A true gem for cyclists of the bike path variety – the value of the Warburton Rail Trail is both the beauty and the flexibility.
While the total length of the trail from Lilydale to Warburton is 40km starting from the Lilydale railway station, the return trip of 80km is a bit above my more modest bike riding ambitions, it does lend itself to a ‘pick your own length’ ride. This works in with my lazy approach to organising a weekend activity in the great outdoors.
The track meets every small town between Lilydale and Warburton which provides ample jump on and jump off points. Many of these towns have the obligatory coffee shop destination. Be forewarned that the track is classified as ‘fine gravel’ but it is a solid riding surface with a small sealed section (4km) between Millgrove and Warburton.
Generally, I avoid the hill of Mount Evelyn and start at Wandin North (27.8km from Warburton) where the car park is visible from the road on the way into town. This gives a decent 55.6km round trip stopping in Warburton for lunch. But if you have a party of different abilities or just don’t feel up to that distance, then just motor down the Warburton Highway a few more towns and jump on the track there. Our other popular starting points are Woori Yallock (21km/42km return) or Yarra Junction (8.5km/17km return). Check out the Rail Trail website for the location of the car parks. Where the track rolls right into town (like Yarra Junction) they are quite evident but others may need a little back street navigation.
The advantage of riding towards Warburton is that you get to see the spectacular backdrop of the Yarra Ranges mountains as the nice flat valley opens up around you. This along with a fine assortment of coffee shops when you arrive in town. Don’t forget that the Yarra River runs just behind the shops so spend some off bike time admiring the fast flowing river.
The highlight of a mid-track coffee/lunch stop is the Carriage Café near the Seville Station stop. Since we often start at Wandin North it is a nice place to stop on the way back with just a few km to go back to the car.
Not just for cyclists or horses, the Warburton Rail Trail is a fine walking destination. It is also a popular training walk for a more adventurous undertaking. Again the short distances between stations/towns mean that you can easily tailor the walk to your needs. This is also backed up by a bus service that runs along the Warburton Highway which means you don’t have to backtrack, as long as you have a bus timetable.
If you are up for a sneaky weekend away that isn’t too far from home, I can recommend adding in an overnight camp to really get away from the weekday grind. If you are feeling adventurous you could even pack up the panniers and enjoy the freedom of cycle camping (a great combination of activities in my book).
The Warburton Caravan park is just beyond the end of the rail trail so it can be the destination or the beginning of your Rail Trail trip.
If you are prepared to venture a little further away, the Upper Yarra Reservoir (24km from Warburton) there is a less expensive and more laid back camping option that is still dog-friendly. I have done this as a cycle camping destination which meant I had to venture off the bike paths.
Another two spots I haven’t stayed at but are on my to-do list are Doone’s Reserve Caravan Park in Yarra Junction and Starlings Gap in the Yarra State Forest (recently stumbled across when doing the ‘Walk into History’).
These spots all appear to be dog-friendly, which can be important if you want a quick weekend getaway.