Big Ride: 3 Peaks

Inspired by Bicycle Network’s Peaks Challenge, Cyclist ventures to Victoria’s High Country to tackle the iconic 235km loop that includes climbs of Tawonga Gap, Mount Hotham and the back of Falls.

But without the time constraints of a single day’s ride, we made sure to sample some of the fantastic (and delicious) local offerings along the way…

Henry and Alana set off from Falls Creek to begin the 235km loop

Words Henry Yates Photography Nick Esser

It was Thursday afternoon. The weekend ahead was going to be my first weekend off in two months, and I was longing for a disconnect to revitalise my senses.

I called some friends to see who would be keen to head to Victoria’s High Country to ride the route of the Peaks Challenge, starting at Falls Creek Village and descending into Mount Beauty before traversing up Tawonga Gap, up Mount Hotham and back via Omeo.

The Peaks Challenge is one of the world’s toughest and most picturesque cycling challenges – comparable with the toughest stages of the Tour de France with over 4,000 metres of climbing throughout its 235km loop, and taking place annually in March.

I’d never ridden it before, but I couldn’t wait to test myself out, even if it wasn’t on the weekend of the actual event.

The plan was set, and my good friend (and Paralympic gold medallist) Alana Forster was on board to join me for what shaped up to be a cracking weekend.

We were off to Victoria’s High Country!

Peak 1: Tawonga Gap

It’s now Friday, and I’ve just finished work.

I dash out the door and into my car to pick up Alana. We load the bikes onto my Thule bike rack, fill the car with fuel and head up the Hume, trying to stay ahead of peak-hour traffic.

As the kays tick by, the light begins to fade and day turns to night. I roll down my window to feel that chilled mountain air blast against my face.

We see the flashing road markers in the distance when Alana points out the full moon illuminating the shadows as we near Falls Creek.

Our accommodation for the evening, Frueauf Village, is just behind the main village, so we continue up the hill until we can see our apartment’s warm amber light shining through the small windows.

We enter through the front door to a refreshing warm blast of air that envelops us, marking a comforting start to our big adventure.

Starting the day the right way with a hearty brekky at Falls Creek’s 1550 Restaurant

It’s going to be a big couple of days ahead. Better get some rest. I awaken to a clear, crisp morning in Falls Creek.

The aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafts into my room from the Frueauf Village apartment’s kitchen.

Looking out my window, the sun is beginning to rise, painting the sky with warm pink and orange hues.

I head upstairs to see Alana brewing coffee for us both.

Just what we need before loading our bikes and gearing up for a weekend packed with fantastic riding, food, and undoubtedly more coffee.

Before hitting the descent from Falls Creek, a hearty breakfast is required, so we make our way to 1550 Restaurant in Falls Creek Village.

We take a few moments to enjoy coffee number two (that didn’t take long) along with a big breakfast featuring all the favourites – eggs, bacon, hash browns, mushrooms, tomatoes and toast – while discussing our plan of attack.

Today we’ll take on Falls Creek, Tawonga Gap, the Ovens Valley and Mount Hotham, before hitting Omeo and the back of Falls on Sunday morning.

We unload the cars and stash them in the free overnight parking at the top of the mountain, then debate the crucial question of how many layers you need to stay warm enough on the way down, but not so hot that you sweat.

The view from Sullivans Lookout towards Mount Beauty is, as advertised, an absolute beauty

Alana opts for multiple layers, complete with arm and leg warmers, while I decide summer cycling gear will suffice, consisting of bare-minimum gloves and a gilet. I would quickly learn that Alana’s choice was the wiser.

Rolling into Mount Beauty, there’s a noticeable rise in temperature.

The sun is shining, and the valley is warm with a hint of humidity.

We silently agree on the need for a third coffee ahead of our big day of climbing and take a quick pit stop at Grass Valley Cafe, popular with the cycling crowd.

In the distance, Tawonga Gap looms – a 7.5km climb with an elevation gain of 476 metres and an average gradient of 6%.

