As a mountain biker, it's hard not to fall in love with Orange, NSW. Three hours inland from Sydney, nestled in the rolling hills of the Central Tablelands, Orange has been steadily building its profile as a superb destination for a weekend away on the trails.
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With a passionate club, super active trail builders, all-year riding weather, regular race meets, properly equipped bike shops and a healthy cycling vibe throughout town, it’s got all the foundations to grow into one of the leading regional mountain bike destinations in Australia.
Over the years we’ve made many a trip west to spend some time on the singletrack that laces its way through the pines of Kinross State Forest, though we’d never found the time to explore beyond the confines of the 25km Kinross network. But in recent months, local mountain bike stalwart Rodney Farrell has been in our ear, with near-weekly phone calls: “Guys, you have got to come ride Mount Canobolas. We’ll do some proper mountain biking, on a proper mountain.”
Lately, the excitement in Rodney’s voicemails had begun to reach a fever pitch, and with good reason.
The determined voices of a few visionaries with the Central West Off Road Bike Club had captured the ear of Orange City Council and a seed was planted. Pointing to the hugely positive impact that mountain biking has had on towns like Forrest and Atherton – and the huge numbers of riders travelling to destinations such as Mt Buller – the CWORBC crew began to spell out their vision for Orange: a dedicated and large-scale mountain bike park on the slopes of the Mt Canobolas.
Canobolas lies just outside of Orange, overlooking the town from a towering 1430 metres above sea level. It’s a deceptively massive mountain – the rolling surrounds leave you unaware of its bulk – but when you find yourself on its peak, as we did one chilly morning, the scale is awe-inspiring. The terrain is incredible too, with ridge lines sprawling in all directions, huge granite outcrops, gorgeous native bush and endless swathes of pine. In short, its the kind of canvas that trail builders can only dream of.
“You’ve got to come out here and see the potential,” Rodney urged us. And so we loaded up the Flow Mobile, packed the knee warmers, and headed west once again.
Rodney was right. Mount Canobolas is potential defined. In just a few hours, we rode all kinds of awesome trails – from flat-out fireroads, to steep chutes, to jump-riddled descents through the pines. But what got us most excited wasn’t the stuff we rode, but the stuff we could imagine riding in the future. The sheer scope of Canobolas gets your mind spinning with possibilities.
All the boxes are ticked: Incredible terrain; an established riding community; a pre-existing reputation as a mountain bike destination; great weather; proximity to a capital city; plenty of accommodation; stuff for a family to do; bike shops… The only thing needed now is a council to push the go button and trail builders to put shovel to soil.
If the Canobolas Trail Project goes ahead, it’s no exaggeration to say we believe that Orange could become Australia’s own version of Rotorua. Here’s to putting the Can in Canobolas!