Once known for its booming mining towns, lutruwita / Tasmania’s West Coast has since been rediscovered for its wildness. Eager adventurers have been exploring the wild West Coast on foot and by paddle for some time, but the newest kid on the adventure block is mountain biking.
We acknowledge that this adventure region is located on the traditional Country of the palawa people who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians of lutruwita / Tasmania and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
West Coast’s Wild & Woolly Trails
World-class trail builders have been tasked with crafting trails all over Tasmania’s rugged West Coast. With terrains that vary from cool, temperate rainforest, to alpine plains, and windswept coastlines, the West Coast now offers MTB trails for experienced riders, newbies, and families alike, so everyone can enjoy the stark beauty of the region from the saddle.
These rugged trail networks span across two main areas: Mt Owen at Queenstown and the Heemskirk Range at Zeehan, where the trails are being expanded and will be ready to ride just in time for summer! There are also other riding opportunities spread around the region near towns like Rosebery and Strahan.
We’ve peddled our way through the region to bring you five unmissable MTB trails on the West Coast for both beginners and highly experienced riders.
Don’t forget! When out on the trails, ride to your ability. Given the unique terrain of these remote trails, aim to start on a trail one grade below what you normally ride; the trail conditions change daily and it’s best to get familiar with the area before embracing something turbo.
1. Welcome to Queenstown
Location: Mt Owen – Lower Mountain
Skill level: Beginner with intermediate sections
Wanting to test out the Mt Owen trails? Start on this beginner/intermediate trail on the Lower Mountain Network to get a taste of what this region has to offer. The first half of the trail is a good climb, so put your pedal to the metal and you’ll be rewarded with the expanding views as you head higher. Taking in a view that expands out towards the Southern Ocean and along mountain ranges while on a trail is pretty speccy!
Despite being on the lower half of the mountain, Welcome to Queenstown still boasts some challenges, so previous mountain biking experience and bike fitness are recommended. That’ll help you enjoy the uphill, before sending it on the downhill, with berms and rollers that’ll kickstart your adrenaline.
Insider’s Tip: For your last lap on a clear day, aim to reach the top of the trail in the late afternoon. Watch Mt Owen turn amazing hues of orange and pink as the sun hits the pink conglomerate cliffs. Be sure to leave enough time to make it back to town before sunset for a well-earned beverage.
Check out the full Mt Owen trail network for info on other trails in the area. Just remember the Upper Mountain Network is more technical and requires a higher degree of experience.
Location: Mt Owen – Upper Mountain
Skill level: Intermediate
Mt Owen really is putting the mountains back into mountain biking, and at just under 10km, you’ll appreciate the features packed in by the world-class trail builders on the masterpiece trail., Waterfall.
Starting from the shuttle drop off point up on Mt Owen, book your shuttles ahead of time through Owen Spur Shuttles as the upper mountain is not accessible via pedalling. Weave through conglomerate boulders and heed the caution notes for this exposed trail – the West Coast is full of mountains, not molehills.
Embracing the scenery, the trail continues past the top of Horsetail Falls, before plunging through varying features into the valley below Mt Owen. Keep some snacks handy for the final switchback climb out of the valley, and head onto the flowy Welcome to Queenstown descent to get back to the base.
3. Montezuma Falls
Skill level: Beginner
Accessed from the Montezuma Falls car park just outside of Rosebery, this trail is popular among hikers and mountain bikers alike. What was once a tramway route through cool temperate rainforest, is now a great introductory trail for beginners and families, with the added bonus of checking out Montezuma Falls – Tasmania’s tallest waterfall which is spectacular after rain.
This meandering trail gives you plenty of time to enjoy the views of the ancient rainforest and soak up all the shades of green. Once you reach the falls, walk along the narrow suspension bridge for a different perspective, before starting the pedal back to the car park.
If you finish this trail and are frothing for more, Ocean Beach is another great beginner trail worth a look.
