Where to Mountain Bike on the Southern Downs

I get lots of queries about where you can mountain bike on the Southern Downs. This article gives you a summary of some of my favourite places to ride close to my home. If you live further afield, you might be interested to know what’s around here so that you can bring your bike on future visits. And if you think you’re not likely to ever come to the region, keep reading anyway because you’ll get some tips on how to find out where you can mountain bike in other regions as well.

MTB Southern Downs

MTB for fun, fitness and mental health

Over the last couple of years I’ve been running some mountain biking (MTB) skills clinics for beginners/intermediates in the region through The Adventure Therapy Project for Women. This community project is an initiative of Kathryn Walton Consulting and has been supported by funding from Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN. Supporting women to ride off road is important to me because I know there are many barriers that prevent women and girls getting out and having a go or consistently being involved with adventurous activities. I’ve been riding MTB for about fifteen years recreationally. I’ve competed in a few races but my love for MTB is all about getting out there for cross country rides with my family and friends and inspiring other women to do that too. It’s all about the fun, fitness and mental health.

Where is the Southern Downs?

The Southern Downs region is 1 ½ to 2 hours south west of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia, or about 1hour south of Toowoomba. The Southern Downs stretches down to the New South Wales border through the Granite Belt district and includes the regional towns of Warwick and Stanthorpe with dozens of smaller rural towns and villages throughout. There are plenty of dirt roads connecting our farm communities and groups regularly get together to ride and enjoy a coffee stop along the way.

The best places to MTB on the Southern Downs

Across the region you’ll discover National Parks, State Forests and lots of other parks. This is not a comprehensive list or description of every spot you can take your mountain bike but it will definitely get you started! You can also check the Trailforks app or website for trail information, and you can ask people who are familiar with the region. Jump on the Southern Downs Mountain Biking Club Facebook Page and ask questions anytime.

Mt Marlay MTB Bike Park, Stanthorpe

Trail head: Foxton Street, Stanthorpe
Trails: Green, blue and black cross country and downhill trails
Length: Currently total of 6-7kms of purpose-built single track with new trails under construction (as at December 2020)
Facilities: Picnic table, signage
Features: Lots of granite rock with short ascents and descents; naturally occurring rock obstacles; views; tank mural/artwork; close to CBD and accommodation
Best suited to: Riders with some prior experience riding off road who enjoy a variety of short loops
Club: Southern Downs Mountain Biking Club

Mt Marlay MTB

Broadwater State Forest / National Park

Entrance: via Glenlyon Drive or Plant Lane
Trails: Mostly green / blue level of difficulty; cross-country
Length: Currently approximately 15 kms of multi-use cross country trails, double track and dirt roads for walkers and MTB
Facilities: Limited facilities – be self-sufficient
Features: Sandy, rocky terrain only a few minutes from Stanthorpe CBD; old-style trails; close to Granite Belt Brewery and accommodation
Best suited to: Riders of all levels; can be very hot in summer

Passchendaele State Forest

Entrance: Multiple entry points off Amiens Road
Level of Difficulty: All levels of difficulty catered for. You are permitted to ride only on formed management roads and you may require a permit if you are organising a group ride or an event.
Length: You could easily ride all day in Passchendaele!
Facilities: Limited facilities – be self-sufficient
Features: Sandy, rocky and granite terrain with some steep sections; dries out quickly after rain; 20-25kms from Stanthorpe
Best suited to: Riders of all levels especially beginners and intermediate cross-country riders

Women's MTB Ride Passchendaele

Girraween National Park – Peak and Creek Trails

Northern Entrance: Mt Norman Road – approx 5-6kms east of the Bald Rock Creek Day Use Area

Southern Entrance: Mt Norman Day Use Area, Mt Norman Road
Level of Difficulty: Green, blue
Length: The Peak Trail is 10.6kms return and can be combined with the Creek Trail which is a 3.5km loop.
Facilities: Toilet at Mt Norman Day Use Area; signage on the trails
Features: Granite terrain with some sandy sections; spectacular wildflowers in spring; amazing views of Mt Norman and other parts of Girraween; 20-25kms from Stanthorpe; car-based camping at Castle Rock and Bald Rock Creek Camp Grounds; bush camping at designated sites along the Peak Trail (permit required); accommodation nearby
Best suited to: Beginners and intermediate cross-country riders

