Update December 2022: There were major floods along rivers in northern Victoria in October (see All The Rivers Flood). Much of the Yellowbelly Track is on riverine floodplain so a lot of the route was inundated. See this post for the latest update about what parts of the route are accessible.
- Distance: 206 km (one direction, not a loop).
- Description: A tranquil route in Northern Victoria, following the Goulburn River from Echuca to Tallarook. Wherever possible the route follows river tracks, gravel roads and quiet local sealed roads to minimise vehicle traffic. As well as providing river vistas, the Yellowbelly Track passes through panoramic farmland, and secluded National and Regional Parks.
- Amenities: Tallarook, Michelton Winery, Nagambie, Murchison, Toolamba, Mooroopna, Shepparton, Echuca. See – Yellowbelly Track amenities and services.
- Accommodation: Michelton, Nagambie, Murchison, Mooroopna / Shepparton, Echuca, Major Creek Reserve (camp), Shepparton Regional Park (camp), Lower Goulburn National Park (camp). For the leg between Echuca and Shepparton, Wakiti Creek Resort (4 km off track) and the Undera Hotel (6 km off track) are closest commercial accommodation sites.
- Ride surfaces: 31% silt and clay tracks, 5% stabilized path, 25% gravel, 35% quiet sealed road, and 3% busy sealed road.
- Terrain: Flat, with a few low rolling hills at southern end.
- Suggested Ride: Choose your own adventure. Can be ridden in either direction, or in shorter segments with rail link connections.
- Highlights: River tracks sections from Yambuna to Toolamba. Echuca historic port district. Vineyard stops with food options. Scenic country roads and small towns with bakeries.
- Link to gpx file: Yellowbelly Track – Tracks.gpx and Yellowbelly Track – Roads.gpx
- Connects with: Great Victorian Rail Trail + 10 other routes in GABCY network.
- Technical: There are 4 gullies on this route between Toolamba and Mooroopna. The only gully likely to cause concern is the southern face of the southern most gully, near Pyke Road. You could detour around the gully using the roads gpx route, however you’d miss a very scenic section of river tracks. Without your bike you will be able to walk through the gully without grabbing anything, so it isn’t difficult. If you are with another person, 2 people will be able to get 1 bike at a time through the gully easily. However, if you are on your own the south face of the gully is too steep to walk up or down with your bike. It isn’t a strength issue, it is basic physics and friction – two feet on sloping ground are OK, but when you lift one foot to walk the other foot can’t get enough traction with the weight of your bike as well and you will start sliding down the slope. My solution is to take about 25m of 3mm chord and wrap one end around a concrete fence post at the top of the south face of the gully. The other end of the chord I wrap around my seat post and use that to hold the extra weight of my bike as I walk up (or down) the south face. Easy peasy – science not brawn.
The Yellowbelly Track is a 200km bike route in Northern Victoria, from Echuca to Tallarook, following the Goulburn River.
Route planning priorities were to stay close to the river, to minimise interraction with vehicle traffic, and to use river tracks and gravel roads instead of sealed roads where possible.
The route is named after a native fish living in the warm, meandering waterways of Australia’s flat inland – especially in the lower half of the Goulburn River which this ride follows.
The Yellowbelly Track is two interconnected routes and two gpx files.
This is to make the route attractive to riders with a range of experience and needs. Having two options also makes progress less dependant on the weather. When it rains the river tracks quickly become sticky, slippery and less viable, whereas the gravel roads are still rideable.
The plan is for riders to download both gpx files and to select and swap between routes depending on their situation and desires at the time. The gpx files can be downloaded from links at the bottom of this page.
While planning and testing the route I found many maps, including google maps, were not correct. If you plan to ride this route, my advice is to download the gpx files and use a gps tracker to monitor your progress against the route. Although not essential an off-course alarm will be handy because there are a few turnings that are easy to miss. My tracker loads both gpx files at the same time which is useful if I want to swap between the routes.
Access and Services
While some sectors of the Yellowbelly Track will feel remote, there are a lot of support services along the route, as shown in table below. The route offers a range of accommodation options at regular intervals, so all riders should be able find something to suit them.
There are several train stations along the route. This means the route can be ridden one-way, or if you have limited time you can just pick certain sectors. For example, the Echuca to Shepparton/Murchison sector for a dirty weekend gravel ride. Train timetables are available from links at bottom of this page.
Riders wanting a longer ride can continue east on the Great Victorian Rail Trail (GVRT). The GVRT adds another 120km, and even more if side trips are included. Alternatively riders could get dropped off at Mansfield first, then ride west on the GVRT. After Tallarook they could turn north on the Yellowbelly Track and, depending how far they wanted to ride, select a suitable the train station at which to leave the route and return home.
The route can be ridden in either direction. I think of starting at the Echuca end because the Tallarook end has more exit options and more frequent trains. If I can, I like to have more options at the end of a ride, as I have less control over my finishing time, than my starting time. For other riders it might be more convenient to start at the southern end.
