Torpedo Bay Walking Circuit: Wet season adventure
Words and photos by Leah Stevenson
It is a bummer about the wet season, right? Oh, the wet season blues! Nah, greens, reds, and pinks of every shade!
The wet season can be very beautiful! Rainforests and bushlands come to life. The rains give the trees, shrubs and grasses a little oomph and they draw out new leaves. These new leaves are often burgundies and bright reds, providing a beautiful contrast to the greens around the bush; some iridescent green, some of lighter shades. The eucalyptus trees are flowering too, attracting birds and butterflies.
I admit, I too can have a little less motivation to hit the trails in these warmer months. However, hiking in the early morning is great. The early morning is cooler, it’s not likely to be raining and once you are out and about- it’s awesome! The wetter weather may deter others, so you may find that you can often have the trails to yourself.
The Torpedo Bay Walking Circuit is an ideal wet season adventure and is also used in the iconic Grin n Bear It Challenge. This trail can be considered one of those great ‘local’ gems that have been here for years. The trail surface is mostly comprised of decomposed granite and stays grippy underfoot when wet. Grass trees and eucalyptus dominate the open forest landscape. Large granite boulders bulge out of the sides of the hills like Maltesers on the side of a birthday cake. Views of Lake Tinaroo are scattered along the trail. Once you have completed the walk, I recommend taking a swim in Lake Tinaroo.
As far as I am aware, this trail isn’t maintained but there is a well-used goat track with pink tape along the trail to help guide you. This means you need to be aware of your surroundings and use common sense. The hills on Torpedo Bay Walking Circuit are short and sharp so having a good base-fitness would make the experience more enjoyable.
There are three entrances to Torpedo Bay Walking Circuit:
Option 1) Behind the information board at the north end of the Dam Wall
Option 2) 0.9km along Danbulla Road from the north end of the Dam Wall
Option 3) Entrance is about 100m on the left beyond the entrance to Camp Barabadeen (also on Danbulla Road)
All three options can become a loop by walking back along the road (which is quite nice in the morning as the trees create pleasant shade on the road). Taking Option 1 and Option 3 would provide you with the longest walk (approximately 4km on-trail or 6.8km including the road and is for walkers with good fitness). We took the ‘Option 2- entry point’ and did a 2.5km loop. This option took us 1 hour to complete. I’ll explain this route in more detail in this article.
Torpedo Bay Walking Circuit- Option 2: 2.5km / 1hr / 141 m elevation
Follow Danbulla Road past the information board at the northern end of the Dam wall for 0.9km. You will see a small carpark on the left at the trail entrance.
It’s a steep start! The trail heads straight up the hill until you reach the ridgeline. The trail will veer north west (left).
The trail undulates along the ridgeline. Check out the views of Lake Tinaroo along these sections of the trail.
Approximately 20 minutes into your walk you will drop into a saddle and the trail climbs steeply up the other side. A ‘saddle’ is a terrain feature where there is a low point between two higher areas.
While climbing this steep section of trail you will need to keep your eye out for the left turn. This T-intersection has a pink tape to mark the intersection (photo provided). I also noticed the noise of water flowing over the dam wall becomes noticeably louder here too. (If you continue straight for another you will reach the turn for Option 1).
Once you turn left off the main trail keep to the top of the spur. A ‘spur’ is a terrain feature where there is a continuous, short sloping line of higher ground and the land drops away either side. When we did the walk earlier this year, my little one lead the hike.
Coming down this section of trail we veered slightly too far to the right because he followed a flat rock surface rather than the trail. He realized it was getting steeper and he knew we had gone off-track. He looked for the spur and found the trail again.
What to take
- Enough drinking water for your adventure. My kids took about 700 ml each and I carried a larger 2-litre hydration pack. We had plenty left over.
- First Aid Kit. I have a basic personal first aid kit that fits in my hydration pack. Snakes are more active in the warmer months. Consider taking a small first aid kit that includes a snake bandage: snakes are not a major issue- it is just worth taking this small precaution.
Leah Stevenson and family are outdoor recreation enthusiasts. If they aren’t hiking, canoeing, and camping, they are heading out on their mountain bike adventures.
