‘No were not fit, and I haven’t ridden for ages’ and that’s where the ever familiar lies set in and you know that your riding mates/partners/buddies are:
a) Very fit… or at least significantly fitter than you;
b) ‘…haven’t ridden for ages’ consists of 5 evening rides, lunchtime rides and a long weekend session every week
And so, even though I was aware of the above, the lure of a road trip was enough to pique my interest, especially given that the destination selected was Forrest in South West Victoria. Some have described it as ‘arguably the best mountain bike destination in Australia’. And while this may seem a long bow, the destination has a number of elements to make it a worthy contender:
- Excellent singletrack, purpose built by locals, with Glen Jacobs and the World Trail crew consulting on the design
- An ‘out and back’ trail network, utilising the town centre as the base
- Trails that are well signed with maps available
- A variety of accommodation options
- An excellent brewery/cafe/restaurant
- An easy drive from Melbourne approx 2 hours
This is really the crux of what determines a sought after mountain bike destination, where the car parks are busy, the trails tight and twisty and craft beer is flowing. The trails were developed and initially built by dedicated locals and with the recent downturn in the local economy, a dying town needed an injection fast. With local government support, the DSE (Department of Sustainability and Environment) and the expertise of one of the country’s foremost trail builders, Glen Jacobs, the Forrest trails have now become a destination on many a mountain bikers list.
If you want to get the greatest hits of which trails to hit up first, in a network of some 16 trails totalling 66km, then a suggestion would be to do the steady climb up Baridjaru (No. 2) so you can enjoy one of the joys in this vast trail network, Red Carpet (No.3). Red carpet is fast, downhill, technical trail with testing features including drop offs, rock gardens and tight switchbacks. A great run that is worth doing several times where the 4.5Km just doesn’t seem long enough. In the Yaugher trail network, Mariners Run (No. 9) is also the pick of an impressive number of linked trails that all have their own style and personality.
Utilising the natural terrain to perfection with perfectly formed berms, that can be railed hard and fast, yet never feeling out of control, and a trail length that doesn’t feel like the trail ended too early. Other notable trails include the short, but fun Grass Trees (No.8) trail. Both Mariners Run and Grass Trees can be accessed via the Yaugher Super Loop (No.7) via the trail head car park.
Out and Back Trail Network
The beauty of the Forrest trail network utilises the town as the centrepiece connecting effectively 3 main trail networks of Yaugher trails, The reservoir trails (key trail being Red Carpet) and the trails south of the town where the Forrest trail head starts. This out and back trail design allows for the town to capitalise on the riders that are visiting the town with a brewery, pub and cafe to provide well earned refreshments, in addition to a number of accommodation options.
It could be safe to say that mountain bikers make up a large majority of the tourism dollar for Forrest and the out and back network benefits both local business’ and riders. The advantage of riding from your accommodation’s front door and have a huge variety of trails to choose from, reinforces Forrest as a premier Australian mountain bike destination.
Signed Trails and Maps
From what may seem a fundamental feature required, there are still many mountain bike trail networks that neglect this. Forrest however has this well under control with clear sign posting of the trail number and a comprehensive map available online as well as a hard copy version in town. The trail rating appears based on the IMBA ratingof mountain bike trails of green, blue and black with 16 marked trails totalling approximately 66Km of purpose built trail. The trail signage is easy to read and follow, utilising the trail numbering system to navigate. At each of the trail heads (Yaugher and Forrest) ample car parking is available with a map to review as well as toilet facilities.
Various Accommodation Options
Small town hospitality meets big city luxury – well not exactly, but there are a number accommodation choices in Forrest from the modest caravan park through to some very well placed and stylish choices to suit a wide variety of tastes and budgets. Our riding group stayed at the Ti Tree cottages which were clean, well featured and able to accommodate our riding party of 5. Situated on the main road into Forrest, the cottages were in a central location for ride in, ride out and a short walk to the brewery.
