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Snowy Mountains: Riding in the Jagungal

The Jagungal Wilderness, located in the Kosciuszko National Park, is a focal point for cycling in the Australia's Snowy Mountains. It offers an unusual amount of access for bicycles, which is a function of its recent history as a grazing area. A network of management trails of varying quality criss-cross the landscape, providing people with a fantastic way of covering longer distances.

We (Chris and Ollie) have had the privilege of riding through this area on the 2016, 2017 and 2018 Hunt 1000 rides, and we've now organised three "Rumble in the Jagungal" rides over the Easter long weekends. We're by no means experts on this area, but we know enough to want to share it with other like-minded cyclists.

Aboriginal people have had strong connections to this area for many thousands of years - here's some more information about those cultural links. If you're riding in the Jagungal, you're riding on Ngarigo land.

Access and timing

Remember this is an alpine area, so it's often covered in snow. Check the forecast before you leave, and plan your trip between October and March.

Public transport to the Snowy Mountains leaves from Canberra. It's fairly limited and you will need to book, and make sure they're happy to take your bike (you may be required to box it). There's a bus to Cooma, and from there you can ride to Adaminaby. The same bus then continues on to Jindabyne, which is closer to the southern approaches. Starting from or ending at Cooma or Jindabyne will add about 80km of riding each way.

Denison Campground, near Adaminaby, provides access from the East. There's a toilet and you can camp there. You will need to cross the Eucumbene River immediately, which can be impassable when in flood, but outside of the spring snowmelt should be forded easily. The closest huts are Mackays, Happys and O'Keefe's.

Round Mountain carpark, to the north, is the closest to the Jagungal itself. There's a toilet and, while there is no campground, the Round Mountain hut is only 500m down the trail. Derschko's hut is an easy day's ride from here.

Guthega Power Station is a good southern starting point. From there you can ride up the Schlink trail, past the Schlink "Hilton" Hut, and turn onto the track to Valentines Hut. If you're coming from the south-west, Geehi Reservoir is at the other end of the Schlink trail.

The huts

Undoubtedly one of the most attractive feature of the Snowies is the presence of historic huts. These were largely built for graziers, and they are overwhelmingly very basic. They should not be used for accommodation except in emergencies, and extreme care should be taken with fire around these huts - many have burnt down.

The Kosciuszko Hut Association has produced an excellent interactive map that allows you to browse the huts of the Jagungal and beyond. Please consider joining the KHA, as your membership supports the maintenance and protection of these historic huts.

The trails

Not all of the trails in the Jagungal Wilderness are open to bicycles, so please be sure about whether your planned trip is allowed. If in doubt, check with the Kosciuszko National Parks office. The following map gives some information about popular trails that are open to cyclists, plus huts and water sources.

Lines marked in green are sealed roads; yellow are dirt roads; orange are dirt trails; and red are particularly rough dirt trails (you'll be walking at some points).

 

Routes and itineraries

You may be surprised how slowly you move, particularly if you don't have much experience riding on rough terrain with lots of weight on your bike. Even experienced riders may find they average about 8km/h in parts. Be realistic about your itinerary and distances to cover in a day. If you can cover 50-100km in a day road touring then 30-60km a day might be equivalent in the Jagungal. 

Although you shouldn't sleep in huts other than in emergencies, many of the huts do have toilets and established campfire rings nearby, so it's best to camp near huts and use those facilities.

Here are some recommended routes. They vary in distance and difficulty - use your own judgement about what you're capable of before attempting them.

2 days
Round Mountain Carpark -> Dershko's Hut -> Return
Round Mountain Carpark -> Dershkos Hut -> Hell Hole Creek, Dargans Trails, Tooma Rd, Round Mountain Carpark
Guthega Power Station -> Valentines Hut -> Return

3 days:
Denison's Campground -> Mackay's Hut -> Round Mountain Hut -> Happy Jacks Rd, Denison Campground

4 days:
Round Mountain Carpark -> Dershko's Hut -> Valentines Hut -> Wheeler's Hut -> Round Mountain Carpark

Bike and equipment

We recommend 2" tyres as a minimum to enjoy the trails of the Jagungal area. Tubeless is a good idea, otherwise the rocks will have you pinch-flatting with some regularity. Use the easiest gearing you can fit on your bike - there are some very, very steep bits (as a guide, a 32t front ring and a 50t rear sprocket with 29x2.2" tyres worked well for Chris).

The ideal bike is something like a Surly Karate Monkey - you'll be able to strap bikepacking bags to it, and you'll have sufficient rubber and volume to climb the uphills and enjoy the descents.

Can you get away with using narrower tyres? Only you can know the answer to that. If you are an experienced offroad rider, then probably - but you'll need to go slower, and be wary of pinch flats. 

It can get really cold at night, even in summer - be prepared for sub-zero temperatures.

Once you enter the national park there are no shops or places to get more food, so you need to be absolutely self sufficient regarding both supplies and emergency/repair equipment. There are also no bins, so you need to pack out all your rubbish. There are toilets near huts but you need to bring a trowel and toilet paper in case you get caught between them. The principle of Leave No Trace applies - if you're not sure what that means, check in with us first!

All water needs to be treated, as giardia (a nasty parasite) is widespread in this area.

Surrounding areas

Looking to turn your jaunt in the Jagungal into a longer ride? Check out the Hunt 1000 routes (20162017, 2018 and 2019) which pass through this area. Other events like the Cloudride are also in the vicinity. There are untold kilometres of dirt roads that traverse the Snowy Mountains - why not plan your own adventure along them?