Trail Partially open

Old Beechy Rail Trail

Victoria - West

3.9 based on 11 reviews
Location: Otway Ranges, 152km south west of Melbourne
Length: 32 km
Surface: Compacted earth
Start / End: Colac to Ferguson
Public Transport: Train
Suitable for:
  • Cycling – Mountain BikesCycling – Mountain Bikes
  • Cycling – Touring and Hybrid BikesCycling – Touring and Hybrid Bikes
  • PramsPrams
  • Scooters and Inline SkatesScooters and Inline Skates
  • WalkingWalking

Map Legend:

  • Rail Trail
  • On Road
  • Possible Rail Trail
  • Other Trail
  • former Railway
  • Winds through scenic pine forests and bushland, rich farmland and rolling hills as it travels from Colac up to Beech Forest and Ferguson
  • Originally a narrow gauge railway that played a key role in opening the western Otways to settlement

Attractions

  • Magnificent eucalypts and blackwoods provide homes for abundant birdlife
  • Features outstanding and innovative interpretive signs along the route
  • Note that the trail is almost continually downhill from Beech Forest to Gellibrand, and is best suited for mountain and hybrid bikes

Please visit Colac Otway Shire Council’s website for more information about the Old Beechy Rail Trail: http://www.colacotway.vic.gov.au/Parks-Recreation/Old-Beechy-Rail-Trail

Trail Guide

The main sections of the Old Beechy Rail Trail are:

  • Colac to Gellibrand is 28 km and is on-road for the first 11 km. It then follows a combination of quiet country lanes and dedicated rail trail paths
  • Gellibrand to Beech Forest is 18.5 km long and ascends steadily through scenic bushland and past timber plantations. Note: parts of this section are currently closed
  • Beech Forest to Ferguson is 4 km long, passing through dense rainforest.  Colac has a wide range of facilities while Gellibrand and Beech Forest more basic food and accommodation.

Section Guides

Closure between Wimba and Beech Forest

The trail is currently closed between Wimba and Beech Forest. During this period walkers and cyclists will detour to use Old Beech Forest Rd. Take care and watch for logging trucks, and observe warning signs and other traffic control instructions.

For queries regarding the detour, contact Colac Otway Shire Council’s Recreation and Open Space Co-ordinator on 5232 9400.

Colac-Barongarook (11 km)

This section is on-road since the original railway route is no longer available. Less experienced cyclists may prefer to start at Barongarook. Sections are steep, with loose gravel.

  • from Colac Railway Station, cross the footbridge and follow the signposted route out of town via Wilson St, Queen St, Aireys St, Woodrowvale Rd and Forest St
  • follow Forest St for 4 km to its end, then turn left into Barongarook Rd for 2.3 km
  • turn right at Alford Rd then  turn left after 1 km at Maggios Rd. After 500m, the rail trail starts on the right.

Barongarook-Birnam (6 km)

The trail travels through beautiful bushland to Cashins Road. The surface is very good.

Birnam-Kawarren (3.5 km)

The trail leaves the original railway formation and has a very steep climb and descent on a gravel surface.

  • Turn right at Cashins Rd. The trail starts again on the left
  • Climbs steeply through bushland and then descends again, entering farmland
  • Rejoins the railway alignment at the site of Kawarren station

Kawarren-Gellibrand (6.5 km)

  • The trail runs beside the main road
  • Cross the main road just before Gellibrand. A pedestrian and cycle bridge carries the trail over the Gellibrand River; the original railway bridge was demolished to make way for the road
  • Gellibrand’s original railway station building survives contains a historical display

Gellibrand-Wimba-Dinmont (13.9 km)

The trail from Gellibrand to Beech Forest is steep and rough in parts; it is not suitable for inexperienced riders.