It’s the first and least demanding climb in the Peaks Challenge, but it’s no ride in the park, featuring several steep hairpins and a steady gradient throughout.

Beyond its storied cycling history, this road was also pivotal in the story of Victoria, created in 1896 after local farmers petitioned hard for a road to link the Kiewa and Ovens Valleys so they could sell their products in Bright.

I find a comfortable rhythm early in the climb, steady but not fast.

As Alana surges ahead, I focus on my heartbeat, setting small goals at each corner and landmark.

There are three key landmarks on this climb – the major hairpin 3.7km in, ‘Lawler Spring’ at 5.2km where you can refill your water, and Sullivans Lookout at 6.2km, offering stunning views of Mount Beauty Township and Mount Bogong, Victoria’s tallest mountain at 1,986 metres.

From there, it’s just 1.4km to the summit.

Before I know it I’m at the lookout atop the climb, feeling pretty good – but there are bigger challenges ahead.

Peak 2: Mount Hotham

After a quick happy snap at the top of Tawonga Gap, we zoom down the flowing descent towards the Ovens River.

The roads are quiet, the temperature a mild 20°C.

Ahead of us is the T-intersection of Great Alpine Road and Tawonga Gap Road.

Alana suggests we join the new paved bike path – the Great Valley Trail, which runs from Bright to Harrietville – instead.

Initially I’m sceptical, but as we roll through the twists and turns of the perfectly smooth tarmac it doesn’t take long for me to change my tune.

The trail follows the Ovens River into Harrietville, where we’ll soon be enjoying a big lunch at the Harrietville Hotel Motel.

There’s no red carpet here – the Great Alpine Road carves an intimidating path towards the top of Mount Hotham

Over lunch, we review our next monster climb up Hotham, a climb many cyclists know and love to ride.

The road traces the mountain with one hugely famous switchback, ‘The Meg’ – at an average gradient of 10% – that would be sure to put me in the red with the way my legs are currently feeling.

The road that climbs Mount Hotham is part of the Great Alpine Road with an elevation of 1,840 metres.

The history of the road dates back to the 1800s, when gold was discovered in Victoria’s High Country.

Its development was initially used to service the goldfields of the Ovens Valley, Dargo, Omeo and Cobungra.

As time moved on, the road facilitated ski tourism to Mount Hotham’s ski resort – and, of course, it also became a mecca for Australian cyclists.

Fuel in our stomachs, it’s time to hit the road again.

My legs are starting to feel taxed, and we’ve only just rolled out of the hotel.

This is going to be a mission. I engage Turtle Mode, slow and steady, as Alana shoots on ahead.

For me it’s about consistency, ensuring I maintain my legs for The Meg, which I know is fast approaching.

A friendly passer-by offers Cyclist access to their mini-fridge when we run out of water on the way up Hotham

Corner by corner the gradient increases, the temperature heating up and the humidity causing sweat to drip off my nose. I keep the pressure on as I hit The Meg.

If you thought ‘Turtle Mode’ was slow, the 10% gradient of the corner now requires me to engage ‘Turtle Low-Gear’.

The throbbing echo of my heartbeat plays in my head, drowning out the pain in my legs.

But I make it over the crest and push forward. Alana is waiting up the road, advising me about the false flat that follows.

Instead of resting, I press on, eager to make the most of this ‘easier’ section.

As my legs begin to burn and strain, I firmly grip my bars and shift into the big ring – it’s all or nothing.

In the distance, I can see the Dargo intersection with picturesque 360° views that distract from my fatigue.

Day turns to dusk, and the skies around us throw vibrant hues of orange and pink.

As golden hour nears, the shadows become frosty.

We’re almost at the top with one final descent into the mountain village. This is my first time conquering Mount Hotham, and I’m feeling ecstatic.

After a celebratory hug, we pull into dinner at The General restaurant, adjacent to the Big D, where a Euro-style ski interior, complete with raw timber and ski memorabilia and a life-size snowmobile creates a cosy atmosphere.

