Classic Treks: Grampians

There’s something special about having a place that’s close enough to a major city that you can drive there on a Friday night, disappear into the wilderness for the weekend and be back for work (or school, or uni, or scones, depending on your point of view) on Monday.

Grampians-Gariwerd in western Victoria is one such area. Well known as an outstanding day walk destination (click here for a selection of excellent day walks), the rugged sandstone ranges also offer fantastic remote trekking opportunities. The proximity of roads and towns makes it hard to avoid all traces of civilisation for weeks at a time, but it’s hard to imagine anywhere offering a better selection of overnight hikes – from a perfect beginners trek on well-formed tracks in the Wonderland Range to expeditions in the more remote corners of the national park which require serious route-finding and rock scrambling skills. And there are loads of fantastic campsites in the heart of truly wild scenery that feel a million miles from the modern world.

Listed in order of difficulty (with the easiest trip first), here’s our pick of the best Grampians wild weekends.

WONDERLAND TRAVERSE:  31km, 2 days

This trek leads you though the most visited part of the park, but it’s popular for a reason. The tracks are easy to follow and the scenery is well worth the effort. This is a long walk so start early.

Day 1: Halls Gap tennis courts to Borough Huts (20km, 9 hours)

From the tennis courts, located at the northwestern corner of Halls Gap Caravan Park, follow the track along Stony Creek to Venus Baths, a series of picturesque rockpools. This area was heavily affected by flooding in 2011, and the rangers have put a lot of effort into restoring the track for walkers.

Continue along the creek, crossing on bridges below two small waterfalls (Splitters Falls and Stony Falls) then take a sharp left at Wonderland Car Park, following the signs into the Grand Canyon. The title is a little ambitious but the walking is excellent, with cliffs rising 20 metres on either side of the track as it rock-hops along the base of the canyon before exiting via a steel ladder.

Grand Canyon

From here follow the arrows on the rocks and a short section of track, then pass through Silent Street, a 10 metre-deep crevasse in the sandstone, and make your way to the Pinnacle. The protruding slab of rock at the crest of the range has great views the surrounding cliffs and the town of Halls Gap, and is one of the most popular sites in the national park.

From the Pinnacle continue south along the cliff rim, ignoring two tracks the the right – the first to the garden of the Grampians and the second to Sundial car park. After visiting Lakeview Lookout the main track heads back to the car park, where there are toilets, picnic tables and a water tank. From here follow the signs to Sundial Peak for one of the best views from the range; it’s about a 4km return trip so this section can be skipped if you’re pushed for time. Return to the car park and take the track that leads south-west through forest to cross the road to meet a car park at the start of the track to Mt Rosea.

View south from Sundial Peak

This track has been re-aligned in recent years and is now a little longer but a lot easier. It begins with a steady climb through Stringybark forest before reaching more exposed rocky areas – follow cairns as the track crosses over expanses of bare rock and winds between giant boulders and grass trees. After crossing a wide gully the track climbs with great views to the west – the small odd-shaped peak in the middle distance is Tower Hill. Watch for rock cairns and painted arrows as the path levels out before reaching the rim of Mt Rosea’s huge east-facing cliffs.

Tower Hill from the slopes of Mount Rosea

Exciting walking follows as the track heads over a narrow fissure known as the Gate of the East Wind on a small metal bridge then through a cave before a short climb to reach a junction 100 metres from the summit of Mt Rosea. Drop packs here and follow the short side-trip to the top and drink in the views, mostly back over the ground you have covered and the mountains beyond. The track continues south from the junction close to the cliff rim before dropping over on a steep descent under Dalton Peaks (Gurdgaragwurd). Then it’s a gentle walk through forest to the drive-in campsite at Borough Huts, which has room for 15 tents on a large grassy area beside Fyans Creek.

Mount Rosea summit

Day 2: Borough Huts to Halls Gap (11km, 4-5 hours)

From the campground walk north on the roadside for about 500 metres (take care!) then follow the vehicle track that heads off to the right, leading north-east. This is the Bellfield Track and it follows the eastern shore of Lake Bellfield before joining the Terraces Fireline.

