Wyong & Laguna Gravel Loop
With a couple of riding buddies spread between Newcastle and Sydney, we were looking for a decent day trip that was on the dirt, central to all, accessible by train, and included a mid-ride pub feed. The Wyong & Laguna gravel loop delivers just that, with tonnes of great gravel riding through forest, valleys, and farmland.
This ride has a decent amount of climbing, and sees a good mix of scenery. There is really only one reliable opportunity for water resupply at the GNTP at the mid-point, so bring at least 2-3 litres of water with you (I’m thirsty, so I took 4L).
Wyong Station to Watagan Forest Road
We met at Wyong station at around 7:00am, convening at Wyong Milk Bar for a coffee to kick start the day. Coffee consumed and bikes checked, we promptly departed. The road was shared with cars for just 6km, before we arrived at Watagan Forest Drive, and were greeted by the glorious sound of gravel crunching under our tyres.
The first climb started almost immediately, as we ascended into the Jilliby State Conservation Area. Legs still fresh, the climb was steady, but not tough, especially given the distraction of the lush bushland, and sound of native birdlife filling the air.
These gravel roads are a pure joy to ride, undulating with dips and crests. Due to recent rain, many of these dips contained shallow and broad puddles, however there was always a line to keep your feet at least mostly dry. These conditions were quite welcome, as some parts of the road can be sandy… the dampness helps the sand hold firm, removing some of the slip.
We followed the ridge-line, with several powerline corridors cutting through the canopy revealing the green valleys below. Each one seemingly more photogenic than the last.
Watagan Forest Rd is the main north/south road through the Watagans. Whilst not busy, you will cross paths with at least a few 4WDs during the day. That said, the road is generally wide enough to be comfortable. There are a few sections with some recently laid, larger rougher gravel… but this does seem to have settled as the months have passed.
Olney Headquarters Campground
Olney Headquarters campground is a good place to stop to stretch the legs, dig out some snacks, and make use of the drop toilet facilities if nature calls. This rest stop sits atop the intersection where we veered left into Wollombi Forest Road. A significantly quieter part of the route, this feeds into Watagan Creek Road where we start descending. With around 250vm lost over around 5km, it is consistent, sometimes technical, but just bloody fun. This is where I had the realisation that I really need to become comfortable descending in the drops.
The road descends, winds, and descends some more. Just when my wrists felt like they needed a rest, we were spat out of the forest onto a beautifully maintained gravel road following Watagan Creek, and the farmland that it sustains through the Wattagong valley. This area is truly stunning; wildlife, cattle, and lush green paddocks, shrouded in low hanging clouds (if you’re lucky). We were met with a cattle gate where we stopped for a few photos, then continued to wind through the valley. We met the tarmac at Laguna, where a right turn and a just a few pedal strokes brought us to the steps of the Great Northern Trading Post.
Jason’s personal recommendation at the Great Northern Trading Post is the pulled pork burger.
Lunch at the Great Northern Trading Post
The GNTP is a great place to stop for lunch and a beer, with loads of outdoor seating and beautiful views of the farmland across the road.
Bellies and bidons filled, we headed south on Great North Road, before a left turn returned us to the gravel on Murrays Run Road, to the south of Mount Auban. This time we followed Wollombi Brook, with pastures as picturesque as those we rode through just an hour ago. We traversed several alternating sections of gravel and tarmac, before the sealed road started again, and a sneaky switchback pushed us into 5km of climbing. There are a few false-descents on this – you think you’re at the top, then the road cheekily sweeps around to reveal another pinch. Just keep your wits and try not to run over any long neck turtles.
With some tedious zig-zagging coming to an end, we were relieved to be at the top of the climb; and a left turn at the T-intersection offered the respite that is the Brush Creek Rd descent. 9km / 370vm down beautifully graded gravel roads. Around 4km into the descent, a road closure sign loomed, but bikes & pedestrians can safely pass meaning the road was ours.
Descending to the end
The descent continued through dense bushland, and then levelled out along another 10km of gravel. When the dirt ended, we hit the tarmac and were greeted with quaint tree lined roads, more farmland, and the final 25km stretch that led us back to the train station. At around 110km is the Yarramalong Fuel / Store / Cafe, where drinks, snacks or even a meal can be had if required.
We arrived at the station, feeling tired but accomplished. We rolled just south of the station (on the Pacific Highway) to one of the bottle shops. As per tradition, we obtained a few sneaky train station beers and made our way home.