Red carpet, Barwon Flow and more | The latest on the Forrest, VIC revitalisation project

Forrest has been attracting mountain bikers to the Otways since the mid-2000s, filling the void left by the logging industry. Since then, Forrest has built a reputation as a family-friendly trail network and hosted the Otway Odyssey for the better part of two decades.

With the trails built when 29in wheels were just hitting the scene, mountain bikes and the way we ride them have since changed quite a bit. So last year, Forrest began turning dirt on a major revitalisation project that involved upgrading its network and a new suite of gravity trails.

Forrest is one of Australia’s original mountain bike destinations, and with that, it’s no surprise that it’s also one of the first to undertake a major refurbishment.


Red Carpet refresh

A pillar of this upgrade is to refurbish the 4.5km Red Carpet descent, focusing on improving drainage and fixing up some of the features that were a little worn out.

“We don’t have a lot of elevation compared to a lot of mountain biking destinations,” says Evan Lewis, Project Manager from the Victorian ​​Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. “Red Carpet provides one of those larger elevation opportunities for Forrest.”

Adrian Marriner of Living Trails, who built a number of the trails in Forrest the first time around, was picked for the re-carpeting of Red Carpet. As it happens, this upgrade took place during the one of the wettest winters since the trails were built, compounded by COVID, which meant that the work took longer than expected.

Adrian Marriner — the namesake of Marriner’s Run — spent a good portion of last year improving the drainage of Red Carpet and updating some of the features.

Red Carpet is one of the major drawcards of Forrest, and with that Lewis didn’t want to shut the entire trail down for the duration of the work — especially with the delays.

“During the upgrade, we actually opened parts of it (Red Carpet) because we didn’t want to keep it closed for too long. In hindsight, what we’ve learned is that we should have just waited. There have been reports from people who rode it during that period who thought it was finished when it wasn’t, which were less than glowing,” says Lewis.

“It was a challenging year, and it took longer than what we expected, but the end result is great. We’ll get a lot more in terms of riding that through the winter this year, and it will hold up better,” he continues.

As the fresh carpet was laid down on the southwestern end of Forrest, a planning permit was making its way through the approvals process that would allow the trail to be extended.

“As part of the next stage of the upgrade, Dirt Art will be extending the lower part of Red Carpet,” says Lewis. “What we’ve done so far is a bit of a taster, but I think what is still to come will take it to the next level.

Red Carpet is only the start of this re-carpeting effort in Forrest.

What about the rest of the network?

Forrest has two trail networks, the Yaugher network north of town and the Forrest network to the South — all of the stage one upgrades focus on the latter. As everything has been going on with Red Carpet, Distinctive Trails has been turning dirt on Third Time Lucky and Follow the Dog in the southern network, while Dirt Art is soon to get rolling on a revamp and extension of Roller Coaster.

“We have been updating the features on these trails and implementing some realignments to take out some of the steep straight bits and get better flow. We’ve been upgrading berms, and there are some pretty dodgy features out there that were built with logs that have rotted over the last 15-years. We’re focusing on better features, better surfacing and better flow – I think everyone will be super excited when they see the result,” says Lewis.

Forrest has also been working with Breaking Boundaries to improve their adaptive friendly trails, and these updates are being designed to handle handcycles and include adaptive friendly infrastructure.

Once all of this work is complete, every trail in the southern network will have received a significant upgrade.

Barwon Flow Trails

Starting on top of the hill to the east of the Barwon River, Forrest is getting a new gravity zone, aptly named Barwon Flow Trails. Dirt Art was supposed to begin turning dirt on three trails — two descending and one climbing — just before Easter, however, the start date was delayed by a positive COVID test on the trail crew.

“Dirt Art has designed a new network of premium gravity flow trails, which will provide us with a sustained descending experience that will really add to the variety of Forrest. Like I said, we haven’t got a lot of elevation opportunities in Forrest, and what Dirt Art has come up with capitalised on the elevation that we do have to create these new trails,” says Lewis.

Dirt Art will be adding a gravity zone to what has typically been considered an XC centric trail network.

The Barwon Flow Trails will form an hourglass shape with a climbing trail running up one side. The beginner and intermediate descending trails meet at a node in the middle before continuing down the hill, and riders can mix and match the descending trails or lap the top or bottom section.

As the name suggests, these will be flow trails, and with the addition of gravity riding to its network, Forrest is not pretending to be something that it’s not.

“We haven’t got those massive steep hills in Forrest, so it will be predominantly beginner and intermediate, with some advanced features, but really family-friendly. So we want to capitalise on that, and we’re working to the strengths of what we have in Forrest and expanding on what we’ve been about for the last 15-years,” says Lewis.

What about the Yaugher Trails?

Back when we initially reported on the Forrest revitalisation, it was outlined to us that the second stage of the project would see 38km of fresh singletrack being laid down to bring the overall total in Forrest to the magic 100km mark. The first 8km of that is already in the works with the Barwon Flow Trails and the trail extensions currently happening south of town.

“When Dirt Art did the detailed design for us back in 2020, they provided that for both the southern network and the northern network, and a lot of that was around creating stacked loops,” says Lewis.

When stage two of the upgrade kicks off, the Yaugher network will be reorganised into stacked loops, with some trails changing direction and a few realignments.

“Forrest is really fun, but navigating it can be challenging at times, so Dirt Art really focused on creating a series of stack loops so that everything flowed a bit better and was easier to navigate. When we get to the Yaugher upgrade, that will look like a few different alignments and changes of direction,” he continues.

As far as how that additional 30km will fall is still in the very early phases of development — in part because the project team is still working to secure funding.

Lewis also explains that in the Yaugher Trails, they also have Phytophthora root fungus (also known as root rot) to contend with, that may require some realignments and mitigation like bike washes, but those plans are still in the works. Even still, Lewis tells us his goal is to have them up and running by the end of 2023.

“The Yaugher block is so good, and they have been around for a while and just need that little bit of love and attention,” he says.

Forrest will still be the trail network we all know and love, it’s just getting a new coat of paint.

Forrest Trailhead

To summarise Dirt Art’s assessment of the Forrest trailhead is, “well, there isn’t one.” So that is being rectified.

Beyond the typical toilet blocks, BBQs, and parking, Velosolutions will be building an asphalt pump track and an intermediate and advanced jump line. The skills park is also getting a ground-up rebuild, much to the delight of the local school kids, who Lewis tells us are out there every day.

He also hinted that adaptive riders would have something to look forward to on the pump track and in the skills park, but he wasn’t at liberty to share exactly what that is just yet — stay tuned, folks.

Lewis tells us that his goal is to have the stage one upgrade, including the Barwon Flow Trails and the pump track ready to roll for summer 2022/2023. For the most up to date information on what’s happening in Forrest, head over to the Colac Otway Council website. 

The upgrade to Forrest is happening fast, with new and revamped trails set to be ready by next year.

It appears you're using an old version of Internet Explorer which is no longer supported, for safer and optimum browsing experience please upgrade your browser.