After a short, sharp climb below a knoll known as The Grand Old Man, the track continues north, passing the dam wall and Little Joe Hill. A short distance further on a track joins from the left – this leads to Brambuk the National Park and Cultural Centre. The Halls Gap township is another 2km to the north; pass a turn-off on the right to Boronia Peak and continue past the town to Delley’s Bridge, where the track doubles back and enters Halls Gap from the north. Cross the road to return to the tennis courts.

MOUNT STAPYLTON CIRCUIT: 13.5km, 2 days

The northern tip of Grampians-Gariwerd has its own distinct character, with peaks and rock outcrops surrounded by orange cliffs and, beyond, the vast plains of the Wimmera. This return walk can be completed in a day but doing it in two gives you more time to explore and soak in the wild atmosphere. This walk was affected by the recent fire so you will see some burnt-out sections.

Day 1: Mount Zero Picnic Area to Mount Stapylton Campground (8.5km, 4 hours)

From the picnic area on Mount Zero Road follow the walking track to Mount Stapylton, which immediately begins climbing the steep northern face of the impressive (if not terribly accurately named) Flat Rock. Ten minutes of strenuous climbing leads to the top of the rock and a spectacular vista – before you is the natural amphitheatre of Mount Stapylton while in the background the ranges wind away to the cliffs of Briggs Bluff, Mount Gar and the rest of Grampians-Gariwerd.

Break on Flat Rock with Mount Stapylton in the distance

Follow painted arrows over the rock and into the amphitheatre, ignoring the side track that joins from the right (this will be your return route on the next day). The track passes beneath the massive overhanging cliffs then climbs again up a rock ramp past Bird Rock to a rocky saddle and a track junction. Leave your packs here for the side trip to Mount Stapylton, which follows the base of more cliffs and then crosses a rocky gully before ascending a broad rocky ledge. Take extreme care in this very exposed area and follow the signs.

Return to your packs and continue south along the range, as the track passes through small rocky gorges and valleys. Eventually it levels off, crossing through forest dotted by rock outcrops to reach another junction. Take the track to the right which descends from the range and meets another track junction – turn left (west) and cross Pohlner Road, then continue through the forest for 1.4km to Stapylton Campground, which is shared with car campers.

Wild country near Mount Stapylton

Day 2: Mount Stapylton Campground to Mount Zero Picnic Area (5km, 2 hours)

Start the day with a visit to Ngamadjidj Shelter, an Aboriginal rock art site a short walk from the campsite. Then retrace your steps past Pohlner Road, turning left at the junction and following the track through dry forest to the base of Flat Rock, where it meets the track from the first day. Turn left and climb to the high point of Flat Rock before a long descent to the picnic area.

MAJOR MITCHELL PLATEAU: 25.7km, 2 days

Mount Duwil (Mount William) and the Major Mitchell Plateau are the highest points in western Victoria, with all that implies – a wild and remote landscape with sweeping views of the surrounding country, including almost all of the Grampians. This walk requires a car shuttle.

Day 1: Sheep Hills Car Park to First Wannon Creek (12.7km, 5 hours)

To find the start of the walk drive south from Halls Gap to Sheep Hills Car Park, on Grampians Tourist Road about 2km south of the junction with the road to Mount Duwil (Mount William). A signposted track leads into the forest, crossing Grasstree Creek and then continuing for another 2km to Barrilayoog (Fyans) Creek, after which it begins to climb the flanks of the mountain.

At 1167m Mount Duwil is the highest peak in the Grampians so it is a long walk, but the track is well graded and the views of Cathedral Rock make for a fine distraction. There is a good spot for a break about two hours in, on some rock outcrops above a small gorge. After 5.7km of walking the track joins Mount William Road and follows it to the summit. The first 350m is open to cars, but the final 1.8km is for walkers only. The view from the top is magnificent and encompasses most of the park.

