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.

Where to go walking in the Southern Downs

Whether you’re a visitor or a local, there are plenty of choices when it comes to walking in the Southern Downs. The region is about 1 ½ to 2 hours south west of Brisbane in Queensland. The two main urban centres are Warwick and Stanthorpe, with dozens of smaller rural towns and villages across the region.

This post is an overview of just some of the many walks you can choose from. Keep an eye out for future posts that will give you heaps more detail on a selection of the bushwalks and mountain bike trails in the region like the one I wrote last year on Bushwalking in Goomburra, Main Range National Park.

Thinking about taking up hiking? My blog post How To Get Started Bushwalking will get you going!

Walks in and around Warwick

Queen’s Park River Walk

Condamine River winds through parkland
Walking in the Southern Downs – the beautiful River Walk in Warwick

The Southern Downs region promotes 5 different urban walks close to the Warwick CBD which you can follow along on this map. The popular River Walk at Queen’s Park has recently been extended past Hamilton Oval in the direction of Gillam Park. The River Walk is also suitable for bicycles, scooters, prams and wheelchairs with easy access to toilet facilities and picnic tables. There’s plenty of shade and a fenced off-leash area for dogs.

Walks in and around Stanthorpe

Quart Pot Creek

Quart Pot Creek is an absolute gem in the centre of Stanthorpe flanked by parklands on both banks with extensive walking and cycling paths, gardens, picnic tables, toilets and play equipment. You can access this beautiful green belt from many points along its length including Apex Park, Lions Park, Heritage Park and from the Stanthorpe Visitor Information Centre.

Mt Marlay

Mt Marlay is a small bushland reserve in the middle of Stanthorpe, popular for many years with locals on their regular walking routes. There are a couple of short, marked walking tracks on Mt Marlay which you can see on the map below. The regional council and the Southern Downs Mountain Bike Club have recently begun developing a small network of mountain bike trails here which are clearly marked so that you don’t accidentally wander off the dedicated walking tracks onto the mountain bike tracks.

walking in the southern downs - Mt Marlay map
Walking and MTB trails at Mt Marlay, Stanthorpe

Donnelly’s Castle

Donnelly’s Castle  is about a 20km drive to the north west of Stanthorpe. Access is from Castle Lane which comes off Donnelly’s Castle Road at Pozieres. Donnelly’s Castle is a natural formation of the locally occurring granite rocks and boulders which apparently served as a fabulous hideout for the bushranger known as Thunderbolt. You can really imagine the truth of this legend when you scramble up, around and through the rocks and peer into the distance from the lookout at the top. Kids and adults alike are bound to have a heap of fun here exploring the ‘castle’. I’d recommend close supervision of young children and keeping a keen eye out for snakes. Toilet facilities and picnic tables are available.

Girraween National Park

Rocky expanse of Girraween National Park
Walking in the Southern Downs is stunning at Girraween National Park

Girraween is about a half hour drive south of Stanthorpe. This unique national park is a landscape of stark contrasts. Girraween is famous for its abundant wildflowers and its rugged granite outcrops. The national park is also home to an extensive variety of birds, kangaroos, frogs, reptiles and other wildlife and is a popular place for day visitors and campers. As I write this article in January 2020, the camp grounds have been closed for some time due to ongoing drought, and the area has suffered from recent bushfires. As with all natural environments, Girraween changes with the seasons and I’ve loved watching the cycles of regeneration here over many years. There are signed bushwalks at Girraween ranging from 280metres to 11kms. Or simply explore the granite rock pools near the day use area. Toilet facilities, picnic tables and BBQs available.

You can read more about Girraween in my Great Backpacking Adventures series.

Sundown National Park

Sundown National Park rocky gorge
A rocky gorge at Sundown National Park

Sundown National Park can be accessed by most conventional vehicles from the south near Glenlyon Dam, or from the north off Texas Road and onto Nundubbermere Road. A third access point is along Sundown Road via Ballandean however once at the National Park the tracks become rough and steep so a 4WD is recommended along here. Sundown has several walks of varying lengths and difficulty as well as some camping areas. Look at the Sundown National Park website to plan your trip before heading out there as it is more remote than other regional parks with fewer facilities.

