The Goulburn River High Country Rail Trail (GRHCRT) is a shared pathway for cyclist, walkers and horses. The GRHCRT follows the disused rail line for 134km from Tallarook through Yea to Mansfield with a link between Cathkin and Alexandra. Mansfield, Mitchell and Murrindindi Shire Councils have received $13m funding from the Federal Government and $1m funding from the State Government to complete the trail.
The trail is built for mountain bikes, hybrids and touring bikes. The surface is granitic sand or chert (looks like bitumen) but is compacted stone. The gradients are gentle which makes walking or riding the trail suitable for all levels. GRHCRT is a shared pathway for horses, walkers and cyclists. Where there isn’t a bridle path beside the trail horses are allowed on the pathway. Carry water with you as there is little opportunity to fill your bottles on the trail. You don’t need to ride long distances to appreciate this fantastic trail. Hop on at Tallarook and soon you will be riding alongside the heritage classified Goulburn River walk or cycle more than 10 kilometres from Tallarook and you will be in the Trawool Valley classified by the National Trust for its scenic beauty.
Yea is a small rural community with a great range of accommodation and eating houses, the perfect spot for a rest after a long ride. The station precinct with its original brick building and platform is a nice place for a picnic lunch A great ride for the littlies is out from Yea across 330 metres of rebuilt bridges in the Yea flood plain and across the Yea River. Stop over the river and look for fish or even a platypus in the river below.
Although the elevations on the trail are not high it is a gradual climb to the Cheviot Tunnel but well worth the 9 kilometre trek out from Yea or 8 kilometres from Molesworth. And remember it is all downhill once you pass through the tunnel. The Cheviot Tunnel was built in 1889 from bricks made on site. Other than the Melbourne Loop Cheviot Tunnel is the longest train tunnel in Victoria. If you would like to visit the tunnel by car it is quite accessible by road. Head east out of Yea for 1.8 kilometres turn right into Limestone Road follow this for 2.8 kilometres turn left into Cheviot Road for 3.8 kilometres (approx distances). You may want to carry a torch into the tunnel so that you can see the magnificent brick work.
Heading east from the tunnel the trail heads through the Native Dog Road area which is bordered by farming land. After crossing the Goulburn River bridges at Molesworth the trail was raised so that trains were above the flood plain, several bridges have been rebuilt in this area. There is a large parking area at Cathkin where the Home Creek / Spring Creek Landcare group looks after the old station area where you can still see the remains of the Cathkin station platform. From Cathkin you can head to Alexandra on the branch line. It is a pleasant 13 kilometre ride to Alex. Stop for a rest at the top of Eglington Cutting and take in the view across Alexandra to the Cathedral Ranges.
Alexandra dates back to 1824 when it was discovered by Hume and Hovell. There are several good eating houses in Alex, head to the main street. The trail starts/finishes at the Alexandra Station which is now home to the Timber tramway. Check their website for dates of when the tram runs and markets are held. http://www.alexandratramway.org.au/
If you don’t turn right to Alex the trail takes you to Yarck. Odd sounding name but a great stop for a cuppa or something stronger, if you are in Yarck in the summer you can buy cherries direct from the orchard. The highest point on the trail is Merton Gap at 397 metres, not really that high but once again a long gradual climb, there is a rest stop near the top so take a rest and enjoy the view. Rolling into Merton you pass the Merton Cemetery and ride through the area that is maintained by Merton Landcare. The next 15 kilometres are all downhill, it might not feel like it but that is what the elevations tell me. Next stop Bonnie Doon, home of The Castle (an iconic Australian movie if you didn’t know). With Lake Eildon near capacity you will ride beside it and over it for approximately 5 kilometres.
Heading east to Mansfield from Bonnie Doon there is another hill, be aware that on descending there is a road at the bottom. The bridge wasn’t replaced and it is now a road crossing. Road rules apply and cyclists must give way to cars when crossing roads. At Maindample a local resident whose yard backs onto trail has free water available or other drinks available for a $2 donation which goes toward the community park. Continuing on the trail diverts away from the highway through farming land with great views towards Mansfield and Mt Buller. As you ride into Mansfield Station you pass through the Mullum Wetlands which provides a habitat for local fauna and flora. This area includes raised walkways, a lookout and a bird hide. Mansfield Station is now home to the historical society and next to the information centre.
For more information on the Goulburn River High Country Rail Trail go to: http://www.victorianrailtrails.com.au/