Dawn on Mount William

After a well-earned break head back down the road for 100m and take a management vehicle track which leads to a communications tower. From here the track plunges steeply into and then out of Dirag (Boundary Gap), which separates Mount Duwil from Major Mitchell Plateau; the final section involves rock scrambling, keep an eye out for the cairns that mark the route and you may need to do some pack hauling. Once you reach the plateau it is a mostly flat 1km walk to the campsite on the banks of First Wannon Creek.

Major Mitchell Plateau

Day 2: First Wannon Creek to Jimmy Creek Campground (13km, 5 hours)

The second day begins with a traverse of the plateau, with occasional views of the serrated profile of the Serra Range to the west and the plains of the Wimmera to the east. The track hits the edge of the plateau, marked by a large cairn, 5.2km from camp. From here it descends steeply and follows a narrow ridge through wet forest to a minor unnamed peak 1.3km from the plateau rim – a short side-track leads to the summit. After this point the track drops sharply to a junction with Stockyard Creek four-wheel drive track, which is surrounded by a grassy clearing that makes for a good lunch spot. Follow Stockyard Creek Track west then south, ignoring a side track that joins from the left, to a rocky knoll. After this point you are back on a walking track again; it continues downhill offering more fine views of the surrounding mountains until you reach the road 5.3km from the Stockyard Creek junction. Jimmy Creek Campground is 300m to the south along Grampians Tourist Road.

The Fortress at sunset

THE FORTRESS: 16km, 2 days

An aptly named sandtone massif that dominates the landscape of the Victoria (Billawin) Range, the Fortress is located in wild and remote country so this walk is suitable only for experienced walkers.

Day One: Harrop Track to Fortress Campsite (11.5km, 7 hours)

Start the walk at a small car park where Deep Creek four wheel drive track meets Harrop Track, which is rough but traversable to two-wheel drives. Walk along Deep Creek Track for 600 metres until you reach a walking track branching off to the right. Take this and head uphill. The track is quite a slog but some interesting overhanging rock formations and caves make for a nice rest spot on the way up. At the top of the slope the track levels off and you find yourself traversing a ridgeline with good views of the huge sandstone massifs scattered throughout the Billawin Range. After about a kilometre the track passes a large rock outcrop with a spectacular view of the most impressive of these massifs, the Fortress itself. After this point the track descends steeply into a rocky valley then crosses a small seasonal creek before following it upstream to some large rock overhangs, the campsite for this night. Technically you don’t need a tent on this walk as the overhang provides ample shelter, but it is advisable to take one as a precaution. Continue up the creek without packs and follow the track up a crevasse directly under the Fortress. The massif itself is impossible to climb without rock-climbing equipment but the surrounding country is well worth exploring. Take care, though, as there are many cliffs and crevasses in the area. The track continues on to another hikers campsite (and, if you were to continue on, a four wheel drive track) but once you reach this point the best of the scenery is behind you so return to camp for the night.

Campsite at The Fortress

Day 2: Fortress Campsite to Harrop Track (4.5km, 2 hours)

On the second day return to Harrop Track – the route is quite indistinct and there are false tracks, so take care following the arrows on the rocks.

MOUNT GAR: 15.5km, 2 days

This is one of the best overnight hikes anywhere in Australia and the views from the top of Mount Gar at sunrise and sunset are simply fantastic. Unfortunately this entire area was badly burnt in major bushfires in January 2014 and the track is currently closed. Check rangers for latest conditions.

Day 1: Troopers Creek to Mt Gar (5.4km 3-4 hours)

The walk starts at Troopers Creek campground on the Roses Gap Road and starts easily enough, following a flat sandy track for 500 metres to a large wind-scoured boulder. From here the track begins a relentless climb, switching back and forth until it reaches a rock outcrop under a cave at the base of the cliffs. Good hand-holds are needed to haul yourself up in some sections.