Article published in the What’s On & Where To Go magazine – February 2022 Edition
It’s still a bit wet on the trails at the moment, but the sun will shine soon.
Here is a pic of my son in the Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park we posted on FB earlier this week. Let’s talk a bit more about the photo.
Have a close look at where his leg sinks into the once smooth trail. It’s actually in a wheel rut. This rider would have come through before QPWS put up the ‘Trails Closed’ signs. However, it has clearly caused some serious damage to the trail. The rider’s tyre broke through the hard crust, leaving the soft under-belly of the trail exposed. If you have ever seen 4WD videos where the first person gets through fine and then the second 4WD sinks like no-tomorrow into the wheel ruts of the first car. Same problem- the stronger outer crust was removed, so down it goes!
I am not writing this to condemn the rider because the trail may not have been closed where the rider left the carpark, but it is likely the rider would have felt slop under their wheels. Instead, I would like to talk about trail stewardship. Look after your trails (don’t wait for a sign to be put up to tell you 😊).
The trail may not have been closed where the rider left the carpark, but the rider would have felt slop under their wheels. The trails needed time to dry. I would like to urge riders to consider the trails as you would your own backyard. If you rode around your backyard and you made grooves like a plough, you would probably want to stop.
It’s only a few riders that ride when it is too wet. But it is a mission to fix when the sun finally comes out. Often needing more foundations and surface dirt. Lets keep our trails in mint-condition for when the 2022 MTB season.
Gravel crunching rides on the Atherton Tablelands
Australia’s cycling boom has seen more gravel-crunchers taking to the trails. The Atherton Tablelands can accommodate these new cyclists with the variety of trails from rail trails, farm road loops, and mountain bike parks in the area. Rail trails are great to start with because they are mildly undulating trails and have limited interaction with vehicle traffic, and the scenery is amazing too.
I suggest the following two entry-level/scenic rides to kick off your riding experience. These short rides are ideal for riders who want to establish some cycling fitness while seeing our beautiful region. Also, kids who are competent on two wheels can also ride these trails. I recently rode these trails with my family and friends and would like to share them with you.
Platypus Park, Atherton to Hasties Swamp
This ‘easy’ 8km return trip is an ideal starter ride for fun and fitness. The trail is almost entirely flat. The ride starts at Platypus Park, Atherton where there is car parking and public toilets. The ride starts on the other side of the Railway Cafe and heads south east alongside the rail trail. Along one side of the trail, there rich green pastures with cattle grazing. The cattle are quite a novelty. They stare curiously at our chattering kids and are not fazed by their energy. Next, the trail steps down into bushland and meanders amongst the trees next to the railway line. There is plenty of shade in this middle section of the journey and a good place to rest if needed. The trail meets Hastie Road where you turn left. Ride for about 300m on Hasties Road before turning right onto Koci Road. Take care here, it isn’t a busy road, however; it is a 100km zone. There is a sign here to Hasties Swamp. If taking kids, I find bunching them together and then walking/riding across as a pack directly across the road is the shortest and safest way to get the kids across. The Hasties Swamp two-story bird hide is about 1km down the gravel road. We enjoyed finding the birds labelled on the information boards. There are so many types of birds in these wetlands throughout the year. Once rested, follow your same way back to the start. Platypus Park is a good place to end the ride. I would recommend a take-away coffee from Railway Café while the kids burn off the rest of their energy in the park.
Tolga Racecourse (Tolga Market Day) to Old Hospital Ruins return
This ‘easy’ 14km return trip has one small hill climb. I suggest doing this ride on the 1st Sunday of the month when the Tolga Markets are on. A small reward from the markets may entice you to complete the ride.
