Fred Flintstone may have done it but gravel grinding isn’t what you think.

Wilma, can you feel the burn yet?!

Gravel grinding is cycling on roads that are not bitumen. It’s the step between mountain biking and road biking and gets you off main roads, into backroads country and even the wilderness.

Although many of the preferred routes include some component of blacktop pavement, it’s the unpaved roads that are the drawcard for the growing ranks of gravel grinders: dirt, sand or gravel.

You’ll see lycra-clad gravel grinders all over the back roads of the Barrington Coast, our hinterland roads are perfect for this new cycling trend.

Read a story about gravel grinding around Gloucester in here.

Barrington Coast 500 cycling event (photo by Max Mason)
Barrington Coast 500 cycling event (photo by Max Mason)

There are even some dedicated events for gravel grinders here in the Barrington Coast:

This valley truly feels like it’s in a world alone.

Thunderbolts Adventure is a 250 km ride with 5,000 metres of climbing over two days. This loop ride starts and finishes at Gloucester, staying overnight at Moonan Flat on the far side of Barrington Tops.

Barrington Tops trail in the Barrington Coast 500 cycling event.
Barrington Tops trail in the Barrington Coast 500 cycling event.

Barrington Coast 500 is a brand new event for 2020 with a 500 km ride and over 6,000 metres of climbing over three days. This ride can be divided into two 250 km rides if you prefer: the coastal portion that features our spectacular lakes and coastline; or the mountain portion that features Barrington Tops – the highest point of the Barrington Coast.

Cobark to Rawdon Vale scenic drive entry
Rawdon Vale Road from Cobark to Gloucester Tops

The best country roads for gravel grinding in the Barrington Coast

Here's just a couple of starters. These roads will often will have a bitumen component, depending on where you step onto the saddle.

1. Cobark to Gloucester Tops via Rawdon Vale Road

If you’re looking for the best all-gravel road for your gravel grinding dreams, then this is it! It’s 40 km of very scenic unsealed heaven if you decide to push it all the way to the top of the plateau at Gloucester Falls. You’ll need a vehicle drop-off at the corner of Rawdon Vale Road and Scone Road and you can decide where your driver will pick you up as there are a few interesting options…

Starting from the Cobark intersection, Rawdon Vale Road winds through a broad valley that’s been mostly cleared for cattle grazing, crossing the Barrington River and the Kerripit River. You’ll pass by the historic homestead of the Laurie family who have been graziers here since the earliest days of AACo’s neighbouring Port Stephens Estate. The high forested ridges that surround you in every direction are the foothills of Barrington Tops, Copeland Tops, Gloucester Tops and Craven Plateau. This valley truly feels like it’s in a world alone.

Rising over the ridge at the southern end of this valley you’ll make a short downhill run to rest your legs before coming to the intersection at Gloucester Tops Road at Invergordon. If you finish your ride here, you’ll have covered 13 kms of gravel road but you will miss out on the best yet to come.

Gloucester Tops

So follow the signs heading towards Gloucester Tops, it’s one of the dazzling emeralds in the Barrington Coast crown. This is the upper reaches of the Gloucester River valley and your gravel road includes 6 river crossing on concrete causeways. Yes, you’ll get your feet wet 6 times so pack fresh socks if that bothers you.

One of the attractions of this road is the small herd of Scottish Highland cattle you’ll likely see. And did you know that the correct name for a group of them is not a herd but a fold? Say hello to them as you negotiate past them on the causeways… they like the cool river water.

You also pass the Gloucester Tops Riverside Caravan Park which can make a good overnight spot if you want facilities. But if you’re happy with a remote camping experience then continue just a few more kms into Barrington Tops National Park where you’ll find the NPWS Gloucester River Campground. This is an awesome camping spot next to the Gloucester River hidden by tall forest.

It’s now 23 km from where you started at Cobark so maybe this is enough gravel grinding for one day. You can camp here or get that vehicle pick-up you arranged earlier.

Or you can continue up the mountain if you really want to feel the burn, it’s 17 km all uphill, but your reward is Gloucester Tops: a lookout, river walks, waterfalls and mossy cascades hidden in deep forests of Antarctic beech. You’ll fall in love with Barrington Tops right here!

The road to Gloucester Tops
The road to Gloucester Tops

2. Invergordon to Faulkland via Gloucester Tops Road and Faulkland Road

If you wish to visit the beautiful attractions at Gloucester Tops another time you can simply continue eastwards along Gloucester Tops Road heading toward Gloucester. However the gravel road becomes bitumen not far from the Invergordon intersection and the roads in this area are now mostly all sealed. The varied scenery along this road through the Gloucester River valley is beautiful and worth the effort: it’s 23 km to where Faulkland Road meets the Bucketts Way.

Faulkland and the Buccan Buccans

Remember to turn left off Gloucester Tops Road onto Faulkand Road and then follow this winding route as it traces the Gloucester River, with 2 more river crossings to get your feet wet again. Here you’ll see the approach of the Buccan Buccans (Bucketts Mountains) from an aspect not often seen by visitors: up close and personal.

Stop a moment to admire these remarkable rocky cliffs that were described by the AACo’s Robert Dawson, the first European to see them in 1826, as “monuments in the wilderness, like the turrets of a fortified place with the appearance of ivy-clad ruins.” And then give more thought to the aboriginal inhabitants, to whom this place has been sacred for 60,000 years or more. Not fortified, just blessed.

If you’ve done the whole route from Cobark to Faulkland via Rawdon Vale Road and Gloucester Tops Road, that’s 36 km of which one third was gravel. We hope you found some happy endings to your gravel grinding dreams here. And don’t forget to change your wet socks.

The Buccan Buccans viewed from Faulkland Road
The Buccan Buccans viewed from Faulkland Road

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