  • Shares the footpath through Gellibrand. Cross the road at the southern edge of town to rejoin the original railway formation
  • Entering farmland, the trail starts the climb to Beech Forest
  • One short on-road section: watch for log trucks
  • The section from Wimba to Dinmont is currently closed
  • At Dinmont, the old railway water tank is still in use

Dinmont-Beech Forest (4.5 km)

  • This section is currently closed
  • Sections of this trail between Dinmont and Ditchley are steep and you will need to walk your bike or  ride on-road to Ditchley
  • From Ditchley to Dinmont, the trail is off-road
  • At Beech Forest look for the site of the balloon loop (used for reversing trains) at the eastern end of town

Beech Forest-Ferguson (4 km)

  • The trail begins on the southern side of the Beech Forest-Lavers road, east of the information shelter at Beech Forest. Follow it west through a dense rainforest and ferns. It then crosses farmland close to the road until Ferguson, which has a rustic cafe.

Background Information

Traditional owners

We acknowledge the Eastern Maar people, the traditional custodians of the land and waterways on which the rail trail is built.

Development and future of the rail trail

After eight years of planning by local progress associations, volunteers and Colac Otway Shire, the concept of a rail trail came to reality when it opened to the public in 2005.

The section is currently closed from Wimba to Ferguson while the Shire resolves issues relating to trail safety, alignment and landholder access.

Rail Trails Australia wrote to the Colac Otway Shire in 2020 to express concern about delays in reopening closed sections of the trail.

Rail Trail users may wish to write to Colac Otway Shire to:

  • encourage Council to reopen closed sections of the trail
  • tell Council how you will use rail trail once it is fully open

Railway history

The 2′ 6″ narrow gauge line opened to Beech Forest in 1902 and was extended to Crowes in 1911. By 1940, only one trip a week was being made and by 1954 the terminus of the line had shifted back from Crowes to Weeaproinah. The line closed in June 1962 despite strong objections from many local people.

Many sawmills built tramways in the forest, and sidings on the Beechy line and the remains of some mills can still be seen.

The line ran ‘mixed’ trains with passengers and timber, cattle, potatoes, cheese and other farm produce.

Steam locomotives travelled at a maximum speed of 32 km/h (20 mph) between Colac and Gellibrand and 16-24 km/h (10-15 mph) on other sections.

Parts of the railway were sold when the line was closed. The rail trail committee has done an amazing job negotiating with landowners to allow so much of the trail to follow the original route.

No services listed for this rail trail.

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11 reviews of “Old Beechy Rail Trail”

I tried out the Old Beechy on 2 Jan 2020 and the intended path was open to riding from Colac to Gellibrand. I started the ride on the road between Colac and Elliminyt using my hybrid. The first part towards Barangarook was fine until some parts on the dirt road section, it got a bit dicey with the sandy surface of the road (the track from Barangarook to Gellibrand was dry and the hybrid got through ok because it seemed mostly downhill). I stopped for all the well-designed information boards to read about the history of the line, including remnants of the old water tanks, the 103 mile post, the sidings and so on. I find rail history interesting and it was nice to imagine going back in time to when this railway was open. It is a forested area so there are plenty of sticks and other debris on the trail to watch out for. I only passed one rider (around Kawarren) who was going the opposite direction which was a decent incline for them. I decided to return to base via the main road as it would have been quite difficult returning on trail using the hybrid due to the incline and debris on the track.
I intend to do more of this trail if other sections open up. This trail is a great community asset.

26/27 With the Christmas festivities over it was time to work off at least some of the overindulgence and get back into finishing off my challenge of riding every RT in Victoria in 2019.
I tried to tackle the Old Beechy a few months ago but was thwarted by weather so bad I thought it would be dangerous. So on 29th Dec it was time to try again.
I met up with Darren, who was holidaying in the area and had done this trail a few times before. Thanks for the company, Darren. We started at Barongarook as I can’t see the point of riding on-road for so many kms from Colac.
The track was in fairly good nick, which was a pleasant surprise really. Darren did it on a roadie with wider tyres and got through ok, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you were very experienced. I was on a MTB with narrower tyres which seemed a good set-up, so a hybrid would be fine. The trail is pretty well signposted, with a couple of exceptions.
Its such a pity this beautiful railtrail is blocked off at Gellibrand and reduced to only 16kms now. Darren says the best part is between Gellibrand and Beeches Forest.
I only hope the landowners and local council can sort out there differences and re-open this. I know I will return when it’s done.
1 trail to go!

