La Larr Ba Gauwa Park, Harcourt. Any info??

The Duckmeister

Has stumpy thumbs, Speciaized are so weird
I'm hanging around Bendigo over the long weekend for something else, but think I'll chuck a bike in the car just in case I get to have a play before I head home.
 

skinnybeans

Likes Dirt
Hopefully heading up there opening weekend! I’ve also heard the tracks are relatively difficult, lots of steep climbs.


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Andy B

Cannon Fodder
Hi Rotorburnians,

A disclaimer up front - my partner and I run an accommodation business in Harcourt, so take from this review what you want….

Yes, the pollies cut the ribbon on Friday and it's been a busy long weekend so far. Trails are dry and dusty and need rain, but i'm pretty sure any trails in Vic are in the same boat at the moment? At the same time the increased number of tyres since Friday has added some hardness and grip in the ride line.

Yes there is some technical riding in the park, and even some of the blue trails are quite technical, but there is flowy green and flowy blue stuff too. Map here.

If you're driving please park in Harcourt township if possible (follow signage) and ride the 2km roadside trail up to the trailhead, the perfect warm up. There are toilets in Harcourt and up near the trailhead, but no water at the trailhead. There is a bike stand with tools at the trailhead and a cool shelter designed and built by the local indigenous people.

The trailhead is in a basin between a north and south knoll, with Mount Alexander itself immediately to the east. The trails themselves are not within the Mount Alexander Regional Park, rather an ex-forestry site immediately to its west. Trails 1-5 head north of the trailhead whilst the rest head south. There is perhaps more open flowy stuff to the north, while there is more rock to the south (but still plenty of flow also). All trails run anticlockwise and all trails basically climb out of the basin before descending back into it. So you're last trail section is always going to be an awesome descent. And all trails are loops returning roughly to where they started - the classic stacked loop system with easy trails in close, getting harder as they fan out.

A quick summary of each trail (handy to have the map in front of you as you read):

Trail 1 - The home loop, perfect for beginners and still fun for more experienced riders, takes you around the basin and connects the two halves of the park. It winds around the historic Oak Forest and popular picnic ground with only a small amount of climbing.

Trail 2 - Starts as a soft climb before 15 switchbacks up to the northern trail hub (a saddle between the northern knoll and Mount Alexander) giving access to trails 3, 4 and 5. The return down from the saddle on Trail 2 is signature Dirt Art, going big and with plenty of options for the less adventurous.

Trail 3 - A long flowy descent to the northernmost tip of the park, packed with berms and a cool log ride about half way down. The return climb picks up some great rock features.

Trail 4 - Another descent to the northern end of the park, but very different from trail 3. Yes berms, but also table tops and doubles. A couple of gaps but always with a B-line.

Trail 5 - Black but could possibly be dark blue. This trail is hand cut due to sensitivities up on the north knoll and contains plenty of rock feature including armoured switchbacks and rock slabs. The first half rises up from the saddle to the best viewpoint in the entire park. On a clear day you can see west across the local apple orchards to the Pyrenees Ranges. A great place to stop and be one with your mountain bike....or whatever. From this high point there's almost 2km of descending as you return back to the saddle and pick up the downward section of trail 2 mentioned above.

Trail 6 - The easiest of the southern trails, could almost be green if not for some of the gradients going up. A good one to progress onto if you've conquered trail 1. A non-technical climb, with great views across the Oaks picnic area and onto the side of Mount Alexander, reaching a high point with access to trails 7 (returning to trailhead) or 9 continuing onwards and upwards. The return descent on trail 6 is safe for the less advanced at lower speed, but still super fun for the shredder if you're looking for some air time with all sorts of lines to choose from.

Trail 7 - The super loop, the longest trail picking up all of the other trails in the southern half of the park. A stiff climb out of the blocks it soon settles into a nice rhythm and reaches multiple viewpoints along the way. As you climb there are 2 access points to the trail 8 descent (black), a better option for those wanting the black descent without the black climb (see trail 8 notes below). Trail 7 continues to climb close to the top of the south knoll (some sensitivities prevented the alignment reaching the top) before traversing across to the south trail hub giving access to trails 10 and 11. Trail 7 continues mostly downhill back to the trailhead and contains some of the best rock features in the park, again with easier options where necessary.

Trail 8 – A black trail straight from the trailhead is obviously not the norm for a stacked loop system but in this case provides a great half hour hit-out for more proficient riders. At the same time it can lure the unwary punter, and if this is you be warned. The climbing starts ok, but soon becomes technical and at times brutal (for me anyway)…which is fair enough, it is after all a black trail. Two spectacular rock slabs on the way up make the pain worthwhile. Descending is techy and (at the moment) loose with a couple of spots where this is no B-line, again fair enough. Plenty of opportunities for big air and sure to please the full face helmet crew.

