If you are looking for a big day ride or multi-day bike packing adventure in the High Country then this ride ticks all the boxes. Breathtaking views of Mt Feathertop…check, interesting mining heritage sights…check, ‘foot out, flat out’ fire trail descents…check, stunning river crossings…check, bit of climbing to tick the fitness box for winter…check, touring past some flash looking hidden campsites before finishing with a cold beer on the deck of The Snowline Hotel…Triple Check.
Our ride started at Loch Car Park in Mount Hotham Alpine Resort. We dropped a car for later pick up but we can help arrange transport if needed. This ride drops down into some seriously remote country. No Mobile coverage and a days walk from anywhere if you have any problems so make sure you’re prepared for anything including an overnight stay in case of mechanical, injury or bad weather. I would not do it solo and if you’re in a small group I would recommend taking some sort of satellite communications in case of emergency. We are now hiring out Spot Trackers from The Snowline. Perfect backup for this type of trip…check them out on our website.
Heading out from Mt Loch Carpark you will see the gated vehicle track on the Harrietville side of the big dam that feeds Mt Hotham’s snowmaking. The track is fairly rough dual trail that hugs the edge of the resort taking you out past ‘The Orchard’ ski area with some decent climbs to warm you up. You could take a detour off to the Alpine Walking Trail past Derek’s Hut and down to Dibbin’s Hut if hiking. This makes a great walking loop but is sadly off limits to bikes at this stage.
The vehicle track continues past Mt Loch and heads gradually down a big ridgeline offering amazing views of the South side of Mount Feathertop. Just before the Red Robin Mine the track starts to switchback, dropping elevation quickly and making for some fun riding if you have a decent ‘All Mountain’ or ‘Enduro’ bike.
Rock doctors and amateur historians will revel in the chance to explore the mine site and have a sticky beak around the crushing plant below. Discovered and worked by the legendary Bill Spargo in the 1940’s. This discovery allegedly sparked Victoria’s last Gold Rush. The mine was operated until recently so please be respectful of the fact that it is still private property. Once you get down past the lower plant and miners house the trail becomes a bit more fun. Rock gives way to fun loamy fire trail as you come to the upper Kiewa River.
The first campsite you come across is a great spot for a lunch break. The horse yards here are used for overnight camping by local horseback adventure company Bogong Horseback Adventures. The water up here is gin blue as the Upper Kiewa river meanders along the valley. If you take the lower trail you will have to go through the river a number of times. It was up to thigh deep in late autumn and freezing cold but I imagine it would be great to have a dip along the way if you were doing this in warmer months.
Finding the left hand turn off this track was a bit tricky as it seems the one track splits a few times and this is not marked on many maps. By using our gps we were able to make sure we turned at the right spot before the climb on the other side of the river up to Dungeys’ track. When you’re down in the valley looking up at the back of Mt Feathertop its a bit daunting thinking ‘I have to go over that before we get home’ however I was pleasantly surprised that even with my average level of fitness I was able to manage the climb without any walking. The track starts steep then levels out to a steady gradient fire trail climb that took a bit over an hour of hard slog in the saddle.
Once over the top the descent into the Ovens Valley begins. Super fun, fast flowing fire trail saw us get up to speeds of 60km/h racing each other down with little chance of encountering any other traffic. As you hit the valley floor this track winds along a scenic creek and past a little apple orchard before popping out at the Old Harrietville Rd in Freeburgh. Probably the toughest grind was riding the last 10km back to Harrietville along the road. A well earnt beer was had on the deck of The Snowline while we planned our next adventure.
PS…This ride was done in Autumn before snow and with low flow in the Upper Kiewa. Most of the route is covered in snow from June till November. Given the remoteness of this route and the many river crossings you really need to be certain of the weather, pack gear to comfortably enjoy a night out in case of mechanical or injury. Have a backup plan for emergency and let other people know your trip intentions.