Biking of all sorts is absolutely taking off in Cairns. We headed north to find out which trails you need to add to your must-ride list on your next Tropical North Queensland holiday.

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Countries on which these adventures take place who have occupied and cared for these lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Cairns boasts a winning recipe to be Australia’s top mountain biking destination. With a combination of warm winter months, geography that’s a trail builders dream, one of the only places you can MTB in a rainforest in the world, tropical beach vibes, and an array of activities to fill in those down days, Cairns has the biking life sorted.

In fact, Cairns is about to explode as one of the most popular places to ride in Queensland thanks to local clubs lobbying for more trails and pulling world-class events to the city. If you don’t have this place on your wish list yet, it’s time to bump it to the top!

Here are some of the best trails to hit around Cairns to make it your best biking holiday yet.

 

Smithfield Mountain Bike Park

Without a doubt the biggest drawcard to the Cairns MTB scene is Smithfield Bike Park. Smithfield has an exciting history as the oldest MTB park in the country, even hosting the first Australian World Cup event in the 90s.

This iconic bike park has approximately 40km of trails for you to explore and we recommend allocating a couple of days to sending it here. The park has everything from beginner single track to a gnarly world class level downhill track from back in the day.

The trails explore the tropical rainforest, eucalypt woodlands, gullies, ridges, and coastal plains and the park holds something for everyone no matter what skill level.

Reaching Smithfield Mountain Bike Park is an easy 20 minute drive from Cairns Airport if you’re keen to go straight from the plane to the trails, or you can ride a short 10-15 minutes from most local accommodation options.

1. Greenfields/ Echidna

Distance: 2.8km
Skill level: Green (Beginner)

Hang a left off Dan’s trail and follow the directional arrows. You can add on the Echidna section just after the gravel road crossing, and turn right into Echidna to extend the trail.

If you’re feeling adventurous, continue along the Greenfields trail back to Ring Road. This is a mixed-use trail so keep an eye out for hikers and runners. Depending on your pace allow 30 minutes to complete.

 

Cairns Bike Culture is Booming – We Went North to Find Out Why, Leonie Wohl, pics by @rideism

2. Caterpillars

Distance: 710m
Skill level: Blue (Intermediate)

You can find the start of this trail from the Centipede climb, the water tank climb or Whiskers O’Flaherty. This is one of Smithfield’s most well-known descent trails and has formed part of the UCI Cross Country World Cup track in past years. The trail begins with some tight ascending switchbacks known as ‘Jacob’s Ladder’. Once at the top the real fun starts – riders can expect a descent of fast corners, rollers and gap jumps to get the adrenaline pumping.

3. Pipeline

Distance: 4.3km
Skill level: Blue (Intermediate)

The trail starts at the top of the Bobbegong climb and finishes at the top of Barramundi.

What goes up must come down! This is a new trail to the bike park and a 4.3km flow trail with close to 300m of climbing and descending. This trail is on the upper end of a blue trail so great for a challenge and to take in the rainforest – allow for about an hour to complete this.

 

Port Douglas

4. Bump Track

Distance: 6km
Skill level: Blue (Intermediate)

No trip to Cairns is complete without experiencing Bump Track. Ask riders about trails at any bike shop and they’ll point you in this direction!

You can jump on a tour organised by Biked if you’re after some local knowledge or a little coaching on the trail. Confident and keen to explore the area on your own? You can also self-guide and ride down to the start of Bump Track from Port Douglas.

Bump Track is the iconic fourth day of the Reef to Reef Stage Race and was originally an Indigenous trail between the coastal and mountain regions. This section of trail caters for both beginners and experienced riders – a great day out for the whole crew.

The trail starts with a 2km incline from sea level up to about 400m and there’s a pinch point known as Staley Pinch about halfway. Once at the top of this climb, you’re rewarded with the flowy descent through rainforest. Watch out for the drop into Robins Creek – it can catch you off guard in wetter conditions.

This area links into several longer gruelling dirt road rides between 18-65km, perfect for that gravel grinder purist in your crew. Send them out on a loop and catch them at the pub later to swap stories on your day.

Davies Creek

With over 300 sunny days per year and a campsite nearby, Davies Creek is an ideal place to base yourself if you’re looking for somewhere a bit drier to ride if the coastal trails are closed from wet weather.

Davies Creek is accessed from the Kennedy Highway, approximately 13km from Mareeba, and has over 20km of single track trails and a little less elevation than the networks closer to Cairns. These trails have been adapted from old cattle trails.

 

Cairns Bike Culture is Booming – We Went North to Find Out Why, Leonie Wohl, pics by @rideism

5. Gateway Loop

Distance: 10km
Skill level: Green (Beginner)

The main trail and trailhead is known as Gateway Loop, a green trail that has equal ascent to descent and should take you around 45 minutes to complete at a casual pace.

If you don’t have a car, you can book a tour with Biked for the day who’ll provide you with transport and tips on the local trails.

Atherton Tablelands

Further west from Davies Creek, you’ll find Atherton Tablelands Mountain Bike Park. Out here, the landscape really starts to change and it’s typically a lot cooler here than on the coast and you’ll be able to find an array of waterholes nearby to cool off in after sending it downhill.

The trails here explore the open forest full of native trees and encompass a more rural setting across 70km of single-track, purpose-built for the MTB enthusiast. The green beginner trails are spread out over the lower elevation, with the more challenging trails found as the elevation increases. Keep an eye out for hand-built stone benches to rest a while and take in the views.

6. Trail 2

Distance: 5.2km
Skill level: Green (Beginner)

This trail starts just up from the bottom car park along the fire road. It’s a green trail that meanders around the flats crossing some creeks and should take riders around 25-30 minutes to complete.

7. Ricochet

Distance: 2.2km
Skill level: Blue (Intermediate)

Popular with gravity riders, this trail starts at the Hill Parking lot making it ideal as a shuttle loop to get in those hot laps with the crew. This gravity trail is filled with berms, jumps, and technical features that’s sure to get the adrenaline going and a few wahoos on the downhill.

Not a Mountain Biker?

8. Palm Cove to Kewarra Beach

Distance: 7km
Skill level: Green (Easy/Leisure)

Take in the early morning Tropical North Queensland vibes with a leisurely pedal along the coastal path between Palm Cove and Kewarra Beach. Hire a beach cruiser and make your way along this picturesque path, stopping in for a coffee at one of the many cafes. This ride is a great way to chill out after a few big days of exploring the region or to get yourself acquainted with the area for your end-of-day après.

 

Where to Hire a Bike in Cairns

A quick Google search will pull up around a dozen bike shops where you can hire, buy or get help with parts and service. You can hire any kind of bike from a beach cruiser to a dual suspension mountain bike to take on the world cup trail at Smithfield.

If skinny wheels are more your style you won’t be left behind, with most bike stores catering for the roadies and gravel grinders too – Cairns pulls big cycling events like the Grand Fondo each year after all.

 

 

If you’re after some local knowledge, a bit of a yarn, and are keen to jump on a tour or hire a bike, check out some locally owned stores that have been in the region for years like Biked, Pump ‘n’ Pedals or Discovery Cycles.

With over 700km of trails in the region, Cairns is an absolute haven for riders of all levels and the hottest (pun intended) MTB destination hit list. Whether you’re after a casual-paced pedal or keen to get the adrenaline pumping on some world-class trails, get on ya bike and head to Cairns!

 

Photos by Tourism Tropical North Queensland and @rideism