Here, we dine – the pizzas are fantastic, as is the rest of the menu – as the sun sets through giant windows, offering a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.

Even outside of Peaks Challenge weekend, Hotham is busy, so it’s always good to book early – as we discovered with our last-minute booking, there weren’t many rooms left in town.

In the end, we settled for split accommodation.

Alana was just below the restaurant at Mountain Dreaming Apartments, which offer self-contained luxury apartments fit with a coffee machine, fireplace, balcony, and kitchen, its silence and warmth a stark contrast to the bustling restaurant next door.

They say a picture can tell 1,000 words – in this case it’s more like 20, but it gets the point across

The uninterrupted mountain vistas offer a serene backdrop for any retreat.

Meanwhile, I’m just a short ride down the road in Dinner Plain.

I check into my accommodation at Hotel High Plains, its cosy charm of log cabin-styled rooms combined with a rustic interior embodying the perfect mountain escape.

The scent of timber and the ambience round off an incredible day in Victoria’s High Country.

I drift off to sleep easily, ready for the back end of our route the next morning… including the monster that is the back of Falls.

The descent into Omeo

It’s 6am on Sunday and I stagger out of bed and take in the remarkable vistas one more time.

Alana is already downstairs, ready to make an early start for breakfast in Omeo.

I get dressed, clip into my pedals and roll out to meet her.

The wind howls through the trees like a chilling polar blast as we roll down the saddle of Mount Hotham towards Omeo.

Omeo, derived from the Jaitmatang people’s word for ‘mountains’ or ‘hills’, boasts a rich gold mining history.

Established along Livingstone Creek, its development initially stalled due to isolation until the 1851 gold discovery.

By 1854, a bustling gold rush township emerged.

As the kays tick on so does my eagerness to find the fast descent I was expecting after such a huge ascent up Hotham yesterday.

Alana and I pull over at the crest of another rolling hill to check the elevation map, but it’s not what I expected at all – it’s dotted with punchy climbs, rolling hills and one very steep final descent into Omeo.

Amid green pastures lined with rusty barbed wire fences, I encounter a man dragging a tree trunk behind his white delivery van, an odd sight anywhere but especially out on this quiet road.

Still in my cleats, I trot over to try and help him roll the enormous snow gum into the gutter while he directs me. At last, the trunk is off the road.

It’s the final descent into Omeo and my stomach begins to murmur as we race down the mountain.

The deafening sounds of the wind whooshing past my ears silences our surroundings as we build speed, and before we know it we roll past the Omeo sign and down the main street, bypassing Crazy Cow Bakery – known for its great pies – in search of eggs on toast. We land at New Rush Brewhouse.

Its cosy, local vibe, complemented by great coffee and locally sourced food, makes it a must-visit.

A hearty breakfast of two coffees each, eggs on toast, raisin bread and orange juice hits the spot and perfectly caps off this morning’s ride.

Peak 3: Back of Falls

Breakfast devoured and hydration topped up, we set off towards the town Anglers Rest, named as it’s a haven for trout fishing enthusiasts at the convergence of three rivers.

The temperature is already on the rise at almost 28°C, and with the sun at 70% strength, the day is heating up and we have nowhere to hide.

Around 14km in, I’m pleasantly surprised to spot a white house perched on a corner on the winding road to Anglers Rest.

Either side of it are lush, rolling green hills as far as the eye can see.

Soon after, the road heads into the mountains of the Alpine National Park, the surface going from a dark grey to a lighter grey.

The serene green pastures turn to an earthy red bushland of sweeping bends.

Within a couple of minutes, we’ve arrived in Anglers Rest for a resupply of food, water and a couple of Cokes to hold off the bonk as long as possible.

It’s time to tackle the back of Falls.

The sun is at full strength, the temperature soars to 32 degrees, and we’re starting to feel tired.

As sweat drips down my face, my mind begins to wander, lost in a world of meaningless thoughts and random business ideas that fill the void of silence as I struggle towards WTF Corner in the distance.