Walks in and around Allora and Goomburra

Dalrymple Creek Park

Dalrymple Creek Park is a shady park along the banks of Dalrymple Creek in Allora. The walking trail leads you along the banks of the creek with toilet facilities, picnic tables, BBQs, and play equipment along the way.

Goomburra Section, Main Range National Park

Waterhole in Goomburra National park
The Cascades walk in Goomburra National Park

The Goomburra section of Main Range National Park is about 40kms east of Allora. Sections of the road into the National Park are unpaved and at times can be difficult for low clearance vehicles to navigate. After rain there can be several water crossings into the entrance of the park. A day use area and camping sites are available within the National Park as well as toilets and a variety of walking tracks that begin at the camping and day use areas, as well as other walking tracks that can be accessed from Lookout Road. Goomburra walks range from less than a kilometre to 12 kilometres long. All the walks are on unpaved surfaces and can include steep sections, natural obstacles (eg tree roots) and creek crossings. Spectacular views of the surrounding valleys and ranges can be seen from the high points of some of the walks.

Walks in and around Killarney

Queen Mary Falls, Main Range National Park

Queen Mary Falls
Queen Mary Falls in Main Range National Park

Queen Mary Falls is about 45kms east of Warwick. It offers a beautiful day use area with car parking, picnic tables, toilets, water and BBQs as well as a small kiosk across the road.  The walk to The Falls is a 2 km circuit through the forest to the bottom of the Falls and back up again. The walk is steep in places, has stairs and is not suitable for prams or wheelchairs. The causeway at the bottom can be slippery.

If you’re looking for a shorter walk that’s suitable for prams, wander along to the two lookouts on either side of the Falls just a couple of hundred metres from the car park.

Browns Falls

Browns Falls is accessed from Spring Creek Road as you travel from Killarney towards Queen Mary Falls. Park your vehicle at Brown Falls Park where there is play equipment, picnic tables, BBQs and toilet facilities. Follow the track under the road and along the watercourse in an easterly direction for about 600 metres. The track is not well defined in places and you will need to scramble or rock hop along the watercourse. Take care as it can be very slippery when wet. The falls plunge into a beautiful waterhole surrounded by rock.

Walks near Maryvale

Cunningham’s Gap Section, Main Range National Park

Cunningham’s Gap is at the top of the Range on the Cunningham Highway about 90 minutes south west of Brisbane or 45 minutes east of Warwick. The closest town in the region is Maryvale only 15 minutes on the western side of the range.

There are two main access point to the walks in this section of the National park. At the top of the range known as “The Gap” there is a small car park and toilet facilities on the northern side of the highway with additional limited parking along the southern side of the highway. If you are crossing the highway to access the facilities or the walks on the other side, take great care and follow any signage that has been placed there for your safety as this is a very busy highway. Most of the walks are accessed from the northern side of the highway.

Kathryn looks amazed and wide-eyed at the rainforest in Main Range National Park
The rainforest in the Cunningham’s Gap section of Main Range National Park is stunning!

The alternative place to access The Gap walking tracks (and my personal favourite because it’s off the highway!) is via the West Gap Creek picnic area on the western side of The Gap. From Warwick, West Gap Creek picnic area is on your left just past “Stacey’s at the Gap” a couple of kilometres before you reach the The Gap. There are two small car parking areas, an extensive grassy picnic area, toilets, water, picnic tables and access to the Box Forest Walking Track which takes you about 2.5 kilometres through rainforest uphill to The Gap and the other walks. Walks here range from 1.6 kms to 12 kms long with varying levels of difficulty. Once again, check the National Parks site if you intend visiting as there were extensive bushfires through the Park in late 2019 resulting in closures of most walks throughout Main Range.

Some things to remember when walking in the Southern Downs!

