Cowan Trail

loki's picture

By loki - Posted on 16 June 2009

Can anyone comment on the legality of riding the Cowan Trail that runs off Long Trail at Terrey Hills please?
It appears to be a fire trail but has a sign saying walkers only...

There is also this comment in the ride section for Terrey Hills:
"Cowan Track
The Cowan Track forks off West about 850m from the Long/Perimeter junction. Although it is signposted, "Walkers Only" we have word from a that park rangers have confirmed riders are allowed here."

I've been tempted to have a look the last couple of times I've been out that way but with all the talk of legality and rangers I'm not sure now!


Rob's picture

Well, Cowan track is clearly a firetrail so I have always assumed a legal riding venue.

The comment on the ride page dates back to when Charlie (who used to ride a lot in the area but does no longer) told me this. That's why it says, "we have word" - I have not actually heard this from rangers directly.

The comment also dates back to a time when rangers were more tolerant. Rightly or wrongly, someone else mentioned being fined on this track, and also Smiths Creek (on the firetrail, not the illegal stuff someone built off there).

Guess what that means is that in the current climate one should refrain from riding Smiths Creek & Cowan track. I will change the comment on the ride page accordingly.

OzMoT's picture


with all the talk of trail legality, i'm too scared to leave the house. The nomad formally known as Mrs Redbelly, is now known as santa cruz sosad.

My last ride was an awesome descent of our 3 yr old was most impressed.

Mutter mutter..winter blues


jedijunglesnow's picture

The ranger we were talking too at Bantry Bay on Sunday was "boasting" ( my perspective, not his) about all the people he'd been busting all over the place.

He mentioned fining someone recently for riding up there. Goatman was shocked, and said "You're not allowed to ride there?" and the ranger responded by mentioning said "Walkers Only " sign and said that, yes, it is illegal.

christine's picture

they 'bust' someone what do they do and how do they enforce it? I doubt many people ride with their full i.d. on them...

LadyToast's picture

I'm curious to know what happens when you are busted. Are details taken? Is your name kept on record? How is payment made and what is the scale of this payment? Should we start affixing rego plates to our bikes? Did he look like a fast runner? (joke - I know NP's read this).

Seriously, what if you enter a track backwards where there is often no sign? How can it be proven you are knowingly somewhere you shouldn't be?

I don't ride tracks I shouldn't to the best of my knowledge but this talk of grey areas, and certain fire trials being off limits is of concern.

MDOldFart's picture

I bothered to ask Ranger Kym when I spoke to him advising of the "Remember When ride"

His response was that it and Smiths Creek trail are definitely a no go area. These trails have deemed unnecessary as fire trails and will be areas of "revegetation" when they have the funds.

christine's picture

i want to know is... rather than let us all have these discussions about the rangers and what they think and where they will be, why don't THEY post or write to us on here directly? We know they read it...Then we get rid of lots of heresay and we are all clear...

Andy Bloot's picture

You can put a cross next to most other (fire)trails if this is off limits - unbelievable
It seems that the NPWS in Sydney has become just another professional arse covering government organisation
Can't blame them I suppose given peoples propensity to sue - what a shame
As Brad Fankles says - it could be so good.

The soft cock attitude of the NPWS in Sydney just breeds subversion
I could carry on, but it's all been said 1000 times
I just had to write something before I exploded - I don't care if I upset anyone

The whole thing boggles my mind and one of the reasons I waved goodbye to Sydney and it's ridiculous anal attitudes

dangersean's picture

Welcome back old fart....

But seriously, I don't see why the rangers can't get involved and use their voice here.. an open dialogue would be fantastc IMHO...

muvro's picture

Is there a google earth map on here that has illegal trails in red and legal trails in green. Or something like that? Even a list?

I wonder if Np's should make available trail maps showing legal and illegal trails. I think enforcing their rules is a must, but big fines and very little if any notification is a problem for those that don't know any better.

As an example, when we get a license we have to learn the road rules. Generally all illegal actions are signposted etc.

So maybe if NP's want to be pro-active they should do a bit more. Maybe have a google map on their website that is kept updated when a trails access is changed. Or if work is being done to a trail, a notice can be put up. This can then become an accurate source of information for us and forums like ours. This would take the obvious revenue raising aspect away from enforcment and encourage a healthy relationship with both party's respecting each other.

