Grampians Peak Trail

Woo hoo! A six hour drive to the Grampians and a night of almost drizzle in preparation for the first section of the Grampians Peak Trail® to be built. The trail has a whole website to itself and a competition – just take a selfie, add the hashtag and submit by … oh … competition is over. I don’t think the website has been updated for a while.

The Grampians Peak Trail® has been designed from a tourist point of view; that is, to make dollars. Stage 1 is a three day, two night hike that can and has been done as a longish day walk (33km). There is some new track but it mostly follows existing trails and has numerous ‘soft’ options including 1) drop all your gear near the camp 2) forget camping and do it as two day walks and 3) car shuffle to avoid day three, a rather long and apparently fairly dull walk along a fire track. We went with option 3 with little bit of option 1, being a water/beer/wine drop near the camp – leaving any other gear at the carpark was considered cheating and so did not happen!

Day One – Halls Gap to Bugiga Camp over the Wonderland Range – 8.6km/5 hours
Grampians Forest Park originally only covered the Wonderland Range. This was way back when I was tiny. I remember going there with my parents when I was about six or seven and it was crowded then. The park has been extended and changed into a national park. The Wonderland Range area, however, hasn’t changed a lot except become even more crowded. It’s like a conga line, except there are people going in all directions. Carrying a pack seemed a little odd, definitely in the minority as most people were only wandering a few hundred metres from one of the many carparks in the area that cater for the massive tourist numbers. Hiking should mean walking five minutes and leaving the hordes behind. Not here.

There is a reason for the popularity. It’s a spectacular area with gullies and waterfalls and rocky lookouts and metal staircases and metal barriers and people queuing to walk out on The Pinnace for a selfie (mustn’t realise the competition is over). The weather was overcast, soft drizzle was falling, but there wasn’t any wind until the top of the range so that it wasn’t too cold. The rain jacket stayed in the pack. Lunch was with the hordes at The Pinnacle and in hindsight we could have moved a bit further along the range and had a spot to ourselves. The drive to have a celebratory stop at the summit at the end of a climb is pretty strong though.

From The Pinnace we headed south along the range, past the Nerve Test (too wet and windy to test our nerves) and various other outcrops with views over Halls Gap to the north and Lake Bellfield to the south. The numbers of other visitors quickly diminished. The walking was pleasant and easy and camp was reached before too long.

Bugiga Camp was built specifically for the Grampians Peak Trail®. It consists of twelve round wooden platforms for tents, connected by wooden boardwalks to a large, alien looking metal box toilet block and group shelter. It’s a great location, but wouldn’t normally be a camp spot as it lacks natural water. There is a water tank filled off the roof of the toilet block that is most likely perfectly safe to drink, though Parks Victoria’s legal team have erected a sign saying that it isn’t. The view from camp is magnificent, looking towards the second day’s walk to the Mt Rosea summit.

The camping platforms have a wire running around the edge for tying guy ropes to. My tent – like most modern hike tents – doesn’t use guy ropes, just poles and pegs. Luckily I bought some rope with me anyway. Other campers didn’t and had to make do with rocks and bent tent pegs and black magic. It took some stuffing around but I eventually managed to get my tent up. I had to re-tension my ropes by tying, untying, retying, re-untying, re-retying … and it wasn’t just me with everyone having to muck around more than you should to erect a tent. If you’re planning on camping here carry a guy rope as a substitute for each tent peg. I’d also carry a small, lightweight carabiner for each ‘tent peg’ so that I could clip the wire rather than tie the guy rope to it. That way you can use the rope’s normal tensioning mechanism. You might still need rocks to keep things in place though.

Day Two – Bugiga Camp to Borough Huts via Mount Rosea – 13.8km/6 hours
Day two was a quick pack up, a short walk past the carpark and then on through the bush to Mt Rosea. The number other people in this area was, thankfully, lower than the first day’s tourist trap area. The Rosea carpark is off the bitumen and so less people, despite the walk from the carpark to the summit being just as easy and just as spectacular.

The track wanders first through pleasant bush with views west and north before climbing to the top of the range. There are great views again, including looking back to the previous night’s camp, easily spotted nestled in the bush below. (Can you spot the camp in the photo below?) Bugiga is a new camp, however, and the vegetation around it is slowly growing up. I’m sure it will slowly dissolve into the background. The track wanders along the ridgeline through, in and under various rock formations before descending into bush. The last section is pleasant, easy strolling down to Borough Huts camping area, where we had left a car for the shuffle back to Halls Gap. The alternative is to camp here and walk back the following day, but we only had two days, and the third day is a 'transport' section with the purpose of getting you back to the start of the hike.

If I only had one day, I’d do the Mt Rosea section with either a car shuffle or an in-and-out walk along the range past the summit. 

The path is generally easy to follow with Grampians Peak Trail® signs all along the way. Idiot proof (except for the camping platforms) was one description I read. I’d call it a good beginner’s hike. Some short rocky sections needed a bit of a look ahead to see where the track goes but there are no real hassles in navigation; I had paper and electronic maps but never needed to refer to either. The only risk is bad weather on some of the exposed ridges, which make up a reasonable part of the walking. Be prepared and it is all easily survivable. Take the kids.



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