West of Stromlo: ride on the far side

The Mount Stromlo Observatory (MSO), Mount Stromlo Forest, Western Canberra

Mount Stromlo Forest is a large reserve on the slopes of Mount Stromlo. West of the mountain, many creeks run off undulating hills into the Murrumbidgee River, and have cut into the clay to form deep creek beds.

You are permitted to ride Mount Stromlo Forest on the management trails. This is generally true in all Canberra nature reserves with few exceptions. Mount Stromlo is famous for the network of “single tracks” on the east side at Stromlo Forest Park. These trails are specifically meant for mountain bikes but do not be surprised if you find walkers there too.

Looking towards the Murrumbidgee River across leased farmland
A sign on Stevens Break and Bennett Fire Trail management trail, Mount Stromlo Forest, Western Canberra
A signed intersection on Stevens Break and Bennett Fire Trail management trails, Mount Stromlo Forest, Western Canberra

A hardtail mountain bike is recommended as maintenance of the management trails is poor. The management trails at Stromlo are better than most other Canberra nature reserves. The management trails are mostly gravel roads with a well-compacted base. Some fitness is required as the hills can be long and quite steep.

MTB Stromlo West 3 loops, Mount Stromlo Forest, Canberra. Source: Bike map view, OpenStreetMap
MTB Stromlo West 3 loops route (blue), Mount Stromlo Forest, Canberra. Source: Bike map view, OpenStreetMap
Cooper Fire Trail is long and winds its way between Uriarra Road and Cotter Road

The name Mount Stromlo Forest is misleading. There is little natural forest as it was hit by a searing bush fire in 2003, which destroyed everything including the ANU observatory on the mountain peak.

The west side of the mountain is largely forgotten and much prettier than the more popular east side. The Brindabella Range is visible in the distance. Horse riding is permitted in the area and the paddocks are to the south on Uriarra Road. Most horse riders do not ride north of these paddocks.

Brindabella Range behind Brown Hill (790 m)
Tower at the end of the ANU Ionospheric Trail, Mount Stromlo Forest, Western Canberra
Tower at the end of the ANU Ionospheric Trail, Mount Stromlo Forest, Western Canberra
Open me please, the gate on ANU Ionospheric Trail management trail, western slopes of Mount Stromlo, Mount Stromlo Forest, Canberra
Open me please – gate on ANU Ionospheric Trail management trail, western slopes of Mount Stromlo, Mount Stromlo Forest, Canberra
Cattle gird on the ANU Ionospheric Trail management trail, western slopes of Mount Stromlo, Mount Stromlo Forest, Canberra
Cattle gird on the ANU Ionospheric Trail management trail, western slopes of Mount Stromlo, Mount Stromlo Forest, Canberra

Deep Creek, at the back of the mountain, is spectacular but very steep. There are many other surprises for those that like a rural landscape. This is a hot tip for the gravel grazer in Canberra, with its long hills, sweeping turns, and a well-compacted surface that is far better than found in most Canberra reserves. As it is quiet you will see many animals.

Deep Creek, Mount Stromlo Forest, Molonglo Valley, Canberra
Deep Creek, western slopes, Mount Stromlo Forest, Molonglo Valley, Canberra
Just in case – emergency phone at a junction point of the single trails
Komoot MTB Stromlo West 3 loops, Mount Stromlo Forest, Canberra
Komoot MTB Stromlo West 3 loops, Mount Stromlo Forest, Canberra

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