The ride starts on the north end of the Tolga Racecourse and head north along the rail trail. About 1km along, the trail drops beside an old railway bridge then continues for another 1.5 km. Turn left off the rail trail at Banchio road (opposite to the Me2U café). Head up the rise (this is where you may need to give some encouragement) then turn right onto Rocco Road. Rocco Road is a fun downhill gradient next to the power line. Check out the impressive view of the northern Atherton Tablelands. You can see as far as Dinden National Park on a sunny day. The road finishes at Frazer road. Turn right. This is the only section of the ride that is bitumen road and there usually isn’t much traffic. About 400m down the road on the left, you will come to the ruins of a WWII hospital. There is an information sign explaining this WWII history in the area. There are cement structures and a chimney. It is nice and shady and a good place to rest, have a snack and explore some Atherton Tablelands recent history. Roll on down Frazer Road to the Rocky Creek WWII Igloo. The Igloo was recently renovated and is now a beautiful old building which can take you back in time. Next to the Igloo is an entry to the rail trail. Head back south on the rail trail to the Tolga Racecourse. Once you are back at the Tolga Market stock up on your fresh fruit and vegetables and, sourdough bread. Oh, don’t forget to give the kids the treat if you bribed them to pedal up that hill.
Article published in the What’s On & Where To Go magazine – April 2021 Edition
Do you really know your mountain biking trails?
I suspect some of you reading this article are mountain bikers and may even ride our awesome trails right here on the Atherton Tablelands. Even to those of you who ride regularly, I ask, do you really know your trails?
There is an unspoken rule when riding- no one wants to be the one who slows down the group. For example, when riding with others you may be at the front of the pack, often trying to set the fastest pace you can without blowing up. (Come on, we’ve all done it!). Or are you just keeping up with the others and you do not want to keep anyone waiting? But unless you are on your training ride, I would like to suggest a few options for you to try. And I suggest, it could be the best thing to do if you are trying to improve your mountain biking skills. As a mountain bike coach, I first teach the foundations and followed by my next coaching tip is ‘Play!’
Play?! What does that mean? For me, ‘Play’ when mountain biking is slowing things down, taking the time to try something challenging and have some fun while doing it. I recommend taking a pause during your ride (at least once per ride) and consider how you could approach a section better. Have a good look at a section of trail, get to know your trail…. And then play!
- Are you taking your best line?
Mountain bike trails often have a line that is more worn. But you may find a less conspicuous option you have not have ridden before and could be only centimeters from your current line. There is a good chance if you don’t stop to have a look, you will ride right by without seeing it. Or if you do see that line as you promptly pedal pass you are likely to forget to try it next time. ‘Play’ while it is still fresh in your mind. Do not follow the main line, experiment, there is more than one option, see if you can find another stellar option.
- Anyone for pop rocks?!
No, not those overly sweet lollies that break your teeth. Pop rocks or roots are small rocks or roots protrusions on the trail often seen as little minor obstacles you need to avoid. But in fact, it could be a mountain biker’s best friend. You do not have to find a big, structured mounds of dirt to practice your jumps. It may surprise you what you can use to get a little air. These morsels of fun are everywhere, and you will find lots of them.
- Stop avoiding sections of trail.
Often when the hustle has started, the riding pack has momentum and then it is hard to get the group to stop. But if you see the rest of the group ride around those little drops or steep sections, be brave. Say “Hey!! Let’s give that feature a go!”. Often, riders who may avoid features may not have considered if they could in fact ride the feature. Get off your bike, have a good look at the feature. It might surprise you that the feature is not as difficult as you first thought. (If it is too difficult, call Off Camber. Our details are at the end of the article.)
So next time you ride your regular mountain biking trail haunt, why not try a couple of these tips. Ask yourself, do you really know your trail?
Article published in the What’s On & Where To Go magazine – August 2021 Edition
The Gillies Lookout- Stunning views
Written by Leah Stevenson and Helen Pink
Visiting the Gillies Lookout offers picturesque views over the Goldsborough Valley. The valley’s view comprises dense rainforest illuminating greens of every colour. Deep in the valley the Mulgrave River engraves its path from south to north, initiated by the steep mountains that create the valley and the accumulation of torrential tropical rain that falls each wet season. The river snakes towards Gordonvale and then, beyond the view, the river exits into the Great Barrier Reef. The view also includes a panorama of the western side of Queensland’s two highest peaks- Bartle Frere and Bellenden Kerr (unless Far North Queensland’s iconic tropical clouds visit that day).
The Gillies Lookout itself is perched on a cleared area on the edge of the escarpment. You can soak up the views from a flat grassed area shaded by huge old trees making it perfect for a picnic. So, bring your rug and a cuppa. Back from the precipice is a fenced area. (Keep an eye on the kids, as it is a significant drop beyond the fence.) Hang gliders frequent the lookout, and you can see why. Because there is a large boulder right on the edge that makes a great take off platform!