MTB at Girraween, Mt Norman

Other parklands

There are several other State Forests and regional parks suitable for MTB in the Southern Downs Region. Remember to check for alerts (closures, bushfires, harvesting etc) and whether you need a permit to access. Locations include:

  • Leyburn State Forest
  • Durakai State Forest
  • Gambubal State Forest
  • Condamine Gorge
Maryland National Park

Maryland is not technically part of the Southern Downs Region but it’s very close and runs along the border in New South Wales. You can access Maryland National Park from Cullendore Road by turning west into Maryland Cullendore Road and following this dirt road into the park. There are no facilities and you must be careful to leave all gates as you find them. Ride the length of Maryland National Park along the dirt road from Cullendore towards Dalveen. It’s a great ride for beginner and intermediate riders through beautiful forest.

Cullendore High Country

Cullendore High Country Camping is a privately owned establishment next to Maryland National Park right next to the Queensland border. This is a working farm with beautiful camp sites and dirt roads and tracks suitable for beginner riders including children. The owners are continuing to develop on-site MTB trails with direct access to Maryland National Park.

Safety first

For a fun day out, prepare and research your mountain bike adventure before leaving home.

  • Check the National Parks and State Forest alerts, Southern Downs Mountain Biking Club and Southern Downs Regional Council notifications
  • Take plenty of water and some food as many of these places do not have water or shops close by
  • Make sure your bike is suitable for the terrain that you’re going to ride
  • Be sun safe
  • Follow signage and advice from the authorities including COVID-19 regulations
  • Be First Aid aware and know how to manage snake risk and other injuries
  • Mobile phone service may not be reliable in all areas
  • Let someone know where you are going and what time you expect to be back

For more information go to:

You can also listen to this article via the Outdoors is my Therapy Podcast using the link below or via your favourite podcast player / app. Subscribe so you’ll always know when the latest episode is up!

Till next time, enjoy your outdoor adventures!

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

How to find parks where I live

how to find parksAt the time of writing this post, it’s late May 2020 and Australia is going through a staged process of coming out of isolation. The world is striving to manage human health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m seeing and hearing a lot of enthusiasm from people to get out and socialise more, but also to reconnect with outdoor spaces and places. That includes people who haven’t been especially interested in the outdoors before. I think people have become more aware of the role that getting out and about and connecting with the outdoors has on mental health and well-being.

Lots of people have been asking questions about how to find parks where they live, where they can go, what walks are around, how to get to places, what facilities are available in different locations, whether particular trails are suitable for young families or people with mobility issues, how to get started bush walking and so on.

In this article I’m going to begin answering some of those questions. I’ll give you a run down on what types of parks we have in Australia that you can access for outings, picnics, walks, bush walks and other activities. We’ll look at what the differences are between National Parks, State Forests, Regional Parks and privately managed parklands and what sorts of activities can you do there.

I wrote last year about the Goomburra Section of Main Range and in future posts I’ll share information about some of my other favourite parks as well.

What are National Parks?

National Parks and reserves are publicly owned landholdings that are protected and managed by Federal or State authorities. Many National Parks are open for public recreation activities and have infrastructure such as toilets, picnic shelters, campgrounds and marked walking trails. Some National Parks have designated mountain bike (MTB) trails and locations for abseiling, rock climbing, bouldering, and other adventurous activities. There are some National Parks with no facilities and some that are not open to the public.

If you want to know what National Parks are in your area, what facilities are there, what activities you’re permitted to do and so on, you can start by looking up the National Parks website in your state and check the Parks Australia website for information about the National Parks that are managed at the federal level. Here are some clickable links to help you find a National Park:

Queensland
New South Wales
Victoria
Tasmania
South Australia
Western Australia
Northern Territory
Australian Capital Territory
Parks Australia

Visitor Information Centres are dotted around the nation and are a great source of information about the National Parks in their areas.

Regional tourist associations will also have information including accommodation and hospitality options nearby.

Social media groups is another way to find out more about National Parks and other parks as well. Many people love to share their knowledge of different parks so this can be a fantastic way to get first hand information about people’s experiences and to ask questions that you might have. But don’t forget to check with National Parks for up-to-date information as well, especially about current closures. National Parks can be closed for maintenance, bushfires, extreme weather and other reasons so I recommend checking every time before you set out for a visit.

