Kilkivan

Is there an enjoyable off-road cycling route between Kilkivan and Gympie? Our mission today was to find such a route, so we could use it on a future multi-day ride.

We started beside the disused railway line in Kilkivan. Westwards, this route is open for recreational use as far as Kingaroy. But we wondered what it would be like if we followed it towards Gympie.

It has been only seven years since a train rolled down these tracks.

We pointed our bikes at the rails and pretended to be locomotives for a few hours…

 

 

The fantasy quickly evaporated. The track was overgrown, and we had to scramble through a steep gully not far from town.

Signs regularly poked up from the long grass to remind us of the former railway.

In a couple of months we plan to ride our bikes along the old railway lines between Ipswich and Gympie. The final day of that four-day trip might be along this section of railway line. On that day we would need to arrive in Gympie (75km away) by about 1pm.

So as we rode today, we tried to determine if this part of the railway line was suitable for a multi-day ride.

We had to stop several times to negotiate barbed-wire gates. As an engineer, Darb seems to have a special ability to not get these contraptions tangled up when he opens and closes them.

(Photo: Tony Ryan)

We passed the remains of several old bridges, standing in creek beds like the ruins of a small Aussie Parthenon.

On our left, Wide Bay Creek followed the trail. It’s surprisingly deep and wide for a creek that’s so far inland. I wondered if we’d have to cross it later.

At Oakview, the railway line crosses the Bicentennial National Trail (BNT).

If we turned left here, we’d end up in Cooktown a couple of thousand kilometres away. Calum looked up the trail briefly and decided that was a bit far to go before lunch time.

UPDATE: Two years after riding this course, I discovered that there is an exclusive agricultural lease over the railway easement between Oakview and Woolooga (east of Kilkivan, towards Gympie). This section of the railway corridor is not open to cyclists. Please don’t ride there.

(Photo: Tony Ryan)

East of Oakview the railway line crossed Wide Bay Creek – that deep creek I’d been worried about earlier.

It was a steep scramble down to the water, but the crossing was reasonably shallow and we were able to pedal across and up the other side.

(Photo: Tony Ryan)

We had to cross it a second time. This time we just followed some vehicle tracks to the right for a hundred metres to another shallow crossing.

I felt pleased with myself. We’d crossed this deep creek twice already and my feet were still dry 🙂

The third crossing of Wide Bay Creek was a bit trickier.

The creek looked really deep, so Calum and I clambered onto the bridge and slowly walked across.

In hindsight, I think this was the wrong decision. Don’t cross the creek this way – the bridge is high and old. There are large gaps. It would be easy to fall through.

(Photo: Tony Ryan)

 

Darb did the sensible thing, rode upstream for a couple of hundred metres and found a shallow crossing.

He arrived on the other side just as Calum and I gingerly tip-toed over the last few railway sleepers.

(NOTE for future reference: there is a shallow creek crossing two hundred metres north of this bridge. There’s no need to use the bridge)

After a few more scrambles over deep gullies and old bridges, we emerged at the small village of Woolooga.

With a pub, snack bar and public loo, this was a great place for a quick break.

But it had taken us almost three hours to get here. This would not work on our multi-day ride if we hoped to get into Gympie by lunch time.

We will return here in the next few weeks to find a quicker way to Woolooga.

We wanted to ride south from Woolooga to Brooyar State Forest. This would have meant riding on the busy Wide Bay Highway for five or six kilometres. To avoid this, we followed Sellen Road – an old road reserve which ran parallel to the highway for a few kilometres.

The old road pavement ended, but the track was perfect for riding on.

We emerged on the highway a few hundred metres from our turn-off to Widgee and Brooyar Forest.

We followed dirt roads south towards the state forest…

…eventually emerging on the edge of an orchard.

We had ridden here last year, and I wanted to join up today’s route with the track we had taken on that ride to close up some gaps in my ride map.

We followed pleasant rolling gravel roads south towards Widgee…

…eventually emerging on Upper Widgee Road.

On our multi-day trip I had planned to turn left here and complete the ride into Gympie on quiet back roads.

Today we wanted to follow the road up into the hills behind Kilkivan. On another day, if we followed this track in reverse, it would give us a second route between Kilkivan and Gympie.

Although mountain bikers try to avoid paved roads, this one was quiet. We happily followed it into Widgee.

We stopped for a quick break at the show grounds and spoke to one of the locals.

He told us another rider had camped here overnight and had left that morning for Kilkivan following the route we were following.

The campground at Widgee looks great. Hot showers, powered sites, even a bar that opens later in the day. As we rode out, I made a mental note. This might be a pleasant spot to spend the night in future.

As we continued up the valley, the paved road ended and the track grew rougher and more remote.

At the end of the valley we encountered “The Hill”.

Upper Thornside Road is incredibly steep: It climbs from the valley up to Widgee Mountain, where it meets the BNT.

It goes upwards for over three kilometres, with gradients exceeding twenty percent.

I put on a brave face as we started mashing the pedals up the hill.

Eventually we had to get off and push. It was impossible to pedal up this hill.

In some parts it was almost impossible to push the bike on foot. My shoes kept slipping.

I’d walk a dozen steps, stop to take a breath, then repeat.

Darb and Calum reached the top first, and waited for me to catch up.

I had spoken with a farmer a few days prior about the best way down the mountain and into Kilkivan.

He advised me to avoid Range Road because it was too treacherous, and instead to follow the BNT down Threlkeld Road, where the slopes were gentler.

It might have been gentler than Range Road, but this track was still technically challenging.

Darb’s fat tyres tightly gripped the loose surface.