It was a full-on days ride, taking about 5hrs on the rail trail Colac to Beech Forest, and 2.5hrs return on the road (gravel and paved). Total approx 90km. Beech Forest pub ‘closed’ for renovations until 28/5/17, but will have a pastry fridge and coffee once re-opened. We needed bike lights for 1.0-1.5hrs at rides end, as we arrived back at Colac 45 mins after sunset. Road was mostly gravel returning from Beech Forest to Gellibrand, so kept speed down to be safe amongst loose gravel lines. Road Gellibrand to Colac was paved with good road shoulder and fairly light traffic. Bitumen road much appreciated after the gravel grinding. A contiguous 80% of the rail trail route is lovely riding, just the southern-most 3-6km before Beech Forrest to treat with caution. Two old steam auxiliary engines sit at old station Dinmont. Clue, if riding S toward Beech Forest (approx 6km away) get off the rail trail here and take the dirt road instead. The trail is not on the original rail line alignment, the last 3km has steep muddy sections that don’t get much sun.

Good review @CycleAustralia2014.

I’ve noted your comments in an email to V/Line this morning. Hopefully they pull their socks up and realise the benefits of providing good facilities for cycle tourists.

Cheers

Cycle touring is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the beauty of the Australian bush and Victoria has a number of spectacular rail trails that are easily accessible. We have been working our way through the magnificent trails savouring the varied environments flora and fauna feeling grateful for the experience. Everyday, cycling the trail is an adventure. The 3 day ANZAC day long weekend provided the perfect opportunity to explore the Old Beechy Rail Trail.

Our party of 3 had booked tickets on the 7am train from Southern Cross Station in Melbourne to Colac and the start of the trail. At Southern Cross Station we met a few other cyclists with the same plans. Pretty soon, the luggage car at the rear of the train was full and a rather officious Vline official was denying entry to a couple who had tickets, saying their was “No more room!” Despite the fact that you are able to travel with your bicycle, they are unable to guarantee a place on the train. It seems to be first come first served, even though a centre carriage on the train had plenty of room for additional bicycles. People were told that for “security reason” they were unable to allow their bicycles on.

The inexplicable reasoning of railways staff resulted in more cyclists at subsequent stations being left on the platform, except for one brave soul who literally forced his way on.

just after 9.30 am we sent off from Colac under clear sky’s , the trail was initially well signposted as we left Colac and passed through Barangarook , the surface changed to gravel along Forest road as we climbed towards the Otway ranges .
The trail often passed through private land , and through many gates which were cumbersome , the gradient wasn’t always steady as the path left what would have the original rail line with many sharp rises testing fully laden touring bikes as the surface was powdery and with 35mil tyres it was difficult to maintain traction , I would recommend a mountain bike and minimal gear for this trail .
The countryside was magnificent , we saw many beautiful Birds , Currawongs, Kookaburras and parrots of all description , we scanned the Manna Gums , Beech trees , Messmates , and peppermint eucalyptus for Koloa’s however they remained well camouflaged and elusive .
We stopped briefly at the beautiful friendly hamlet of Gellibrand River for good coffee before pushing on into the afternoon to Beech Forest .
Passing through a bourgeois landscape of black box , bracken and massive tree ferns , we stopped occasionally to enjoy the silence of the bush and catch our breath as the sharp rises on shifting ground were proving challenging , at times it was necessary to get of and push / drag the bikes up hill , at one point about 5 kms from Beech Forest itself the trail , which was no longer following the Old Beechy Trail became a muddy quagmire , it was arduous sweaty work getting ourselves and the bikes up and over the rises , leaches were plentiful , one of our party managed to extricate one from her shoe , while another cyclist we meant had to dig one out of his hand !
There’s no shop or campground in Beech forest , however the cozy Beech forest hotel puts on a good assortment of pub meals .
As the misty rain was closing in we decided to set up camp on the concrete floored information centre come toilet block on the edge of town , very rudimentary but free ! Later that evening we were joined by another couple of cyclist who had got lost on a poorly signposted section of the track and had struggled to find their way in the darkness.
Rather than take the same back back the following day , we chose the open road , with very little traffic and some exhilarating down hill runs we enjoyed the crisp early morning run down into Gellibrand River and a hot Breakfast at the cafe .
Cycling back into Colac was wonderful however on arriving at the station we found the train back to Melbourne didn’t leave until 6.48 pm again with no guarantee we would be accommodated .
A coach left Colac station at 2pm and e friendly bus driver allowed us to strip down our panniers and pack our bikes in the luggage compartment ! What an unexpected bonus ! , who would have thought. 3 touring bikes would be allowed on the bus , albeit hidden away in the luggage compartment . From Geelong we were able to get on board a sprinter train back to Melbourne .
Some observations and possible improvements