At least, I thought it was in the distance – we’re much closer than I initially perceived.

I quickly shift down my gears, taking a very wide left sweeping turn and making sure to give myself momentum up the first pinch.

The climb takes us up an almost 8% gradient for 10km until it flattens out, finally giving us some reprieve.

The landscape begins to change as we climb further up the back side of Falls Creek, leaving behind bushy gum trees and dry red surroundings for green, grey and cool pastures as the elevation changes.

My legs are burning but I’m keeping pace, though I can’t help but wonder how the legs might have felt had we tackled this one on the same day as Tawonga Gap and Mount Hotham, just like in Peaks Challenge, instead of after a good night’s rest.

As we push on past WTF Corner, Alana and I both sit up and take in the unique scenery, comprised of a wide range of alpine and subalpine vegetation that represents 13 of the 16 ecological vegetation classes.

The road traces the edge of the endless plateau, filled with unique and interesting flora broken up by the trickling, crystal-clear streams that flow through them.

The ultra-smooth tarmac provides comfort and speed as we count down the last few kays.

We roll past Rocky Valley Dam, sparkling in the sunlight with a loan sail boat enjoying the breeze. It’s the home straight with one last rise before we descend into the car park.

The feeling is euphoric as Alana and I crest the final climb together. We’ve conquered the 3 Peaks.

As we reflect on what we’ve achieved, we’re already discussing returning on 9 March 2025 for Peaks Challenge – this time without as many stops – and trying to finish this 235km epic in a single day.

Visit for more information about next year’s event!



Three peaks to the wind

Follow Cyclist’s loop, which is also the route of Bicycle Network’s Peaks Challenge

To see the full route, scan the QR code.

On Day 1, from our accommodation at Frueauf Village in Falls Creek, we rolled down to 1550 Restaurant for breakfast.

Next, make your way to Bogong High Plains Road and turn left to head north-west towards Mount Beauty.

Continue through Mount Beautytownship along the main road before turning left at Tawonga Gap Road just outside of Mount Beauty, to tackle the Tawonga Gap climb.

Enjoy the descent before turning left at the T-intersection with Great Alpine Road and continue on towards Harrietville (turning right will take you to Bright).

If you’re hungry at this point, grab a bite to eat at Harrietville – we ate at the Harrietville Hotel Motel – or continue on the Great Alpine Road and get ready to take on the infamous Mount Hotham climb, including The Meg.

Climb conquered, continue through Mount Hotham village – this is where we ended Day 1, but on the day of Peaks Challenge you’ll push on! On Day 2, we continued along Great Alpine Road and rolled on to Dinner Plain.

Stop at the village for a quick look, or otherwise it’s a great spot for breakfast if you’re feeling peckish already.

After exploring the cosy alpine village, turn right back onto the Great Alpine Road to Omeo (we had our breakfast here at New Rush Brewhouse).

Turn left onto the Omeo Highway, heading north towards Anglers Rest and Glen Valley.

Just past Glen Valley take the left onto Bogong High Plains Road (aka WTF Corner) towards Falls Creek, for your final climb.

Continue on Bogong High Plains Road past Rocky Valley Lake, finishing back at Falls Creek.

Congrats – you’ve completed the 3 Peaks Challenge.


By the numbers

Because everyone loves stats
4,864 Metres elevation gained
235 Kilometres ridden
81 max speed descending in kmh
11 Lattes
8 Bags of Allen’s Snakes
6 Muesli bars



Take the Challenge

Whether it’s as part of Bicycle Network’s Peaks Challenge, or you simply want to head to Victoria’s High Country in your own time and tackle the 3 Peaks at your own pace (as we did!), this is an experience we recommend to any cyclist who wants to test themselves while also witnessing some of Australia’s most beautiful landscapes.

Of course, if you do want to tackle this route in your own time, just keep in mind that riding here is seasonal.

October through to April is riding season on the Peaks Loop; outside of that (May to September), the ride is not accessible or safe as the area is covered in snow.