It is a stunning view from the Gillies Lookout!
Not only are the views amazing, but the expedition to get there is worth the journey. In this article we suggest two ways to access the Gillies Lookout. Option A: via Yungaburra and Option B: via Tinaroo Falls township. Both are ideal ways to travel to the Gillies Lookout because you travel through diverse landscapes: from lush green farming areas, tropical rainforests, pine tree plantations and views of Lake Tinaroo. Option B: via Tinaroo Falls is a great option for mountain bikers with long-distance riding experience.
Travel by car requires a high-clearance vehicle because both travel options meet at Madigan Road to access the National Park. Madigan Road is a gazetted road however, it has two farm gates before you get to the National Park section, so please leave the gates as you find them. The first 1.7 km is gravel through farmland, and once through the second gate, there is a stark change in scenery and the environment turns to dense rainforest. The last 1.9 km is in the National Park and is where the road becomes more challenging. The road turns to a steep, rainforest mud-based road which can be a little rutted. You can walk, mountain bike, if you don’t have a high-clearance vehicle. We recommend parking at the Madigan/Boar Pocket Road intersection before the first gate. The walk/ride along Madigan Road is quite nice.
Option A: via Yungaburra
Access via Yungaburra is a much shorter drive and mostly on a sealed road until you reach Madigan Road. The narrow winding road hugs old timber farming sheds that are reminiscent of farming from days gone by. Also, because of the region’s good rainfall, moss grows on rustic wooden fence posts and the local cows look fat and happy. The Cathedral Fig is only 100 m further down the road and is worth checking out before heading to the lookout.
Directions: When travelling via Yungaburra, heading east (towards Cairns), follow the highway for 12.9 km, then turn left onto Boar Pocket Road, which is past the Lake Barrine turnoff. The sign on the left side of the road is overgrown, however there is a clear sign at the T-intersection. Follow Boar Pocket Road for 4.4 km. You will see a turn to the right at the sign to ‘Gillies Lookout 4 km’. This is the start of Madigan Road and the first farmgate is clearly visible from the road.
Option B: via Tinaroo Falls
Travelling via Tinaroo Falls township is mostly narrow unsealed road and not recommended for 2-wheel-drive vehicles. This travel option takes you the ‘long-way’ around Lake Tinaroo to get to the Gillies Lookout and add just over an hour to your trip, depending on where you start your drive on the Atherton Tablelands. The northern side of Lake Tinaroo is a beautiful drive and mountain bike ride. There are many walking trails and camping sites within the Danbulla National Park to visit on the way. To access the Gillies Lookout, continue along Danbulla Road, taking you through pine tree plantations and dense tropical rainforests.
Directions: Drive to Tinaroo Falls township and continue through to Danbulla Road towards the dam wall. At the dam wall, the water either disperses into the channel or continues as the Barron River. Continue around the dam wall to the other side where there is a lookout on the top of the rise with views of the lake and the lower section of the Barron River. From here it is about 32 km of majority unsealed road to Madigan Road. The road runs parallel to Lake Tinaroo and winds through pine forests and rainforests with crystal clear creeks. Turn left onto Madigan Road to head to the lookout.
There are so many amazing places to visit on that Atherton Tablelands and we recommend adding the Gillies Lookout to your list of places to visit.
Helen Pink and Leah Stevenson are a mother and daughter outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Helen enjoys long-day hikes to lookouts and waterfalls. Leah enjoys heading out on her mountain bike adventures.
Article published in the What’s On & Where To Go magazine – December 2021 Edition
Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park
Written by Leah Stevenson. Photos by Leah and Rob Stevenson.
Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park is in the Herberton Range State Forest and Baldy Mountain Forest Reserve. Previously used for forestry, the mountain bike park on of the Atherton Tableland’s great cyclo-tourism attractions. Local mountain biking enthusiasts love to ride there too. Within mountain biking circles, it’s spesh!