Calum and I skidded down after him on our narrower tyres.

(Photo: Tony Ryan)

At one spot we decided to play it safe and walk the bikes down over the rocks.

(Photo: Tony Ryan)

“Well THAT was a lot of fun” I gasped, as we reached the bottom.

It was late in the afternoon as we rode down the valley towards Kilkivan.

It had taken us a lot longer than we had anticipated.

We passed some horse riders slowly clomping along the road.

One rider suggested I sing a song as we passed, so as not to startle the horses.

I thought of singing “I can feel a fourex coming on”, but elected instead to just speak softly to the horses.

“Hello horsey. How’s it going? Don’t worry about me.”

I felt silly, but the horses remained calm.

My toes burned in my shoes. My backside was sore. I was tired.

This had been a big ride.

UPDATE: Two years after riding this course, I discovered that there is an exclusive agricultural lease over the railway easement between Oakview and Woolooga (east of Kilkivan, towards Gympie). This section of the railway corridor is not open to cyclists. Please don’t ride there.

Total distance: 87.9 km
Total climbing: 2212 m
Average temperature: 23.5
Total time: 08:26:38
Download file: activity_1939017133.gpx
More data

We rode 88km in about eight and a half hours.

During that time we climbed over 1,600 metres in vertical ascent, and I burned about 4,000 kcal.

I’ll rate this ride 9 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.

Upper Thornside Road is a really difficult climb. The matching descent on Threlkeld Road is an equally challenging descent – not for beginners or the faint-hearted.

Thanks Darb and Calum for a fun day out!

Let’s come back soon.

12 Replies to “Kilkivan”

  1. Looking good Neil! Maybe one size larger on the shoes for the longer rides? It works for me when I am bikepacking.
    I have some leave approved so am looking forward to doing this loop in October. Lets hope it isn’t too hot. 😉

  2. Thank you for posting. I want to cycle north to south from Kilkivan to Ipswich; I’ve done the Yarraman to Ipswich section before and enjoyed it but I’d like to do it unassisted, only using the train from Brisbane as necessary (I live in Brisbane). I’ll be carrying all camping and cooking gear so looks like it will be a tough second day!

  3. Hi Neil with a group of mates we are planning to ride from north Gympie through the Brooyar State Forest and then stop over at Wiggee. The ride onto Kilkilvan via Thornside Road and onto the Black Snake Road. Have you been that way before. Is it rideable and safe?

    1. Thorneside Road
      Hi Andrew
      Thorneside Road is very steep. It’s unrideable in places and would be dangerous after rain. If your bikes were loaded up for a multi-day ride, it would be even more challenging.
      One alternative route is via Woolooga and the Bicentennial National Trail at the top of Smith Road.
      See this map for more info: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit?mid=1_5wyz-7ydJf6FxvIORXvMOPFi8KWzAD7&usp=sharing
      This adds an extra 10km, but it’s a pleasant ride with no horrible surprises.
      Do not attempt to ride along the railway easement between Woolooga and Oakview – it’s leased out for farming, and the leaseholder gets very upset if people try to use it as a rail trail (like we mistakenly did).
      Neil

      1. Thanks Neil we will be watching the rain stats closely and we will have fully-laden bikes. We might well go for your advice with the Woolooga and BNT trail route.

  4. Hi We are hoping to get interest to complete Kilkivan to Gympie North Railway Station.Any suggestions for best route with Rail Trail probably extended to Woolooga or further.Bruce Highway obviously a problem .
    Cheers David Kenny

    1. Here’s a map from Gympie to Kilkivan via Widgee which avoids most of the highway.

      The blue section gets a bit hilly (15%) towards the end – you might want to stay on the paved road (green section) if you don’t like hills.
      The purple section goes through Woolooga and joins up with the Bicentennial National Trail.
      You should avoid going along the railway easement between Kilkivan and Woolooga because it is leased out to graziers.

  5. Hi Neil,

    Fantastic blog and enjoyable reading. I’m planning on doing the BVRT and KKRT in May and have been scoping a route between Gympie and Kilkivan that avoids the highway.

    I’m looking at riding Quandong Rd, Widgee Mtn Rd, Shamrock Rd and then out to Black Snake Rd to Kilkivan. I was just wanting your insights as it sounds like you have ridden a fair bit in the area and it strikes me as a good route from Gympie.

    Thanks!

    Will

    1. Hi Will
      Sorry for the slow reply.
      I’ve never ridden from Quandong Road to Black Snake so can’t comment on it, but imagine it would be quite steep towards the top. If you eventually try it, please let me know how you go.
      You might be able to use the map I shared to your previous comment, which takes a more northern route. We’ve done this several times, and think it’s quite pleasant.
      Neil

      1. Thanks Neil, will give it a go and let you know.

        Thanks for the alternate route – will be a good back-up!

  6. Hi Neil,

    Thanks for posting – I love reading your blogs about different locations.

    I’m planning on riding the KKRT and BVRT from Gympie and I’m looking for an off highway route to get to Kilkivan. Was looking at taking Widgee Mountain Rd from Quandong Rd through to Shamrock rd and Black Snake Rd and was wondering if you had any insights if that was ridable.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated!

    1. Here’s a map from Gympie to Kilkivan via Widgee which avoids most of the highway.

      The blue section gets a bit hilly (15%) towards the end – you might want to stay on the paved road (green section) if you don’t like hills.
      The purple section goes through Woolooga and joins up with the Bicentennial National Trail.
      You should avoid going along the railway easement between Kilkivan and Woolooga because it is leased out to graziers.

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