Located off Bowden Spur Road in Kinglake, and traversing the reserve that runs under the high tension powerlines, the first trail of an eventual total of three offers a diverse technical downhill trail. Shepherds Trail has a drop of 233 metres along a distance of two kilometres, and it's a thrilling ride with some very steep sections.
According to the National Parks website, Shepherd's boasts 'dirt jumps, rock gardens, bomb holes, flowing earth berms and contains large sections of off-camber riding', and is rated 'Double Diamond' - for experts only. Full safety gear is mandatory, as you'll be riding through treed sections and any mistakes could have dire consequences.
The area has been a few years in the making, and was actually opened in June 2012 but was forced to close in July after heavy rain and heavy use damaged the track. However, it recently reopened and is again a popular venue for riders. In fact, the area was already popular for mountain bike riding, and the National Park people saw an opportunity to work with riders to develop a facility that could be safely used by a wider group of people.
The start of the trail has minimal facilities (a toilet, and an information board in the car park) but it's well-maintained. There is no water source, so it's BYO everything. However, you're only a five minute drive to the Kinglake township so you can stock up there.
The trail drops down the spur under the powerlines
It might also be a good idea to organise a mate (or parent) to be a designated driver to assist with the return trip from the end of the trail to the top. The 233 metre drop means getting back to the start requires about a 15-20 minute walk up a steep, winding section of Bowden Spur Road, an unsealed road that gets very dusty in dry weather. However, this didn't seem to deter many riders on the day I visited.
The upside to the 233 metre drop is a stunning view of Melbourne on a clear day, right through to the CBD on the horizon.
Magnificent views - but keep your eyes on the track!
The National Park's website doesn't offer any clues about when the other two trails will be built, and there isn't any work evident at the site, but Shepherds Trail will satisfy hard-core riders. Take a look at the embedded video on the National Parks page for a taste of what it's like.