There are entry fees for visiting some National Parks and for camping which you may need to book ahead. Some National Parks have an online booking system for camping, and others are first-in-first-served. In certain circumstances you may need to apply for a special permit well ahead of time if you want to undertake activities such as running organised events or commercial tours.

What are State Forests?

State Forests are publicly owned lands that are designated for multiple uses and which may be managed by your state National Parks, plantation companies or other enterprises. There is a lot of variation in what activities are permitted in each state forest. Mountain biking is popular in some State Forests, as well as walking, bouldering, and 4WDing.

State Forests are also subject to closure for harvesting timber and other reasons, so once again it’s best to check what’s on offer before heading out. My suggestion is to get on the Internet and search for State Forests in your area to find out more. Very generally there are fewer facilities and less infrastructure provided at State Forests than in National Parks so you need to be prepared to be self-sufficient.

What are Regional Parks?

There are lots of other public parks and reserves that are not National Parks or State Forests. Many of these are managed by regional councils or other local authorities so we’ll refer to them here as Regional Parks. They could also be managed through partnerships between different authorities and even with the private sector. Because the management can vary from place to place, you’ll need to look up your local council government website, or contact your Visitor Information Centre or your regional tourist association for more information about what’s around and what you can do there.

I want to give another plug for Visitor Information Centres. They can be a wealth of information about all sorts of local attractions, not just parks. And they should be able to tell you or give you brochures about local marked or signed walks, places where you’re allowed to take your dog, and parks where there are public toilets. Information Centres are often staffed by volunteers who are enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge of their area.

How do I find out about privately owned places that I can visit?

There are some privately owned or managed properties that the public can access for recreation, often for a fee. I’m thinking here about campgrounds, bush retreats and farm properties which allow you to camp and/or use the property for bushwalking, bike riding, climbing, bird watching, photography, picnics and so on. These properties are usually required to comply with certain regulations or have a licence and insurance to allow visitors. Once again you can find out about them through Internet searches; social media groups; Visitor Information Centres; and travel, tourism and accommodation platforms.

Your mental health will thank you for it!

I hope this article has given you some helpful information about how to find parks in your region and what the differences are between National Parks, State Forests, Regional Parks and privately managed park lands. All of these parks offer a different range of outdoor experiences and activities. It’s absolutely vital for your mental health and overall well-being to get out, to be active and to connect with nature. And my aim is to help you to do that in ways that are safe and health-giving as well as good for the environment.

Listen to the audio version of this blog on the podcast!

You can listen here to the audio version of this article on the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast, or find it on your favourite podcast player and remember to subscribe so you won’t miss future episodes about places you can go to get your outdoor therapy!

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

How to exercise on a budget: what about walking?

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How DO you exercise on a budget?

There are so many pressures to spend your hard-earned money on, well, ummmm ….. basically everything! Including exercise. If you tune into the world around you or if you’re easily hooked into comparing yourself to others, you’ll probably believe that you HAVE to pay for a gym membership, you HAVE to buy fancy equipment to get fit, and that you HAVE to have the latest super-tech clothes if you intend to work up a sweat (which kind of goes along with exercise!).

Well I’m telling you that all these have-to’s are simply not true. Sure, some of those fancy clothes or equipment can enhance your exercise, but for aeons humans have coped quite well with little or no special exercise equipment. I mean, exercise is basically improving your strength and aerobic health through activity that puts a load on your body. It doesn’t HAVE to cost anything, and crying poor is never a reason to stay on the sofa.

Back in my day …..

Ask your grandparents or great grandparents (if they’re still around) and they’ll tellfirewood you what it was like back in their day. I bet they’d say no one needed any gyms or fancy schmancy pants in the olden days: exercise consisted of a hard day’s work out on the farm fixing fences, collecting and chopping wood for the kitchen fire, walking to the shop and doing the laundry in a boiler!

You don’t need a big budget!

