging to trees and branches everywhere.

Finding some dusty single track higher up the mountain.
Finding some dusty single track higher up the mountain.

Out of the shadows and into the light exploring the rocky single track above the shaped flow tracks found lower down.
Out of the shadows and into the light, exploring the rocky single track above the shaped flow tracks found lower down.

Mystic MTB Park is in an active logging area tracks are re-routed or diverted when logging operations need to happen.
Mystic MTB Park is in an active logging area, tracks are re-routed or diverted when logging operations need to happen.

Last light over the surrounding hills in Bright.
Last light over the surrounding hills in Bright.

Post ride pizza from Il Centro. Great pizza.
Post ride pizza from Il Centro. Great pizza.
These pine cones must be exceptionally gnarly here.
The pine cones must be exceptionally gnarly here.

Day Two: Falls Creek

We drove the winding hill road to Falls Creek from Bright after dark, so the views that awaited us would be a surprise. The trip was only an hour and change, no need to give up valuable riding time for travel. When we headed out the door just before sunrise, the valley was starting to light up and it was obvious that we were in a ski town, with chalets and apartments dotted about the hillside. We knew this one would be worth an early start to catch the sunrise high above the township.

The riding in Falls Creek is dry and loose, with many rock features to navigate. With over 40km of single track here, there is plenty to keep you going. We got started on the trail ‘Thunderbolt’ and made our way around the other trails afterwards. The trails are easily shuttled but the pedal back up isn’t too arduous if you wanted to lap them. We rode one of the newer trails ‘Flowtown’ in the afternoon which does what the name suggests, and is long and flowy with lots of features and jumps taking you down to the chain bay near the entrance to the resort. We were pleased we decided to do a car shuffle for this one.

Falls Creek itself is a quiet place over summer, except for events like Ignition, and public holidays. It would be advisable to bring your own supplies when you come up, in terms of food and drink. There is a supermarket but the hours are limited, you can stock up in Mt Beauty, or Bright on your way. We made sure to sample a few places, trying the waffles from ‘Stingray’ in the morning, but finding almost everything was closed by the time we got down in the evening. We got super lucky however, Lisa, and her dog Skye, from ‘Diana Lodge’ put on an amazing dinner with all the trimmings for us after we got down from our last trail.


Sunrise over the Falls Creek top station.
Sunrise over the Falls Creek top station.

Getting to the trails before the sun comes up.
Getting to the trails before the sun comes up.

Riding one of many rock rolls into the rising sun.
Riding one of many rock rolls into the rising sun.

The Falls Creek trails are very dry and dusty.
The Falls Creek trails are very dry and dusty.


Gaelen chases Josh down Thunderbolt.
Gaelen chases Josh down Thunderbolt.
If you re confident on the loose stuff you can go flat out.
If you're confident on the loose stuff you can go flat out.

A scenic corner overlooking Falls Creek township.
A scenic corner overlooking Falls Creek township.

Very little rain makes for super dry trails in places.
Very little rain makes for super dry trails in places.

Sunrise over the Falls Creek township.
Sunrise over the Falls Creek township.

Post ride cooling off.
Post ride cooling off. Lenny with a laid-out front flip.

 Two steps and jump - Josh Tanzen.
"Two steps and jump" - Josh Tanzen.
Swimming in waterholes in Australia sometimes goes against your better judgement this one was all good though.
Swimming in waterholes in Australia sometimes goes against your better judgment, this one was all good though.

Traversing across some epic High Country scenery.
Traversing across some epic High Country scenery known as 'Frying Pan Spur'.

Down the iconic rock path.
Down the iconic rock path.

Gaelen blasts out of the dust on a techy trail.
Gaelen blasts out of the dust on a techy trail called 'High Voltage'.
The trees left from previous fires gives a really interesting look to the hillside.
The trees left from previous fires gives a really interesting look to the hillside.

Layers on layers into the distance.
Layers on layers into the distance.

