IMBA estimated rating Blue, more difficult.
L=left, R=right, SA=straight ahead, 1L=1st left, @T= at T junction, @X= at cross roads
Castlemaine – Harcourt – Bendigo bypassing the scramble of Leanganook (Mt Alexander).
65km about 5 hours with breaks at moderate pace slowed a bit by injury about 20km from Bendigo, we are fit 50s but not technically proficient.
Castlemaine 279mm elevation, Bendigo 231m.
Take the train one way. Vlocity trains have limited bike space so groups should book.
Buy the GDT Leanganook map, which includes useful and interesting commentary, from GDT web site, Castlemaine or Bendigo Visitor Centres.
A route of varied terrain and surface, very interesting historical and water features, good viewpoints with Wirth’s Tunnel lookout at 400m being the highest. Good size towns each end but no easily accessible refreshments along the way apart from cider and perry. Plenty of opportunities to join the trail for shorter trips including training fartlek style along the Coliban Water channel track.
Why I like it
Interesting mtbing at each end and the Coliban Water channel track allows for long bursts of speed interspersed with points of interest. Very accessible for shorter rides.
Terrain and surface
Some hills especially at start but fine for a reasonably fit person and they are fun anyway. 4WD, single track, forest roads through hilly gold diggings and pine forest area. Flat tarmac through Harcourt. Flat with a few hills along Coliban water channel. Undulating dirt roads and tracks on outskirts of Bendigo finishing with flat tarmac.
This route diverges from the GDT Leanganook Trail, bypassing Leanganook (Mt Alexander) as the trail on the W flank is virtually unrideable and on top passes through a highly erodeable section that you should avoid for conservation reasons. Our bypass skirts to the W and NW of Leanganook. Other possibilities are the tarmac road over Leanganook which is a favourite of road riders, or the dirt road E of Leanganook whis is boring. The Coliban Water channel E of Leanganook is not public.
From the lovely old brick Castlemaine Station (photo above right) head east on Templeton past The Bike Vault, R into Hargreaves and past The Royal Theatre and Castlemaine Cycles, then the GDT start display is the other side of the Hargreaves and Forest roundabout in the NE corner of the park. Just up the road immediately before bridge, Lenaganook diverges L (photo) from Dry Diggings GDT. Continue your cruisy warm up by follow the GDT signs eventually onto a broad dirt trail then keep a lookout for sharp L off trail towards forest. Here the fun begins in a lovely environment with mixed surfaces including bare rock.
Near the top of this climb take a deserved break at the imposing Garfield water wheel ruin, have a read and look for a fat cat lazily sunning. Continue on single track then 4WD which eases pleasantly for a while before single track plummets exhiliratingly into a gully then skies up on snaking single track – unless expert, dismount to wend your way up. R onto Welsh St 4WD (head L instead and you would come to the ruins of Welsh Village), L @ T onto Endall, ignore GDT R towards Golden Point Rd instead continuing onto Llewellyn Rd. Start climbing then veer 1L. Through fence line into clearing and if a hot day take in the heady aromas of the pine forest.
Now listen up! This is tricky so I will do a mud map soon. You should be in a clearing. You are to continue NW on dirt roads, not N along the fence line unless you like more hills. At 300m veer 1R and soon you will be back at the fence line. Continue N, keep SA where track veers off to L, veer L on dirt road down a steepish gully, SA at next junction still down gully, then saunter along the valley floor, SA at triangle junction.
L@T onto Specimen Gully Rd and from here until Leanganook foothill it is sweetly undulating farming, lifestyle and orchard country. R into Reillys Rd, R@T onto Peelers Rd, R@X onto tarmac Blackjack Rd, take care SA across Calder Highway, 1L into Danns Rd for a few kms more of apple orchards (if using Memory Map, the gap in Danns Rd does not exist). After it becomes Reservoir Rd, on your R eventually is Henry of Harcourt’s cidery, usually open. A bit further on veer R onto the dirt Quarry Rd for a shady interlude if sunny. Then SA onto tarmac Harcourt – Sutton Grange Rd, up a steepish climb past the Joseph Young Drive (Mt Alexander tourist rd) then from the ridge swoop down the esses to the water race and rejoin the GDT on your L.
Coliban Water Channel
The Coliban Water channel 4WD track is neatly divided into sections by road crossings. Kms on Coliban Water start here.
To Harcourt – Sedgwick Rd. If you are fartlek training this would be your start point. 4.3km of mainly flat then a grunty hill. At the base of the hill is Wirth’s tunnel, the longest on the system. At the top, get pleasure at what you missed by looking back at Mt Alexander. And at first turn downwards, try and pick out Bendigo in the distance.
To Springs Rd (leads to Sedgwick). At 9.1km near the end of this section are two bluestone built falls with dissipators to slow and redirect the rushing water. Unfortunately there has been no water for the alst 2 years but even so these structures are indded interesting.
To Mandurang South Rd leaves the water for a delightful interlude through Aboriginal private land. Please keep strictly to the track as that is a condition of our use. Also, it could be dangerous to your health. Before the signage was vastly improved, we strayed, eventually got onto sandy trail bike tracks, Anitra slipped sideways and her ribs met with a crunch the jutting elbow of a tree trunk. She rode onto Bendigo but was then out of action for some weeks. Unlike the rest of the trail, this signage is 2-3m high in trees!
To Sandhurst Reservoir crossing Harpers and Hunts Gap Rds is a fast and twisty section. Keep left! Watch for snakes as they don’t feel you coming! Tip – never ride close 2nd on mtb rides as by the time the snake reacts after bring run over by the lead rider, the 2nd rider is perfectly placed ;-). This ends the 20km fartlek section.
The End is Nigh
Into pleasant box ironbark forest cruising along until you cross tarmac Kangaroo Gully Rd (If running late for train L here and about 5km on is Kangaroo Flat station on L). Now little hills kick in. After you leave the pylon track to R, the tracks get interesting again but watch carefully for further GDT signs as we got lost here the first 2 times we rode it. The trail uses local trails and eventually onto tarmac for the final few kms to Bendigo Station.
2 bike shops, Castlemaine Cycles next to Royal Theatre, Hargraves St and The Bike Vault on Midland Highway a block from Railway Station. Visitor Centre in Mostyn St. Hard to find a bad coffee in Castlemaine. I like Royal Theatre coffee and ice-cream and cafe next door also excellent. At other end of town, 1 Halford St, Coffee Basics serves and roasts weekdays.
Victoria’s largest inland city. Home of great Gillies Pies cnr Hargreaves Mall & Mitchell St town centre. Many bike shops including one just down from the station and another in shopping centre at Kangaroo Flat if you can’t make it all the way to Bendigo. You could easily spend 2 days on bike trails in and around Bendigo. Get a map at Visitor Centre 51 Pall Mall.
I have yet to dig out my GPS files. No map as the trail map can be readily bought but I will provide a mud map to cover the Leanganook (Mt Alexander) bypass.
What further information would you like (that isn’t in the GDT track guide)?
What have I provided that you think isn’t needed?