Heading up the Upper Forth valley, this track takes you on a journey into the World Heritage Area along what was, up until the mid 1980's, a road to the Oakleigh Creek Wolfram Mines. The first section is still regularly used by kayakers seeking to paddle the Forth river and as such is fairly reasonably well maintained, but as you make your way further up the valley the track deteriorates and you find yourself in a beautiful and seldom visited area of Tasmania. This is a true gem of a ride for those who like to explore remote places on two wheels, but is not for the inexperienced, unprepared or those looking for groomed single track.
This ride is a long way from everywhere. Allow four and a bit hours to get here from Hobart, two hours from Launceston and probably an hour and a half from Devonport.
If coming from the Hobart or Launceston, make your way to Deloraine, and then follow the B12 through Mole Creek making sure that you turn right 21km out of Mole Creek onto Olivers Road (C138) towards Cethana and Cradle Mountain. 31kms from Mole Creek, you will come to a junction on your left signed down to the C139 Lemonthyme Power Station which is where you want to go.
To get to this same point from the north, the easiest (though not shortest) way is to head to Sheffield (last place to get supplies) and then head out on Claude Road towards Gowrie Park / Cradle Mountain. 3kms past Gowrie Park, turn left onto Olivers Road (signed towards Mole Creek) and follow this for 10.7km until you come to the turn off to the Lemonthyme Power Station (C139) mentioned above.
Follow the paved road down to the power station until the bitumen road ends (10kms). There are a few gravel roads heading off from here, but all but one is gated, so turn onto the unsigned gravel road which continues off to your left. This is Patons Road.
You'll cross a wooden bridge about 300 metres in, and then come to a Y junction 500 metres from the power station. Take the left fork and continue on. 2.3kms from the power station you'll come to another Y junction, this time take the right fork and follow this around the hill until 3.0kms from the power station where you will come to a large metal gate (usually open). Park here, but make sure your car is well off the road so other vehicles can get past.
You can extend or shorten this ride in a number of ways.
Firstly you could start back at Lemonthyme Dam, or the truly insane could start back at Mt Roland or the Cethana Bridge and cycle to Lemonthyme Dam via Lorinna (noting that sections of this road have been closed to vehicles since I last rode it many years ago and I don't know if bikes can get through). This would be a truly epic day, or even two day ride.
Alternatively, those looking for a shorter ride or those who want to skip the technically easier but hilly riding could (in a 4WD or with a bit of bravery) continue another 5kms to the start of the official four wheel drive only area. How far you get will depend on where trees have blown over on the track and how brave you feel crossing a few dodgy bridges and culverts.
As this is an out and back ride, then if it all gets too much (there can be a lot of downed trees on this track and the riding does get harder the further you go) don't worry about just turning around and heading back before the end.
This ride is in a very remote region of Tasmania, and you can't count on anyone else coming through anytime soon if things go wrong.
Tell someone where you're going and make sure you're carrying enough food, clothes and spare gear just in case. You will get wet on this track, with some sections knee deep in water, and whilst that's fine if you're just there riding for the day, if things go wrong ... be prepared.
You will also either be walking through fast flowing creeks or across slippery decaying bridges. Either way it's dangerous, particularly in cycling shoes.
In short show this trail some respect.
There's only one tricky turn in this whole ride, and fortunately it comes just a hundred or so metres from the start. Head through the gate and along the short straight in front of you until it looks like the main road turns off to the left and uphill. You can easily miss the turn off to the right here which is where you want to go. Cross the small creek and a previously invisible road will suddenly appear in front of you. Carry on, that's most of the navigation done.
Continue along this road as it rises slightly whilst passing an open plain to your left before starting to descend about a kilometre from the start. 1.5kms from the start you will come to a junction, it doesn't matter which you take (although the left is slightly easier) as they rejoin just down the track. Continue down the hill to cross Borradaile Creek 1.8kms from the start.
You'll be regaining the height you just gave up for the next 1.5kms, but it's all through some lovely open forest (the result of previous logging) so you may not even notice it (OK I'm lying - you'll notice it). You'll pass a logging landing on your left as well as a few turn offs as you head along this section, until about 4.9km from the start where you'll pass two last tracks heading off to your left before heading into the bush again. If driving in, this would be a good place to leave your car if you want to skip those early climbs. Beyond here it will be a lot harder to find a place to turn.
Approximately 5.5km from the start you will come to the signed start of the Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair World Heritage Area and the 4WD section (although people bringing their kayaks in still drive beyond here).
The road does become slightly rougher beyond this point, but other than downed logs, it is still pretty easy riding until about 9.6km from the start you'll suddenly find yourself cycling up what feels like a river bed with lots of large rocks everywhere. Fortunately this section is only short, ending at a creek which you either have to cross via a deepish ford to the left or by carefully pushing you bike over a very slippery broken bridge. This creek is 9.8km from the start.
The track undulates alongside the river from here all the way to wolfram mine. The riding in the main is fairly easy, but there are sections where streams have diverted onto the roads creating long wet or tricky sections. The main technical obstacles though are downed logs of all shapes and descriptions.
About 12.5kms from the start the track runs right next to the river, and there looked to be a few places in the next few hundred metres where you could climb down onto the river bank for a bit of a play, although I didn't try it myself. 14kms from the start, you will emerge out next to a river bend where there has been a washout and this is a nice spot for a break if you want one.
The next 8 kms or so are a bit of an adventure ranging from fairly fast flat easy riding through beautiful forest to clambering around route deviations and down muddy washouts. Just over 22kms from the start you will come out into an open area (car park) on your right and a stream in front of you.
To proceed past here you either need to push and carry your bike through this very cold stream (it's no problem, just cold and slippery) or you can push your bike around the left hand side of the gate and push it along the beams of the collapsed bridge ... it's your call.
From there it is a final 1.2km (23.3kms from the start) to the actual mine area. Most 4WDs don't go past the creek so I found this to be the most overgrown and slowest section of the ride (though I still could ride 90%+ of the route).
When you arrive at the mine, you come to another Y junction, it's worth going up to the left for 50 metres to see the old shed and have a look around before going down the right junction which will drop you out into an open tailings section where you get some lovely views out to the mountains across from you and can dream about what this place may have been like when it was being worked.
I'm sure there's much more to see than I saw in the brief 30 minutes I spent here, and it's worth taking a moment to think that if you could ride another 4 or 5 kms up this valley you'd come out around the middle of the Overland track, just a couple of kilometres north of Pelion Hut (there is actually a walking route from here up to the Pelion Plains). You really are in a remote place.
When that's sunk in, feel free to turn tail and retrace your steps to civilisation.