Railway Reserves Heritage Trail
Directions - Starting at the Mundaring Sculpture Park, from Roe Highway take Great Eastern Highway up into the hills until you reach the centre of Mundaring. Take a right turn at Nichol Street and follow this until the end where you'll find a car park for the Sculpture Park. The trail head is located on a series of undercover panels telling you about the different trails that run through the area.
The Ride - The Railway Reserves Heritage Trail is one of the more popular places in the Perth Hills to enjoy a walk or a ride and over the years it's one that I've visited on a few occasions without ever writing it up for the website. Running either side of Great Eastern Highway and utilising the old rail formations, this trail is an awkward length to walk but is perfect for a bike ride. My initial plans involved trying to walk the entire loop with my dog Sadie but bad weather got in the way and as the trail goes through John Forrest National Park, I needed to figure out a detour to avoid that section.
Because of that, plus it would take about 8-10 hours of my life for a trail that I know is nothing spectacular on foot thanks to walking most of it on the various Oxfam Trailwalker events over the years, this was always at the back of the future trails list. With a renewed interest in mountain biking thanks to joining my podcast partner on a couple of Munda Biddi trips over the winter of 2020, I have scheduled in my own end to end for August 2021. Because of that plus a motivation to get a little fitter, I have been riding my road bike a lot over the summer. Purchasing a new mountain bike for the Munda Biddi, it arrived a month earlier than expected so was keen to take it out for a spin on some gravel tracks. Switching my longer weekend ride from road to gravel, I travelled up into the hills to tackle the 42km Railway Reserves Heritage Trail (RRHT from now on) that I last cycled way back in January 2015 and did not enjoy thanks to my bike fitness being sub-optimal. With a bit of training under my belt this time, I was sure I would enjoy the experience and decided I would write up the trail from a cycling perspective instead of hiking as I think it's the better way as I'll detail over the course of this post.
This also marked the first time I would be taking out my new Nikon D5600 that had been purchased after the demise of my short lived D7500. Having tried to use a shoulder strap when cycling the Kep Track late in 2020, I realised that I'd need a better solution to having the camera handy for shooting cycle trails so also invested in a Peak Design Camera Clip that attached nicely to one of the straps of my hiking backpack. Being right in the heart of the suburban area of the Perth Hills, access points are frequent and very accessible so there are plenty of options if you want to start/finish in a different location. I chose the Sculpture Park because that's where the trail head is and decided to go in an anti-clockwise direction so I could ease into the riding and finish with the big uphill climb. After checking out the trail head, I spotted the Munda Biddi northern terminus and smiled because in five months time I would be here with a fully loaded bike and a 1100km ride ahead of me to Albany. Keen to see what the new bike was like on gravel, I took a few photos and headed off in an easterly direction. Joining up with the Kep Track, this section would be very familiar as I'd cycled it a few months prior as it heads all the way to Northam.
The first section towards the crossing of Great Eastern Highway is a mix of the high walled corridors of rail formation and connecting pavement to reach the highway crossing. It was nice to see the new Kattamordo trail markers in person after a big effort to bring that trail back to life by a group of passionate trail enthusiasts but I didn't enjoy seeing the cleared section of trees either side of Halifax Place thanks to the Mundaring Men's Shed. Crossing the highway you join back onto the rail formation and it's a really enjoyable ride all the way to the junction at Mount Helena. The high walls of the formation shroud you in the illusion of being in the forest despite houses, roads and other development hiding just over the banks. Heading mostly downhill towards the first of many information boards telling you about the history of the railways at Sawyers Valley, the morning light through here was spectacular. One of my favourite spots of the whole trail is a long downhill corridor of Marri trees that during my visit had the sunshine pouring through a slight mist at the end. Scenes like this are the reason I like heading east in the mornings and it seemed I wasn't alone with a group of gravel bikers doing the same. The new camera clip was super easy to use and the camera wasn't bumping around as much as I thought or pulling my backpack into weird angles so a big tick so far.
After crossing over the water pipeline that runs all the way to the Eastern Goldfields, the track takes a mix of wide gravel roads and more beautiful rail formation before reaching the trail junction. Here the Kep Track takes a right hand turn and heads off to Chidlow and Wooroloo , which also happens to be the route of a there and back extension to the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail. If you're looking to do an extra 20km then you can add this on but the main loop heads left at the junction and starts looping back on itself. Passing the Mount Helena Tavern, you can stop in for lunch or a sneaky beverage if you like or simply continue on. This marks a very long downhill section all the way to the underpass of Great Eastern Highway that lasts about 19km so a great time to ease off and let gravity do the work (for the most part). While the trail is mainly wide gravel tracks, this meant I could make up some time that I'd lost by stopping so much for photographs. This was going well until I heard the familiar calls of the Kaaraks (Red-Tailed Cockatoos). I wasn't the only one with another couple of cyclists stopped on the side of the trail watching the playful birds having a munch on the gum nuts of the various eucalyptus trees that had flowered over the summer. With my camera easily accessible I whipped it off the clip and started snapping away with various success. I love these birds and it's always fun to watch them go about their business.