Lay of the land
Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park provides lots of different skill and fitness options. From beginner riders to the airtime type to fitness fanatics, it’s all here. Riders can choose an easy scenic spin amongst gums, bloodwoods, and grass trees. While the climbing trails will test skills and endurance and provide stunning views of the Atherton Tableland region.
The trails in this mountain bike park are categorised into three colour-coded levels: green (easy), blue (intermediate) and black (difficult). All signs throughout the park (and on the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Park (QPWS) map) are categorised this way. I have met many visitors who have commented on how well signed our mountain bike park is. While the trails are officially numbered by QPWS, the trails and some features are also affectionately named by locals. Often based on a cool back story, the ‘local’ names are etched into wooden boards. These boards are mounted in trees and sprinkled through the park. These signs are made by dedicated local riders in the region.
In this article, I will briefly recommend a good beginner loop and then provide detail on a bigger ride. This fitness and fun loop is for those pushing their technical skills and their fitness levels. Both local name and number combination of the trails will be used for the ride. Keep in mind you will not complete the full section of each trail, so keep your eye out for the name and trail number.
Beginners and scenic spinners
I recommend trails #1, #3, #4 for beginners and scenic spinners. This is the iconic ‘Elevate’ loop and the signs are easy to follow. If you are comfortable dropping off a gutter on a suburban street, then you should find these trails OK. Remember, you can always walk areas until you get your confidence to do a feature or consider doing some mountain biking clinics with Off Camber Mountain Biking.
Fitness and fun loop- Ride information
Trail names in order of ride: Elevate Loop #1 & #4, Waterfalls #11, Beady-eye #10, Stairway to Heaven #12, Yahoo Wahoo #13, Elevate Loop #4.
Grade: Green and mostly blue.
Time required: 1.5 hrs to 3 hrs depending on your fitness.
- Bike in good working order, take a tube and repair kit just in case. It is a long way to walk out if you cannot repair a puncture.
- Water. I find hydration is very individual. If you only do some hill climbing- consider it will take you 3 hours and take enough water accordingly. I take between 2-3 litres depending on the season.
So, let’s go riding!
Follow the Elevate loop#1 & #4 until you get to ‘Three-Y’. Cross the creek and turn right onto Waterfalls #11. There is a sweet little jump on the right for the air-time type. Next is a nice gradual incline. At the top of the incline, turn right onto Beady-eye #10.
Beady-eye #10 starts with a gradual incline and ends with some sharp pinches. These pinches can really test your strength when fatigued. At the top, there is a roundabout with a map of the trail network. Look for Stairway to Heaven #12 and get your bearings.
Stairway to Heaven #12 starts with a great descent with switchbacks across the mountain. Aim high if you are ready and these switchbacks can turn into fun wall-rides. Now, get ready for the steep climb. I often start singing ‘The only way is up!’ by Yazz. Such a groovy song to help get a pedal rhythm going up the hill. As you gain altitude, you will see views of the Atherton Tablelands from several angles. Very rewarding! As you continue to ride the ridge, the geology changes. Dry rocky open bushland turns into a dense forest with dark, smooth soils. This shade is nice after the climb.
You will see an intersection for Drop Zone #16. This awesome blue with black options downhill trail takes you back to the roundabout at the top of Beady-eye #10. Don’t worry Yahoo Wahoo #13 is also outstanding so instead, pass Drop Zone #16 by continuing right on the trail. Head into the rainforest and you will eventually end up on Herberton Range Road. This is where Yahoo Wahoo #13 starts.
Yahoo Wahoo #13 is a great trail. I describe this type of trail as a pedally-style downhill. It has rock drops, berms, creek crossings and smooth jumps. If you are not the airtime type, that is OK; all features are ‘rollable’.
Yahoo merges into Up’nOver #4 and its grand finally is Luna Park #4. This is a very popular section of trail. The smooth, deep berms can feel like a rollercoaster. With sections like this, you don’t need to go to an amusement park. It is so much fun! Complete trail #4 back to the trailhead.
Off Camber Mountain Biking has MTB skill clinics & weekly programs for kids, beginners, and experienced riders here on the Atherton Tablelands. The month is the Women’s Mountain Bike Retreat 20th-22nd May. Off Camber now offers bikes during programs & clinics! More information: offcamber.com.au