Yes, times have changed and it’s a different world we live in, but there are some things that have stayed the same. To exercise on a budget, you simply get back to the basics – focus on your daily dose of physical activity instead of the frills-and-all approach that can suck you in. Get yourself a decent pair of shoes, pull on some comfy clothes and a hat. Slap on some sunscreen. Grab a bottle of water. And you’re all good to go walking, one of the best and most accessible types of exercise we have.

Why is walking ideal? Oh my goodness, let me count the ways!

  1. You can set your own pace
  2. It’s convenient – slip on your shoes and get out the door no matter where walking in bootsyou live or work or travel
  3. You can do it alone or in a group
  4. You’ve probably already got everything you need to go walking
  5. If you don’t have everything, you still don’t HAVE to spend a lot to get started
  6. No special equipment needed
  7. It’s free in general – to tell you the truth, there are a few places I’ve been to that charge a small fee such as a day entry fee to some National Parks or car parking fees in busy tourist or urban spaces, but that’s the exception not the rule. Walking is one of the cheapest ways to exercise on a budget.

Walking ….. “BORING!”

Walking is boring, you say? Well, anything’s boring if you repeatedly do the same thing day after day, in the same place, and in the same way.

Never be bored again!

Here are some ideas to vary up your workout so you’ll never be bored again, even if you need to exercise on a budget (and that’s most of us)!

  1. Mix it up – walk in different placeswalking on the beach
  2. Choose different length walks – some days go long, and other days go short
  3. Go solo, or meet up with a buddy
  4. Join a walking group
  5. Have a go at Park Run
  6. Change up which direction you go on your usual route
  7. Challenge yourself to an uphill climb
  8. Relax with a downhill walk
  9. See the city sights on an urban walk
  10. Climb those stairs – repeatedly!
  11. Go exploring on a water walk – river, dam, ocean
  12. Treat yourself to a bushwalk – check out National Parks, State Forests, reserves
  13. Wander along the beach, feel the sand between your toes
  14. Walk with a purpose: walk to work, school, a friend’s place, bus or train station, shops
  15. Swap your usual routine and enjoy the sights at a different time of day
  16. Grab a map and compass and give orienteering a go
  17. Use a navigation app or device to pre-plan your walk – you can even be really creative by designing a funky picture that overlays the streets and then follow that on your walk
  18. Pace the paddock or local park
  19. Walk with a backpack for added load, or take some light hand weights
  20. Walking meetings are all the rage!
  21. Have a walking break at lunch time or after work to wind down and de-stress
  22. Leave your car a few kilometres from work or the train / bus station and walk the rest of the way
  23. Earn as you walk – deliver newspapers or pamphlets house-to-house
  24. Go window shopping
  25. Take your kids for a walk after school while everyone chats about their day

Walking can be your go-to exercise too!

Walking has always been my go-to exercise because I can do it almost anywhere, any time, with little equipment, no expense, and all the benefits of feeling great and knowing I’m giving my future health an awesome boost! And you can too! Start with any of the ideas above and let me know how you go, or share your other ideas with me on how to exercise on a budget. 

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Adventures In the Great Outdoors

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Daisy Spoke has started some new adventures! 

Welcome to Episode 1 of The Great Backpacking Adventure in which I turn to overnight hiking to learn more life lessons through an outdoor adventure lifestyle.

My best memories and my best learning about life have come from spending weekends and holidays in the great outdoors. As a child my parents whisked us away for family holidays in our caravan or tent, taking in wonderful adventures as we immersed ourselves in some of Australia’s most iconic landscapes. We took walks in the grandeur of rainforested mountains enthralled by stories of our ancestors’ pioneering days. On secret secluded beaches we discovered ocean life washed upon the shore – evidence of another world we could barely begin to imagine. Across the deserts we drove, soaking in the wonder of the sunrises and sunsets, a land of extremes in myriad ways.

Family Beach Camping

My teenage years brought the opportunity to go camping with my Girl Guide and Ranger crews. As a restless sleeper, I knew then that my best sleeps came after a day in the outdoors, hiking, learning woodcraft skills, cooking over a campfire, canoeing, kayaking, abseiling, riding bikes and simply being with others who loved the adventure as much as I did.

Beach Adventures

It was no surprise then that at uni I met and married a kindred spirit of the outdoors. We spent our leisure time exploring all the usual National Parks trails within a few hours drive of the city, playing frisbee in the park, cycling the local roads and pathways, paddling on the bay and local creeks, and filling our lives with regular camping trips near and far.

