Kangaroo Valley Overnighter

Words & photos by Cambridge McCormick

5 minutes

After being shown the ropes of bikepacking on a cool May weekend last year, I’ve dived head first into the community and travel that bikepacking allows. In turn, I’ve recruited two friends, Tarni and Zara, along for adventures.

Tarni’s first trip was a very stormy weekend away in Namadgi National Park, which brought navigation issues (my fault) and hiding from hail underneath an old homestead. But somehow, she decided she wanted to go again. Zara however, was a newbie. A leisurely, mostly downhill ride along Meryla’s Pass from Bowral to Kangaroo Valley and onto Nowra seemed like a solid introduction to bikepacking for Zara. However, a week out, the dreaded Transport NSW notice – Southern Highlands trainline will be shut and under repairs on Saturday. There was frantic googling, exploring this website for other routes and then eventual relinquishing to the fact – we were going to have to climb out of Kangaroo Valley and circle back to our cars. 

Using Komoot, I found McPhails fire trail, which linked up to Promised Lands trail and then onto Moss Vale. The elevation map looked steep – no doubt about it – but I reasoned that 4km of grinding hike-a-bike was much more reasonable than trying to navigate Moss Vale Road on a Sunday morning rush out of Kangaroo Valley. The route was set, the cars were packed, and we were on our way. 

Saturday – glorious descending

We set out from Bowral, managing about 1km before stopping again for coffee and the inevitable adjustments of bags – the sound of straps flapping around and jiggling loads sorted.

Winding through the suburbs before a brief stint on Kangaloon Road, we were then on Tourist Road. This is an absolutely glorious slightly undulating ride, riding past the Glenquarry Memorial Hall and past some quiet state forests. There was a solid climb up towards Roberston when you jump back onto Kangaloon Road, but it’s worth it as a great spot for a obligatory Big Potato photo, refuelling with cold servo Cokes and lunch.

More quiet, undulating roads follow, with great views of Fitzroy Falls Lake, before the glorious descent along Moss Vale Road into Kangaroo Valley. We were sure to pull over to let cars by, but it was delightfully quiet and meant speedy descents with relatively heavy bikes into Kangaroo Valley. 

The Big Potato

Camp – Bendeela Recreation Area

This campsite is a great spot I’d camped at previously on a similar Bowral-KV-Gerringong route. It’s not necessarily the most peaceful, a very popular spot for caravans, but makes up for it with the kangaroos hopping by and a dip in the river.

When packing, we’d decided to save on weight on the bikes and make our way to the Friendly Inn for dinner. The only issue – we needed to ride back up the hill to get there, giving us an approx 15km extra for the total kilometres on Saturday.

Unloading our bikes, it was surprisingly easy on heavy legs as the thought of downing an ice cold ginger beer in the late arvo sun had us inspired. The Friendly Inn was everything we could’ve hoped for – cold beer, hot food and great views.

A fellow bikepacker came and had a chat when he spotted my Hungry frame bag (Shoutout to Harry – he makes the coolest and most colourful bags!). The ride home was a lot easier, powered by a few schooners and a good serving of pub grub. 

Sunday – hot and sweaty hike-a-bike 

Setting out at just after 8.00am, we knew what was ahead – a solid hour and a half of grinding, to be rewarded with hopefully some nice gravel or single track and then the home stretch to Moss Vale. We’d reasoned that we’d make it to Moss Vale around midday and hop on the now operational train back to Bowral. 

McPhails Fire Trail is poorly signed, but the route uploaded to my Wahoo gave us the heads up just in time – Zara had already taken off down a descent and had to make the U-turn back up to the trail head. And wowee, it was steep from the get-go. The first push elevation was averaging around 15% but thankfully it was over relatively quickly. From there, lots of jumping on, jumping off, resting at corners and dodging our fair share of leeches. We made it to the Promised Land Trail and celebrated by destroying handfuls of peanut M&Ms, salami sticks and other miscellaneous snacks. It was rough, but it was definitely worth it. There was some super fun single track through some beautiful rainforest and the Promised Land Trail was great gravel. 

We popped out back on Moss Vale Road and rode along here most of the way to Moss Vale. We were all ready to put our feet up, crack open a few Gatorades and cruise on down to the train station when Google Maps told us – no train for another 1.5 hours. Then there was the internal negotiation – ride the extra 12kms or sit and wait. The decision was easy, back on the bikes. Luckily the last leg was relatively flat and cruisy, keeping ourselves entertained by looking at the insane mansions throughout the Southern Highlands and then we were finally back at our cars. 3 chocolate thickshakes, 3 coke zeros and a massive feed finished our weekend off. 

Kangaroo Valley bikepacking
Kangaroo Valley bikepacking

Route tips:

  • Shave off an extra 15ish kilometres by stopping in at the Friendly Inn before the descent down into Bendeela. 
  • There was very little water available along McPhails fire trail until we reached Moss Vale Road.

The route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/45683384


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