If you're heading over to the West Coast, then this would have to be the number one ride on your agenda. The route follows an old railway line through some beautiful forests to the 114m Montezuma Falls. The route can be broken into a number of sections from a short (11km) out and back ride along a gentle, easy to ride trail from the Northern end of the track though to a 55km out and back epic starting and ending in Zeehan.
The core of the ride is the 14km section (each way) from Melba Flats to Montezuma Falls where you'll get to play in the mud, race 4WD's, plunge through deep washouts and really get some serious mountain biking in. Finally, for the well prepared and adventurous the final 8kms from Melba Flats to Zeehan crosses through button grass plains providing expansive views which you'll have plenty of time to enjoy as you push, bash and swim your bike along what was once a railway line.
Williamsford carpark is reached via a turnoff about 2kms south of Rosebery on the Murchison Highway. Look for signs to Montezuma Falls (Duh!) and is the best starting point if just doing the easy Northern Section to the falls or if going one way.
The Melba Flats starting point is better for those doing the out and back option (get the hard stuff out of the way to start with). Melba Flats is 4.5km North of the Zeehan turn off, or 20kms south of Rosebery, look for the signed junction to Melba Flats.
If including the Zeehan to Melba flats section, then start near the end of Robinson Street. As you get to the outer limits of Zeehan on this road, you'll cross a small bridge, about 300metres past here the road turns sharp left and there's a small track continuing off to the right. Drive down this track a short way and park the car off the road (there's a small quarry on the right) then continue on the track on your bike. You'll see some pines on your right just after crossing a small creek with the tell tale signs of railway poles between you and the pines. Head over to these and you're on the track.
The track can be broken into three section:
1. Williamsford carpark (Northern End) to Montezuma Falls: 5.5km each way. Mainly easy riding on good surface, it's not flat though. Great family trip with the kids. 45 mins - 2hrs depending on your group and desire.
2. Melba Flats - Montezuma Falls : 14km each way. This is medium difficulty riding, and not to be underestimated, especially in the wet. For the same reason, brilliant fun. 1-2 hours each way. Definitely easier and more fun riding north to south if only going one way, or returning via highway.
3. Zeehan - Melba Flats: 8km each way. Mediium, but slow. Either follow the old railway line, or overgrown track beside it (or make it a sort of circuit). the railway line is the pure experience, but it's not easy in many places .. but of course it is mainly flat. the track isn't much easier. 45 mins - 2 hrs each way (depending on how lost you get).
Zeehan - Melba Flats (8km each way)
Following the railway line across button grass plains, the route is mainly flat, but the ride is bumpy as you decide between riding across railway sleepers or jump from side to side to ride on the clearer gravel outside the railway lines. There's one major creek crossing where you need to get onto the track beside the railway (to the left) and wade across the creek (a great place to clean the bike on the way back). There are also a number of minor washouts which you'll find your way around and a few sections which are pretty wet and overgrown. You won't make quick time along this track, but it is fun, and worth the effort particularly on a sunny day as it contrasts with the rest of the ride.
Eventually you will come to a washed out bridge with a very big drop in front of you. Backtrack a bit and make your way down the left hand side and across the small creek, then follow a track back up to the other side where you'll find yourself on a gravel road. Go right along this gravel road for about a kilometre and you'll come out onto the highway, take a left and 450m along the road you'll find yourself at the Melba Flats car park.
On the return trip, either retrace your route, or for something different instead of going back along the railway track, continue along the gravel track. It swings out to the right a bit as it goes through a eucalypt plantation, but then swings back to the left and parallels the railway all the way back to Zeehan. This trail is a little bit faster riding, but I found myself pushing through very prickly and overgrown scurb and knee deep in water in other sections. This ride is definitely not for arachniphobes as I swear I was covered head to toe in cobwebs by the time I got back to my car.
If the ride out was a bit of a challenge, the other option is to just return along the Murchison Highway, a distance of just over 10kms back to where you left your car.
Melba Flats - Montezuma Falls (14.5km each way)
The first 8kms are a steady climb, gaining about 250metres in height, initially along a quite good gravel surface which slowly deteriorates as the kilometres pass by. The good news is when you reach the Ring River Junction you're pretty much at the top, and from here it's 6kms of downward riding on fun technical tracks as you lose about half the height you've just gained. Be aware that there are several creek crossing where the bridges have collapsed and where the track is very steep and rocky. A more subtle hazard is the logs and rocks that have been hauled into ruts and puddles by bogged 4WD vehicles that can easily catch a tyre.
The reward at Montezuma Falls is all worth it though, and it's hard not to set yourself up for a few photos as you carry your bike across the metal suspension bridge. Return via the same route ... though that Ring River road is calling out to me next time I head out that way ...
Montezuma Falls - Williamsford Car Park (5.5km)
The riding on this side of the falls is another world. Restricted to bike and foot traffic (do be careful of walkers) the mud virtually vanishes and you find yourself on a beautiful track where you'll probalby spend more time working your camera than your pedals. The first 500 metres from the falls is a bit rough, and slightly downhill, but then the track surface smoothes out as it heads out to the car park. It is a slight incline the whole way (another reason to ride North to South if riding one way) but you'll hardly notice it.
Just before you emerge out into the car park, the pedestrian trail drops off the railway line to the left. Cyclists need to continue following the vehicle trail down to the right, through a small river, up the steep incline on the other side and then out to the car park. If staring from the car park the cyclist route is signed and easier to follow. To be honest other than ticking off the "complete trail" there's no reason to continue past this last creek.