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Biking South Australia's spectacular Flinders Ranges

Simon Parker's picture
Cycling to Bunyeroo Gorge in Flinders Range national Park. Cycle Traveller

Wilpena Pound, located in the Flinders Ranges National Park, may be 450km from Adelaide, but if you can squeeze out a four to five day long 'weekend' here coming from Adelaide, you'll be rewarded with some of the most inspiring riding and scenery in the country.

The Park offers a number of possible cycling routes depending on what type of bike you have, and your appetite for some (partly) tough dirt roads.

Wilpena Pound Resort is a well equipped facility with a variety of accommodation options including powered and unpowered camp sites. Close by are hot showers and BBQs and even laundry facilities. A well-stocked store, restaurant and pub are also at your disposal. And, of course, a 7km return walk takes you to a stunning lookout over the Pound itself, an 80 square kilometre mountain-enclosed amphitheatre that features the 1,168 metre St Mary Peak.

The Pound is referred to as Akurra by the local Adnyamathanha peoples, named after the giant man-eating serpents said to have created Wilpena Pound during the Creation Time.

In terms of cycling, an option could be to leave the car at the Pound and take the following route over three days.

Map of Flinders Ranges National Park. Cycle TravellerDay 1

Day one would take you from Wilpena Pound through the Bunyeroo Valley and Gorge, ending the day at one of the campsites in or near Brachina Gorge. We camped at Trezona, around 45km from Wilpena, which had a rainwater tank and toilets – but you may instead choose to head west at the junction of Bunyeroo and Brachina Gorge roads and stay at one of the campgrounds there – Brachina East or Teamsters are your options.

The unsealed Bunyeroo and Brachina Gorge roads are generally good for cycling although they do get marginally technical, particularly within the kilometre or so length of Bunyeroo Gorge where you're effectively riding through the stones and mud of a creek bed (so don't attempt this ride in the rain unless you're prepared to get wet and muddy). Our touring bikes though were fine with the vast majority of these roads, although some decent tyres, such as the Rubena Stop Thorn tyres we use, are a must. Less confident riders should opt for mountain bikes with thicker tyres, knobbier tread and the comfort of suspension.

The descent into the Gorge makes the roads well worth your efforts, with breathtaking views at Razorback Lookout and some sharp twists and turns as you plunge closer and closer towards the shadows of the Gorge's narrowing confines. Be careful as you descend – it's steep and it gets rougher the further down you go.

Day 2

Day two would see you take a trip through geological time, a journey back more than 600 million years. By entering Brachina Gorge from Bunyeroo, you'll be entering what is a self-guided east-west tour route – the Brachina Gorge Geological Trail - that shows you via a series of regular signs how you're moving through geological epochs; the further east you go, the more recent the epoch. You can buy a brochure explaining it all at the National Parks office at the Pound.

Our route today has you heading east along Brachina Gorge Road and back to the sealed Flinders Ranges Way, and gradually upwards to Blinman, South Australia's highest town at just above 600 metres elevation. From the Trezona camp site this is a 36km ride, and it will also take you past the wonderfully named Great Walls of China. As the name suggests, these are a series of 'walls' topped by a ledge of lighter coloured rock.

An old mining town with a population of just over 20, Blinman retains a wonderful charm and serves as the ideal base for the night. The Blinman Hotel has accommodation, including camping, and a great selection of meals and beverages. There's also a cafe in town, and tours of the local mine are an option if you have the time.

Cycling in the Flinders Ranges National Park. Cycle TravellerDay 3

The last day would see you return to Wilpena via Flinders Ranges Way, taking in a few stunning lookouts along the 63km of sealed road. Depending on wind direction it could be a blissful way to end the trip (it's quiet and all sealed road), reabsorbing timeless views of what is a very special and unique part of Australia.

For those who would prefer to stay off the sealed road, another option is to return to Wilpena Pound via a section of the Mawson Trail, which stretches 900km from Adelaide to Blinman. If sticking to the Mawson Trail, you may want to add a fourth day to your itinerary to allow for slower travelling time.

Important

Before setting off from Wilpena please ensure you check with Park staff on road and weather conditions. You'll need to have enough water for two days, as while there are some rainwater tanks and creeks along the way you shouldn't assume they'll have water. And you'll obviously need enough food for at least four meals, although this depends on how early you leave Wilpena Pound.

The daily distances on this route are designed to be moderate, both to allow for the unsealed roads and to give you time to savour the views and take in a walk or two if you so desire.

If you don't have a car you can get to nearby Hawker – an easy 55km ride from Wilpena Pound – by a bi-weekly bus service. The service is operated by Genesis Tours.

Images: 1. Climbing the road up to Razorback Lookout in the Flinders Ranges National Park. 2. Map of Flinders Ranges National Park. 3. On the road to Bunyeroo Gorge. (Images copyright Cycle Traveller)

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