My 2c

jeremya's picture

I believe the perimeter trail is strictly speaking illegal as it has a "no vehicles sign" and vehicles includes bikes

christine's picture

that isn't for push bikes, its for trail bikes, cars and 4Wd

Rob's picture

It's true you know, the cycling policy[1] states:

Under the National Parks and Wildlife (NPW) Act 1974, the definition of "vehicle" includes bicycles. The National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2002 contains provisions that restrict the use of vehicles in NPWS areas to tracks set aside for use by the public.

Although I don't know if Perimeter has a "No vehicles" sign, anyone got a picture of it?

Larool has a "No Vehicles" sign. I note it also has a "No Motocycles" sign too, just in case:

Larool Trail North


christine's picture

the ruling the horse trail saving group was told was that 'no vehicles' means nothing which has a motor/engine... which makes sense since I can use Narnia as a vehicle to get me to my shops etc and the fire trails are authorised horse trails - except West Head...

jeremya's picture

Perimeter has a No vehicles sign at the Calamine trail end (the far west end)but not at the near end. At least it did last Sunday

MartinB's picture

Yep i've seen the no vehicles sign on the perimiter track, its at the western end of the track in duffy's forest. But ive ridden past rangers on the perimiter track and havent had a problem so it must be legal. I hope its legal, it cant be illegal its a firetrail.

Flynny's picture

"Under the National Parks and Wildlife (NPW) Act 1974, the definition of "vehicle" includes bicycles. The National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2002 contains provisions that restrict the use of vehicles in NPWS areas to tracks set aside for use by the public."

Because bicycles are considered a vehicle under the roads and traffic act they immediately became recognised by both NP and Sydney Catchment as vehicular transport.

It's a silly oversight that I think lies at the base of our problems. people still have trouble distinguishing a bicycle from motorised forms of transport.

As a mode of transport the bicycle is one of the most environmentally friendly forms out there. In fact the only machine that is more efficient in carrying X amount of mass over Y amount of distance is a Jumbo Jet once it reaches cruising altitude (Of course that doesn't take into account the energy required to get it up there to start with.)

Rob's picture

Nope - read the cycling policy again - a bike is a vehicle.

The rangers say that the policy states that bikes are allowed on authorised trails only. This is an issue as there is no clear definition or what an authorised trail is, nor sign posting of which are authorised trails and which are not.

Moreover, they say that many signs that say, "No vehicles" should really say, "No unauthorised vehicles". Ie. where a bike is authorised they can ride a trail with the latter sign.

Clear as mud I know, but that's what they said.

warpig's picture

I go hiking a lot, especially on Sundays. The last dozen or so times I've been out I've seen plenty of bikes, both moto and MTB, horses and the odd 4WD (locations withheld!). I have not seen another walker for a several months. On some of the trails I have been the ONLY one legally allowed to be there, whilst many others used the trails illegally around me.

This is bloody insane: IF the parks are meant to be used by people (and I'm not at all convinced that they are) how the hell can you justify allowing a trivial minority (walkers) free access whilst 90+% of those who want to use the park are banned. VERY FEW people walk. Lots of people want to ride 'things'. Surely the numerical majority has some weight here?

Andy Bloot's picture

About 10 years ago I discovered the joys of National Parks
And a mid life crisis even saw me dreaming of becoming a National Parks employee
Maintaining the trails for all people to use and enjoy as much as I do
To me they were people to be admired and respected

Unfortunately, as I said before
Just another government organisation more concerned with covering their own arses
Than actually creating something sustainable for all people to enjoy

herzog's picture

Where the only people the Parks bureaucracy expect to use tracks in National parks are bearded men in safari suits, wearing Dr Livingstone hats.

These are *our* parks. We need better representation.

As a mountain bike rider, I see myself as a custodian of the bush. I love being amongst it and never leave as much as a minties wrapper behind. My bike is human powered, creates no waste and leaves not a drop pollution.

I think the time has come for a bit more activism.

hawkeye's picture

Not just our parks, future generations as well.

Which is why I reckon we need better mountain bike access. If folks don't know what's there it's too easily lost/thrown away and built over.

"Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

I'm up for it - if you need some letter writing done lemme know.

muvro's picture

If only someone with weight from NP's could read this thread anf action some changes.