If you’d like to tackle the official Peaks Challenge, the next one is scheduled for 9 March 2025.

Head to for all the event information you need, or visit for more general information on Victoria’s High Country!



Where we stayed

Frueauf Village, Falls Creek
Waking up in Frueauf Village’s Panorama apartment feels like a dream.

You brew a fresh cup of coffee and step onto the balcony, greeted by the spectacular sunrise over the mountains.

It’s the perfect start before hitting the trails.

This cosy retreat,with its luxury touches and enough room for your whole crew, makes every moment special.

From the spa to the drying room for your gear, it’s tailored for cyclists looking for both adventure and relaxation.

For that blend of early morning peace and day-long action, it’s unbeatable.

Mountain Dreaming Hotham
Nestled at Hotham, Mountain Dreaming offers self-contained apartments that promise a serene retreat with stunning sunset views.

Imagine unwinding with the tranquil silence of the mountain, complemented by a gentle water feature, right from your private balcony.

Each apartment is a haven of self-sufficiency, boasting modern furnishings and a fully equipped kitchen, ensuring a stay that blends convenience with the luxury of alpine living.

The added benefit was that it’s only a walk down the stairs from The General restaurant.

Hotel High Plains, Dinner Plain
Picture ending your day at Hotel High Plains in Dinner Plain, enveloped in the charm of a log cabin atmosphere.

This cosy retreat, with its abundant timber and log cabin smell made for a very relaxing evening.

If you are on the mountain this is worth a few nights of pure relaxation – it was exactly what we needed after a huge slog on the bike on Saturday.

Kiewa Country Cottages
On our final night, we had planned to make the big drive back arriving very late and tired to Melbourne, however, instead we made a late booking at Kiewa Country Cottages.

On arrival, we weren’t too sure what to expect, but when we arrived, we were blown away by the whole experience.

Each cottage is a self contained house with a house-like kitchen, and living room and sleeps four people.

The rolling green backyard, crystal-clear creek and shared facilities made for a perfect end to our weekend.



How we did it

By car, Victoria’s High Country is easily accessible from Melbourne and the surrounding regions.

Given our flexibility of having the weekend to explore and truly enjoy the region we split the ride across two days, ensuring we had ample time to ride, explore and taste what each town has to offer.

We left Friday evening from Melbourne and headed straight up the Hume Freeway before cutting across to Falls Creek arriving later that evening.

On the return we opted for an additional night in Mount Beauty ahead of the four-hour drive home, which we did in the morning, leaving at 3:30am ahead of the Monday morning commute into Melbourne.

Food and Drink
The High Country is known not only for its natural beauty but also for its diverse cuisine.

Our trip commenced with a perfect brew and a big breakfast at 1550 Restaurant in Falls Creek Village.

On our way to Mount Hotham, we made a call into the Harrietville Hotel Motel for a big schnitzel and salad before we climbed up to the top of Hotham for dinner at The General, which boasts a phenomenal view overlooking the mountains and large windows for watching the sunset.

If you want to experience a true country pub with a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, this is a place you need to call into.

On our second day we called into the New Rush Brewhouse in Omeo, which offers a great atmosphere for breakfast, coffee, and dinner.

It’s a family owned establishment that makes use of local produce, so you know you’re getting a true local experience.

Huge thanks to Ride High Country for having us along for this truly unique experience.

The biggest thanks must go to Christina for her thorough planning and organisation that enabled us to truly enjoy the ride.

We also have to say a big thanks to the friendly couple who kindly stopped on their way down Mount Hotham when we ran out of water and who opened their mini fridge on the side of the road.

Finally, we have to say thanks to Jenny from Kiewa Country Cottages who kindly made last-minute arrangements for us to stay on Sunday night.

On arrival we were thoroughly impressed – it’s an amazing spot for a weekend out in the country, tranquil and relaxing.

Perfect for a weekend to unwind.


Cyclist Australia/NZ