Trail 9 – Another favourite this loop gets right up the side of Mount Alexander. Some non-technical climbing with occasional pinches that can hurt the legs, but reward for effort is extremely high in this bit of the park. The descent picks its way through and over some fantastic granite before re-joining trail 6 for more fun back to the trailhead.

Trail 10 – Rated blue, but like trail 6 could possibly be dark green. Non-technical and without much rock feature, this trail is flowy all the way through and adds to the diversity of trail types through the park. Another climb and descent with berms, rollers and plenty of smiles.

Trail 11 – Tucked away in the back corner this black loop also climbs into the lower slopes of Mount Alexander. This loop is genuinely black. A tough climb, with perhaps less rock feature but more tight switchbacks compared to trail 8 (also black - see above), giving way to another technical descent. More great use of the local stone and more great views across to the west horizon.


So there you have it. We love these trails but as I said above we are local and of course have a vested interest in their success. Just wanted to post something early for general reference.

Happy to answer any further queries.

Cheers,
Andy
 

The Duckmeister

Has stumpy thumbs, Speciaized are so weird
I dropped in for a bit of a spin on my way home from the weekend at Lake Eppalock.

The notes above pretty well sum up the bits I rode (Trails 1, 6, 9, 7 & 10, in that order); about 2/3of the total trail.
In some regards, it is very similar to You Yangs; both are granite formations, relatively dry regions, with shallow, loose topsoil that ranges from course gritty sand to super fine bulldust, with a correspondingly similar level of grip (or lack thereof). It's the kind of place that will be a loose, sketchy, dusty mess in the height of summer, but chuck a bit of rain at it and the grip should come on in spades. It was bloody soft & loose for my session this arv.

The Green loop of Trail 1 is a good little warm up to get a feel for the state of the dirt & level of grip before heading for the more serious stuff, and has enough interesting bits, even for a beginner trail, to be a bit of fun. It also gives a bit of an introduction to some of the recurring themes around the rest of the trails, most notably, and slightly disturbingly, double rollers right before the trail shoots off into a berm. Now I'm the kind of rider who likes to keep my wheels pretty close to the ground, so rolling them generally wasn't an issue, except some of the sharper ones will tend to want to pitch you off right when you're wanting to be hooking into the corner, but being paired they're just a tad too far apart to be jumped as a double, because in order to do it you'll be way too hot to make the corner. I suspect there will be a lot of hard landings.....

Trail 6, your first exit option off the green loop, opens with a bit of a climb, and as you move along the trail uncover some more themes that you'll find recurring through the park. Blind rock features are this trail's main introduction; you come up a little rise to be confronted by a rock crest, with no clue at all what lies beyond the crest - is it a drop off, does it roll off, does it curve one way or the other? Often it's more than one of those.... Where A and B lines are present, it's often not immediately apparent which is which. With familiarity the lines will flow, but initially expect a very stop-start ride as you look to see just what is behind that rock, go back & ride through.

Trail 9 peels off 6 about halfway around, carries the themes introduced there, and then adds a generous dose of fucking weird lines; trail that climbs into a rock garden and then disappears.... Another bit that sweeps through a dip and climbs to a screeching halt with a hairpin you just about have to lift the bike around, and while you have no momentum drops you through a gap between rocks and into a bulldust-filled berm. Then there's a rock kicker so steep you could just about backflip off it, if it wasn't for the tree directly overhead...... Or the trail that runs onto a whopping big rock that slopes away out of sight, only little rock stacks to mark the trail line, which drops you off the side of the rock! And this is on a Blue trail!!! 9 ends right next to where it peels off 6, so you rejoin where you left off, and it's back to a more flowy, predominantly descending run to the trail head, but still with a few features that will have you going back for another run.

From the bottom of 6 you can head across to 7, or skirt back through the trailhead to 8 if you're feeling a little more hard-core, like I wasn't.
I jumped on to 7, which like 6 starts with a climb punctuated by rocky bits, but on this loop they're more jagged, chunky, chundery blocks and shards of rock, rather than the Youies-like rounder blobs & baby-heads of 6 & 9. The by-now-familiar themes of weird lines are well apparent here as well, along with a generous helping of rock-paved uphill switchbacks. A short diversionary trail takes you to a lookout with a pretty decent view to the west over Harcourt & beyond, and south the the Macedon Ranges. Keep a watchful eye open, and be considerate of where you park to admire the view, because Trail 8, one of the Black ones, skirts really close to it. You can therefore, opt to jump onto 8 from here, or double back & continue on 7 to the top (almost) of the southern knoll.

Trails 10 & 11 peel off from pretty much the same point about halfway around 7. 11 is a Black trail, and I wasn't feeling inclined to try that stuff, so lobbed onto 10. As Andy's notes suggested above, somewhat contrary to the stacked loop concept, this is *almost* green, and gives a nice little breather from the craziness of the other trails. It's a nice flowy trail, still with its share of funky features, but relatively light on elevation variance, so it's not a difficult trail by any stretch. Once you finish with 10, it's back into 7 with all its crunchy funkiness to get you back to the trailhead.
 
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