Not likely ever going to happen though....

Carlgroover's picture

It would seem NPWS would prefer you to give the MTBing away if they won't even let anyone ride a push bike on useless (defunct) fire trails.

I reckon you guys/gals on the north side should start looking at Dura-ace and not XTR as I reckon doing your 14000th lap of Manly dam is going to be a bit dull and you would have more fun on a road bike.

After hearing how lucky everyone is to have 100km of fire road to practice your skills on, I would have thought that the sign saying "walkers only" was just an oversight that the sign didn't include MTB. You would have to be extremely ****** off if you got booked riding on a "walkers only" fire trail since you would have less impact on the environment than a Barina backing out of a driveway.
Good Luck.

arghvee's picture

Andy, you mention you got out of sydney to escape this crazyness... how far do you have to go.
After my trip to Rotorua in Jan, that's about the distance you need to get from Sydney. Its heaven for MTB, sport, families and rec. Even the caravan parks gave us a DISCOUNT for coming to Rotovegas to ride a MTB !!!! They are a healthy, fun and accepting society.
In 10 years, Sydney will be full of fat,lazy,sad old farts, and the young and young at heart will move elsewhere. Seriously, our govt needs to take a long hard look at itself. A society is defined by what it allows or not - I do not like how life looks for my 3 boys in Sydney.

christine's picture

lighten up!
yes, we would all like more places to ride, but considering we live in a major city we are lucky that we have places to ride - you all sound like such a bunch of whingers - bring back the sense of humour if you are going to complain...and make it funny

The poor motorbike/trail bike riders really do have no where to ride and really do have to leave the city.. we only have to drive a littel way and off we go - we are especially lucky now that red hill and oxford falls are not going to be built on for ten years.

Yes, we all love the bush, yes we all want to ride, walk etc, but do you think carrying on like spoilt children will get you respect from the NPWS?

GAZZA's picture

solidarity sister! Who's side are you on christine?

arghvee's picture

Spoilt is when you have more than you need, and want more. We're not children, but a community which happens to OWN the National Parks of which we do not have right access.
These forums are a chance for groups to come together, and see if issues are common and important enough to take action on.
What I and others are saying, perhaps in an overly animated fashion, is that our community land is not being managed properly by the people we elected/hired, to give the us the owners the enjoyment and freedom.

This is not about comparing us to motorbikers, but against worlds best enviroment/community management. NZ is the GOLD standard. Go there and see. mmmm Rotorua single track......

christine's picture

understand the points you are all trying to make and i agree with them. Yes, we own the parks, yes we want access..blah blah
however, if Rotorua is so bloody fantastic why are you over here? (sorry, had to ask)
Anyway.. MY point was, you get further with a good attitude and humour than just whinging.

arghvee's picture

1. New Zealanders are too smug

2. Point taken, I'll be nicer. Can I have my dummy back?

christine's picture

Pleasure! Smiling

Supagav's picture

Raymondv I would like to point out that actually riding singletrack in national parks in NZ is not the normal. Most of NZ singletrack riding is plantation forests or other crown land and these tracks are mostly purpose built. While it would be nice to have access to riding in Nationals park as we wish it is not likely to happen anytime soon.
Just pointing this out as you need to compare apples with apples to drawn sensaible conclusions.
State forests on the other hand I beleive is what we should be looking at getting access to.

dangersean's picture

We already have complete access to state forests as far as I know. So do 4WD's, motorbikes, horses and walkers... They are our playground!
Sadly though, the plight of the northern beaches is that we are completely surrounded by National Parks.. which are all but off limits as we know...
Damn I do love where I live, but it is very tempting to up and move to another part of the city to access the bush without all the no go zones.....

Morgan's picture

Canberra - population 350,000. Km's of LEGAL singletrack within or up to 10 km's from the urban fringes = 120+ (ie 34 centimetres per person)

Sydney - population 4.5 million. Km's of LEGAL singletrack within or up to 10 km's from the urban fringes = 20 (I'm counting Yarramundee) (ie 4.4 millimetres per person).

If anyone thinks Sydney gets a fair shake of the sauce bottle, you're 'avin' a larf.