Rainforest Adventures

As our children arrived on the scene, they too were included in our adventures which were modified to accommodate their growing needs. Nurturing their love of the outdoors has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life so far. To see their little faces eagerly joining in on walks, creek paddling and bike rides has been completely heartwarming. And to hear their excited voices asking questions, always asking questions, soaking it all in, enthusiastic about nature and adventure, curious about their world and seeing themselves as a valuable and integral part of it has been a spirited journey.

Trop[ical Rainforest Adventures with Children

Through family illness and injury, study stresses and sporting commitments, work pressures and ties to family, friends and farm animals, we’ve kept up our habit of spending much of our leisure time in the great outdoors. Sometimes our adventures have been confined to the backyard (albeit a sizeable acreage of dry bushland) because that’s all we could do at the time. However sometimes our adventures have taken us to amazing far off places – interstate road trips with the trailer packed to the brim with camping gear. We’ve camped and hiked in awe-inspiring places like the The Warrumbungles, Mt Kaputar, the Blue Mountains, Carnarvon Gorge, Atherton Tableland, Central Australia, Birdsville, Innamincka, Gibraltar Range and Sturt National Park. By the time Miss E reached high school, she’d spent more birthdays in our tent than she had at home.

Family looking over FNQ viewpoint

And now this year I sensed I was ready to take on a new challenge. A challenge that would combine my much-loved experiences of camping with the physical challenge of bushwalking – I decided that this year I was going to have a go at backpacking! Something I was never interested in at all until now. I mean, why would you want to carry a heavy weight on your back for hours to a campsite when you can so easily tow a trailer with everything you could possibly need (and more), and pull up right beside a campsite to unpack, in easy walking distance of the bathrooms, and with plenty of walking trails to choose from right where you are! But the inner self doesn’t always operate on logic, and I’ve learned to trust myself when I sense that I’m ready for something new. Back-flipping my thinking didn’t come easily though. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching and asking myself “why?” and I don’t really have that answer yet. But what I do have is a strong pull towards challenging myself, stretching my abilities and coping skills, and discovering new possibilities for myself, not limiting myself. Surprising as it may seem, even to me, the life learning in this backpacking adventure has only just begun!

The beginning of navigation and trekking adventures

Stay tuned for my next episode of My Great Backpacking Adventure as I take off on my first overnight hiking expedition!

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

On Your Bikes: Our First Women and Girls MTB Ride

Women in sport is a vital part of the success and growth of any club, and so last Sunday we invited women and girls along for a ‘women-only’ ride at Passchendaele State Forest. We had nine women along for the ride and I can safely say that every one of them was very brave for simply turning up to the fresh and frosty start at only 7 degrees Celsius! This was simply the beginning of our inspiring adventure into the forest.

We were heralded by shrieks of awesomeness as some of the women ventured onto single track for the first time; laughs of newly formed friendships as we warmed up and peeled off the layers; and words of encouragement and advice as the newbies mixed it with the more experienced riders in the bunch. We climbed the hilly and rocky terrain of the forest, notching up the miles and the skill level, and enjoyed the relative ease of the gentle downhill sections. We marvelled at the winter weather which provided perfect conditions for the ride despite the chilly start! The bright blue sky, the cheeky breeze, the green forest, the red toadstools, the black cockatoos, the lively kangaroos and the stunning view from “the little big rock” were all there to show off what an amazing world we share (and how far we’d ridden throughout the morning!)

There were a couple of ‘offs’ and a few sore butts by the end of the ride, but so many treasured moments of fun, laughter and togetherness. Bring on the next ride, I say!

The recently formed Southern Downs Mountain Biking Club is gathering momentum. Membership is expanding and the community is supporting its efforts to provide safe and fun riding opportunities in the local area. With plans for MTB trails to be built right in the heart of Stanthorpe on Mt Marlay, club members have been regularly gathering for social rides further afield.

So stay tuned….. We’re planning lots more rides and activities for everyone – beginners, families, and all abilities. We’ll be exploring various locations across the Darling Downs and everyone is invited to join us.

If you would like more information, check out Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/520911538119350/

….. or contact me – your women’s ride co-ordinator 🙂