Day Three: Beechworth

We left Falls Creek bright and early to make our way to the historic gold mining town of Beechworth, with instructions to meet at the popular Beechworth Bakery. Again, the trip wasn’t a huge one, just over an hour had us at the meeting point. Lenny took lead and ordered a Beechworth staple called a ”bee sting” which comes highly recommended, all you need to do is work out how to eat it without half of it ending up on your face. We had a look around the township, which does a great job of promoting its rich history dating right back to the 1850s. After a quick lap of the town, we headed off to the Beechworth Mountain Bike Park for an afternoon of riding.

The bike park here is a bit different to the others, it’s not on a mountain like the other two, and at first sight, comes across as being kind of small. But you know what they say, “good things come in small packages” which is fitting for the Beechworth Mountain Bike. Looks can be deceiving, and we were all very surprised at what they managed to fit into such a compact area. At first, when you pull up into the car park, you see a small hill that looks mere meters high, this had us wondering what we might be in for. We were all blown away at how many trails the local mountain bike club (Beechworth Chain Gang – old jail reference there) had built, being smart about the fall of the land, and the way the trails were laid out. What we also hadn’t realised was that the car park isn’t at the bottom of the hill, in fact it’s closer to the top and as you ride down, and down, and down you see that the trails all head off the back of the hill and down the ridgeline to a point far lower than the car park.

The riding in Beechworth is a lot of fun, there are flow trails, downhill trails, jump lines, XC loops, and dedicated climbing trails. The small area boasts over 17km of trail, with over 700m of descent across the trails. There is something for everyone, and by linking up trails you can have yourself a serious ride. There is something for all skill levels, gnarly rock gardens, big jumps, progressive jumps, through to low key XC loops, green trails, and a pump track and skills area. Once you’re done with all that pedaling you’ll need refueling. We were sent along to Bridge Road Brewers. We knew we’d found a bike-friendly spot when we walked in to find a rack of bikes on the wall, and a wall of branded bike kit to purchase if wanted. Heaps of room inside and out, great pub food, and plenty of beverages to try. We started with the highly recommended ‘Robust Porter’ and for dessert, feeling adventurous and as it was the season, we tried the ‘Magical Christmas Unicorn – Vanilla Ice Cream Ale’ (on the Nitro tap for added sweetness). Bold choice.


Classic Australian sign keep your eyes peeled for Koala s.
Classic Australian sign, keep your eyes peeled for Koala's.
Wise Words
Wise Words from the local primary school

The Beechworth Main street keeping the heritage feel about it.
The Beechworth Main street, keeping the heritage feel about it.

Josh tails Gaelen down one of the more advanced sections.
Josh tails Gaelen down one of the more advanced sections.

Lots of granite to play on.
Lots of granite to play on.

Beechworth offers trails of all different kinds easy flow to gnarly rock gardens.
Beechworth offers trails of all different kinds, easy flow, to gnarly rock gardens.

Josh nose bonks a rock coming into a berm.
Josh nose bonks a rock coming into a berm.

The trails make the most of the unique landscape.
The trails make the most of the unique landscape.

Lots of interesting rock features await.
Lots of interesting rock features await.

Post ride boot phone session.
Post-ride car-boot phone session.

The historic Beechworth Post Office.
The historic Beechworth Post Office.

We’d crammed a whole lot of riding into a long three days, getting up with the sun, and going to bed long after it set, we’d had a taste of just how much could be achieved over a long weekend, with a group of mates, bikes and a car or two. The High Country area has so much to offer for the mountain bike enthusiast. With seven spots, all within short drives of each other, you can pick and choose your riding to suit your mood. There are all different types of accommodation available in every destination. The vibe within the towns is unique, and very pro-bike, with many bike shops around if you need anything (which I did on the first day, so shout-out to Pete at Cyclepath Bright for getting me back up and running). Jump onto Ride High Country to learn more about the trails, places to see and accommodation. Now it’s time to get back on the road to Melbourne, but not without one last stop past the Bakery.