There are a few patches on the route with poor mobile phone and internet reception, or none at all. So please ensure you carry devices to navigate and make emergency contacts when offline and out of range.
The are no non-emergency sources of water on either Yellowbelly Track route between Echuca and Shepparton (90km). Please ensure you carry enough water, plus some in reserve, to get all the way. Other options are Wakiti Creek Resort, if you stay there, or in an emergency there are farm houses, or you can filter water from the river if you have the equipment.
At present the route bypasses Seymour because it is difficult to get in to its CBD without travelling on busy main roads. However, Seymour is another option if you need a bigger range of services in that area.
More detail on each location
For riders planning their trips there is much more information about the amenities and services at each location along the route on this page – Yellowbelly Track – Amenities and Services.
The locations covered in detail are:
- Yambuna / Wakiti Creek
- Lower Goulburn National Park
- Shepparton Regional Park
- Between Murchison and Nagambie
- Northwood Road Reserve
Information for each of the towns includes:
- basic accommodation,
- the various services and shops in each of the towns, with opening hours and internet links,
- suggestions about some possible sidetrips you could take.
What will the ride be like?
Watch the Yellowbelly Track ride-through video
The best way to understand the Yellowbelly Track is to watch the ride-through video below. The video includes over 220 photos covering every track, path and road on the route, in sequence starting from the Echuca end. Both routes are included in the video.
Which Cyclists will Most Enjoy the Yellowbelly Track?
Hint: The title of the route does not include a large number, nor the word ‘divide’.
The Yellowbelly Track is a low stress ride. It is flat and even though it feels remote in places you are never very far from support and bail out options. If the weather turns, or you decide you don’t want to camp and prepare food every day, there are lots of towns with facilities along the route.
As such I think it is suited to new bikepackers or gravel riders, or more experienced riders who want to test a new setup.
I think it would be very good for a mixed group, where more experienced riders want to introduce friends, partners or younger family members to the joys of bikepacking or gravel riding. Lack of hills and very little car traffic will make it easy to stay together and spread across the road or tracks and chat to each other as you ride.
This route is also a good option for riders who have mostly been riding Rail Trails and are ready for new experiences and sharing roads with some cars.
Finally it is a great option for riders of all abilities who get excited about riding beside a scenic river on dry, clean, hard clay with a fine sprinkle of pink dust, while serenaded by a chorus of native birds.
More Details about the Yellowbelly Track
The video above shows the variety of riding surfaces on the route. The northern section of the route (135 km approx) has most of the non-sealed surfaces (clay, path and gravel). While the southern section (69 km approx) has more quiet sealed roads. The distribution of surfaces is shown in the chart below.
The standout sections are the clay river tracks. These are what make the Yellowbelly Track unique.
The clay river tracks are not only the most scenic sectors, but some are cleared and graded at the start of the fire season to maintain access in case of fire.
Outside of a velodrome, I don’t think there is a better riding surface than dry, hard, freshly-graded clay.
Ride Passes through National and Regional Parks
The Yellowbelly Track goes through two Parks. The long ribbon of the Lower Goulburn National Park and the Shepparton Regional Park, a State Park. About 60km of the Tracks route is through National or Regional Park, and about 20km of the Roads route, as the latter runs beside the Lower Goulburn National Park rather than through it.
As a result there is a lot of opportunity to see birds and native animals in these areas and very few humans or vehicles. It also means big areas to choose free camping sites to match the needs of your individual ride. The Roads route is always close enough to the Parks to go there for a free camp site if you need one.
There are links with more information and regulations for both Parks at the bottom of this page. Regulations change without warning, particularly with Covid. Please make sure you are aware of the current Parks Victoria regulations and safety guidelines before starting this ride.
Weather and Rain Impact
The Yellowbelly Track can be ridden all year; the ride-through video included photos from June, October, and December to February. My advice is to avoid peak summer days with their hot north wind, searing heat and fire risk – us yellowbellies don’t want to be dry roasted or BBQ’d.
It is important for riders to understand the effect of rain on the route. When it rains the river tracks quickly become sticky, slippery and less viable, whereas the gravel roads are still rideable. It is the gravel ‘plan B’ Roads.gpx route that make this viable as an all year route.
The effect of rain on different surfaces is shown in the photo on the left side below.
In the photo on the left the gravel road is built higher and domed so rain quickly runs off the sides. Gravel roads are maintained by putting more gravel on top and rolling it in – so the road becomes even higher.
Alternatively the clay track is flat and sunken. It is maintained by grading, scraping layers off the top until the road is smooth and level again, which makes the road lower than surrounding areas. Wet clay expands and becomes soft and water logged, so excess water will just sit on the surface for days.
A wet clay track is vulnerable. Driving on them particularly in heavy 4WDs rips holes in the track. Then more traffic makes the ruts bigger and deeper, and the ruts will hold water for much longer causing even more damage. The deep ruts remain and cause inconvenience to other travellers even when the tracks dry out.
