The saw-toothed Grampians ranges rise from the plains of western Victoria to form a dramatic end to the Great Dividing Range, which starts thousands of kilometers away in northern Queensland. The scenery is dominated by jagged peaks, cliffs and rugged slopes. Walking tracks wind between rocks carved by the elements, through beautiful forests and over mountain streams that feed spectacular waterfalls. The 167,000-hectare Grampians National Park contains more Aboriginal rock art sites than anywhere else in south-eastern Australia. In short, it’s a great place to go walking. There are dozens of walks in the mountains – see our Grampians treks page for track notes for several overnight hikes and click here to buy our book Discovering Grampians-Gariwerd. Below is a sample of great day walks in all corners of the park.
The Pinnacle (4.2km, 4 hours)
Start/Finish: Wonderland car park
This high point on the Wonderland Range is the destination for one of the park’s iconic walks and includes an excellent mixture of views, exciting walking and interesting geological formations. Start by crossing Stony Creek then swing left to enter a gorge known as 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. Take a sharp left turn and follow arrows painted on rock slabs. The track then passes through a section of eucalypt forest before continuing over more bare rock. After climbing gradually for about 200 metres the track enters Silent Street, a narrow crevasse about 30 metres long and 10 metres deep which in places is barely wide enough for a person to squeeze through. Exit Silent Street on another ladder and continue up the gully for about 20 metres before taking a sharp left turn – look for the painted arrow. From here it’s a short walk to the Pinnacle. The fenced lookout gives commanding views over the Fyans Valley and Halls Gap below. Retrace the track to the car park.
Chatauqua Peak and Clematis Falls (5.6km, 2.5 hours)
Start/Finish: Halls Gap Botanical Gardens
From the northern end of Halls Gap Caravan Park, cross the suspension bridge into the botanical gardens and turn left, following signs to Bullaces Glen and Chatauqua Peak. The track climbs through stringybark forest to Mt Victory Road – take care crossing the road and picking up the track on the northern side. It’s a gentle ascent from the road to a junction where a left turn leads to Bullaces Glen, a lovely ferny glade. The track continues to climb, passing a small waterfall before looping around to a junction. Turn left and climb steadily to another junction at the top of a ridge. Turn right here and follow the ridge crest for 400 metres to the peak, which offers good views south over Halls Gap and north towards the Mt Gar (Mt Difficult) Range.
Return to the junction and head west towards Clematis Falls, 1.5km away. The track descends steeply with good views, to a junction 100 metres from the falls – turn left. The falls are best viewed after rain but this is a beautiful spot at any time of year. Return to the junction and head south, through attractive Manna Gum forest. Take care crossing Mt Victory Road before following the path back to the botanic gardens.
The Balconies (2km, 45 minutes)
Start/Finish: Reed Lookout
One of the most popular walks in the park, the trip to the Balconies is not difficult and leads to outstanding views, especially late in the day when the sun paints the cliffs a glowing orange. After parking your car walk 50 metres up to Reeds Lookout which provides grandstand views over virtually the entire southern portion of the Grampians. Return to the car park and follow the track east through open heathland with impressive views north to Lake Wartook and the Mt Gar Range.
The track then winds through forest before swinging south to emerge suddenly at the cliff rim 20 metres from the Balconies, two rock slabs jutting from the cliff face. Beyond them the wild Valley of Mystery and the jagged peaks of the Serra Range stretch to the horizon. It’s a short walk back to the car park.
Mount Rosea (9.4km, 4.5 hours)
Start/Finish: Rosea car park
The highest peak close to Halls Gap is the site of an excellent day trip through rugged Grampians scenery. The track begins with a steady climb through stringybark forest before reaching more exposed rocky areas typical of the Grampians – follow cairns as the track crosses over rock and winds between giant boulders and grass trees. Turn right when the track hits the cliff rim and watch for rock cairns and painted arrows as the track drops into a gully and climbs out the other side. This section is steep and negotiates stone steps and a series of rock crevasses and overhangs. The path levels out and passes between more boulders before reaching the rim of Mt Rosea’s huge east-facing cliffs. Follow the rim south to a bridge and a hair-raising crossing over a narrow fissure known as the Gate of the East Wind. Walk through a cave and cross more rock to a junction 100 metres from the summit. Follow the short side-trip to the summit, marked by a distance marker, and drink in the views before returning via the same route.