On the climb up Mt Gar

The track continues uphill, winding through dry forest under the constant presence of the overhanging cliffs. It eventually reaches the base of the cliffs, signalled by an arrow on the rock , and heads north along a rocky ledge studded by rocks that have fallen from the cliffs above. This makes for fantastic walking, as you are alternately required to scramble over, shimmy around and crawl underneath the rocky obstacles. Eventually the track passes a seasonal waterfall and leaves the rocky ledge, heading uphill to a notch in the cliffs marked by a huge boulder. This is another great lookout, with the best views achieved by walking around the boulder to see the mountains on the far side. It is then a simple 500-metre walk up a rocky track to the campsite. There is room for a handful of tents between the small trees.

The highlight of day one is still to come, as – after leaving your packs at camp – you head to the northern end of the campsite and follow the arrows up the rocky slope for 500 metre to reach the summit of Mount Gar. From here the true shape of the range is apparent: the cliffs form a huge arc around a central basin (now filled with the reservior of Lake Wartook), known to geologists as a geosyncline. Beyond the syncline, the lower ranges of Grampians-Gariwerd snake away to the park’s northern tip at Mount Zero, while to the south the serrated peaks of the Serra Range and Mount Duwil (Mount William) peek above the nearer form of Mount Bagara (Mount Victory). At sunset the views are simply unforgettable.

Breakfast on top of Mt Gar

Day 2: Mt Gar to Briggs Bluff car park (10.1km, 5 hours)

Following a leisurely breakfast (and a slightly less leisurely ascent of the mountain for early morning views) take the track north from camp, passing the summit track on your left.

The next 2.9km is marked by another section of fantastic walking as the track alternates between traversing rocky slabs and small ridgelines and diving into thickly vegetated rocky gullies. The track is marked in places by painted arrows and by small stone cairns. After an hour or so the nature of the track changes, and it leaves the broad ridgeline it has followed since camp and descends to a three-way track junction.

Track between Mount Gar and Briggs Bluff

Continue walking north, following the sign to Briggs Bluff. The track crosses more rocky slopes and a small campsite before reaching another junction. Leave your packs here and head north to the bluff, following the track and rock cairns to a low cliffline pocked with caves. A rocky scramble leads to the summit and more great views. Needless to say, this makes a great lunch spot.

View to Mount Stapylton from Briggs Bluff

After returning to your packs descend down through forest and under a rocky arch to cross a gully, then swing north following rock cairns on a route parallel with the cliffs until you are almost level with Briggs Blufff. At this point the track drops steeply to yet another zone of fantastic walking, descending through a wilderness of stone towers, cliffs and bare rock.

Descending from Briggs Bluff

The landscape eventually narrows into a steep rocky valley, which ends abruptly at the top of Beehive Falls. Descend the rock steps carefully to the base of the falls and a fine rest point under an overhang. Mud Hut Creek, which feeds the falls, is seasonal but there is enough moisture to keep them dripping and the microclimate humid all year round. The last section of the track is an easy half-hour stroll through the forest to a car park on Roses Gap Road and a short 7.4km drive (or, if necessary, walk) to Troopers Creek.

Briggs Bluff track above Beehive Falls

DJIBALARA (THE ASSES EARS): 12km, 2 DAYS

Located in the northwest part of the Grampians, Djibalara is the wildest and least visited range in the national park. As such it makes for exciting walking – the route described here requires experience in off-track navigation. This area was severely affected by the recent bushfires and although it is open for visitors much of the forest is completely burnt. Take care.

Day 1: Rose Creek Road to Djibalara summit (6km, 3.5 hours)

To access Djibalara take the Mount Victoria Road from Halls Gap, turning left onto Rose Creek Road about 3km past the turnoff to Reed Lookout. After 4km Wallaby Rocks Track joins to the right. Leave your car near the wide junction and head up Wallaby Rocks Track on foot (four-wheel drives and sturdy two-wheel drives with good clearance can continue from this point with care). Follow the track as it climbs through stringybark forest; in spring this area is filled with colourful wildflowers. About 3.5km from Rose Creek Road take the walking track that joins from the right, opposite a roadside pull-off area. After winding through the forest for 1km the track opens up, with rocks offering views to the east of the jagged Serra Range and in the distance Mount Duwil and the Major Mitchell Plateau – the radio tower on the summit of Mt Duwil is visible on a clear day. Shortly afterwards these views are surpassed as the track climbs on to rock slabs which overlook the southern portion of Djibalara, which consists of rocky ridges topped by cliffs interspersed with sandstone massifs. Moments later these are topped again by your first view of the summit – a large overhanging rock makes for a good rest spot. It takes about 45 minutes to reach this location from the four wheel drive track.