Morgan's picture

"His response was that it and Smiths Creek trail are definitely a no go area. These trails have deemed unnecessary as fire trails and will be areas of "revegetation" when they have the funds."

There is a sign saying Walkers Only.

Um, someone thinks it's deemed necessary for walking. FFS, how hard is it to "convert" an unnecessary firetrail to a shared walker/rider track?

And how much does it cost to revegetate a path in the bush? Just leave it and nature will take its course.


christine's picture

we all know there is nothing going on in canberra so it doesn't count as a 'major city' now does it?

Morgan's picture

I used to buy an All Parks pass for something approaching a million dollars a year religiously until I realised the only things I could enjoy in them were driving (polluting the ass out of the place), picnicking (groups of over 20 welcome) or walking (and who cares what your dirty hiking boots are spreading all over the place).

I no longer buy a pass and I refuse to drive into National Parks until their policies move towards catering for what I want. I am a voter and taxpayer, clearly minority groups where NPWS is concerned.

herzog's picture

There are better overseas precedents than NZ.

In Scotland, if you can see it, you can ride it. The govt there is really encouraging people to use their great outdoors.

In Finland, this principle even extends to private farmland - as long as you leave nothing behind and don't affect any livestock.

In some US states they have an alternate days solution to singletrack access in the national parks.

Basically on odd numbered days of the month, the Singletrack is for walkers, and on even days the singletrack is for the cyclists.

This could be a solution for AU?

Morgan's picture

It is precisely the fact that Canberra is a small conurbation of grey suit retards (specifically the ones that, knowing I've spent 3 hours answering job selection criteria, can't be ar$ed to lift a lazy fat grey finger to send a "sorry but you're not boring enough to get the job" email) and washed out big city wannabes (moi!) that Sydney's plight is so concerning.

herzog's picture

Check out this document from the Finnish Environment Ministry

"Finland’s legal concept of everyman’s right gives everyone
the chance to enjoy outdoor pursuits, and the freedom
of the country’s vast forests and fells, and many
lakes and rivers, with few restrictions.

You may:
Walk, ski or cycle freely in the countryside, except in
gardens and the immediate vicinity of people’s
homes, and in fields and plantations which could
easily be damaged."


arghvee's picture

thanks herzog ! Now that is common sense government by the people FOR the people. Perhaps even too broadreaching, but as a guideline its clear, understandable, makes limitations and liability clear.
Although massive access to National Parks is unlikely (versus State), does not mean we shouldnt continue to push. Its our land, right?

Flynny's picture

"We already have complete access to state forests as far as I know."

Mostly. Unauthorised trail building is still illegal and getting authorisation depends on the mood of the area manager. Motos and 4x4s have to be registered and licensed and remain on maintenance trails.

Another Body to think about is Crown Land. There is a hell of a lot of it around the state and since they don't have the same level of conservation charter as NPs nor the commercial emphasis of Forests NSW they are a lot more flexable with what they can and do approve.

Of course finding it and working out it's zoning (lease hold either perminant or annual, public recreation....) is a bit tricky as it's rarely signed.

Dep Lands do have the same need to increase recreation levels and are very open to the idea of promoting cycling on their land. They have several "State Parks" declared which seem to be similar to NPs but with better budgets to manage them.

Maybe it's worth while trying to find out if there are any other areas of Crown Land around the beaches.

Flynny's picture

"In Finland, this principle even extends to private farmland - as long as you leave nothing behind and don't affect any livestock."

the right to roam is a funny thing and seems entrenched some countrys, however it only allows you to cross the land not modify it or develop it so existing walking trails are fine. Building new trails or build jumps and stuff on existing trails not fine

pieboy98's picture

It is illegal to ride in NZ National Parks
The NZ govt and DOC are looking at opening up some long haul tracks to seasonal MTBing
Turning 4+ day hiking routes into over night and weekend MTB trips
Case in example, The Heaphy Track and Abel Tasman National park

In the case of the Rameka Trail, it was classed as a Road being an old pack route,
so could be ridden but you had to walk up the access road through Abel Tasman National Park
But land surrounding it has since been brought and trails maintained as part of a 'Carbon Park'

The majority of trails are in Forestry blocks
Who with local MTB club, build and maintain trails
Good PR if you like
It seems plenty of advocacy by the MTB community has finally paid off

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