Mount Joyce Mountain Bike Park
Flowing lines of fine singletrack in beautiful lakeside bush: Rowan Lamont finds a lot to love about this new SE Queensland venue.
Opened in 2011, Mt Joyce Recreation Park sits beside Lake Wyaralong, 85km south west of Brisbane. It was developed by SEQwater when the dam was built, with mountain biking identified as being a perfect activity for the terrain.
Forty kilometres of trail including 25km of pure singletrack were constructed by Pete Wilson and Bill Van Haren. Downhill legend Nathan Rennie worked with them to add some spice to the DH trails. They were built to International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) standards, meaning conservation and sustainability were given priority, and time was also spent with local elders to ensure consideration was given towards indigenous sites of significance.
Hard work at the beginning to do things correctly has resulted in what could arguably be some of the finest singletrack riding in Queensland and means that the trails are here to stay for the long term! Easily accessible by car, the park is situated between the small towns of Boonah and Beaudesert. It takes about an hour and 15 minutes to drive from Brisbane or 45 minutes from the Gold Coast. The park has hosted a number of local and national mountain bike races and is fast establishing itself as a popular destination for mountain bikers of all abilities.
The best thing about the trails at Mt Joyce is that there is something for everyone.
The network of trails cater for all off-road riders from first-timer to skilled and fit enthusiasts. The park regularly sees whole families coming in to enjoying a day’s riding. Trails have been colour coded in a similar manner to ski runs, green being the easiest, blue moderate, black difficult and black diamond for the serious thrill seekers. Trails are well marked for navigation. Beware that some are one-way, so be careful you don’t find yourself heading into oncoming riders.
The Eastern Trail Head car park is at the water’s edge about 2km from the trails. Riders enter the park near the dam wall and pass a purpose built 4X track with skills park before they reach the trails.
Here the Shoreline Trail shared path can be picked up: it can either be ridden as an all-day out-and-back, or you might persuade a friend to pick you up at the other end. While the Shoreline Trail may sound flat, be warned there are some stiff little climbs which wear you down, especially after 30km each way. A lovely feature is a campsite along the way, the Base Camp, which allows for walk-in or ride-in visitors to camp overnight.
Within the MTB park’s network of trails, the grassy area in Secret Valley makes a natural meeting point as many trails converge into it. A helpful trail board allows riders to choose their own adventure to match their ability and ambition and allows for flexibility when deciding how much riding you wish to do.
Distance: 40km of trail including 25km of pure singletrack
Surface: Natural materials, sustainably-built; trails do need time to rest after significant rain fall
Difficulty: IMBA-style grades ranging from green, through blue and black to black diamond
Scenery: Dry eucalypt bush, dam views
Accommodation: Eastern Trailhead camping area and Mt Joyce Base Camp campsite
A dirt road heads up the Mt Joyce spur line which can be ridden although most opt to follow the single track Worm Juice. This navigates its way to almost the top of the mountain and is a steady tough climb that steepens towards the end. For some it can be too much and there are short cuts which are great trails in themselves at one third and two thirds of the way up. Conquering the mountain does reward with fabulous views to the north: on a clear day the skyscrapers of Brisbane can just be picked out on the horizon. Often wedge tailed eagles can be spotted circling in thermals keeping an eye out for a feed scurrying through the tall grasses.
Along the way it is not unusual to spot goannas, kangaroos, echidnas and every now or then a snake or two, so keep your eyes peeled! The trails mostly pass through dry eucalypt forest, which provides a little bit of shade, with the trails beneath being dry and dusty. When it rains the trees send out a vital aroma and the colours completely change from dry greys to oranges, purples and greens. Fortunately the trails handle the weather well, but they do need time to rest after some of the significant rain falls and storms which maraud through south-east Queensland.
Worm Juice leads into perhaps the most loved trails at Mt Joyce: Big Bertha, which then becomes Bovine Groove. These trails were designed for flow and momentum with large sweeping bermed corners and undulating traverses that allow riders to pump the terrain without needing to pedal. Being ‘blue’ trails there are occasional trail features such as drops or logs but they really are fun tracks to stay off the brakes and zoom along making the hard work getting the initial height all the more worth-while.
The top of Worm Juice intersects with the gravel road and marks the start of the black diamond trails specifically designed for downhill riding. Widowmaker is the toughest with spectacularly steep descents, large rock drops and huge jumps between gaps, some sections are cordoned off for events only. These are thrilling trails reserved for those with the skills, bikes and body armour to match.
Heading back towards Secret Valley are a number of delightfully sinuous blue and green trails that wriggle and twist along the natural cleft in the hills. The trail designers have been ingenious finding natural features to use as bermed walls, little jumps or natural swoops. The Secret Valley trail is a loop up and down each side of the valley where the vegetation is denser and therefore can be a little bit cooler. It is an ideal trail for beginners as it is not too long and without steep hills great for building confidence. More experienced riders find it equally rewarding as they can practice maintaining momentum and linking undulations into little gap jumps and humps that can be pumped for extra speed.
The best thing about the trails at Mt Joyce is that there is something for everyone. Even if you are the best rider in the world you will still love the easiest trails in the park as they are built by mountain bikers for mountain bikers and are so much fun to scoot along.
Riding at Mount Joyce is reasonably remote and it can get very hot, so prepare well. Water is only available at the car park so take plenty with you. Sunscreen, a phone with good reception and a first aid kit are must-pack items. Aim to be as self-sufficient as possible, with a selection of tools and spares for likely mechanical issues. Cafes can be found in Boonah and Beaudesert, but bike shops have yet to arrive, so don’t go looking there for new brake pads or the like.
The trails are occasionally closed after severe storms or during fire season so check the Mt Joyce Escape website if you think this could put a stop to your fun. It also has trail maps that can be downloaded and printed to take with you. Mt Joyce and Wyaralong Dam are also enjoyed by water sports enthusiasts, hikers, campers and horse riders. While the mountain bike trails are specifically for mountain bikers, beware that at times you may be on a shared-use trail with other people.
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