The 40 km Fainter Trail is arguably the best of the mountain biking routes from Falls Creek to Mount Beauty township. It has fantastic views, a reasonable amount of single track, some technical rocky fire trail, less climbing than some other routes (although still substantial), passes interesting features and a finale of the Survey single track into Mount Beauty. The route starts in the higher levels of the Falls Creek ski resort near the Ruined Castle rock out crop it descends down to Pretty Valley Pondage, climbs up wind around mounts North and South Fainter, past Bald Peak, and dropping to Big Hill and the Mount Beauty mountain bike park. The route passes through saddles between the Fainters, at Bogong Jack and The Springs. On the route you pass Pretty Valley Hut, Tawonga Hut, Bogong Jack Hut and Springs Saddle Hut ruins. The start point is on the road to Pretty Valley near the turnoff to the Mt McKay loop and Road 24. This is effectively the top of the climb out of Falls Creek village, and avoids the 200 metres of ascent fro the Slalom Plaza car park. The ride finishes adjacent to Mount Beauty golf course club house, half a kilometre one way to Kiewa View and half a kilometre the other to the main street.
This route is in a remote alpine area, with no services, lack of vehicle access for substantial sections and intermittent mobile coverage. The route is physically demanding especially so as a result of tree falls due to dead trees as a result of the devastating 2003 bush fires. The number of blockages vary as the track is cleared every year or so and then more trees fall particularly over winter and spring, so you may find substantial blockages of the trail in dozens of places and navigating these will consume both energy and time. Lifting bikes through repeated blockages can be more tiring than uphill climbs. Accidents do happen in mountain biking, often when least expected, equipment fails and people get unwell. If things go wrong in areas like this you are a long way from help and it is a long time to walk out. Planning, preparation, fitness and common sense will minimise the risk.
When to do this ride
Falls Creek is a ski resort, the official snow season can run from early June to the beginning of October. For the vast majority of mountain bikers the most enjoyable experience will be to avoid riding this route through the snow. The conditions vary from year to year but normally the winter snow will have melted by early November and snow falls before before mid-May do not last. Snow can and occasionally does fall here on the Australian Alps any time of the year, even at Christmas on rare occasions. However the closer to Summer the shorter the time it stays on the ground. So planning to go the ride in November or May may give a slightly increased risk of an late or early snowfall. Staying in the area for longer gives more flexibility. If you are staying in Mount Beauty for a week in November or May you are almost certain to have a suitable day to ride the route. North East Victoria can get very hot in summer. However it can be up to 14 degrees Celsius cooler on the first half of the route than down in the valley. By starting early it would be a rare day that you could not get past the Fainters and all the main climbing is over before the heat. You would only need to be flexible by a few day to avoid an extreme heat wave that would make it unsuitable.
The total ride profile is deceptive because of the overall almost 1,500 meters of decent. There is some serious climbing on the Fainter trail and most but not all is in the first half to MT Fainter. You get a better impression by just looking at the profile for the fist half of the ride. However most of the climbing is not technical and is wide trail.
The most logical and convenient base for mountain biking in this area including the Fainter Trail is Mount Beauty which is located approximately half way between the Town of Bright and the ski resort of Falls Creek. The township of Mount Beauty has a hospital, doctors, ambulance station, full supermarket, pub, cafés, shops and full town facilities. Expect to find accommodation in Mount Beauty cheaper than Falls Creek. Outside the snow season there is no bus service between Mount Beauty and Falls Creek.
On the day to ride the Fainter trail drive the 30 km to Falls Creek with the mountain bikes. If you have a spare vehicle leave at least one vehicle at Mount Beauty.
Drive directly to Falls Creek. There are many things to do and see on the way to Falls Creek, but not today a prompt start is important for this challenging ride.
From the Slalom Plaza car Park at Falls Creek village it is a further 4 km to the start of the trail. It is best to continue driving to the start of the trail. Starting at Slalom Plaza is an extras 200 metres of vertical ascent which you do not need on this demanding day. Save exploring the riding around Falls Creek village for another day if possible.
The trail head point is open and flat with plenty of room for parking beside the road.
At the end of the ride you can use the car left parked at Mount Beauty to shuttle the driver or drivers to their vehicles parked at the start. If you had space you could ferry the bikes back to Falls Creek for some riding near Falls Creek if you have the energy to spare.
