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McPhail's Firetrail

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Meryla State Forest

McPhail's Firetrail

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The tracks in this area take the rider through some of the most spectacular parts of Meryla State Forest and Morton National Park, offering some fantastic riding opportunities.

The two main rides on offer are Meryla Pass and McPhails Firetrail, both of which traverse the escarpment from Fitzroy Falls to the floor of Kangaroo valley, some 600 vertical metres below.

They can be linked for a 4-5 hour epic of climbing and descending. This can be done in either direction, so you could descend into the valley via McPhails and return to Fitzroy Falls via Meryla Pass, or vice versa.

McPhail's Firetrail:

This is a decommissioned firetrail offering a challenging descent into Kangaroo Valley, or an even more challenging climb back up.

Heading south from Sydney, pass through the township of Fitzroy Falls. The trailhead is a very solid looking metal gate just off the right hand side of Moss Vale Road, 4km after the Fitzroy Falls Visitors' Centre.

McPhails - start of access road

There's parking for a handful of cars at the trailhead, and a few further spaces immediately across the road (a parking bay marked off with boulders).

Other parking options are the Visitors centre, or the Sailing club up the road.

After the gate, the ride begins with about 2km of very flat firetrail adjacent to the main water pipeline out of the Shoalhaven system.


The Firetrail then steepens downward and takes a 180 degree turn to the left into a long downhill straight. After a few hundred metres it swings right and appears to carry on.

Stop here, look for the entrance to McPhails on your right, as it is very easy to overshoot. The Sign reads "McPhails Firetrail. Trail Closed." Note that this refers to the fact that it is decommissioned for firefighting operations. It is still very much open for hiking and riding.

McPhails - first sign

(Note: If you're into wildlife spotting, throughout this section you might see lyrebirds, echidnas, snakes, wallabies and even leeches.)

The trail narrows from this point and the surface changes from a graded firetrail, to a bed of leaf litter over compacted soil and rock. You can really get some rhythm through this section, as it meanders through rainforest interspersed with a number of jumps, and a nice gradient to keep you ticking along.


You'll eventually arrive at a clearing. This is the remnants of the old McPhail farm from which the trail takes its name.

The trail narrows further here to handlebar width through some scrub until you get to the only major climb on McPhails. It's rideable on an XC bike if you're fit, but walk it if you want to save energy for the intense downhill experience which lies shortly ahead.

With the climb out of the way, the track continues through rainforest and you'll come across a few large manmade logrolls, some of which are piled up over a metre high. Although they may not look like it, all of them are rideable on an XC bike if you hit them with enough momentum.

Keep following the trail, which is now very narrow, and you'll eventually notice you are reaching the end of the ridge. This is where the serious downhill section begins, and you'll hardly need to pedal at all from here on.

The trail narrows into a very steep singletrack chute, with a water channel down the centre, leading into a blind right hand turn. Be very careful here as immediately around this bend is a fallen tree (as of 13/11/2010) and it is very difficult to pull up due to the steepness.

Climb over the tree and keep riding down the singletrack and you'll enter the legendary switchback section. Through this series of 180 degree turns you'll descend the height of Centrepoint tower in 1.5km. Watch your entry speeds into the turns because some of them have massive drops if you overshoot.

McPhails - switchback section

After the last switchback you'll come into about 6-8 really big jumps, each spaced about 50m apart. Depending on your entry speed, these can generate serious air, although the trajectory is more distance than height.

Finally after a very steep final descent (36% gradient), you arrive at a grassy verge adjacent to Jack's Corner Road in Kangaroo Valley.

McPhails - Valley Floor, end of trail,

From here turn left for a predominantly downhill 15 minute ride into the Kangaroo Valley township, or turn right to head for Meryla pass and the ascent back to the top.

TruHen's picture

We did the ride on December 13 which was very hot. Rode from Jacks Corner up to top of Meryla Pass. Had a swim in Crankeys Creek before the big ascent. After the big climb up, the next part to Fitzroy Falls is relatively flat. After the pass we rode back along Wombat Hill trail towards Meryla Rd until right turn onto Meryla Fire trail. Rode this all the way until Link Fire trail and then Gunrock Creek Firetrail. None of these are sign posted so it's best to have a map of some sort just in case. Gunrock Creek Firetrail comes out on Redhills Road where we went right then a left turn onto Redhils Fire trail. This is only about 500mteres on so on left. Again not sign posted, it looks like a laneway to farms with mail boxes. About 200 m up the road take the right fork and that is Redhills FT. This comes out in Fitzroy Falls. Then we followed the other instructions provided on this site. The sign for MCPhails is hard to see but is at a sort of crossroads on the right. It was worth it, great downhill flow, single trails at times, great views. The one little uphill was a killer, but otherwise great. The trail has lots of leaf foliage, sticks and the occasional fallen tree. The last descent was very steep, so needs caution. Overall great ride, trails were dry, just a bit too hot that day.

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