There are simply SO MANY wonderful choices when it comes to walking in the Southern Downs. With so much natural beauty surrounded by a rural landscape, it’s the perfect place to relax and unwind. But safety always comes first! Here are a few reminders to help you have a truly fabulous time whilst minimising risks:

  • Always prepare by doing your research before leaving home
  • Check the National Parks ALERTS web page for closures and other advice, or contact the Rangers at the Park you plan to visit
  • Take plenty of drinking water and food for everyone in your walking group as drinking water may not be available
  • Wear comfortable closed shoes suitable for the terrain
  • Protect yourself from the sun
  • Follow signage and advice from authorities such as staying on track and taking all your rubbish with you
  • Be First Aid aware and be well prepared including knowing how to manage snake risk and other injuries
  • Mobile service may not be reliable in all areas
  • Let someone know where you are going and what time you expect to be back
  • Make sure you have plenty of fuel in your vehicle – some parks like Sundown National Park are a long way from fuel stations

For more information about walking in the Southern Downs

For more information about the parklands across the Southern Downs region, go to the Southern Downs Regional Council website or check with the Visitor Information Centres or the many tourism operators.

Let me know your favourite places and spaces for walking in the Southern Downs and further afield! And join us over on our community Facebook Group Outdoors is my Therapy where you can share ideas and inspiration no matter where you live or how you love to spend your time outside!

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.

Women Empowered: Life Without Limits

“Life Without Limits” is the first Women Empowered retreat for 2017 being held in Warwick on the Southern Darling Downs on Saturday 25th February.

This tranquil day of RETREAT will have Kathryn Walton guiding a small group of women through reflections, discussions and creative activities as we explore the perceptions and experiences of  barriers, obstacles, restrictions and limitations in our lives. Identifying and acknowledging these issues is a step towards EMPOWERING ourselves to step into the LIFE we want to live, the ATTITUDE we want to be living with, and the very real POSSIBILITIES this opens up for us. We want to do more than survive – WE WANT TO THRIVE!

By taking time for your own self-care, you will be modelling effective life strategies to your family, colleagues and the wider community of women AND men AND children. Remember, you can claim a 10% DISCOUNT when you register with a friend!

Refreshments, a delicious morning tea, and workshop materials will be supplied for participants. In order to keep costs as low as possible, please BYO lunch. Refrigeration is available, as well as crockery and cutlery.

So ….. are you ready to LIVE a LIFE without limits? Information and registration is available on the link below, or email me for more information 🙂

https://www.trybooking.com/ONZJ

kwalton@condamineassist.com.au

Uncovering ‘FUN’ in the midst of the seriousness of life

whitedaisies

Last year I participated in ‘Uplift Women’s Wellness Day 2015’ in Warwick. It was the culmination of months of hard work by the Community Network of Warwick team, its many co-opted members, and dozens of supporters. All the planning, negotiating, advocating, collaborating, promoting and presenting saw 80 women actively engaged in seminars and mini-workshops that promoted health and wellness. I presented a seminar near the tail end of the day titled “Navigating the Next Stage of Your Journey”. This article is based on my presentation.

upliftheader

The smiling faces I was surrounded by were having a contagious effect on everyone in the room, including me. Life can be SO serious, and for me, the women around me were providing that incredibly important reminder to have fun.

Earlier in the day I had participated in a workshop session on personality. As the facilitator posed a series of questions, we were required to navigate to various parts of the room which indicated our responses. Lo and behold I found myself sharing space with like-minded “conscientious” women. One of the things we discovered we had in common was the deep and serious attitude we bring to many aspects of our lives: parenting, relationships, work and study, health and sickness, paying the bills, the state of the world – it’s all serious business! And in our serious attitude to life, we also recognised we had an appreciation for organisation and planning.

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As the wellness day continued, I heard and saw so many other inspiring ideas about women’s health and wellness that I found myself seriously [over]thinking what it is that I needed to do to take better care of me. And there is a certain pressure in this that can be counter-productive – there is a tendency to try to fit yet another activity into our already hectic lives.

