Everything you need to know to conquer the hills of the Victorian Alps.
The mountain rises from the valley floor as an imposing beast, which is likely why the explorers Hume and Hovell titled the expansive lump of rock Mt Buffalo. Its giant granite formations can be viewed from as far away as the Hume Highway and the Great Alpine Road that both bring visitors into the region. The mountain’s tough exterior hides the beauties that lie between the granite outcrops. Waterfalls descend from the plateau to feed raging rivers and swimming holes. Heading in the opposite direction, though, is what road cyclists dream of. A squiggly line of asphalt that makes sense of the towering madness to take those willing on a journey to the top of the beast’s back.
The adventure is best begun from the Alpine town of Bright where there are plenty of accommodation options that cater to cyclists. Bright is a mecca for cycling, with vast numbers of riders using the town as the base for mountain bike as well as road cycling adventures. The ride can also be started from the Eurobin Creek Picnic Area that serves as the entrance and start of the Mt Buffalo National Park climb.
The ride from Bright to the Eurobin Creek Picnic Area and the start of the 21km climb is a good warm up for what’s to come. The road is undulating and takes you along the Ovens River to the natural gum forest of the National Park. There are toilets at the Eurobin Creek Picnic Area, which makes it a good place to pause briefly before the climb begins.
The official 7 Peaks Strava segment starts just after the stone Mt Buffalo entry sign and from there, the climb starts its journey up alongside the Eurobin Creek. The opening section past the Eurobin Falls carpark features the only two frightening gradients of the climb. Though even they pale in comparison to the tough sections of the other 7 Peaks.
This is a theme that makes the Mt Buffalo climb such a favourite with so many riders. Its gentle gradients of around 5% and 6% are manageable for most riders. Some will struggle, especially given its length and the constant effort required. But the challenge can be overcome, and it is the exertion that makes the end so rewarding after all.
By halfway, you will have passed the amazing vistas over the Ovens valley and climbed alongside the alternating natural gums and rainforest ferns to reach the false flat. This marks the crossover point from the natural forests to the granite faces you can see from afar. Up close, these mammoth slabs of rock are imposing but they also let you know that the top is not far off. The lack of tree cover allows more views - with almost the cream of the crop coming at Mackey’s lookout.
The best view, though, is reserved for the very top. The climb ends after a short downhill and fast run to the Mt Buffalo Chalet, with the official end coming at the Chalet’s stairs - although it’s best to go up the road just a bit further to make sure the Strava KOM is triggered. Then you can come back to the carpark and enjoy the amazing view of the Gorge and Alpine region as you catch your breath!
If you need to get your 7 Peaks passport stamped in person, you’ll need to head out towards Lake Cantani and stop off at the Park Visitors Centre. If you have the energy, you can add on another 20km with the 10km rolling climb to The Horn. There is a bit of dirt to overcome but the 360 degree views are certain to wipe any pain away.
When you should ride Mt Buffalo
It’s best to hit the climb during quieter times if possible, such as mid-week or during non-holiday period weekends. If you are in the region during a holiday period, aim to climb before 10am to miss the traffic as the road can get very busy.
Where to stay
Staying in Bright is the best option with a wide range of accommodation options at various price points. Check out Bright Escapes for cycle friendly accommodation options at: brightescapes.com.au
Where to eat
The Rail Trail Café in Porepunkah is a great option for a coffee or food before the climb and the ‘Punkah’ Pub can be hit after the climb to replenish your fuel reserves for the next test!
Starting point – Eurobin Creek Picnic Area
Finishing point – Mt Buffalo Chalet Stairs
Distance – 20.4km
Height gained – 1015m
Average gradient – 5%
KOM – Brendan Canty 49:08
QOM – Nusha Kerin 1:02:59
Paper Passport Stamping Station
Park Visitors Centre - Mt Buffalo Road, Tuckerbox Corner. 9am to 5pm most days
Pacing – The even gradient calls for a steady pacing strategy. Pro rider Brendan Canty’s KOM climb averaged 359 watts for the first 10 minutes and 362 watts for the last 10 minutes before the plateau. Controlling your effort for the opening section’s steep parts is key and will pay off towards the top.
Food – You can fill up at The Gorge carpark in front of the Chalet from the food van or the Dingo Dell Café out towards The Horn.