MacKenzie Falls (2km, 1.5 hours)
Start/Finish: MacKenzie Falls car park
Follow signs to the falls from the kiosk, heading left at a junction. After 100 metres take the short detour to the impressive Broken Falls. Returning to the main track, turn left and continue downhill. Pass a viewpoint over the falls and MacKenzie River Gorge and continue down to a platform at the top of MacKenzie Falls, where several small cascades create an attractive scene. Steep rocky steps lead to the base of the falls, which plunge 40 metres over black basalt. Take your time appreciating the majesty of the falls and on the steep climb back to the top.
Mt Stapylton Loop (12.2km, 5.5 hours)
Start/Finish: Stapylton Campground
The track leaves the northern end of the campground and passes through scrubby bushland for 1.4km to cross Pohlner Rd, before continuing 100 metres to a junction. Follow the right-hand track; you will return from the left later in the day. Shortly after a junction a series of rock steps leads up on to a ridgeline, where the track levels out and reaches another junction. Turn left, following the sign to Mt Stapylton, and traverse rocky escarpments along a route marked by painted arrows before dropping into a small gully – look for arrows to mark the way. At the next junction turn right and descend to a ravine.
At the end of the ravine turn sharply left and climb for 100 metres up a bare rock ramp. Pass a large cave on the right and climb to a rocky viewpoint on Mt Stapylton for spectacular views. To return to the campground, follow the route back down the ramp, into the gully and to the track junction, and follow the signposted track to Mt Zero Picnic Area to the right. Quickly descend another rocky ramp, passing a curious formation known as Bird Rock into a natural amphitheatre framed by the giant orange cliffs of Mt Stapylton. At a junction on the other side of the amphitheatre turn left and walk for 2.7km to the track junction at the start of the walk. Turn right to cross Pohlner Rd and return to Stapylton Campground.
Briggs Bluff (10.6km, 5.5 hours)
Start/Finish: Briggs Bluff car park
A wide track leaves the car park and follows the creek upstream towards the impressive peaks of the Mt Gar Range. After about 1km the track passes beneath a series of cliffs and views open up to reveal Beehive Falls, which drop in a thin stream for 25 metres. Cross a footbridge at the base of the falls and climb through a maze of cliffs to emerge in a wild landscape of rock outcrops and chimneys. The track dips into a gully then begins another steep climb, winding among the rocks. The views are outstanding. After a lengthy climb the track reaches a saddle opposite Briggs Bluff – a good break spot.
Resume walking southwest on a mostly level track parallel to a line of cliffs scoured with many caves. The sandy track dips to cross a gully then passes a natural rock arch before reaching a junction 2.8km from Beehive Falls. From here it is 1.2km to Briggs Bluff through rugged mountain country – follow rock cairns. The views from the top encompass the spectacular Mt Gar Range and the expansive plains of north-west Victoria. There is no fence and there is a sheer drop of a several hundred metres from the edge, so take extreme care. Retrace your steps to the junction and turn right to return to the car park; take care on the descent.
Mt Murdadjoog (Mt Abrupt) (6.5km, 3 hours)
Start/Finish: Mt Abrupt car park, Grampians Tourist Road
Cross the road and climb a series of steps on the road bank to begin the steep climb to a peak at the southern tip of the Serra Range. After walking through scrubby forest for 1km a series of switchbacks begin which lead to a ridge between Mt Murdadjoog and the neighboring Signal Peak. Follow the track south along the ridge then drop into a saddle and begin a steep, rocky 10-minute climb to the peak. The summit offers superb 360-degree views. Follow the same track back to the car park.
