No, the name doesn't refer to computer geeks, it refers to a narrow strip of ridge in Katoomba. If the valleys were still filled with water, Narrow Neck would be an isthmus. Narrow Neck divides Jamison and Megalong valleys and provides a bountiful supply of the spectacular views that make the Blue Mountains world renowned.
Catch the train to Katoomba station and head west - either side of the railway line will do. Either way, you'll end up on the Great Western Highway before the turn off. Turn left off the highway at Shell Corner - a sharp right hand bend with concrete barriers down the middle. This road is mostly called Cliff Drive - I say mostly, because at one stage it becomes Narrow Neck Road, and then turns back into Cliff Drive. Although there is a dirt turn off signposted Narrow Neck Road, it isn't the road to Narrow Neck... Keep going till you see Narrow Neck Lookout.
Stop for a look, and you can see the start of your ride. Turn right into Glen Raphael Road, and you are on the Narrow Neck fire trail. Confused?? I was.
Glen Raphael Road plunges down towards the valley in twists and turns, but be careful, as this bit's two way and used by all sorts of vehicles. Soon the downhill stops, and you are faced with an enormous climb to the gate. At one point the hill has been concreted to aid traction - it doesn't help me get up it though!
After the gate the hazards are bushwalkers, other cyclists and in winter, there may be ice on the track even in the afternoon. Keep your eyes open!
Eventually you reach the Narrow Neck that gives the trail its name - at this point, if you slip off one side of the road you'll stop in Jamison Valley, and if you slip off the other side you'll finish up in Megalong Valley. Truly spectacular.
By the end of the trail you'll have seen the upper waters of Warragamba Dam, Mt Solitary, the Ruined Castle and the Landslide (Dogface) to the east (as well as some huge cliffs that I don't know the names of), Kanangra Walls and the Jenolan Caves area to the south, and just views, views and more views all around. On a clear day you can even see Centrepoint Tower in Sydney.
There's a plaque cemented to the rock at the lookout, in memory of a young man. i don't know if he fell, jumped or just liked the area, but it's a good reminder to be careful - it's a l-o-o-o-n-g way down.
Take the short steep walk to your right at the end of the trail to Taros Ladders - you should probably hide your bikes and chain them up somewhere if you do this.
The ladders are a series of spikes fixed into a rockface to aid climbing - a very easy climb of around 20m. Some riders have abseiled off here with their bikes to get to the valley, but that can take you into catchment area - where you shouldn't be, at least according to Sydney Water.
I regard the trail as a medium to hard ride - there are a several large hills that I have to walk - but then again, that gives plenty of reasons to stop, breathe, and enjoy the view.
The track surface overall is variable - in some spots it's quite rough, loose and gravelly, and in others it's smooth with government supplied jumps.
It's about 5 kms from Katoomba Station to the Glen Raphael turnoff, another 3 kms to the gate and then around 10 kms to the end - 26 kms of dirt all up.
This is undoubtedly the most spectacular ride I have done in the Blue Mountains. Truly, genuinely, fanbloodytastic views. If you think I sound impressed - you're right. I was!
|Distance||~36 km return to station|
|Type||sometimes loose and rocky fire trail, lots of waterbars, mainly car free|
|Difficulty||Medium/Hard - will probably need to walk some uphills. Surface may be loose and rocky.|
|Time||Varies - from a few hours to all day|
|Trains||Katoomba - timetable|
|Interest||Echo Point, Three Sisters, views, many bushwalks, views|
|Issues||Popular with bushwalkers, slow down and say hello, ride lightly, don't skid down the hills, take out all your rubbish|
Standard disclaimer:Like all outdoor activities, mountain bike riding can result in serious or fatal injury. Track conditions may have changed since this review. Don't ride beyond your ability. If you fall off it's your own fault. Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, thoughts, comments, opinions etc expressed herein are mine, and should not be taken to represent my employers, or for that matter, anyone else. If you don't like anything I've said, sorry, just change the channel.
Copyright © Tony Fathers, 1998 - 2006