The heart of the Sterling Valley Track is a short, hard to find section of technical single trail which descends from the flanks of Mt Murchison down into Rosebery, however if you start back near Tullah and tackle the climb up as well, then you'll be treated to a lovely one way ride. The route comes alive once every two years when the Wildside event is run, but otherwise it's sitting there waiting for those brave enough to try it. It's a track best enjoyed during the later summer months when it may have dried out a bit.
These route notes describe two options - a shorter 9km loop for those who are here to do the downhill bit. It starts near Stirling Saddle and runs down into Rosebery. The second longer 21km loop covers the full track and starts just South of Tullah.
Both routes assume you ride back to the start of the track along the highway, but of course you could arrange a shuttle with some mates (really good idea) or I guess you could ride back along the track (though I've never ridden it in that direction).
If you just want to do the shorter downhill run, then you can either start this ride down in Rosebery, getting the climb up the road out of the way first, or there is enough room at the top of the ride for one, at most two, cars to park.
If starting at Rosebery, you could either park at the northern edge of town to minimise your uphill effort, or there is a car park and public toilet just on the right hand side of town as you come in from the south.
The top of the ride is 3.4km from the little bridge that you cross as you exit Roseberry, or 5.9km from the B28 turnoff just south of Tullah if coming from the north. If coming form the north, then you'll come up over the top of the hill and then as you're heading down look for a gravel track on your left just before the start of a metal safety rail. If coming up from Roseberry, you'll see the same metal safety rail as you're coming near to the 3.4km mark and you'll see the gravel road which actually runs beside the road for the first hundred metres or so.
If you want to ride the full track, then the ride starts about 200 metres south of the B28 turnoff (which is just south of Tullah). There is a clear gravel track heading off on the southern side of the road, and plenty of spots for parking.
This track is remote, seldom used and sections of it are very steep and technical. Just to illustrate the seriousness of this track, I hit a section of roots just into the singletrack section, my tyre dropped down into the mud and the next thing I knew I was flying head first into a tree (unlucky tree). Let someone who cares know where you are if heading out here, and be prepared and be safe. There is no signage (though this may change in the future with the development of the West Coast Mountain Bike Project).
My experience was that there were a lot of trees and branches across the track at knee to head height, so take it easy on your first run down especially where you can't see far ahead.
This track is part of the Wildside event, and for most riders that would be the best time to ride this track (let someone else clear the trail for you!)
The Full Track
From the highway south of Tullah, just head up the gravel track and follow your nose for the first 2.9kms as the track follows powerlines through tea-tree and button grass plains up towards the base of the climb to the Sterling Saddle.
At the 2.9km mark you need to look out for a track heading up into the bush on the left and once you're on that track again just follow your nose for the next 4kms. This section may once have been a wider haulers track, but now it is pretty much single track all the way, and it is all up (you'll gain about 320 metres in height between the highway and Sterling Saddle) but even if you find yourself pushing, it is still a gorgeous climb.
Remember to be careful though as this climb really does have some slippery logs and rocks. Approximately 6.8kms from the start, after a few switchbacks, you will emerge out onto a gravel road. You need to turn right, head up one last short pinch and then start your run down. 7.5kms from the start you'll come out to a junction which is the 0.7km mark on the short route below, so turn left, and then just jump down a few paragraphs and follow the rest of the notes from there.
The Short "Downhill" Route
As riding up the highway from Rosebery is pretty obvious, I'll start the route notes and distances from the top.
From the highway you start on a gravel road which looks to run away form the highway very steeply, but in fact only does so for about 20 metres before levelling out and running parallel to the highway for 100metres.
The trail then turns away from the highway, passes through a creek and then a short couple of climbs, before you come to a Y junction 700m from the start. Riders doing the full track will come in from the left fork at this point and then just follow the rest of these notes. Take the right fork and continue on until just under 1km from the start where you will come out under some power lines. There is a track leading off to the left here which you can just ignore, as you continue straight on and down the hill beside the power lines.
This descent is quite steep with lots of loose rock, but quite manageable for intermediate riders. You will soon see an obvious T junction coming up in front of you towards the bottom of the hill. About 100 metres before this junction look out for a fairly obvious piece of single track heading off into the bush on the right. It was marked with pink tape when I was there last, but if you're looking for the track you will see it. It's about 1.4km from the start.
Be warned the first eight hundred metres of single track has some very technical sections as you cross over a patchwork of slippery roots, some deceptively deep mud and descend down some short but steep rock sections. I rode this in winter and found myself walking most of this section.
The good news for intermediate riders is that after that it flattens out and you'll find yourself descending some gorgeous track through equally gorgeous forest. You can't get lost on this section, but beware of washed out bridges and the plethora of fallen trees and branches which may litter the track
3.4km from the start, the single-track comes to an end as it drops out onto a gravel road. Turn left onto this gravel road, The track drops down into a creek (3.6km), where it turns to the right 90 degrees and becomes a major gravel road. There is an old turn off to the left just out of the creek which looks enticing but soon turns into an overgrown track covered in cutting grass, so continue on the main gravel road.
A further 150 metres past the creek is a turn off to the right, ignore this, but at 4.2km from the start when you come out to a major four way junction, turn right up the hill (going straight ahead will take you into the back of Rosebery in an emergency, and is the way that the old WildsideMTB race used to take, but there are lots of keep out signs on the other side so only use this way if you have no other option).
After climbing 150 metres up the hill, before you get to the power lines, look out for some single track heading off on your left. This isn't the most fun single-track in the world (at least not when it's wet) but following this will eventually drop you out onto the Murchison Highway just north of Rosebery. As you follow this single-track, you will in fact cross two gravel roads at 4.7km and 5.0km from the start, both of which you can turn onto and follow up onto the highway if you've had enough. Google Earth also seems to show that you could avoid this last bit of single track altogether and just head straight up the hill and onto the highway, but I have not been this way and cannot vouch for it.
Otherwise at 5.2km from the start you will come out onto an open area which was being used as a bit of a tip when I was there, just head right and you'll come out onto the highway.
If you've left your car up top, it's time to start turning the cranks. It's 3.3km and a 275 metre climb back to the car (if yu did the short loop), but fortunately most of the return trip is a fairly easy gradient, and I found it only started getting hard just before I got to my car. It's a further 5.5km from this point back down to the car park at the start of the track, however most of this is downhill. An alternative option to following the road would be to ride out and ride back down the track you rode up ...
If you parked in Rosebery, then you know where your car is, so turn left on the highway and enjoy the spin back down.