The Chimney Pots (2.8km, 3 hours)
Start/Finish: Glenelg River Road
This is an excellent excursion in the Victoria Range in the western section of the park. This range has a distinct rugged character and is noticeably wilder and more remote than other areas – track and road conditions also vary accordingly. Park beside the road and follow the narrow track through forest and a profusion of wildflowers in spring. The track climbs steadily for 1.5km, crossing a small creek en route to a junction. From here the track circles the rocky ramparts of the Chimney Pots; the left fork offers slightly easier walking. The climb soon becomes much steeper, including some rough steps hacked into the hill, as the track rises for another 500 metres to the base of giant cliffs. The track rounds the cliffs to the left and climbs again to a pile of boulders. Arrows are painted on the rocks but have faded with time and can be tough to spot; the route continues ahead to the back of the cliffs that tower overhead – if in doubt, keep the cliffs to your right. After rounding a rock massif the track meets a creek valley and continue to climb with views of steepling cliffs and rock outcrops. The climb ends abruptly at a saddle – take a breather here then head steeply downhill into wetter forest. The track is eroded and slippery in sections, so take care. The path rounds the bottom of the rock buttress and drops quickly to the track junction. Turn left and retrace the first section of track to the road.
OTHER THINGS TO SEE AND DO
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.
FLORA AND FAUNA
If you are into wildflowers then the Grampians is definitely the place for you – in spring the forests and heathlands are alive with colour, with blossoms belonging to more than 1000 plant species. This is also a great place to view the astonishing diversity of habitats that eucalypts have managed to adapt to, from dry woodlands in the north to lush west sclerophyll forest in the deep gullies and sub-alpine heath on the exposed mountain tops. September to December is wildflower season – the hikes through Djibalara and Wonderland are the best long-distance walks for a great wildflower experience. Some of Australia’s best-loved native animals, including kangaroos, wallabies, koalas and echidnas, are regularly spotted by walkers along with some of the more than 250 species of birds that call the park home. If you are travelling with friends from overseas, make sure you take them to the grassy areas around Halls Gap which are home to some very reliable mobs of kangaroos.
Grampians National Park is just off the Western Highway, 250km from Melbourne (about three-and-a-half hours’ drive) and 500km from Adelaide. The main access towns are Ararat and Stawell to the east, Horsham to the north and Hamilton to the south. There is a daily bus service from Stawell to Halls Gap (call 13 6196).
Summers are warm and dry, usually with clear skies – but heat and lack of water can make walking challenging. Autumn and spring are the best times to visit, with wildflowers at their best in spring. Waterfalls are spectacular in winter.
CAMPING AND ACCOMMODATION
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, Horsham to the north and Stawell is a 30min drive east of Halls Gap. There are 13 vehicle-based campsites throughout the park with fireplaces and picnic tables. Camping is also possible in designated bush camping areas with limited facilities. Check with park staff before picking a site.
Many tracks are near cliffs and extreme care is required – people have fallen and died on some of the popular trails. The weather can also change suddenly so be prepared. Always carry plenty of water. See below for details on track conditions.
The park offers more than 200km of walking tracks, from short strolls to multi-day expeditions (click HERE for track notes). A good road network makes it easy to access tracks that lead to mountain peaks, waterfalls, cultural sites and other attractions. Most are in excellent condition especially around Halls Gap and Mt Victory, but the park has been devastated in recent years by fires and then severe flooding in January 2011 that washed away some walking paths and visitor facilities, while other areas were blocked by landslides. Rangers have been working to re-open tracks but be aware that work is continuing and some areas may still be restricted. Contact the national park visitor centre for latest updates.
For info on the national park and walks see the Parks Victoria website or call 13 19 63. You can also drop into Brambuk the National Park and Cultural Centre south of Halls Gap where the friendly staff can fill you in on the latest updates about track conditions and other park information .
The book Discovering Grampians-Gariwerd – by us! – is also highly recommended. You can buy a copy HERE.
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.