Rugged beauty – that’s what appeals to me about Conondale National Park. It contains lush rainforests, spectacular waterfalls, babbling creeks, and massive mountains; but it’s hard work to explore, especially on a mountain bike.
My friends and I have explored this area on several occasions enjoying a splash in Booloumba Falls, conquering some large hills in Bellthorpe Forest, and soaking in some amazing views at Mount Kilcoy.
The aim of today’s ride was to ride eastward from Jimna up into the Conondale Range and explore some places around Summer Creek that we’d never been to before. I was also keen to join up some more places on my map.
We started our trek heading eastwards along Sunday Creek Road. near Jimna. This gravel road twists through the forest all the way to the Mary Valley. Before entering the forest we enjoyed riding in the mist through some green farmland. The light drizzle kep the temperature down which made for very pleasant riding weather.
As we continued the slow climb up the hill, the terrain suddenly changed and we were surrounded by towering eucalypts – their heads disappearing into the low-lying clouds.
The road kept rising, and the temperature kept dropping. Eventually my GPS told me we were well over 800m in height, which explains why it was feeling so cold.
Eric and Becca are strong riders, so they kindly waited for me to catch up with them at the top of most hills. I was glad that I’d brought a plastic wind jacket with me to keep the cold air off while we zipped down the other side of the hill. And what a descent it was! We dropped over 400m in altitude as we rolled down this wonderful 13 km descent.
Alas, the law of gravity dictates that all descents must eventually end. Our descent ended at Summer Creek. On one side of the track this crystal clear creek bubbles through the forest and over rocks. On the other side it accelerates down the mountain towards a waterfall. Exploring waterfalls on a bike is not a wise idea, so we decided to keep to the track. We topped up our water from the creek before continuing.
What followed was two kilometres of steep muddy tracks that were impossible to ride. We had to slowly trudge up the slopes of Summer Mountain, pushing our bikes over rocks and through boggy ground. It was exhausting.
Becca recently competed in a 24 hour mountain bike race. She’s an amazing athlete who has been trying to build up her endurance for future events by attempting longer tougher rides. I don’t think she had this in mind when she agreed to ride with us today. She pondered that Summer Creek Road made some of the hills in her 24 hour race last week look pretty easy.
We eventually left the forest and started making our way westwards towards Jimna along McAulay’s Road. On the map I thought this would be the easy part of the ride, winding through farmland. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The track was as “rough as guts”.
We had to cross several creeks on our way. At first I wimped out, and took of my shoes and socks before crossing. (My riding buddies often tease me because I don’t like getting my feet wet). Eventually I just gave in and waded across the creeks in my shoes to save time. Wet feet aren’t that annoying towards the end of a ride anyway.
Eventually we left the farmland and entered the hoop pine plantations near Jimna. Hoops are beautiful native trees, and form part of large forestry plantations around Jimna. The plantations are criss-crossed with forestry roads which we zig-zagged through as we made our way home.
We eventually rolled back into Jimna, exhausted. Although we only rode 52km, it took us almost 7 hours including breaks. We climbed a total of 1,850m in vertical ascent, and I burned about 2,800 kcal.
I rate this one 8.5 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter. A word of warning though – you need a high level of fitness if you plan to follow this route – especially the northen section. It’s rough, steep and very slow going. You also need plenty of water. We were fortunate that the weather was cool and that the creek water was drinkable. In dry hot weather this would by much more difficult.
Thanks Eric and Becca for another great adventure, and for helping me fill a few holes in my map. I now have a continuous track log that almost stretches from Maidenwell near the Bunya Mountains in the west, through Nanango to the Sunshine Coast and down to Brisbane 🙂
Max elevation: 851 m
Min elevation: 419 m
Total climbing: 2618 m
Total descent: -2611 m
Average speed: 16.69 km/h
Total time: 06:44:57