Rock overhang en route to Djibalara

The track then descends steeply to the base of the cliffs you were just perched on, then winds through forest before meeting some large rock outcrops. Until now you have been following a clear path but from here it is tougher going. The track gradually peters out as you head northwest – if in doubt keep the rocks to your right. You will find yourself swinging around the base of some low cliffs; find a good spot to scramble on to the rocks and follow the sloping rock platform uphill as it becomes a broad ledge between cliffs to your right and left. When you get to the top hop off to the left (this may take a bit of exploring). There are a number of rough sites where you can pitch a tent in the scrub between the rocks.

Camping at Djibalara

After pitching your tent it is time to make for the summit! This adventurous section requires you to traverse some seriously rugged terrain, scrambling between, over and occasionally under giant boulders and scrub-filled gullies until you reach the cliff rim. The 710 metre summit is marked by a small cairn.

The eastern escarpment of Djibalara

Day 2: Djibalara to Rose Creek Road (6km, 3.5 hours)

Retrace your route from day one, taking care to relocate the track as you leave the rock slabs.

Off-track walking at Djibalara

NEED TO KNOW

Water will need to be carried on all the walks except the Major Mitchell Plateau and Wonderland Traverse. Fires are not allowed in the park so carry a fuel stove for cooking. The Wonderland Traverse, Mount Gar and Major Mitchall Plateau walks require a car shuttle.

The Spatial Vision Northern Grampians and Southern Grampians maps cover all the walks listed here (and many others), but be aware they were printed before the track to Mt Rosea was re-aligned. This isn’t a big problem since the new track is easy to follow.

Mount Gar sunset

OTHER THINGS TO SEE AND DO

There are a wide range of excellent day walks – click here for track notes.

A week or two could easily be spent exploring the Grampians. The walks above are just a small sample of the tracks available, and other activities range from canoeing at Lake Bellfield to wine-tasting near Mt Zero or scrambling up a cliff somewhere in the park. There are a number of easily accessible lookouts that provide outstanding views and short easy walks that sample the beauty of the park. The best place to start is the Brambuk cultural and visitor centre south of Halls Gap. Apart from the excellent information and friendly staff, the grasslands outside are an excellent place to spot kangaroos and wallabies grazing in the morning sun.

Eastern grey kangaroos near Halls Gap

ACCOMMODATION AND SUPPLIES

Halls Gap is the main tourist centre of the park, located beneath the cliffs of the Wonderland Range. The thriving tourist town has caravan parks, hotels, hostels, motels and guesthouses. You can also stay in Dunkeld at the southern end of the park and the town of Stawell is a 30-minute drive to the east. There are 13 vehicle-based campsites throughout the park with fireplaces and picnic tables. Walk-in campsites in the Mount Gar (Mount Difficult) Range and the Major Mitchell Plateau have limited space and require you to book ahead – check with the rangers for more information.

Grampians bush campsite

MORE INFORMATION

Book online at: www.parkstay.vic.gov.au or with Parks Vic on 13 1963. Before leaving on any hike drop into Brambuk the National Park and Cultural Centre south of Halls Gap where the friendly staff can fill you in on the latest track conditions and take a trip intentions form.

We also highly recommend buying a copy of Discovering Grampians – Gariwerd: A Visitors Guide to Grampians National Park. Then again, we did write it!

These descriptions are a guide only. While we have made every effort to make them accurate, we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained while using them. Make sure you use an up-to-date map and consult rangers before heading out.