The Iconic Beechworth Bakery they serve a donut called a bee sting it s a must-have.
The Iconic Beechworth Bakery, they serve a doughnut called a "bee sting" it's a must-have.

Sunset over Beechworth.
Sunset over Beechworth.

Local Knowledge

The Climate & Wildlife:
Victoria's High Country is a place of high mountains, deep valleys, crystal clear rivers, and pristine lakes. Temperatures can change by as much as 10 degrees (C) between the valley and mountain peaks. It is a great place to escape the summer heat, but come prepared as even in the summer it can snow.
The High Country is a haven for indigenous wildlife including birds (king parrots, cockatoos, kookaburras, rosellas, and gang gangs are all in abundance) plus there are wallabies, echidnas, kangaroos, and wombats. Those with trained eyes will also be able to spot a koala or two. And did we mention cicadas in summer?
In summer, spectacular wildflowers are on display right across the region, especially the high mountain peaks like Falls Creek, Mt Buller, and Dinner Plain.

Bike shop and repairs:
In Bright, both All Terrain Cycles (MTB Specific) and CyclePath are located in the heart of Bright and offer excellent service.
While in Beechworth, head to the walls of the Old Beechworth Gaol where you find Beechworth Cyclery.
Before driving up to Falls Creek, drop in at Rocky Valley Bikes in Mount Beauty to grab supplies. At Falls Creek, Blue Dirt Village Bike Hub has limited supplies of new kit, tubes and other peripherals that you might need.

Tech Tip:
With such unique park characteristics across each of Ride High Country's seven MTB parks, you could potentially select a different bike for each destination! If you are a one bike rides all type, we recommend a mid-travel trail bike (130-150mm travel) which will see you equipped to tackle all of the region's trails. If you are exclusively shuttling at Falls Creek and Bright, an enduro bike would be the perfect weapon of choice.
And oh, keep an eye out for Former World Champion Paul van der Ploeg who frequents these trails.

Food and Drink:
In Bright be sure to check out Bright Brewery, Tomahawks, Bright Chicken Shop, while Dr. Mauves does some great end of ride cocktails.
Bridge Road Brewery is a staple of the Beechworth riding scene, drop-in for a world-beating pale ale and woodfired pizza, or get the famous Ned Kelly Pie and a Beesting at the Beechworth Bakery.
During your ride day at Falls Creek, swing by the Village Bike Café for homemade pies, sausage rolls and wraps in between shuttles. Head to Frying Pan Inn Bar and Grill or book at Diana Lodge for something more substantial.
The High Country is famous for its fresh produce. Stop roadside to pick up a selection of goodies for your trip from the local farm gates. Stanley, near Beechworth, is a local favorite.

Must Dos:
Take a dip after your ride in one of the pristine rivers or waterholes.
When riding in Bright, jump straight in Morses Creek post-ride (the park straddles the creek and there are numerous places to swim), head to the Bright Splash Park in town, or ask a local how to find Sinclairs Waterhole.
Beechworth has the spectacular Woolshed Falls nearby or you can join the locals at Lake Sambel in the heart of town.
At Falls Creek, check out Rocky Valley Lake at the resort or take the short ride to Pretty Valley pondage. The name does not disappoint!
Every good ride finishes with a beer, so grab one from any of the nine High Country Brewery Trail breweries. Almost all of the brewers are keen mountain bikers who moved here to ride and quench your thirst. If you're lucky, they might even take you for a lap of their favorite trails.

Away from the bike, the High Country has a lot to offer. Not far from Bright is Mount Buffalo with its spectacular 360-degree views. In Beechworth, history oozes out of the streets, so be sure to visit the Old Beechworth Gaol which housed the infamous Bushranger Ned Kelly or take an Asylum Ghost Tour held at the historic Mayday Hills Lunatic Asylum. At Falls Creek, it's all about nature, so watch the Sunset from the summit of Mt McKay or explore the high country cattlemen's huts. Wallace’s Hut is only a short ride from the village.

