Mt Hotham’s Great Alpine Road – a road cycling Holy Grail

Move over Beach Road, road riders are seeking bigger thrills in the hills this summer.

Photos courtesy Mt Hotham Resort Management

Recent warm weather has seen many cyclists undertaking intensive training to ride one of the most challenging climbs in Australia – the Great Alpine Road from Harrietville to Mt Hotham.

Colloquially known as the GAR, this is Australia’s highest sealed road, accessible year-round but most commonly ridden in summer, thanks to the snow that often blankets the road in winter.

With an average gradient of 4.2% and a maximum gradient of about 18%, this 30km ride is not for the faint of heart or the unprepared.

It’s not hard to see the appeal – starting the ride in the historic valley town of Harrietville, the road winds through lush green trees, tall forests and majestic snow gums, then opens up to the top of the mountain range granting an endless vista of mountain peaks and an abundance of alpine wildflowers.

Along the way, Danny’s Lookout provides riders a clear view across Mt Feathertop, and is proving a popular spot selfie spot and ideal rest location.

Resort spokesperson Katie Bowker explains, “This ride is tough. But that’s the whole point. Riders ready to break away from the Beach Road pack will find everything they’re looking for here – a massive challenge, with massive rewards.”

Ms Bowker recommends heading to hills to tackle this ride before Easter, after which weather can turn inclement.

Extend the challenge

As the mercury climbs in the city, riders are also flocking to the mountains to enjoy the cooler mountain climate – either solo or as part of one of the many cycling events that visit Mt Hotham between November and April each year.

The Peaks Challenge on 13 March 2022, is a 235km loop ride that starts at Falls Creek, heading up Tawonga Gap, through Mt Hotham and down to Omeo, before heading up the back of Falls Creek, and an event that has reached ‘must-do’ status amongst serious riders.

To extend the riding challenge, experienced cyclists are tackling not only Mt Hotham’s GAR, but the other peaks of the region, as part of the 7 Peaks Ride – an at-your-own-pace challenge for cyclists to conquer Victoria’s seven alpine peaks in a single summer. For many, the Mt Hotham ascent is the jewel in the crown of these rides.

Accommodation options aplenty

Mt Hotham’s alpine village, the highest in Australia, offers a range of accommodation styles, meaning there’s no need for riders to head off the hill at the end of the day.

The Mountain Dreaming Apartments are a perennial favourite with guests, conveniently located right next to the popular The General Hotel, while for groups, the lodges at Mt Hotham provide an affordable option for cyclists to come together to share their love of hill climbs.

Ms Bowker is encouraging is encouraging guests to head to the Mt Hotham website for more information and to book. “We’ve seen great demand this summer, and we expect the long weekends to be busy. We’re encouraging everyone to get in early and book now to avoid disappointment.”

For the adventurous, a stay with Alpine Nature Experience means soaking up the post-ride endorphins, wine in hand, in an outdoor hot tub among the snow gums at the eco-village, while waiting for a woodfired pizza to arrive before retiring for the night in a tree-top tent.