Bicycle Network: Where to Ride
- Jon Miller
Ride through the beautiful Yarra Ranges starting and finishing at suburban train stations.
View Tour - Lilydale to Hurstbridge via Healesville in a larger map
This ride is a little over 100km and is often done as a day ride. However, there are two significant climbs which make it a hard ride for a single day. Healesville, which is about half-way has many hotels, motels, B&Bs and camp grounds, not to mention restaurants and cafes which makes it an ideal place to stop for a night. This turns it into a medium difficulty weekend ride with one big climb on each day.
The ride is very accessible by public transport – it both starts and finishes at stations. For the most part it is on quiet roads or the Lilydale–Warburton Rail Trail. There can be a bit of traffic for the kilometre between Lilydale station and the start of the rail trail and also for 2–3km around Healesville, other than that, you shouldn’t see many cars.
The Lilydale–Warburton Rail Trail
The surface of the rail trail is smooth hard-packed gravel most of the other roads are sealed apart from a short section over the top of Panton Gap which is of firm gravel. Anything apart from a narrow-tyred road bike should be suitable.
The ride starts from Lilydale station, upon leaving the station, ride along Maroondah Highway away from the city for a little over a kilometre then turn right at Le Pine Funeral Parlour on the Queen Road corner, ride through the car park and up the short, steep hill to reach the start of the trail. Maroondah Highway is very busy so be careful turning right across it. Alternatively, ride along Queen Road for a few hundred metres before joining the trail at the signposted crossing point thus avoiding the steep pinch at the start.
Once on the trail, there is a gradual uphill climb to Mt Evelyn. Cog Bicycle Café is situated right on the trail in Mt Evelyn. It is part bike shop and part café and makes good place to stop. Either for morning tea or to pick up some spare parts for the rest of the ride.
After Mt Evelyn, the trail drops again down to Killara. This is a very scenic section of the trail passing through native forest with magnificent views across to the Yarra Ranges. Once reaching Launching Place, there is a set of pedestrian lights taking you across the Warburton Highway to the Home Hotel. This pub serves good food and makes a convenient place to stop for lunch. After lunch, leave the rail trail and head north along Don Road which is right opposite the pub.
Over Panton Gap to Healesville
The big climb starts less than a kilometre along Don Road. There can sometimes be a moderate amount of traffic on Don Road but you will find that most of this turns off on to Dalry Road a couple of kilometres out of Launching Place. The farmland soon gives way to the forest of Yarra Ranges National Park. There are many very tall mountain ash and myrtle beech trees. After about 8 kilometres, you come to a rare example of a curved wooden bridge and the start of the gravel.
Eventually you reach Panton Gap and the top of the day’s climb, it is now downhill all the way to Healesville. There is no shortage of places to stay and eat here so find one that fits your budget.
Starting off uphill
On the second day, you will probably want to buy lunch before leaving Healesville as there aren’t many places to buy it along the way. Once you’ve done this, head north out of town on the Chum Creek Road (C724) towards Toolangi. This was part of the route of the MAD Ride before the organisers, Melbourne Bicycle Touring Club, moved the ride to Woodend. It is the big climb of the day and it's good to get it out of the way early.
Once you reach Toolangi, you will start the descent but don’t relax just yet as there are some more climbs before reaching Kinglake. Although nothing as long as the one up Chum Creek Road. There is a dogleg left then right turn as you cross Melba Highway. This is a very busy crossing so take care.
Down to St Andrews
You get to the roundabout at Kinglake and the ride turns left for the descent to St Andrews. However you will probably want to continue straight through the roundabout to visit the Kinglake bakery for afternoon tea. Having done that, head back to the roundabout and turn right for the descent. This is a lovely downhill run through the Kinglake National Park. The forest is dominated by messmate, broad-leaved peppermint, red stringybark and long-leaved box. Underneath the canopy is a mixture of wattles, heath, and grasses with the occasional wildflower thrown in. The road is narrow and windy so take care and ride in single file.
There are still a few short climbs before reaching Hurstbridge but it is generally downhill and the closer you get to Hurstbridge, the flatter the ride gets.
There are a couple of roundabouts just outside Hurstbridge, just follow the signs to Melbourne which take you to Hurstbridge’s main street and the railway station for the train home.