Craigburn Farm Trails, just on the edge of suburbia in Craigburn Farm, adjacent the Blackwood Park housing estate, features a network of groomed purpose-built mountain bike trails offering riders a choice of difficulty. All trails are named, colour coded and well sign posted. The single track trail names are very cool. Memorable names include the aptly named Sticks and Stones, Craigburms and Cow Bones.
If you are driving with your bikes to Craigburn Farm (about 30 minutes from the CBD), you can park just near the Blackwood Football Club on Craigburn Road, then roll down to the trail head.
At the main entrance, and at other major access points around the trail network, you will find detailed graphic signs clearly showing the various trails. Just like a restaurant menu, the signage includes a narrative on each track, giving a sense of flavour and degree of difficulty. It's a tasty menu to satisfy the hungriest mountain biker appetite.
You can download a copy of the trail map and code of use here from the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. The Craigburn Farm Trails area forms part of the Sturt Gorge Recreation Park.
Whilst many of the trails are less than 2 km, they link up and it is easy to design your own loops to match your fitness and technical ability. Trails like Walk the Dog are ideal for the newbie or those just out for a leisurely pedal whilst Sticks and Stones is steep, technical and features rock gardens. The trails are really mountain bike only, so don't even think about doing them on a road bike.
How easy or challenging a rider will find the various trails is, of course, down to the individual rider's experience and confidence. For example, I find Sticks and Stones very difficult whilst others fly down there. I did fly down there, but not in a good way (over the handle bars- ice pack please).
The trail network has recently been extended with the addition of Gunners Run, Horners Bridge and an extension across the creek to Sticks and Stones. At the time of writing new signage had not been erected.
Entrance from Coromandel Valley, Horners Bridge, Coromandel Parade.
Whilst I love all the trails here, except perhaps Stick and Stones which still haunts my dreams, I really enjoyed Gunners Run. You can access this new loop trail from the main trail head, taking Walk the Dog, then Lakeview.
Gunners Run is a clever trail which is very ridable for the newer riders but also great fun for all riders if ridden quickly, with sweeping flowing slalom-like sections.
Riders enjoying a fast descent down Horners Corners.
Horners Corners is a linking trail, providing an alternative access route to Craigburn Trails from Coromandel Valley at the Historic Horner's Bridge. Having said that it is another fast flowing, hard cornering track. This track is actually hard packed gravel, again suitable for a new rider or for a nice walk, although why walk when you can ride. But if ridden more aggressively, lots of fun can be had. Note that when riding the trail from Coromandel Valley end, the first part of this 2km link is quite steep, so be prepared to sit in the granny gears and spin.
If you are looking for a relatively easy loop, to introduce you to the trails, try linking Walking the Dog, Lakeview, Little River and Sidewinder. If you want to get some air, tack on Cowbones before returning along Surf and Turf. This will bring you back to the trail head where you can choose your next course from the menu.
The trails can be ridden all year round. However, only the trails that hug the river offer shade. In winter, some of the trails become pretty muddy, offering some great new challenges. If you are riding the trails in the hotter months be aware of snakes. I saw two brown snakes on two consecutive rides and a fellow rider in front of me ran over one much to his dismay.
The trails are multi directional so riders must be very aware of the potential for riders traveling at speed in the opposite direction. Listen out, anticipate around blind corners and be prepared to give way quickly. Also these are shared use trails so give way to horses and walkers.
Whilst riding the trails, or walking if you must, do take a moment or two to take in the fantastic hills scenery and wildlife. If you are hitting the trails early you are likely to see western grey kangaroos. There is also an abundance of bird life. Look out for colourful blue wrens along the creek lines.
View across Sturt Gorge to the sea from Sidewinder trail.
I am really impressed that this fantastic recreational resource has been established in such an accessible location as part of the State Reserves System. It truly does give kids, young and old, something active and challenging to do on the weekend.
The only thing missing is a coffee shop. Mind you, a short ride into Blackwood through the back streets will take you to the Gourmet on Main, which has the best latte in Blackwood.