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Mountain Bike Blog



Exploring all of Sparrow Hill and the East Kowen Forest


2015 has been an unusual year for me, instead of chasing gravity descents up and down the east coast of Australia Iíve spent a lot of time on my Giant Anthem pedalling my way around 1000s of kilometres of XC single track.  It was the desire to build fitness and endurance that took me to the Kowen Forest in the ACT, just 10 minutes from Queanbeyan.

The Kowen Forest comprises of 2 riding areas, Sparrow Hill the trails on the south side of Sparrow Hill Road and the East Kowen Forest on the north side.  There are somewhere in the vicinity of 150-160 signposted trails with well over 100km of single track.

My first experience of the Kowen Forest was back in June and since then Iíve been back 3 times to ride as many trails as I could.  In fact Iíve pretty much covered everything in the Trail Buddy App (Google Play or App Store) with just a few new trails yet to ride.

If youíre planning on riding either East Kowen or Sparrow Hill I highly recommend downloading the Kowalski Trail Buddy App, itís incredibly accurate and will help you get the most out of your time in the forest.  The 2015 update it has a couple of great features Ė the Kowalski Classic 100/50/25 trail routes giving you some great ride plans and now also includes Majura Pines and Bruce Ridge trail centres as a bonus!

The other BRILILANT source of info is www.sparrowhill.info which has great maps with loops of varying lengths, making it easy to get your way around the trail. 

Sparrow Hill  is definitely the easier of the two trail centres.  The trails are less rocky, less steep and the 3 main loops are very clearly marked on the trail making it a no brainer to get out and ride.

That being said East Kowen does have a few marked loops leading off from the ďStart Me UpĒ trail.  East Kowen has arguably a better beginnerís loop with less climbing than Sparrow Hill but the trail signage is not as obvious and IMO the loops donít take you to the best parts of East Kowen.  The best info for East Kowen loops are the app, googling previous Mont and Kowalski Classic trail maps and of course my recommendations J.  You have to work a little bit harder to find the best of East Kowen.

Trails in Sparrow Hill and East Kowen run both ways except on VERY rare occasions (all signposted).  There are however some things to consider. 

  • Kowalskiís Beer Garden, Kowalskiís Sideshow and Romper Room are clearly descending
  • Stairway to Heaven is a technical torturous climb like no other
  • Some trails clearly have a preferred direction so pay extra attention if you see jumps or berms designed for riders coming the other way.  However donít let that stop you riding the way you are, in fact the Kowalskis encourage riders to mix it up.

In my experience the car park on Sparrow Hill Rd (coming from the western end) can get pretty busy, but you can be out there on the trails and not see a sole.  In fact on my last trip I saw a Kowalski Brother with a leaf blower, a young girl walking her dogs and 4 riders all within a few minutes of the trail head over 4 DAYS Ö I SHIT YOU NOT !!  Considering its proximity to Canberra and Queanbeyan and the number of cars found in the carpark itís quite astounding how you can be out there for hours on end and never see anyone.  For me the Kowen Forest has been a fantastic get-away-from-it-all adventure.

Despite both Sparrow Hill and East Kowen having some nice short descents, some kickers and berms you are better off leaving your All Mountain Weapon at home and bringing the XC bike.  You will be disappointed if you are looking for the same sort of gravity buzz found at Stromlo Forest Park or Majura Pines.  That being said if you need a fix then the trails you want are:  Big Wednesday, Kowalskiís Beer Garden/Last Call, SABN/Kowalskiís Sideshow/Corkscrew, Romper Room, Web Track/Rolling Thunder 1/Rolling Thunder 2, Home run/Spaghetti, Quadrophenia, Ren,  and if you donít mind going way out Birthday Suit/Love You Long Time/Stud Muffin.

If youíre heading down for a couple of days riding in the Kowen Forest I recommend staying in Queanbeyan.  Itís only 10 minutes away, has a large range of accommodation options and some great places to eat Ė my favourite is the Central Cafť where the meals are HUGE!

For more information on East Kowen and Sparrow Hill please check out our trail centre pages.

Click on the photos to see the full size images

From the top of Birthday Suit

From the top of Upstart

Sparrow Hill trail entrance is right at the car park

Stairway to Heaven in the East Kowen Forest

Looking out toward the far north east from near Organ Grinder

Amazing forest between Love You Long Time and Stud Muffin


Trail Centres and Trails featured in this blog



This website is brought to you by MTB weekend warrior Aaron Markie.
There are plenty of great websites out there with a wealth of information about Mountain Bike Trails,
however in my experience its hard to get a good mix of info, maps, photos and videos of trails I've never ridden.
The idea of this website is to tie those 4 elements together and give you a more detailed look at the MTB Trails I ride.
If you have anything to add then let me know.