My suggestion is to wait 3 days after heavy rain before riding the river tracks. If your bike is picking up mud or leaving a grooved trail you are just tearing up the track, the same as a 4WD, and making it less pleasant for the cyclists who will come after you.
In that situation the track is too wet. Please be responsible and swap to riding the gravel Roads.gpx route where possible.
In my view riders on Park tracks should be as concerned about protecting track surfaces as they are about carrying out rubbish, and not carving their names into trees. Don’t be the person posting a photo of your mud-caked wheels to social media.
After 3+ days there will still be puddles, sometimes big ones, but on a bike you should be able to find areas of dry track to ride around the puddles. And please ride around the puddles, not through them. Any areas of wet clay with surface water are easily damaged.
But enough of the negativity and when and where not to ride. Let’s talk about when it is the best time to ride the Yellowbelly Track !
The Best Time to Ride the Yellowbelly Track
My suggestion is autumn and spring. This is when the climate north and east of the dividing range is more attactive than it is to the south and west, or at higher altitudes. There will be less rain and wind to effect your riding experience. Plus more warmth and sunshine to keep the tracks dry and reduce the weight of the things you need to pack.
Also if you know when the main tracks are graded at the start of the fire season, just after that is perfect.
Dreamtime Story of Thuggai (Yellowbelly)
The dreamtime story of Thuggai (Yellowbelly) tells how all the Yellowbelly lived on the land until a very cold day. All the yellowbelly were huddled around their fire to keep warm. Then a big wind came and blew all the yellowbelly into the river along with their fire. This explains why yellowbelly are always found in the warmest bends and layers of the river, when it is colder elsewhere. The Yellowbelly are still huddled around their fire.
Yellowbelly riders like the yellowbelly fish avoid steep climbs up alpine routes during cooler times of the year and instead seek out the good life on warm bends with good food in slow meandering lowland rivers.
Can Yellowbelly Riders go Swimming and Fishing?
Well, yes. Although in most places the lower Goulburn River banks are steep sided and getting down to the water is difficult. However, there are some places where it is possible – and there are some flat dirt banks to swim or fish from.
I am not going to list or map the locations here though, as I don’t want to encourage everyone to camp at the same places. Many flat bank locations also require taking side tracks off the Yellowbelly Track.
Those keen enough will be able to do their own research and discover where the flat dirt banks are.
Swimming in rivers is a dangerous activity. Please also make yourself aware of the risks involved and take adequate precautions.
Recreational fishing in Victoria is covered by regulations, licences and bag and size limits. If you intend to fish, please make yourself aware of regulations and comply as necessary.
Why am I doing this?
I live in north central Victoria. This area is not currently recognised by many as a cycling destination, including by local government.
However, I think the extensive grid of local gravel roads, that now get much less traffic because of loss of irrigation water and farm consolidation, are an opportunity for cycling. Particularly when coupled with clay roads and scenic river tracks.
I’ve been riding around here, on unsealed roads, for the last 6 years. I keep finding great new roads and tracks to ride.
The big advantages of this area are the low traffic and most of the roads are already in very good riding condition. No big infrastructure spend is necessary. The area also has a climate advantage over much of the rest of Victoria in spring and autumn.
So am I right? If I build it will they come? We are about to find out.
Come back, there will be more
This page and the Yellowbelly Track was launched at the end of February 2021. The linked page with full details about amenities and services along the route was added at the end of March 2021.
However, there is still more information to add about the route. Please return to check and get more information before you take this ride. The information I want to add includes:
- More detail about navigating some technical difficulties you might encounter on the route – such as the gullies and busy roads.
- A survey form for ride users who completed the route to get an idea of ride numbers, and to take to councils and relevant bodies to get their support to improve the route.
- GPX Files
- These gpx files will always be available to public here, and updated to correct or adjust the route as necessary. Please do not repost to other sites such as strava or ridewithgps. I would prefer if potential riders were referred to this site to get latest version and updated ride information.
- Train timetables
- Melbourne – Shepparton (inc Murchison East, Nagambie) timetable
- Melbourne – Seymour (inc Tallarook) timetable
- Timetables change regularly. These are a guide only and I will not be updating the links often. Please confirm your actual travel plans with VLine.
- National and Regional Park information
- The maps of tracks in these documents contain some errors. I am posting the documents as a guide to park information and regulations, not the maps. I believe my gpx files are more correct.
- Lower Goulburn National Park
- Shepparton Regional Park + another map for Shepparton Regional Park
- Parks Victoria – Visitor Safety Tips in Parks
- Regulations and guidelines may change, particularly with Covid. I will not be updating this information often, and it may be out of date. Please contact Parks Victoria directly to confirm the rules and safety guidelines that apply when you want to travel.
Comments and Questions
If you have any questions or comments, post below.
Or contact me by email (nixtrader AT yahoo DOT com DOT au)