Pinkbike would like to thank:
Ride High Country
Alpine Cycling Club
Falls Creek
Beechworth Chain Gang

Regions in Article
Bright


42 Comments

  • 13 0
 Looks amazing! Be nice to help the Ausi's out with spending some money and help building some new trail as well!
  • 6 0
 I never made it over to Bright, Falls Creek or Beechworth but the tracks and snow gums at Mt Buller were rad. We rode the IMBA Epic Trail there and all but the middle was worth the long day. The town of Mansfield was cool too.
  • 5 0
 Never mind the drop bears.........

Just look out out for red belly blacks, browns, white tails, red backs. Am I missing anything? Huntsmans are the fast-moving zombies of the spider world, but super harmless. Funnel webs are really only around Sydney and surrounding areas.

Oh, and if you go up to Cairns look out for the Cassowaries
  • 2 0
 Look mate if you're not playing silly buggers with any dangerous wildlife, you're more than likely to have no ill encounters, if you meet them at all that is. I Spent 2 weeks in Bright mid December '19 (35-40 Celsius daily) and not once did I see so much as a redbelly. If anything, watch out for Box Jellyfish if you're in the ocean up mid to north queensland. Those are the most deadly animal this continent harbours.
  • 3 0
 @leboize: Is 100% the biggest threat to you is to much beer and to little water
  • 1 0
 @leboize:

Yeah I know, i grew up a few hours west of Bright on a sheep farm....Yeah I said it.

We had a tonne of redbacks, a few browns and that's about it. It wasnt until I moved to Melbourne that tiger snakes were a daily occurrence.

To be Completely honest, I would take australia creepy crawlies over the Moose and Mountain Lion I see here where I live now.
  • 2 0
 I've never been as far as the High Country area here, but I spent a day up in Healesville (sp?). Absolutely gorgeous area - but the worst freakin' allergies of my whole life. I have no idea what is growing up there, but wow, my eyes are watering and I've got to sneeze just thinking about it.
  • 9 0
 That'd be wattle mate. Pretty, but hell on the sinuses. See, even our plants hate humans...
  • 2 0
 @BjPoynton: You are NOT kidding. We were there in your spring, so maybe it was just a bad time of year, but that was no joke. Anyhow, besides that, it was a fantastic trip, loved every minute of it. I'll be going to Sydney later this year, never been there but looking forward to it.

And to any of my fellow North Americans planning a trip to Australia, pack your allergy meds if you're heading to the forest. That could seriously ruin your day if you aren't prepared.
  • 1 0
 @pinhead907: wattle normally only causes issues late spring. Rest of the year is fine.
  • 2 0
 First time I went to Bright years ago we turned up late in the night and camped. I still remember the confusion as we woke up with the sun hitting the side of the tent hot as fk and this crazy loud deafening noise surrounding us. Cicadas... Trails are heaps of fun though!
  • 1 0
 Sweet - so many awesome trails and unique locations to ride up in the Victorian high country with a great local riding community - super stoked to be able to head up again post the bushfires - hit up Bright last weekend & have the 3rd round of the Victorian Gravity Enduro in Falls Creek this weekend.......pumped!

For those interested, Nick from Falls Creek has posted a course preview following ATC mechanic / local pinner MattyM which show cases the trails up at Falls well.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xudsie7fJNA&mc_cid=53ee52a6e8&mc_eid=6297da2f2a
  • 1 0
 I spent Christmas and NYE in Bright, Beechworth and Falls Creek. It is a beautiful region and should be on the list of any international MTB traveler.

Awesome trails, amazing scenery and super friendly locals.

