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The Glow Worm Tunnel: Lithgow to Newnes

The Glow Worm Tunnel: Lithgow to Newnes

Distance:
101.4km

Time:
2 days

Difficulty (1-10):
6

Total ascent:
1469m

% sealed:
15%

% dirt:
80%

% singletrack:
5%

% hike-a-bike:
5%


Once a thriving shale-mining town, Newnes is now a ghost town - abandoned save for a few residences, and the famous Newnes Hotel (a pub with no beer). Make sure you bring lights for the Glow Worm Tunnel - it's pitch black! This ride is best enjoyed in a group, as it makes the hike-a-bike after the tunnel much easier.

Route notes

Day 1

Starting at Lithgow train station, you'll ride past some of the town's historic infrastructure: a shot tower, and an old rail yard. The road quickly turns to dirt as you enter the State Forest, and you climb up to the pine plantations. Chug along this for a while and you'll find yourself back in native bush, and then you divert down the Glow Worm Tunnel Road (there used to be a train running along this path, and you pass through several cuttings and short tunnels). Stop along the way and carefuly climb some 'pagodas' (as the fragile rock formations are called) - the views from the tops are spectacular.

After a very pleasant downhill you'll find yourself at a carpark - from here you'll need to walk your bike along the walking track. There is an awkward section where you'll need to carry your bike through a very narrow set of stairs - you may need to remove your bags, and having someone else to help you is extremely useful!

Soon after you'll find yourself in the Glow Worm Tunnel, which at 400m gets extremely dark in the middle. You'll need good lights to pick your way along the uneven eroded ground, but make sure you stop and turn them off in the middle to soak up the pale blue pinpricks of the glow worms themselves.

Emerging back into the sunlight, there are a few more sections of awkward bike-carrying before you pop out spectacularly halfway up a cliff, looking out over the Wolgan Valley. There's more bike-lifting over washed out gullys, interspersed with some flat (but often quite narrow) dirt track. If you do ride these sections, take it extremely slow, watch out for the cliff edges, and be aware that you're sharing it with walkers.

The track gradually drops down to meet the Wolgan River, and crossing at the ford, you'll find yourself at the Newnes campground. Backtrack along the Wolgan Road and you'll find the Newnes Hotel, where you can buy snacks, drinks and ice creams.

Day 2

Head back out of Newnes along the main road. When you pass the Emirates resort, the road becomes sealed (no corrugations for the clientele of this fancy establishment). Soon after you'll pass Donkey Mountain (if you have an extra day and you're feeling adventurous, we'd recommend ditching the bikes at the base and hiking up to enjoy a night amongst the caves and canyons - the navigation can be tricky though!)

The hills start to undulate a little more and eventually you'll find yourself at the base of the steep and winding climb out of the Wolgan Valley. Enjoy the spectacular view at the top, and get your breath back! Soon after, turn off the road onto the dirt again, onto Blackfellow Hands Trail. This very scenic dirt road will climb ponderously back up through the bush to join the day 1 route, and then you can roll back down into Lithgow.

 

Map & GPS

Important details

Water and food sources

You are riding on the ridge for most of the day, so there is no water available between Lithgow and Newnes. Take as much as you will drink in one day. You can fill up from the Wolgan River, but you must treat this water.

Snacks, ice-creams, drinks, and some tinned food can be purchased from the Newnes Hotel.

Weather and when to ride

This ride is best done in the shoulder seasons. Summer can be extremely hot and dry, with the risk of bushfires, and in winter it can get below freezing.

What to ride

Not for road bikes, but any tyres 32mm or larger should be fine. The roughest bits are unrideable, and the rest is fairly good dirt road (though some of it can be quite corrugated, so bigger tyres will definitely be more comfortable). 

Additional resources

Newnes Hotel facebook page