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AMCN Rides Northeast Tasmania | Rides | Tested

It’s one of Tasmania’s most infamous roads, but well worth the mettle required to make the summit

In the biblical tale of Jacob’s Ladder it was told that Jacob came to the place and stayed the night using a stone for a pillow. This is a strong possibility in Ben Lomond National Park as there are more than enough rocks lying around to make a bed from, if that’s what floats your boat. It was also written that Jacob was afraid of the revelations made by God, and you would have good reason to be very afraid if you did lose control of your bike wheeling back down this mountain pass. Anyway, it is a bit of a stretch to claim this last section of the Ben Lomond access road as a ‘stairway to heaven,’ rather it is more an exercise in concentration and self belief negotiating the many switchback corners that carve a gravel zigzag line up the mountain.

When we rode the area last it was blowing a gale and freezing cold at the lookout atop the pass near the alpine village, with the temperature hovering around zero. When we left Launceston an hour or so earlier with the thermometer happily bouncing around the 20 degree mark, we had no reason to pack any warm gear.

The ride out of the city on the Blessington Road is a pleasant tour on good bitumen for around 30km until you get to the turn-off to Ben Lomond National Park. The road into the park is well maintained, all-weather gravel all the way to the alpine village. Halfway up the hill, there is a park entrance hut but it is unattended if out of season. The scenery gets even more interesting past this point with breathtaking vistas across the valley and huge slides of ancient rock providing evidence of ongoing erosion.

Keep an eye out for wildlife as you ride up the hill. As well as the usual critters, we spotted several echidnas and a deer in the scrub.

At the bottom of the pass affectionately known as Jacob’s Ladder, you begin the final ascent up the Ben Lomond Range via a series of very tight hairpin turns. Several passing areas have been marked as you climb this section of single lane roadway where you can scan ahead for vehicles coming in the opposite direction. It pays to be vigilant as the area is prone to snow and ice which make the pass even more treacherous, particularly on two wheels.

The lookout at the top is well worth stopping for, with views across the stunning dolerite rock formations to the valley below. The alpine village itself is pretty much dead outside of snow season which keeps it nice and peaceful for riders to sit back and enjoy the alpine environment before plucking up the courage to do it in reverse.    

There is no fuel in or around Ben Lomond NP so fill up before you leave Launceston. The distance from ‘Lonny’ is not great but if you explore to the north west of Ben Lomond you can rack up quite a few kilometres in the forest areas, we certainly did.

The Ben Lomond Creek Inn at the Alpine Village is open year round and offers several accommodation options as well as a licensed restaurant and snack bar, contactable on (03) 6390 6199. There are some marked campsites available as well as remote camping locations.

You will need a Parks Pass, we bought the eight-week holiday pass on the ferry over which costs $30 for a motorcycle.

Fix it

There is nothing beyond Launceston when you head out on the Blessington Road, but the distance is not too great if you have to call for a pickup. Travelling in a group with some spares and tools is the best option. Launceston Motorcycles is at 3/4 Quarantine Rd, Kings Meadow. (03) 6343 1546. It is run by a motorcycle enthusiast who can help with all areas of maintenance and repair.

Sleep

  • Ben Lomond Creek Inn Alpine Village, Ben Lomond NP. (03) 6390 6199
  • Riverside Hotel Motel 407 West Tamar Hwy, Riverside, Launceston (03) 6327 2522

Fuel up

BP 295 Hobart Rd, Youngtown, Tas (03) 6344 5084

Caltex Service Station
102 Main Street, Perth, Tas
(03) 6398 2330

Things to do

Heading back to Launceston via the Diddington Rd through the quaint little village of Evandale, it is worth checking out the pub meals at the Clarendon Arms Hotel. There are also plenty of cafes and interesting stores to wander around. If you stay in Launceston, drop into the Cataract Reserve for a spot of cable gliding while you are there. If you pass through Ringarooma check out the  chainsaw tree carvings!

Tim tries a different type of flying in Tasmania

For up to date info on the area try the Launceston Visitor Information Centre on (03) 6336 3133 or email travelcentre@launceston.tas.gov.au. The Ben Lomond Parks office can be reached on (03) 6390 6279, although this is often unstaffed outside the snow season.

Detour

Ben Lomond National Park is surrounded by some spectacular countryside which is criss-crossed by back roads that run all the way through to the seaside towns on the east coast, or north to Ringarooma and Scottsdale. You will need a bike suitable for the long stretches of gravel, as well as a reasonable fuel range. We toured up through the Upper Blessington area and found some excellent back roads with clear views across to the ranges of Ben Nevis and Mt Victoria. The roads can be pretty much deserted so carry some tools and drinking water if you plan to explore the region.

Heading back to Launceston via the Diddington Rd through the quaint little village of Evandale, it is worth checking out the pub meals at the Clarendon Arms Hotel. There are also plenty of cafes and interesting stores to wander around. If you stay in Launceston, drop into the Cataract Reserve for a spot of cable gliding while you are there. If you pass through Ringarooma check out the  chainsaw tree carvings!

For up to date info on the area try the Launceston Visitor Information Centre on (03) 6336 3133 or email travelcentre@launceston.tas.gov.au. The Ben Lomond Parks office can be reached on (03) 6390 6279, although this is often unstaffed outside the snow season.

Story & Photography Tim Munro