Don’t attempt this trail on your own especially if your inexperienced , The Old Beechy is best suited to Mountain Bikes , not fully laden touring bikes . Don’t cycle this trail in wet conditions Be mindful that if you are traveling by train your journey with your bike cannot be assured , even if you have paid previously.
Overall the Old Beechy was a great experience , despite the uncertainly inherent in cycle touring , the experience could be enhanced by improving and maintaining the trail surface and having a guaranteed rail service .

After driving to gellibrand I was really disappointed this trail is not open to horse riders from gellibrand to beech Forrest. . It is an amazing area for riding in Victoria and would love to see it inclusive for horses. Camping at nearby Dandos camping ground , the trail would be a terrific extension in a safe area. Many shared trails see cyclists, horses and pedestrians work together successfully. There is no reason the beech the rail trail needs to exclude horses.

Lots of good things said below, but I just want to add something a little different.
A couple of km’s on the Colac side of Gellibrand, a sign acknowledges the owners allowing public access to their land to continue on the RT. For this we were most grateful. However the same landowners are great artists !! For our amusement, scattered along their section of the RT are some fantastic wooden ‘sculptures’. Look out for the gorgeous wise old owl (blue wren looking on) reading a train timetable and for the life size guard/ticket collector as well as lots of other animals in, on and under trees. The highlight for us was the Holly Hobby girl holding her Bassett Hound on a real dog leash (we have a Bassett in the family). I’m sure there were other things we no doubt missed. Congratulations to the artist for this unique Rail Trail Art Gallery.
We camped at the Gellibrand Caravan Park and highly recommend it as a mid-way point in the ride. Whilst in Gellibrand check the wonderful community garden that envelopes the caravan park and then continues south along the Rail Trail for a hundred metres or so.
5 stars for this RT which no doubt as time and funds permit will become even better.

Six of us rode this trail 21-22 Mar 2015. It was a great weekend of trail riding. The weather was kind. Trail looks like it could have tricky patches after rain, especially on the shady side of hills. Accommodation at the Old Beachy Pub was comfortable ($120/room with double bunks and Queen bed), and a very decent dinner ($14-35) was had on Sat night. The rail trail was challenging but fair. In our group, 5 of 6 riders had MTBs which would be preferred ride for this track.

Consistent good signage along the trail, with a couple of spots requiring one to exercise judgement. At least one toilet block situated alongside the trail, and park facilities in Gellibrand. One big and many small bridges show considerable planning and effort has gone into making this a classic rail trail.

Considering that we’ve had 35 deg days and gale force winds in past week, tree branch litter on the trail was much less than I expected (eg not bad). I managed this ride on a 38mm (frnt)/35mm (rear) cross tyred rigid flat bar 27spd with V-pull brakes. Caught a branch under the rear mudguard, which needed a 4″ spanner to reset (10 min job). As stated below, Gellibrand to Beech Forest is a serious bit of trail requiring consistent climbing going south and good bike skills descending at 30kmh returning north. We copped 1 flat and 2 crashes. One crash was simply not unclipping in time coming off a bridge with a 90deg turn, and the second was hitting a 9cm diam x 35cm ‘log’ when distracted with a big gear shift at 22kmh. Grazed knee and managed the 17km ride out, so not bad. It is lovely forest up there. We were about 3’45” ride time going up to Beech Forest and 5.5hrs overall, and it’s easier coming back to Colac. Gellibrand Cafe (nice home made tucker & good coffee) is probably the only refreshment stop along the 45km trail, and Geliibrand Pub is closed.

