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Mt Coree
View of the northern Brindabella Range from Mount Coree

Route: Brindabella Valley, Picadilly Circus, Cotter, Canberra.
Distance: Minimum 54 km

The ascent from the Brindabella Valley to Picadilly Circus is over 600 vertical metres and about 10.5km long. The first few kilometres is the steepest section and is sealed. The rest is unsealed and steadily climbs up the flanks of Brindabella Mountain (1322m) before arriving on the apex of the range (and the ACT-NSW border) around 1280m above sea level. The whole climb took us just over an hour.

Brindabella Valley
The initial climb out of the Brindabella Valley

Once on the Brindabella Range, there are a number of ways to make descent to Uriarra in the Murrumbidgee River Valley, as well as a couple of side trips to explore the mountains.

Mount Franklin Road (side trip) from Picadilly Circus
The unsealed Mount Franklin Road heads south for 24kms along the range and gives access to some of its highest peaks, all within Namadgi National Park and Bimberi Nature Reserve. Note that camping is prohibited in this section of the park. The road passes Bulls Head (picnic area, toilets, tank water, shelter; 4km from Picadilly Circus), Mount Aggie (1496m, walking track), Mount Franklin (1646m, shelter, toilets, walking track; 20kms from Picadilly Circus) and terminates at Mount Ginini (1762m; 24km from Picadilly Circus, good views). A firetrail continues beyond Mount Ginini, but bicycle access is prohibited. The Mount Franklin Road may occasionally be closed to vehicles when there is deep snow; below is a photo I took while cycling it on a snowy day in April 2009.

Mt Franklin Road
Mount Franklin Road near Snow Gum Hill

The Mount Franklin Road also gives access to alternative routes into the Murrumbidgee Valley, such as Bendora Road – Warks Road (see the route of the The Brindabella Epic, and annual mountain biking event) and Bendora Road – Pipeline Road. The second of these routes is likely to be impassible at the Cotter River ford if water is running over the Bendora Dam spillway.

Picadilly Circus to Uriarra via Mt Coree and Two Sticks Road (37km) - map
In my view, this should be the preferred route for this tour. The unsealed Two Sticks Road heads north along the Brindabella Range for about 15km before snaking its way down the flanks of the range into the Murrumbidgee River Valley. Passing through the Brindabella National Park and Brindabella State Conservation Area, the road is surrounded by beautiful native forests and is closed to 2WD traffic. Moreover, the descent is very gradual. But the most compelling reason for taking this route is the 5km return side trip to Mt Coree (1421m).

From the four way intersection at Picadilly Circus, take the unsigned road north which journeys more or less along the apex of the range. This is Two Stick Road. Along the way one catches views of the Tidbinbilla Range to the south-east and the dramatic granite cliffs of Mt Coree. After 8km, turn left onto Pabral Road to access Coree Camp (200m from intersection) and the Coree Summit Road. The free campground has picnic tables, fire places, pit toilets and an information display. A nearby creek has been dammed to create a reliable source of water. The dam was full in December 2010, when I cycled through.

Coree Camp Mt Coree
Coree Camp Mt Coree from Two Sticks Road

Find somewhere near the campground to dump your panniers, and head up to Mt Coree. I found my hybrid with 38mm tyres road adequate for the summit track, but it would have been much more difficult with a loaded bicycle. From the top of the treeless summit, one gains a spectacular 360 degree panorama of almost the entire Brindabella Range and the surrounding mountains and valleys, including unobstructed views of Canberra.

Summit of Mt Coree
The summit of Mt Coree


View south of Mt Coree
View south of Mt Coree (left to right): Tidbinbilla Range, Scabby Range, Brindabella Range, Cooleman Mountains, Fiery Mountains

Return to the campsite and continue back along Two Sticks Road, passing several small dams and the ruins of Coree Hut. There are several smaller 4WD tracks branching off Two Sticks Road in this area, none of them marked. A good map, such as the ACT 1:100 000 topo, is essential. From the saddle just north of Devil's Peak, the road descends very gradually into the valley. The Blue Range Road branches off Two Sticks Road after another few kilometres, and would probably provide another good route into the valley. Other potential routes (such as the forestry roads linking Two Sticks Road with Uriarra forest) are likely too steep for loaded bicycles tourists.

One word of warning for those doing the trip in reverse. The entrance to Two Sticks Road from Mountain Creek Road is rather obscure, with no official road sign and blocked with an unlocked gate.

Picadilly Circus to Uriarra via Brindabella Road (18km)
The Brindabella Road provides the quickest and easiest route into the Murrumbidgee River Valley. The road is unsealed for about 9km and sealed the rest of the way. It offers spectacular views over Uriarra Forest to Mount Coree, with occasional glimpses of Canberra. Water is usually available from Condor Creek, which meets the road some 10kms from Picadilly Circus. Blue Range Recreation Area is located 2.6km (uphill) off the Brindabella Road and includes camping and picnic facilities.

Mt Coree
Mt Coree and Uriarra Forest from Brindabella Road

Uriarra to Canberra
From the junction of Brindabella Road and Uriarra Road, there are two ways to cycle to Canberra: either via Uriarra Road or via Cotter (Brindabella Road). My general advice is to take the Brindabella Road all the way to Cotter and then head up Cotter Road toward Canberra. There are good views of the Tidbinbilla Range to the south. Cotter is a recreational precinct adjacent to Cotter Dam and the confluence of the Cotter and Murrumbidgee Rivers. It has two main picnic areas: Casurina Sands on the east bank of the Murrumbidgee and the other by the Cotter River downstream from the dam. Both have toilets, picnic tables, shelter, play equipment and barbecues. The former is better for swimming while the latter is preferred for short walks in the area. Between the two is a campground with a tiolets block, hot showers and free electric barbecues for under $10 per person per night.

Murrumbidgee River
Murrumbidgee River at Casurina Sands

In contrast, cycling Uriarra Road takes one close to the Canberra sewerage treatment plant. At Uriarra Crossing there are a number of picnic areas, though not nearly as nice as those at Cotter. However, there is one good reason to consider this route. Cotter Dam is currently being enlarged, which means that part of the Cotter precinct is closed and that the volume of heavy construction traffic on Cotter Road makes cycling unpleasant (to say the least!). Construction is scheduled to finish by the end of 2011. Visit ACTEW-AGL's Cotter page for latest updates.

Whether you take Uriarra Road or Cotter Road, both meet on the south-east side of Mount Stromlo (770m). The mountain was devastated by the Canberra bush fires of 2003, but is now home to Stromlo Forest Park, which hosted the 2009 UCI Mountain Bike and Trails World Championship. Individuals are welcome to cycle the course free of charge without booking, provided there is no major event on. An off-road cycleway links Mount Stromlo with the centre of Canberra. It begins as a broad dirt track from Uriarra Road (about 100m from its junction with Cotter Road) and runs parallel to Cotter Road for a kilometre. Here it crosses Cotter Road and becomes a sealed, signposted cycleway. Cross Cotter Road at the traffic lights (intersection with Streeton Drive) and continue along the cycle path, which heads down to the Molonglo River and follows it upstream to Scrivener Dam. Just before the dam, there is a three-way junction. Turning left takes you to Canberra around the north side of Lake Burley Griffin (the recommended route), while turning right takes you around the south side of the lake (as was cycled on Day 1). From here it is about 8km to the centre of Canberra.

© 2010 Robert Taggart. Last updated 31 December 2010.