Bike Riding Around Wangaratta

Friends Track

Words and images by Henry Brydon - We Are Explorers.   

The town of Dirrawarra / Wangaratta and the rolling hills that surround it are perfect for cycling. Whether you prefer spraying dirt or grinding gravel, here are the best bike riding adventures in Wangaratta.   

We acknowledge that this adventure is located on Yorta Yorta, Taungurung, Bpangerang, Waywurru Nation, the traditional Countries of the Yorta Yorta, Taungurung, Bpangerang, Waywurru people who have occupied and cared for these lands for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded. 

Ready, Set, Ride! 

Two-wheeled-stallions offer a fresh lens through which to view the world, opening us up to trails, tarmac, and everything in-between. Our hearts beat faster and the interactions we have with nature and locals intensify as we enter a new dimension of exploration. 

Whether you’re after a gonad-bashing downhill, a cruisy rail trail through award-winning vineyards or a multi-day bikepacking epic (through award-winning craft breweries) there are a variety of routes in and around Wangaratta to suit most riding palettes.  

I’ve never regretted taking my bike with me on an adventure, and Wangaratta was no exception. If you didn’t strap one to your car, fear not, Wangaratta has several bike hire companies to cater to your needs. 

Warbys View

Riding the Old Rail Trail from Milawa to Wangaratta 

Australia’s network of rail trails offer a brilliant way to explore the country, and the Murray to Mountains trail is one such route. Extending 83km from Wangaratta to Bright, riders weave along a flat and fully sealed path – once the Bright Railway Line – through wide valleys and a gourmet wonderland of produce that tries its hardest to slow you down. 

We completed the first section of the trail from Wangaratta to Milawa (in reverse), 18km of blissful, flat cruising beneath April’s autumn colours that required no saturation adjustments in Lightroom. 

M2M Old Mill

Milawa is a non-negotiable village experience that teems with local cheeses, meats, wines and cruffins that somehow moved from the counter to my stomach without a great deal of thought.  

Once Jono had wiped the cruffin cream from his chin we slung our legs over rented bikes and began our ride, pedalling past delightful little spots – Milawa Mustards, Honey Zones and the famous Brown Brothers Winery

A few clicks from Milawa we entered Oxley and passed Sam Miranda Winery – we could resist the vino no longer and shared a crispy bottle of Pinot Gris surrounded by sweet Mediterranean vibes (in regional Victoria!). 

From there the route led us back into suburban Wangaratta where we met our bike rental legend who dropped us back off at our cars in Milawa. 

Gravel Riding in the King Valley 

For riders keen for a wilder experience that’s not too tarmac-y and not too muddy, then gravel riding is your best bet. 

Fortunately the King Valley region in Wangaratta shire is fast becoming an Australian hot spot for this style of riding, thanks to both the stunning geography of the region and a crew of passionate local riders keen to create routes and share their bicycle playground with the world. 

Whilst I was there the King Valley Gravel Weekend drew hoards of folk into the region to ride and be merry (turns out it’s actually very hard not to be merry in the King Valley). It was a celebration of local trails and producers that encouraged people of all cycling abilities to get on two wheels and let the good times roll. 

The 72km course is one of ten trails being marked out from Moyhu to Upper King Valley as part of King Valley Gravel Project. It really is pretty exciting to see these grassroots community projects open up bicycle tourism in Australia in such dramatic ways. There will be around 500km of trails mapped in total, with courses ranging from 20km to 100km. Here are a handful of the rides: 

1. Strada Alberta (‘Many Trees’) 

Distance / Elevation – 43km / 389m 
Start / Finish – Moyhu 

Details: Named after the native trees and shrubs that surround this route, this 60% gravel and 40% sealed trail offers some challenging forest ascents and a double crossing of the King River. 

  

2. Percorsa Di Cruffin (‘The Cruffin Run’) 

Distance / Elevation – 56km / 212m 
Start / Finish – Moyhu 

Details: The ‘Road to Cruffins’ veers riders past multiple vineyards and the foodie haven of Millawa where you can satisfy your mid-ride munchies. 

  

3. L’Anelo (‘The Loop’) 

Distance / Elevation – 60km / 647m 
Start / Finish – Moyhu / Whitfield 

Details: A delightful loop trail with a handful of challenging gravel climbs. Good luck getting past the King River Brewery taproom! 

4. Pista Della Capra (‘The Goat Track’) 

Distance / Elevation – 33km / 437m 
Start / Finish – Moyhu 

Details: This one involves a sweaty 4km climb through the Moyhu Timber Reserve, but you’ll be pleased to hear there is a beer waiting for you at the Moyhu Pub on completion. 

 

5. Pizza E Vino (‘Wine and Pizza’) 

Distance / Elevation – 20km / 85m 
Start / Finish – Whitfield 

Details: A most flat ride that would suit newbies to this style of riding, and with 5 cellar doors along this route the most challenging part is riding in a straight line. 

  

6. Due Colline (‘Two Hills’) 

Distance / Elevation – 30km / 338m 
Start / Finish – Whitfield 

Details: Passing through the foothills of the Black Range, this ride climbs high on the Lake Buffalo-Whitfield Road before descending 4km on gravel as a reward. 

7. Il Monte (‘The Mountain’) 

Distance / Elevation – 72km / 1000m 
Start / Finish – Whitfield 

Details: Considered one of the greatest day rides in the High Country thanks to mind-bending views of the ‘The Horn’ and it’s multiple river crossings.  

  

8. L’Agguato (‘The Ambush’) 

Distance / Elevation – 84km / 1582m 
Start / Finish – Whitfield 

Details: Named after its Ned Kelly history, this is a tough ride riddled with climbs but balanced by natural beauty throughout. 

Mountain Biking in Wangaratta 

During my pre-trip research, the Warby Ovens National Park kept coming up time and time again. The bushland paradise 10km from Wangaratta has a spaghetti plate of trails – some seem more official than others so we opted for the most established of the trails, the Friends Track

Friends Loop

Starting from the car park at Wenhams Camp at sunrise, we headed north and clockwise along the 4.6km track. The singletrack wound us through box-ironbark forest as the sun rose up from the Ovens Valley with fun and mildly challenging sections keeping us on our toes. 

After a few technical climbs we popped out of the forest and skirted along Mt Warby before taking the side route down a fire trail to Kwat Kwat Lookout.  

Warbys Singletrack

This was well worth the additional 1km return of pedalling as we were served up a spectacular view across the region as I munched down on a well-earned fruit bar. 

The weather finally turned on me and my riding compadres, and we rode the final section that looped back through to the car park in pouring rain. 

We didn’t see another soul during our adventures but please note that this is a shared trail with hikers and kangaroos so keep your eyes peeled. Best to BYO friends, but you might get lucky out there. 

Still keen for more? There are plenty of other bike trails around the Wangaratta region worth checking out. As Freddie Mercury would say ‘Get on your bike and ride!’ 

  

Photography by @henry_brydon and @thetantrap