Pre-pandemic, were you sick of having to spend a day traveling overseas to get your big mountain descent fix? Well, if you haven’t heard, Queenstown on the West Coast of Tasmania has been generating plenty of buzz with their epic mountain views and 35 km trail network on Mount Owen – built by Dirt Art. Katie Dunn & Nick Muggeridge spent a bit of time on two wheels down there and it looks set to be an epic location……..
Queenstown can be accessed via either Hobart or Launceston but for our recent trip, we drove approximately 4 hours from Hobart to Queenstown and were greeted with a very unique landscape that will stun any visitor.
Like Derby, Queenstown has decided to invest heavily in the tourism industry and in particular, mountain biking. The town has a long mining history and is still undergoing its rehabilitation process; however, this process will take hundreds if not thousands of years to return to its natural state. For now, the moonscape surrounds of exposed rock will remain the jaw dropping backdrop.
We had arranged shuttles with Anthony from Roam Wild Tasmania, who gave us a tour and explained the history of the town and region. The shuttle track can only be accessed through Roam Wild Tasmania due to its steep gradient and private access gate so make sure you to book in advance.
The shuttles drop you at approximately 1200 m elevation where you are greeted with outstanding 360-degree views of the region from Cradle Mountain to the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park and luckily for us, we were the only ones on the hill riding that day.
Dirt Art have done an amazing job building these trails. You ride down the side of a mountain with exposed rock and small shrubbery making an amazing backdrop leading into the classic Dirt Art hair pin corners (if you’ve ridden Maydena, you’ll pick this place up really quick).
From the shuttle drop off, you roll into the Chamouni Traverse 2-3 minute descent down, across then a short climb up to the next summit where you can head down either North Owen Descent (black rated) or the Long Spur (blue/black rated).
Despite being a blue/black rated trail, the Long Spur has an average gradient of 14.6% over its 3.3 km length and to put it bluntly, this track is not Rocket Frog so bring your enduro bikes! Once you get the hang of the corners, the track speed will come naturally and you’ll be too busy having fun to realise that after five minutes of descending, you’ve still got another five minutes to go. The track flows perfectly and has enough variety for those riders to get creative with their line choice.
Towards the end, the trail widens and suddenly you’ll be riding your enduro bike like a dirt jumper at a pump track and looking at generating speed through the natural bumps, rollers and jumps that Dirt Art have created. Riders that excel at generating speed through pumping and popping sections will absolutely destroy this segment of the track which takes you down to the pickup location.
Once you’re picked up, it’s time to head back up and give the North Owen Descent a go. This time, things get steep really quick. Instead of the nice 14.6% gradient of the Long Spur Track, you’re now facing an average gradient of 28.2% for a total trail length of 1.7 km. These numbers may be daunting to some, but the track is that well-built it is still an enjoyable track whether you’re taking your time or going for the KOM. The trail did feel like it hadn’t been ridden enough when went down so sometimes the grip wasn’t there when you were expecting it, but I dare say after a few months, this won’t be a problem.
As the trails weren’t all open yet (expected late November), we rode these trails for most of the day but were fortunate enough to be given permission to ride down the first half of a blue rated trail named Waterfall. This trail is nowhere near as steep as The Long Spur or North Owen Descent, and it was nice to not be so stressed about the difficulty of the trail at the end of the day.
The start of the trail was a little flat and took a bit of effort to get consistent speed up but once it crossed the fire road the trail speed picked up. This trail will take you down to the bottom of a valley where you will then have a decent climb back up a smaller mountain and descend into Queenstown for lunch. All in all, for the three shuttles you’d complete before lunch, you could expect at least 30 to 45 minutes of descending.
It was clear that the town was serious about their mountain biking investment and the locals were buzzing with excitement for visitors with many asking us what the trails were like. The town is well equipped for the influx of visitors with numerous dining options, two IGA supermarkets and even a bike wash station in the middle of town. However, the only downside as of October 2021, was the lack of bike shop in town and as these trails are rough on the bikes having a decent wheel builder and mechanic available will be key.
Recommendation is 2-3 days in the town either with two and a half days of shuttling and a half day to explore the other trails in nearby towns but all in all, we had an amazing time and can’t wait to go back once the full trail network is open.