About 4.5km west of Beech Forest (on a T-junction) was a nice ‘Otway NouriShed Cafe and General Store’. Comfy sofas, good coffee and food available.

Ride pics posted here: .

I rode this trail two days ago (3 rd Feb 2015). This is an awesome rail trail through some spectacular countryside – however this trail is for advanced riders only. The quality of the track, especially between Gellibrand and Beech Forest, is only good for mountain bikes and perhaps hybrids if you can handle the rough surface. The climb up to Beech Forest is difficult and can get confusing with the logging tracks – be aware of logging trucks! The views back towards Gellibrand are worth it. I would recommend this trail to anyone wanting a good mountain bike ride. Only negative for the whole day is the cafe in Gellibrand – it’s clear that if you’re not a local they are not interested in you – go somewhere else.

We did this trail this long weekend. We had 2 kids aged 8 and 10. We parked the first day at Barongarook and rode the 17 km to Gellibrand. This is a nice easy ride mostly downhill, then one adult rode back from Gellibrand to the car, much harder going back. We overnighted at the Otways Tourist Park, which is quite large and well equipped. The next day we rode up to Beech Forest, the kids found the constant climb quite tough and it took us about 4.5 hours to get up, but the ride down took a quarter of that! It is a great trail with some beautiful areas of native forest. The interpretive signs along the way are great. The real pity is that there is 2 on-road stretches at the start and the end. Hopefully they can one day restore the 4.5km section from Dinmont to Beech Forest and build an off road stretch from Colac to Barongarook. I would also love to see them complete the trail all the way to Lavers Hill. A beautiful, challenging and historically interesting rail trail.

Have only travelled the section from Gellibrand to Beech Forrest so far and I am looking at it from a beginners point of view. Starting from Gellibrand you are riding up a slight grade all the time. In the 20 klm stretch you rise 358 meters. The track itself winds its way through the range from native forrest, plantations to farm land. The gradient, although slight is consistent and wide enough in most places for 2 bikes to ride side by side. Track condition is reasonable for mountain bikes with compacted clay to gravel in some places. There are a couple of detours off the rail trail and theses are quite steep.
The return trip from Beech Forrest to Gellibrand is a buzz, nearly all down hill and makes the slog up worthwhile. Quite easy to sit in the 20s with very little peddling. Times 2.1/2 to 3 going up 1 hour coming down. Plenty to see good bush ride

Old Beechy Rail Trail

Posted: 25/07/16

There is a small detour and closure along the Old Beechy Rail Trail between the 42...

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Old Beechy Rail Trail (Vic) Fun Run

Posted: 03/03/12

Discover the beauty of the Otways on the Old Beechy Rail Trail with a 16Km ...

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Old Beechy Rail Trail User Survey (VIC)

Posted: 18/01/11

If you've recently used the Old Beechy Rail Trail here is your opportunity to tell ...

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$750,000 To Upgrade The Old Beechy Rail Trail

Posted: 29/05/10

From the State Government Newsroom: The Old Beechy Rail Trail will become an iconic tourist ...

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Opening of the Old Beechy Rail Trail (Vic) on October 22nd 2005

Posted: 01/10/05

The Old Beechy Rail Trail, 130km SE of Melbourne, will be officially opened on Saturday 22...

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Old Beechy Rail Trail Officially Opened

Posted: 31/07/05

Colac railway Station......Premier Steve Bracks looking over the ...

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Beechy Rail Trail Event, Sunday 28 November 2004

Posted: 24/11/04

On Sunday 28 November 2004, the Barongarook Hall Committee will hold a BBQ and car boot sale ...

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