On reflection, the real souvenir I picked up at the wellness day was the plain simple idea of making space for fun. Fun is not something that I HAVE to schedule in, just ANOTHER thing I have to fit into my day. Fun is an attitude that I can choose, and I can allow it to permeate the seriousness of life, bringing an experience of joy and relaxation to many things I do.

Following this moment of insight, I’ve been focusing on allowing a sense of fun to permeate my day. You could say I’ve been on a pursuit to discover more about fun!

dklhelmetsA few years ago I began mountain biking, so obviously I already know a bit about fun! But even mountain biking risks crossing the line into the territory of ‘serious business’ for those of us with the conscientious and perfectionist personality types!

Some days I need to work really hard at focusing my attitude of ‘fun’ on my inner compass. Fun can look different on different days.

Some days the best fun is simply rolling along wherever we happen to go and soaking up as much of nature as I possibly can; having a picnic in the middle of nowhere and lying back staring up into the tall trees to the blue sky and clouds that seem infinitely far away.

Some days fun can be found in the competitiveness of a spontaneous sprint up a hill to dlrockrestsee who can make it to the top first, puffing and laughing so hard that talking just isn’t going to happen!

Other days the riding is the sort that absolutely scares the pants off me and I’m holding on for dear life, storm clouds going through my mind “What the heck am I doing here? Exercise is supposed to make happy hormones, right? Then why am I so terrified!” And then when it’s all over, there’s that electric feeling of elation, knowing I conquered a fear, knowing that I’m out there having a go and living life as fully as I can while I can. And that’s fun!

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So seriously people, point your attitude towards fun. Let it take you an a journey that will colour your life with joy and contentment, friendship and fellowship, lightness and balance. There is always time and space for an attitude of fun.

Empowering Women Through Retreat Days

Condamine Assist’s Kathryn Walton is adamant about the benefits of “Women Empowered”, a series of retreat-style workshops offered to women in small groups within their communities. Kathryn brings a unique blend of enthusiasm, compassion, knowledge and skills to offer women an experience of self-awareness, insight and hopefulness.

WomenEmpoweredLogo

The first Women Empowered Retreat Day was developed and facilitated in Warwick by Kathryn and her wonderful colleague Janine Hills in April 2012. The project grew from the community’s response to several extreme weather events which highlighted the benefits of individual and community resilience in managing and recovering from uncertainty and unpredictability. The retreat days were designed for small groups of women with the following objectives:

  • identify sources of inner strength
  • identify strategies to effectively assist with managing daily stresses of personal, family and community life
  • build personal and community resilience in the event of unexpected, unwanted and natural events
  • enhance a sense of well-being and connectedness among women
  • promote mental health as an integral part of the wellness of individuals, families and communities
  • develop skills and confidence in goal-setting and decision-making
  • support the development of cognitive skills which enhance mental health

Activities during the retreat included mindfulness-based practices and reflective activities interwoven with information and discussion sessions. Feedback highlighted that Women Empowered successfully informed and supported the participants in a genuinely caring, safe and warm atmosphere.

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Following the pilot project, a further series of Women Empowered Retreat Days was facilitated by Kathryn and Janine in 2014 for the communities of Warwick, Maryvale and Emu Vale. Participation and feedback from the women involved in the retreats once again reflected the beneficial nature of this style of program for women.

In early 2016 Kathryn offered a Women Empowered Retreat Day in Killarney with a focus on creative and expressive arts to explore the topic “Me, Myself and I”. The combination of reflective and creative activities in the tranquil surrounds enabled new insights into self care and role identity for participants.

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Responding to community feedback, further Women Empowered Retreat Days will be offered in the future with a focus on various aspects of life relevant to women in our society. The next Women Empowered event is “Living a Life With Meaning” to be held in Warwick on Thursday 15th September 2016.

To keep informed of Women Empowered Retreat Days and other events, sign up to our email newsletter list, or send Kathryn an email kwalton@condamineassist.com.au