THE RUN TRAIL HOT LIST: MELBOURNE, BRISBANE + SYDNEY!
Long days and summer holidays offer trail running adventures aplenty! If you’re looking for that next, new off-road hit, check out these dirty gems.
Just 6km from the Brisbane CBD, Mt Coot-tha Forest has more than 1500 hectares of open eucalypt forest. The area has everything you could want for running trails – plenty of steep climbs, challenging single track, fire trails, plus plenty to look at along the way. There’s lots of wildlife scampering about, views out to the Gold Coast and More ton Island from the Mt Coot-tha Lookout, and several waterfalls (the JC Slaughter Falls and Simpson Falls are the best) that run well after summer rain – also a time when you can get the added challenge of creek crossing. The weather can completely change your running experience – you can be on dusty tracks one day and playing in mud on another (especially February to April).
The park has around 50km of tracks with routes catering for all levels of fitness. Try the ‘Mt Coot-tha Circuit’ (18km) starting from Gap Creek Park. If you want to pick up your endurance, you can cross over from Mt Coot-tha straight into Brisbane Forest Park, where you could run for days!
Take care along the tracks in Mt Coot-tha, as they are usually shared with MTB and horse riders. Also note that access to J.C. Slaughter Falls and the Simpson Falls picnic areas is restricted each night from 7pm to 6am.
Download a track map here.
OTHER FAVOURITES: Daisy Hill Conservation Park, Bunyaville Conservation Park, Karawatha Forest, Samford Conservation Park.
In Melbourne you have to go a little further afield for true trail running, but it’s well worth the trip to the Dandenong Ranges (about 40km from Melbourne CBD).
Sherbrooke Forest is a cool temperate rainforest that rings out with the sound of lyrebirds. It’s full of beautiful fern gullies and it teems with wildlife such as wallabies, echidnas, cockatoos and rosellas.
Sherbrooke Forest is about 800 hectares in area and slopes from north to south from 500m at Ferny Creek, 400m at Kallista and about 200m at Belgrave, with steep sections on Paddy Road and Welch Track. The western section of the forest is very popular with trail runners, probably in part because it’s reasonably flat and the tracks are soft underfoot – trail running paradise! The trails can also get particularly misty in the mornings, especially in Autumn.
There’s a spider web of tracks through the forest so you can make a loop as short (try the 7.4km Sherbrooke Loop from Belgrave train station) or as long as you like. For a long run, try joining up with Hackett Track and Monument Track, which are favourites with serious trail runners in the area.
See here for track maps and take note of parking areas – some are equipped with toilets and drinking water.
OTHER FAVOURITES: Two Bays Trail (Mornington Peninsula), Churchill National Park, Lysterfield Lake Park, ‘Rat Trail’ coastal run from Black Rock to Brighton.
Garigal National Park, Seaforth Oval to Roseville Bridge
There’s a wonderland of trail running in the Blue Mountains to Sydney’s west, but there are also many trails very close to the CBD and harbour. For a particularly technical and scenic run, head to Seaforth Oval, where you can do a 10km (one way) section of the Harbour to Hawkesbury track along Middle Harbour.
You first descend to Middle Harbour where you soon hit the idyllic Bantry Bay Picnic Area, the site of an old dance hall. It’s tempting to stop there, but if you press on you can hit a serious rock scrabble up to the Bluff Lookout, where you have stunning views all up Middle harbour and out to the CBD. Beyond this, you’ll pass a diverse range of trails, including a super-skinny section crammed up against a fence, a creek to follow and a sand section at Flat Rock Beach. Looking out across the water, you’ll also see the odd and kind of eerie ‘Magazine Buildings’, now a ghost town of constructions that, up until 1974, were used to store explosives.
The track ends Under the Roseville Bridge at Davidson Park. Both the start and end points have good parking plus toilets and water.
OTHER FAVOURITES: Manly to Spit Bridge, Fiddens Wharf and Riverside walking tracks at Lane Cove National Park, ‘Awesome Audley’ run in Royal National Park.
GENERAL TRAIL RUNNING TIPS
- Check fire warnings for any National Park you enter. If it is closed, take heed - it's not worth the risk of getting caught up in a bushfire or back-burning.
- Always carry a phone and let someone know where you're going and how long you expect to be.
- Beware of leeches after rain. Spray yourself down with a tropical-strength repellent. 2XU Performance Run Calf Sleeves will also provide a deterrent for your lower legs, plus they offer some protection against scrapes from rocks and thorns, in addition to helping reduce fatigue.
- Wear shorts that allow you to have essential close at hand such as gels, food, sunscreen, sticking plasters, etc. The new 2XU Xtrm Short does a great job for trail runners because they're light and breathable, plus they come with a very handy rear side pockets for both ventilation and storage, a centre rear zip pocket and rear dual gel belt loops.
- Even if it's not cold, you might want to consider wearing running gloves to protect your hands while scrabbling up rocks, pushing branches and thorns aside, and handling rusty old fence or barbed wire.
- Keep a towel handy - it can be useful if you cut yourself (to control bleeding or to clean up a wound before dressing) or get covered in mud. The 2XU Quick Dry Towel is highly absorbent and quick to dry, plus it's super-compact.
- Have a clean set of clothes to change into when you finish - be sure to pack some Recovery Compression Tights because the sooner you slip them on, the better they can do their job of promoting circulation for improved oxygenation of muscles (so you can recover better).
Plan on hitting any of these or other trails this summer? Share your favourites and photos on social or tag us with @2xu_australia.