Nestled deep in the Hunter Valley, Barrington Bike Park is a brand new private riding spot on the verge of opening.
Situated on the same property as The Steps Barrington Camp Ground, Naomi Kilby and her husband have been running school camps and scenic mountain bike rides on fire trails for nearly 30 years.
“It had always been my husband’s dream to build a mountain bike park. We got to the point in our business where we were running mostly outdoor ed. We were finding it quite taxing and stressful to be responsible for other people’s children week in and week out, so we decided it was time for a change,” says Kilby.
The pair got out of outdoor education right at the beginning of Covid and soon after met Mat Rowland from East Coast Mountain Trails.
“Everybody got very excited, and we started building trails,” she says.
A new private bike park in NSW
Kilby and her husband own the tract of land that houses The Steps Barrington Campground, and when the property adjacent went on the market, they scrambled to buy it.
“It came up for sale when we were running school camps, and our bushwalk went through that property. We’ve had a lot of issues over the years, where we’ll have an agreement to use a portion of a neighbouring property. Then it gets sold to someone in Sydney who puts up lots of locks and says, ‘nope, we don’t want you on our property,'” she says.
Shortly after the sale went through they stopped running camps. This tract of land is on a sizable steep hill, and the Kilbys were trying to figure out what else they could do with it.
“Mat (from East Coast Mountain Trails) came along and said if it’s not vertical, I can build on it,” she laughs.
Kilby and her husband have guided visitors through the bush in this region for decades. They have understandably developed an affinity for their surroundings and are stewards of the area.
“We are really passionate about the environment that we work in, and have been really careful in building the trails not to disturb the rainforest any more than we needed to,” she says. “Our ethos is about getting people into a beautiful natural environment so that they learn to love it, and want to protect it moving forward.”
Nearly the vertical drop of Falls Creek, but in the Hunter Valley
With 12 descending trails on offer and 370m of vertical, the Barrington Bike Park has nearly the same drop as the Victorian ski resorts are working with, and trails across the spectrum of difficulty.
“There is a lot of dense rainforests, and there are fields of shale, some big house (sized) rocks, and lots of orchids. Down lower, there is open country that has been farmed for the last 20 years. It varies between clay, and the really dark (loamy) soil as well,” says Kilby.
For the time being, the trails at Barrington Bike Park will be shuttle access only, as it’s narrow four-wheel drive terrain towards the top — though, in the future, they may look at a climbing trail. Kilby tells us they have a fleet of troop carriers to ferry riders up the mountain. One pulls a purpose-built trailer that services the midpoint trailhead, while the vehicles heading to the top have racks that can hold six bikes on the back and four on the front.
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Kilby expects the two black trails, Dead Man’s Creek and Detonator, will be the pièce de résistance that people travel far and wide to experience, but the vast majority of the network is blue and green trails.
This is only the beginning for Barrington Bike Park, and they are already looking to expand the network and keep improving the trails.
There are lots of plans, and our approach to everything has always been continual improvements. So anyone who’s been coming to our campground for many years will know that every time they come, they will see something different. So it’s always fresh, and then people aren’t getting stale,” she says.
What to expect at Barrington Bike Park and what else is around?
Kilby tells us they are running pretty lean at the moment, with just portable offices and pre-packaged snacks available at the base area. Since it’s a camping ground, there is drinking water, toilets, shower facilities and a bike wash. They are in the process of converting a shed into a retail space that will house the check-in, a small bike shop with a mechanic and bike hire, as well as basic food and drinks.
“There’s also lots of other good trails in the region with Dungog and Kiwarrak, so we’re hoping that this will contribute to it becoming even more of a mountain biking destination where people can come and ride,” says Kilby.
What do you need to know about the Barrington Bike Park?
The Barrington Bike Park was initially scheduled to open over the Christmas holidays, but it started raining in December and didn’t stop till June. They had planned to open the first weekend in July, but with 100mm of rain in the forecast, they’ve pushed back again until things can dry out.
When the park does open its gates to riders, capacity will be limited to 60 people, but will be building towards 100 riders daily once they can get through the growing pains.
“That’s based on shuttle capacity and working within the limits of the property itself. It’s a rural road coming in, and it can’t cope with masses of traffic and we also don’t want to upset our neighbours,” says Kilby.
All of that is to say that bookings are essential and a day pass costs $90 per person or $60 for kids under 12. For more info on Barrington Bike Park, check out their website.
Photos: Ready Aim Media / Barrington Bike Park