4. Natural Selection
Location: Mt Owen
Skill level: Very Advanced
To get to Natural Selection, take The Owen Spur Shuttles up Mt Owen, then get ready to hike-a-bike! Starting just shy of the Mt Owen summit, the trail begins above the tree line at 1000m, and is a riding experience unlike any other in Australia.
Rated a double black diamond, this isn’t the trail to test your ego on, but certainly is a bucket list ride for any highly experienced mountain biker. With an atmospheric, technical big-mountain descent along the summit ridgeline, you won’t want to rush this one, so take your time and savour the experience! Speed management and bike control are essential skills to navigating the loose, steep surfaces, boulders, and rock slabs that this technical trail showcases.
Insider’s tip! Book your lift to the trailhead with The Owen Spur Shuttle. Each vehicle can carry up to six riders and their bike, with multiple departures each day, and year-round service. Just make sure to book ahead of time in summer to guarantee your spot!
5. Oonah Hill
Location: Trial Harbour Road in Zeehan
Skill level: Beginner
As the first purpose-built mountain bike trail on the West Coast, this thru trail near Zeehan is a great ride for almost all skill levels. The beginning of Oonah Hill starts with a meandering climb, through buttongrass plains around you.
With endless views, the descent is a flow trail to surpass all flow trails! As you head into the forest, be mindful of your increasing pace as the trail sets you up with perfectly shaped rollers and berms.
Although graded green (beginner), there are a few harder sections to this trail. Having some prior mountain biking experience is recommended to get the most out of the trail and keep the smiles coming for miles.
The Oonah Hill trail was the first purpose-built MTB trail in the region, and now forms part of the newly built Heemskirk Network, due for launch in late 2022 (hellllooooo summer!).
The trail diversity on Tassie’s West Coast is unlike any other riding destination, so when planning your next biking holiday, you’d be foolish to overlook these trails! The West Coast is raw, and mountain biking provides a different perspective to see these vast and unique landscapes.
West Coast MTB Trails Frequently Asked Questions
What do I need to bring when mountain biking in West Coast TAS?
Regardless of your skill level, there are a few items that you should always bring to help keep your riding days fun and safe:
- Full-faced helmet (essential)
- Glasses / goggles
- Knee and elbow pads
- Drinks and snacks
- Tool kit
How do I get to the West Coast trails?
Depending on which direction you’re coming from, the Mt Owen trails are just over a 3.5 hour drive from either Hobart or Launceston. Strahan is another 45 minutes southwest from Queenstown, and the Zeehan to Heemskirk area is 35 minutes northwest of Queenstown.
Do I need MTB experience before riding the West Coast trails?
In short, not necessarily, but the more experience you have the more trail options you have. There’s a trail for all skill levels on the West Coast, you just have to know where to look.
To ride at Mt Owen, you’ll need to be comfortable on a mountain bike. Although this network has the best trails for intermediate to advanced riders, there are still trails worth a look if you’re a competent beginner.
If you’re after a super beginner or even family-friendly trail, check out the trails around the Heemskirk Range, Tullah, Rosebery, and Strahan. If you’ve never ridden before, you can rent a bike from Moonscape MTB in Queenstown.
Where should I stay when visiting West Coast TAS?
If you’re looking to spend as much of your time outside enjoying the West Coast, there’s plenty of camping available. Check out Lake Burbury Camping Ground, Queenstown Cabin and Tourist Park, or Macquarie Heads Campground in Strahan for really affordable beachside camping.
If you’re looking to stay right in the hub of Queenstown, the Empire Hotel is a great location from which to base yourself or Comstock Cottage makes for a quaint and homely experience during any season!
Read more: If this article has whet your adventure appetite, check out our West Coast Tasmania Adventure Guide for our top spots to explore.
Leave No Trace
West Coast Tassie is breathtaking, and at We Are Explorers, we’re keen to keep it that way. So please remember to practice the Leave No Trace principles when out on the trails or anywhere you’re enjoying the outdoors. Mother Nature will thank you for it!
Photos thanks to Kristina Vackova, Dirt Art, Matt Staggs, Flow Mountain Bike, and Tourism Australia