Oh, and the Beechworth and Bright breweries aren't bad either ;-)
  • 1 0
 The natural DH trails at Bright are very good. If you are planning a holiday I'd say two days minimum at Bright, 3-4 days if you are riding both trails and doing shuttles. Hazelnut icecream at the Bright Icecreamery is my recommendation.
  • 2 0
 Perfect timing! I fly to Melbourne at the end of the month and have a few days to kill at the end of the trip. It will be fun to check out different terrain than what we have here in Seattle area.
  • 1 0
 Consider looking into driving out on the Great Ocean Road and riding the Otways. You won't have the vertical that you'd have with these spots but with the ocean nearby and trails in a temperate rainforest, it's damn cool. And there are some quaint towns to stop in on the way, Torquay, Bells Beach, Lorne and Apollo Bay.
  • 1 0
 Whats the deal with riding walkers trails in Aus? Such as riding some of the higher mountains. I am travelling from Scotland in a few days to ride in Victoria and tassie. I do lots of big mountain riding in Scotland but totally understand if its not fair game and don't want to dis-respect your guys riding rules, agreements or regulations. Any help appreciated!
  • 2 0
 Depends on where you are going but it is unlikely that you would be able ride walking trails. If it is in a National Park and there is nothing advertised about riding then it is probably off limits. Best to check with the local authorities, plenty off good places to ride in those states though.
  • 3 0
 Serious question. How does one know what swimming holes are safe ( Crocs? )
  • 12 0
 Cros are only found up in the far north of Australia. Everywhere else is fine... drop bears however, they're everywhere.
  • 6 0
 You'd be far away from the crocs there, mate. (Like asking if there are sharks in the Mississippi River.) But yea, drop bears... seems like they are everywhere!
  • 5 0
 Crocs are thousands of kilometers away. Tiger snakes are what you have to look out for. Don’t worry about drop bears as your ridding gear will be enough protection.
  • 1 4
 @AndrewFleming: There are bull sharks in the Missisippi . Sorry "mate" never been there. Dick
  • 1 0
 @Beez177: Whoa, I didn't know that there were bull sharks in the Mississippi! Learn something new every day. I have a project in Louisiana coming up, I'll be on the look out. Ease up on the sense of humor. It's all in good fun.
  • 2 0
 @AndrewFleming: No worries, back to my original question. What does one need to worry about at the swimming holes? Crocs, snakes, redneck locals??
  • 1 0
 @Beez177:
I lived in Adelaide, South Australia for 4 years. I spent most of my water time in the ocean and sharks and jelly fish were a concern but pretty tame since the water is so cold. Pretty dry there but some swimming holes here and there. Big worry was snakes in the bush, not in the water. But honestly I see more snakes in Connecticut and Georgia on rides than I did there. Rednecks, aka bogans, were not a worry compared to our American versions. Be friendly and you'll get that in return by most. I rode some killer trails in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania during my tenure.

Related to the riding destinations here, I'll let the Victorians answer that.
  • 4 0
 Makes me miss Gods country
  • 2 0
 Lenny (Gaelen) is genuinely the nicest bloke out and part of the revival in Australian SlopeStyle. Hope he gets some proper support
  • 2 0
 Hell yes Lenny! One of the nicest blokes you'd meet. Absolute fire on a bike.
  • 1 0
 Mount Beauty should be on the list too! Tracks are awesome, old school goodness!
Half way between Bright and Falls Creek, it’s well worth a look in if you’re in the area.
  • 1 0
 My home...definitely worth a days riding.
  • 1 0
 That looks nice! Hoping that I'll get a Visa sometime and be able to ride there.
  • 2 0
 Rad stuff lads! So stoked to call this place home!!!
  • 1 0
 The super loud cicadas apparently have a 7 year breeding cycle which is why they were so loud this year. Almost deafening
  • 1 0
 Rad trails, the high country rules.
  • 1 0
 the best region to ride in mainland Australia.. there's also Mount Buller.
  • 1 0
 Amazing pics!!
  • 1 0
 bloody good stuff bro!
  • 1 1
 It’s a pity so much of it is on fire at the moment.
  • 3 0
 Heinous! These areas have been spared by a bee's dick and are ok! Tourism is down though. So i hope you've got time for a holiday
  • 1 0
 Most fires are under control but people still avoiding the area and it is really suffering. Great time to be riding though
  • 1 3
 Those trails look fire

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