Among the skeletons of Alpine Gums burned in the 2009 bushfires in the foothills of the Victorian Alpine is Lake Mountain Resort. A mere two hours from Melbourne, Lake Mountain is many Victorians’ introduction to snow, with 35km of nordic ski trails, a tobogganing hill, snowshoeing and more.
As the snow melts, the wildflowers begin to bloom, and Ben Reynolds, Lake Mountain’s Head Trail Builder, begins to clear deadfall from the resort’s signature mountain bike trail, Cascades.
“Over about 30km, you can break the ride up into five decent descending sections, and they’re all different. Up at the top, you have that beautiful dark loamy topsoil, and then down at the bottom, you have that red clay that you can sculpt into anything,” says Reynolds. “You won’t find anything like Cascades anywhere in Victoria.”
Need to know
- Lake Mountain resort is a little under two hours from Melbourne
- The Cascades trail is a 28km ride descending from the resort down to Marysville
- At the top of the resort, there are about 20km of trails in addition to the XC ski trails, which are open to bikes.
Opening in 2019, the Cascades trail runs from the resort down to the town of Marysville, with about 1550m of descending and only about 500m of climbing — so you still net a kilometre of gravity-fueled action.
Briony Hickey, Lake Mountain Resort’s Visitor Experience Supervisor, tells us they have had folks coming back six or seven times a year to ride Cascades.
While a 28km adventure trail that has people returning for seconds, thirds and sevenths is quite the drawcard, this quaint little mountain resort is looking to become anything but little, aiming to more than double its offering of singletrack.
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Trails at the resort
Lake Mountain Resort sits on the doorstep of the Victorian High Country, in close proximity to the Buxton Mountain Bike Park, the Narabethong Downhill, and just across the valley from Warburton.
All up there is about 20km of mountain bike trails at the top of the resort, and the 35km of XC ski trails are also open to riders.
The main trail in the Lake Mountain alpine is the Granite Grind XC loop, which hosted an event of the same name in the early 2010s. The event is no more, but the 9km old school XC loop is still there for riders to relive their glory days, and plans are in motion to majorly increase the amount of purpose-built singletrack on top of the mountain.
“We have a grant approved for a pump track that is hopefully going in this summer. We have another 50km of trail (in the pipeline), with the potential for more in the very near future, so the trails will be expanding up at the top here quite a bit in the years to come,” Hickey says.
These additional trails are still early days, and nothing has been approved just yet, but Hickey and Reynolds hinted they are looking to take advantage of their placement at the top of a mountain.
“I think what we are going to concentrate on, with new trail at the top will be more gravity-fed descending trail. At the moment, most people come up, ride Cascades, and don’t hang around for the day. So what we are trying to do is have the pump track up top, and maybe two or three hours of riding at the top, so people can come up and hang out on weekends and camp at the resort. Then they can do Cascades the following day,” says Reynolds.
According to Reynolds, a lot of folks don’t realise you can camp up at the resort. It has facilities like toilets and showers, and there are plans to keep the bistro open late so you can get a slice of pizza and a beer while you’re up there.
Breaking the Boundary
Lake Mountain will also become the Victorian hub for Breaking the Boundary, a not-for-profit that advocates for adaptive mountain bikers. Part of the development at the resort will be expanding its adaptive friendly offering, starting with the new Kestrel loop opening in November.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that Cascades is a shuttle run that is mostly descending. Our own Wil Barrett has ridden here a handful of times, and every trip he’s met riders who bit off a bit more than they could chew. It’s a point to point trail that covers quite a bit of ground; it requires a bit of fitness and more than a single water bottle, but the challenge is part of its appeal.
The first part of Cascades runs along Granite Grind for about 5km and climbs up to the summit before the adventure down the mountain begins.
The alpine transitions into ferns as you descend towards the ticket box. Lake Mountain Road marks roughly the halfway point and once you cross over Hickey and Reynolds tells us you’re committed until Marysville, but they also say this is where the fun begins.
“You get a mix of dirt all the way down the mountain, a mix of loam and clay, and there is some natural rock mixed in to make things interesting. The big (6km) descent gives you about 15-20 minutes of gravity, just descending through flowy berms, it’s pretty unique for Victoria,” says Reynolds.
The bottom section that connects to Marysville is aptly named Red Hill because the dirt is bright red clay that can be meticulously shaped into berms and jumps.
“Red Hill, which is the lower section of the trail, is great and can basically be a ride in itself if you follow Lady Talbot Drive from town. It runs along the Taggerty River and climbs up to some jump lines that descend into Marysville. The trail ends right out in front of the local pub (the Duck Inn), where most people stop,” Hickey says.
Even though Cascades itself is still relatively new, Reynolds also tells us that it’s always evolving, “We’re always working on the berms, making them bigger and steeper, making new jumps and features we didn’t have before — we want to make it flowy, safe and more exciting.”
Shuttles, rentals and other adventures
While other Victorian Ski resorts like Falls Creek and Mount Buller use private shuttle outfits like Blue Dirt to ferry riders, Lake Mountain runs all its own shuttles. Depending on the snowpack, uplifts will run for nine months of the year.
As soon as the snow begins to melt, Reynolds and his crew will be working their way up from the bottom, clearing deadfall to open the trail, and it will remain open until June. If the runoff is slow and the snow sticks around longer than normal, the resort will open the bottom section of Cascades while the top thaws.
In fact, with the recent change to Covid restrictions in regional Victoria, the lower section of Cascades will be opening on Friday, 24 September!
During the summer, the gate is open, and there is no resort entry fee. Shuttles cost $30 for a single uplift, or $55 for a multi-shuttle pass. Hickey tells us for the opening of the lower section on Friday, a multi-shuttle pass will be $30.
The shuttles leave from the Lake Mountain Visitor Centre located in Marysville. Through a partnership with bikeNOW in Melbourne, the visitor centre has a bike shop inside, and a fleet of 30 Rocky Mountain rental bikes, split between naturally aspirated and e-Bikes — though the fleet itself will live at the top of the mountain.
Beyond riding around the resort, hundreds of kilometres of fire roads stem from Lake Mountain and lead to alpine huts sprinkled through the region, making for endless possibilities for overnights and backpacking adventures through the alpine.
The local beta
Options for food and drink are limited to the bistro at the top of the mountain. In Marysville, Reynolds and Hickey say you have to have a pub feed at the Duck Inn, which is right at the bottom of Cascades.
For a caffeine fix, Fraga’s, The Keppel Cafe, or Elevation 423 are their picks in town.
Reynolds also says to stop through the Marysville Country Bakery, one of the few places in town that survived the 2009 fires.
Being located at the edge of the Victorian Alpine, there is no shortage of adventure potential and cool things to see off the bike, like the 84m tall Steavenson Falls, or you can go hiking and camping in the Cathedral Ranges National Park. If you’re an angler, you can work on your backcast and chase trout in one of the many alpine streams or visit the Buxton Trout Farm for more of an introduction to fishing.
Or for something a bit left of centre, Bruno’s Art and Sculpture Garden is sure to deliver kooky delights.
For more info on Lake Mountain Resort and Cascades, or to book a shuttle, head over to the resort’s website.
Photos: Lake Mountain Resort, Rob Blackburn / Visit Victoria, Mark Chew/ Visit Victoria,