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Hassans Walls (Lithgow)
Hinze Dam (Gold Coast)
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Manly Dam (Northern Beaches, Sydney)
Mt Joyce (Gold Coast Hinterland)
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Sparrow Hill (Kowen Pine Forest, Canberra)
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#ThursdaysTrail - Manly Dam - The Creek Fire Trail Descent
The Creek Fire Trail Descent on the Manly Dam MTB trail is quite different from any other fire trails I've ridden. It is an incredibly surprising section featuring a fast descent along an unforgiving rough, rocky and rutty surface. It's the intensity of those features that makes it my favourite section of fire trail on the planet.
That being said the thought of riding it fast always makes me nervous.
While I'm sure riders of all standards descend this track it's a step up from your average fire trail! The rough and rutty terrain combined with the long descent will be challenging for beginners. Also which ever way you go, the climb out is steep. In my opinion Manly Dam is not a trail for beginners however the fire trails are certainly the easiest sections of the Manly Dam loop.
About the Trail Centre:
Manly Dam has quite an eclectic mix of trail features and it seems to polarize riders. It doesn't have a great deal of flow but it's littered with a wide range of challenging technical sections - everything from rocky shoots, big rock drops, steps, ladder bridges, rutted rock slabs, creek crossings, narrow single track, low hanging trees, seemingly impossible technical climbs and magpies. The trail rings Manly Dam Reserve with a mix of single track, fire trail, footpath and a short road hill climb (gee it would be nice if they created a route through the bush!).
I recommend having a look at our full Manly Dam section for local info.
IMPORTANT: THIS IS A SHARED TRAIL .. Riders, walkers, families, dogs and RANGER 4WDs all frequent this trail. Ride with caution!!
The Creek Fire Trail Descent starts at the Wakehurst Parkway (at the end of the Wakehurst Parkway Sniggle) and runs down to the creek crossing, a short section of around 800m but it will take it out of you. Best Strava times are around 2 mins (almost a full minute faster than my video time) - my record is 2:30.
From the Wakehurst Parkway gate there is a short climb up a gravelly section of fire trail before it starts descending. From then on its downhill and could be easily ridden without pedaling. Brakes on the other hand, well you are going to need those.
The descent is quite steep at times and has a few unexpected surprises in the form of water bars that can throw you forward, small ruts that can pull your tyre off line and big ruts that you either need to avoid or hope that your suspension has enough travel. Most of the corners have fair visibility on entry however the exits are often rough and you may not have time to correct your line.
The trickiest corner on the trail is a right-hander at about 1:28 on the video, the view of the trail narrows and the section leading into the corner is rutted and can easily take your attention away from the trail ahead. I've been caught out not looking forward and my peripheral vision fooled me into believing the trail went left before realizing I was going way too hot for the tight right-hander. I've locked up and used the drainage ditch as an off ramp on more than 1 occasion. On this ride I was better prepared but my line wasn't quite right and I slid a little in the sand (you can just hear it on the video).
The sections immediately following this corner are some of the roughest on the trail. On my 6" travel Giant Reign I'm happy to just go with the line I'm on however I've ridden with guys on XC bikes who are far more selective with the route they take.
At 2:11 on the video the trail turns to the right and shoots down a rock slab. Confident riders can get off the brakes and gain serious speed but be warned the water bars are treacherous. At times the leading edge has a ditch that throws your balance way off, on the trailing side there is a significant racing line worn into the track and the edges are with littered with large loose rocks. Getting off line here can be scary!
The other tricky corner is the last turn of the trail section. As you descend along a fairly simple straight section of trail you get fair warning of the corner, however it tightens a lot and then presents a steep cobblestone section! Depending on track conditions the cobblestones can be quite gappy and slippery. It's well worth having your bike running down the fall-line before you hit the cobblestones or it could get ugly.
The rock plateau at the end can be tricky. The water has cut some reasonably deep channels in the rock. Keep your wits about you when you cross and be ready to pop your front wheel.
The rock plateau is the end of my #ThursdaysTrail and now its time to climb your way out. The Creek Fire Trail continues on for 2.79kms toward Allambie Heights (and the Allambie Descent - Downhill) . It includes a really steep hill climb just a minute up the trail (the normal route). If you plan on climbing back up the way you came be very careful of riders coming down the trail (its not usual for riders to go in reverse).
Also worth looking at:
- Heartbreak Hill - after crossing the creek there is a slight ascent for a few minutes before a left turn and there it is - Heartbreak Hill .. the bitch!
- Wakehurst Parkway Sniggle - A great single track ride that runs roughly parallel to the Wakehurst Parkway between the road and the Wakehurst Golf Course, from North Balgowlah to the start of the Creek Fire Trail. Its the only bit of the Manly Dam Loop that contains any real flow, however the trail is also littered with technical sections, and some of my favourite rock shoots.
- The Manly Dam Loop - Of course no one does bits of Manly Dam (unless they are mad enough to commute via it). Its a loop, ride the whole thing.
Trail Centres and Trails featured in this blog
- Manly Dam (Northern Beaches, Sydney, NSW)