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Blue Mountains mtb rides
St Helena

Hodgie at speed through the she-
oaks (casuarina)

Whoowee! What can I say? This is a fun track for the experienced rider, but will see quite a bit of walking by a newbie. Turning off the main Oaks track about six kms in, the St Helena track returns to civilisation between Blaxland and Glenbrook railway stations. In between are some good lookouts, lots of singletrack, some dualtrack, loose and rough downhills, some very technical riding, and some slow, heavily overgrown singletrack. For all of us, there's also a bit of walking - most on the last downhill to the creek, and everyone on the climb out.

Catch the train to Woodford station and go to the high side carpark - not the highway side. Head back towards Sydney along Railway Parade, until it ends in a "T" intersection (about 300 metres from the station). Turn right here into the Appian Way, then left into Parker Street after about 100 metres, and left into Taylor Road at the "T" intersection (after about 80 metres). After another 50 metres, you'll see a dirt road off to the right, with a locked gate. There are signs here to identify the National Park. This firetrail is The Oaks, an easier alternative to St Helena. Follow The Oaks firetrail.

Don't forget to look for the aboriginal carving of concentric circles (circles.jpg) at the top of the first really big hill on The Oaks track. The Circles are visible without leaving the track. National Parks have pushed boulders between the rock shelf and track to keep people off. KEEP OFF!! sheesh... Shortly after passing The Circles, and about six kms from the station, you'll see an obvious track off to the left - like an overgrown firetrail. Hmmmm... now there's a coincidence! This is the start of the St Helena track.

Over a few small waterbars, round the corner and down you go, down the first of many downhill stretches, and it's not long till the biggest uphill (apart from the climb out) of the ride. Most of us have to walk some of this hill - I certainly do! Once at the top, you can breathe easy, knowing that most of the track from here on is flat or downhill.

After several more kilometres of loose downhills, fast flats, and overgrown windy track, you'll come to a fork in the road, an ideal place to wait for friends and to decide if you want to do the lookouts or not. The left hand fork goes to Bunyan and Lost World Lookouts, as well as St Helena itself. The right hand fork (straight on) is the way out, via the Duckhole.

The first track to the left off the left fork goes steeply down into St Helena, an eroded volcanic vent and site of a former farm. The second goes to Lost World Lookout, while the main track leads to Bunyan Lookout. Both lookouts have great views across Glenbrook Creek to the backs of Springwood and Valley Heights.

While it's possible to walk out to Springwood from Bunyan Lookout via Martin's Lookout, don't. It's an absolute shocker of a climb down, and a mongrel going back up with your bike on your shoulder. Definitely not recommended - we were overtaken by walkers going down - we were too slow carrying the bikes... The lookouts are recommended though, well worth the 8 kms of out and back singletrack to see them - not that you need a reason to ride more singletrack... it's hard to believe this used to be a wide firetrail.

The right fork to the Duckhole is more of the same - fun and often overgrown singletrack, until the final descent to Glenbrook Creek, marked by a steep chute which only the brave or foolish try to ride. From here on, I'm on and off the bike as the track becomes very technical - too much for me.

There's another really cool chute between two huge rocks which is at least partly rideable, and plenty of opportunities to go over the bars...

When you reach the creek, turn left and head towards a large sandy beach - watch out for where dickheads have smashed bottles - and cross over the shallow end of the Duckhole. Alternatively, if you turn right when you reach the creek, it's only 50 metres till you can scramble over some rocks and trees for a dry crossing. Head left (upstream) when you are across and you'll end up back at the wet crossing.

Water from the Duckhole used to be pumped out to Glenbrook to provide water for the railways and in droughts. A pumping station used to exist on the eastern bank of the creek, and the track out follows the path of the old coal chute and coal supply track. Some remains of this system can still be seen, and there's still coal lying by the track.

The climb out heads basically straight up to start, and starts out unrideable. Soon the track zigs and zags with some short rideable sections until finally reaching the top and more singletrack. Ride this track to the railway line and cross over - WATCH FOR TRAINS! Head right along the railway access track for Glenbrook station, or climb the fence and head left to Blaxland. To get to Glenbrook, put the bikes under the gate where the access track ends (just past the barking dogs - you'll see ...err... hear...) turn right at the tar, right again, and left into the street following the railway line. CityRail have increased the fencing on the creek side of the railway line, so it's a bit trickier to get out these days. Now, turn right just before the railway crossing, and descend steeply back into a gully (not back the way you've gone, the turn veers right just before the drop to the old crossing). Watch out for the logs across the track at the bottom of the hill. Then it's a short steep overgrown climb until you meet a cross track. Here, I go right, until I come up almost in someone's back yard. I think you can go straight up without getting into their yard, but prefer to follow a track to the right about 50 m, then turning left, and left again, which takes me back to the road outside the original house. Follow this road until you can turn left over the railway line bridge, then turn right to head to the station.

By now you should be tired, but with a big grin on your face!

Highly recommended - this ride scores a well earned
four and a half Fat Hippies - only missing out on five because of the climb out

one fat hippyone fat hippyone fat hippyone fat hippyhalf a fat hippy
All rides are now rated in Fat Hippies - one means grab a slice of pizza and stay on the beanbag, two means not bad, three means well worth a ride, four is a great ride and five means stop looking at your computer, go ride it!

Distance ~28 km station to station, including lookouts, ~20 without
Type Mainly singletrack, or close to it
Difficulty Medium/Hard - some walking, some very technical, overgrown. Not suited to new riders. Helmet and protective glasses strongly recommended - lots of low branches and overgrowth.
Surface often loose. Some very technical sections.
Time Varies - from a couple of hours to all day
Trains Woodford, Blaxland, Glenbrook - timetable
Interest History of Blue Labyrinth area, views
Issues popular with bushwalkers, slow down and say hello
ride lightly, don't skid down the hills, stick to the track
take out all your rubbish.
See also... Anderson's fire trail, Murphy's Glen, Ingar, The Oaks
Maps CMA Penrith 9030-3-N - 1:25000 (most of ride)
CMA Springwood 9030-IV-S - 1:25000 (lookout sections)
CMA Katoomba 8930-1-S - 1:31680 (start of Oaks only)
Ridden January 2001

fAt hIpPy productions
another fAt hIpPy production

Standard disclaimer:
Like all outdoor activities, mountain bike riding can result in serious or fatal injury. Track conditions may have changed since these reviews. 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 anyone else. If you don't like anything I've said, sorry, just change the channel.
Copyright © Tony Fathers, 1997 - 2003