A preferred alternative may be to spend the rest of the day close to Mount Beauty. Some easy scenic rides like such as the River Ride and Pondage Loop, combined with a BBQ back at your accommodation in Mount Beauty or a visit to a local winery. Particularly attractive if you can ferry the bikes back to Falls Creek in the vehicles left at Mount Beauty. You can therefore spend the following day riding the trails at Falls Creek after you have retrieved the vehicles parked at the start.
If you do not have a spare vehicle to leave at Mount Beauty you could ride to Falls Creek preferably the next morning when you are fresh to pick up the vehicles parked at the start. Alternatively you could take a taxi or if you are lucky hitch hike from Mount Beauty. If you plan to take a taxi back to Falls Creek you may find it more convenient to park your vehicles at Slalom Plaza car park and start your ride from there.
Planning and Preparation
It is advisable to ride the Fainter trail in a group of at least three. Particularly so if you are not experienced in this sort of back country riding or are not experienced at bushwalking and navigation. If one person is injured or seriously delayed, the second person can stay with them and the third can go for assistance. If you have less than three persons you would be well advised to be carrying a Personal Locator Beacon (EPIRB).
Make sure your bike is well maintained. No fun having to carry it out 25 kilometres.
Organise to carry a tool kit that contains at least a chain breaker and spoke spanner and know how to use them. Carry spare tube, patch kit, pump and rear drop out.
If you start by 8 am you should reach Mount Beauty by lunch time. But make sure that you carry enough food and water in case you are delayed.
Check the latest weather forecast before you depart. Carry clothing for the extremes of weather you may encounter, not just the weather at the start.
Do not start if the weather forecast is for a possible storm during the period you may be on the trail. Exposed on the High Country is no place to be when a storm hits.
If you are using a dedicated GPS or GPS application on a smart phone for navigation, make sure you have;
At least two GPS devices in your party
Each has back-up battery
Each has off-line maps loaded for the area
Each has the Waypoints and Route loaded.
Complete the Kiewa View Intentions Form and relay this information to a responsible person who will raise the alarm if things go wrong.
Agree a time with your contact person as to when they will report you overdue.
If things change substantially in regard to timing or route before you start or during the ride try to advise the contact person.
Advise your contact person as soon as you arrive in Mount Beauty.
The start point can be a bit tricky so here is a small video clip and a satellite image that may avoid wasting time on the wrong track at first.
At this second fork go right beside the white vehicles.
The start point can be a bit confusing as there are a number of dirt roads close together. The service track to the ski lifts as actually much wider than the road to Pretty Valley. After you pass under the second chairlift, the Eagle chairlift, there is a T intersection with a service road to the Summit which goes to the start of Thunderbolt and High Voltage mountain bike trails, ignore this and continue straight and come to the first fork. The fork to the right goes to Mt McKay and Road 24, go left here. You then come to a second fork. The main road appears to go left, but in fact this is a service road which eventually makes a u turn down towards Rocky Valley Dam. At this second fork take the Pretty Valley road to the right. In the image above the track to take for the Fainter trail is the blue line.
A further advantage of driving to the start point is if you are unsure as to the correct way to take you can explore by vehicle before unloading the bikes.
Some views of the Trail
Before riding the Fainter trail I could not find a lot of good specific information about the track. How much was simply fire trail, how technical? I was delighted to find that virtually the whole route was rideable, more than half was single track, with great variety and views and even some of the fire trail were rocky fun sections. To help others to get some idea what the route is like I have put together a collage of short video clips of various sections mainly in the first half of the route. Note that trees that died in the 2003 bush fires will continue to fall for many years. Depending on when the last clearing was you may find a few blockages or you may find two or three dozen.
We are a family of skiers, mountain bikers and road cyclists and our family has owned Kiewa View holiday house in Mount Beauty for over 40 years. We especially cater for cyclists with a garage for under cover storage and maintenance of bikes, facilities for bike cleaning, clothes washing and drying facilities and free WiFi.
During our Economy season for over half the year during Spring, Summer and Autumn our rates mean that Kiewa View is great value with as few as three mountain bikers who can each have their own room. Even cheaper if you are prepared to share. Deals include weekend, mid-week, week and 9 nights.