Nestled in a delightfully green river valley between Mt Buffalo and Mt Beauty lies as picturesque a town as ever sprung from the hands of man. The thing that distinguishes this oasis from any of a dozen other nearby towns is, in a word, bicycles. Approaching by car along the Great Alpine Road, beside the charming Ovens River, you’ll encounter them from kilometres away – pelotons of carbon road bikes, families on electric models, or lone guns exploring on full suspension 29ers.
The closer you get to Bright itself, the more numerous the cyclists become, until, crawling through the town centre, you can’t move in any direction without being confronted by dozens of two-wheelers, of all shapes, sizes and methods of locomotion. You won’t mind though, because you’ll have several of the things attached to your car, and it won’t be long before you abandon the motor in favour of pedal power! Welcome to Bright.
High Country Victoria
When to go
- Cruising the blue run, top-to-bottom combo of Hero/Shred Kelly’s Last Stand.
- Cranking up the other way via the dreamy set of switchbacks that is Up DJ.
- Changing gear with an exhilarating paragliding trip off the top of the hill.
- Celebrating a massive day at Bright brewery and numerous other cool spots in town.
While the residents of Bright have always been cycling mad, it was in 2013 that various local organisations convened to channel that madness into a master plan. The lynchpin was HVP Plantations, a regenerative pine plantation situated just outside town. They agreed to allow a dedicated group called Alpine Community Plantation (ACP) to run a mountain biking operation on their land, at no charge. Mystic Park was born.
Initially, the Alpine Cycling Club built the majority of the trails, including the flagship Mystic DH. Since then, the ACP has used government grants to extend the trail network with such classics as Hero and Shred Kelly’s Last Stand. Trail maintenance is predominantly through volunteer work; this is truly a community project.
When to go
Mountain biking is generally possible anytime outside of snow season (June to October, early/late falls permitting), although fearless riders with fat tyres and body armour can choose to play in the winter snows at their own risk. All water must be carried up the mountain, so in high summer carry at least two litres.
Bright is in the Ovens River valley, between Mt. Buffalo and Mt. Beauty, about an hour’s drive from Wangaratta on the M31 between Sydney and Melbourne. Mystic Park is the premier venue for mountain biking, the HVP plantation site lying a fifteen-minute ride from town, up Coronation Ave. If driving, there’s currently parking over the road in Pioneer Park, but the permanent arrangements are still under design.
From the busy trailhead, the single track can be accessed up White Star Rd, Mystic Lane, or for those that really can’t get enough of the uphill, from the bottom of the two-way Pine Planters trail. If you’re only in it for the downhill (and you’re not using an e-bike), you might consider using the Blue Dirt shuttle, which operates on peak days and weekends, running from Morses Creek Rd to the top of Hero.
Mystic has all grades of trail from beginner’s green to suicidal double-black diamond, from single track to machine groomed, utilizing such basic TTFs (technical terrain features) as berms, bridges and jumps, along with more advanced wall rides, log rides and the occasional ladder bridge or rock garden. It’s playtime!
Mystic Park is free to enter for bikes. Blue Dirt prices start at $25 for a single lift and $70 for a day pass. Private vehicles can also access the road into the park at slightly higher rates.
There are some excellent bike shops in Bright, where you can rent a steed or, if you’re feeling cashed-up, buy an entire new high-end rig. All Terrain Cycles, Bright Electric Bikes and the insanely-named Cyclepath Australia are all on the high street. If renting, it pays to book ahead or arrive at opening time, as rentals are at a premium. Prices start around $45 for a hard tail mtn bike for half a day. All rentals come with a basic helmet, and riders would be wise to wear closed shoes and breathable, wicking clothing.
Apart from the wheels and helmet, serious shredders might want to consider the following gear: full face helmet, pads or body armour, goggles, a pump and tools for repairs, a hydration pack, and clip in pedals and shoes.
Make no mistake, mountain biking can be very dangerous. Careering headlong into a solid tree can result in severe injury and even death. There are drops and gap jumps here that you don’t want to take you by surprise, so don’t be tempted to just ‘have a go’ on a black run. Ride to your skill level. The shops in town offer orientation classes for riders new to the area, for instance Cyclepath’s Skills coaching sessions are $160 for a two-hour private lesson.
It’s not just mountain biking on offer; the fantastic Murray to Mountains Rail Trail starts/ends in Bright and runs almost 100km to Wangaratta. The sections through the Ovens valley are delightful. Hiking, kayaking and rock climbing are all possible in the area, and Mystic is also famous for its Flight Park, the NE Victoria Hang Gliding Club having been involved in the project from the beginning. The same shuttle service ferries paragliders up to the launch site atop Mystic Peak. Fancy a change of perspective?
By far the most convenient accommodation option for the park is Bright Cabin & Caravan Park AKA Camp Crusty, which is situated at the base of the mountain and all the trails. Riders can literally coast off a hectic double black and arrive, sweaty and panting, right at their front door/tent flap. There is a mountain bike washing station, the shuttle stop minutes away and the M to M Rail Trail on its doorstep. There are also the usual campsite amenities.
There are numerous other accommodation options to suit all budgets, from a free, no-amenities camp site down the road in Smoko, to boutique townhouses. After a dusty day in the saddle, this might be a good place to treat yourself.
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