A standout option also located in the town centre is the Strawbale Cottage. This sustainably built cottage is in my opinion the pick of the bunch for accommodation choices in town. With decor that has had some thought put into it, in addition to the warm feeling you get from contributing to the green economy, give this place some serious consideration when planning your trip here. Slumming it? The caravan park has got you covered from camping to on-site vans and powered sites. Supplies at the general store may be limited or generously marked up so consider a stop at a supermarket in Geelong, before heading down.
Forrest Brewing Company
After at least 5 road trips to Forrest to Mountain Bike, the opening of the Forrest Brewing Company has elevated this destination to another level. Forrest was in desperate need of great food, great coffee and excellent craft beer that was previously not being offered by the small handful of local vendors. With the brewery now open the mountain biking road trip experience is now complete offering a credible location for a mid-ride lunch stop or an end of day cold one.
Established by a local brother and sister combination, the Forrest Brewing Company have managed to mix local know how with the changing dynamics of the town to provide hospitality to locals and visitors alike. Given the influx of riders and the high quality food, coffee and beer, bookings are essential – plan ahead so you don’t miss out on the gem in the Forrest crown.
Easy Drive from Melbourne
Ideally located for a road trip run, Forrest is situated approximately 2 hours south west of Melbourne. Follow the signs to Geelong and take the Geelong bypass heading for Colac. The fastest way is to go via Winchelsea via the inland route or take the Great Ocean Road to Apollo Bay and then head inland to Forrest.
The moniker of the best mountain bike trails in Australia certainly has merit, when you take into account the entire experience at Forrest. While many of the trails may not be as technically challenging or flowy as other Australian mountain bike destinations, the benefit of this location is in the fact that an entire town has embraced mountain biking as a vehicle to turn itself around. It also allows the town and local vendors to target mountain bikers and capitalise on their custom. The trail network, accommodation and the brewery cap off an ideal riding experience.
where: Forrest is approximately 2 hours south west of Melbourne. Head towards Geelong and follow the signs to Colac on the A1. Take the Birregura-Forrest Rd C119 and follow the signs to Forrest. The closet airport is Melbourne (Avalon) approx 100Km from Forrest or alternatively Melbourne (Tullamarine) approx 160Km from Forrest. Both airports have car rentals options A detailed map of the park can be viewed here.
terrain: Forrest has trails for all abilities, but majority cater to the intermediate to advanced riders. The two main areas offer different terrain and conditions, from loose sandy trails to hard pack gravel and twisty, slippery roots. The trail network is the perfect trail rider/all mountain destination
distance: There is approx 60Km of purpose built mountain bike trails, within the Forrest trail network.
events: The marquee event for the Forrest trail network is the Otway Odyssey a gruelling 100km endurance ride from Apollo Bay to Forrest. This event has grown to become a key event for all riders with a large number of mountain bikers, roadies, triathletes and adventure racers all entering this event for its challenging terrain.
Read here Wade Wallace from Cycling Tips Blog excellent race review and inspiring photography on this event. Book early as this event sells out quickly. A 50Km and 15Km option is also available. www.otwayodyssey.com A number of smaller events are held throughout the year. Be sure to check out www.rideforrest.com.au for the latest information on upcoming events.
food & drink: Forrest Brewery and Cafe Forrest – Apollo Bay Rd, 03 5236 6170 www.forrestbrewing.com.au One of the finest eating and drinking establishments in the Geelong and Otway region. Worth the trip for the food and beer alone. Bookings essential for evening meals (Fri-Sun).
accommodation: Strawbale Cottage 17 Sanderson Lane, 03 5243 3579 www.strawbalecottage.com The standout accommodation choice in Forrest Forrest River Valley Bed & Breakfast 135 Yaugher Rd, 03 5236 6322 www.forrestrivervalley.com.au Excellent accommodation that offers ride in/ ride out – close to the Yaugher trail head Forrest Caravan Park 8 Station St, 03 5236 6275
local bike shop: The Bike Shop 227 Murray St, Colac 03 5231 1334 Closest bike shop is located in Colac about 30 mins drive from Forrest
Been to Forrest? Australia’s best trail network? Post your comments here.