Iconic cattlemen’s huts, deep ravines, craggy peaks and snow gum forests – Victoria’s High Country has long been a place of adventure and retreat.
The Alpine National Park lies on the Great Dividing Range and offers a huge variety of nature experiences. Victoria’s two highest peaks, Mount Bogong (1986 metres) and Mount Feathertop (1922 metres) are here, both offering tough climbs but within the reach of anyone with reasonable fitness. After something less strenuous? You’ll find gently meandering river walks and Indigenous cultural trails all close to welcoming pockets of civilisation.
Bullawah Cultural Trail
Wangaratta is the traditional home of the Bpangerang people, and the Bullawah Cultural Trail celebrates their stories and links to the land – links that have never been broken. With “bulla” meaning two and “wah” meaning water, the name has many symbolic overtones. Two suspension bridges cross the water near where two rivers meet. The name also celebrates the coming together of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
The start of the Bullawah Cultural Trail is marked by Marmungan Rock – marmungan being the traditional word for “of this land” or “community.” You can walk or cycle this easy, self-guided 2.4 kilometre trail, which wanders gently along the Ovens River. You’ll pass sculptures carved into rock, stories, interpretive signs and even a bush-tucker garden. There are 15 stations along the way, each telling a unique story. Expect to share the journey with native birds and lizards. In a modern take on the traditional, you can scan QR codes along the way to unlock short films, bringing the walk to life.
Delatite River Trail, Mt Buller
Starting at Box Corner, a short drive from Mt Buller Village, this tranquil, 8.7 kilometre river trail is a photographer’s dream. Dappled light streams in through ferny glades as you follow the Delatite River downstream. The good news? It’s downhill all the way.
You’ll cross 12 log bridges on the three hour, 8.7 kilometre journey to the idyllic Mirimbah Park, which has barbeque facilities and toilets, and is the perfect spot for a post-hike picnic. Towering mountain ash line the river route, and native shrubs and flowers colour the trail. You’ll need to arrange a car shuffle to get back to Box Corner. No one will begrudge you if you decide to grab a bottle at Delatite Wines on your way home; the cellar door is located at the foot of Mt Buller, 10 kilometres from Mansfield.
Falls Creek to Mount Hotham
They call it an “alpine crossing”, but don’t let that term put you off. This 37 kilometre classic Victorian hike does take three days (two if you’re quick), but you won’t need crampons or an ice axe – at least not in autumn. The walk starts at Heathy Spur car park, three kilometres from the Falls Creek info centre, and finishes at the Mount Loch car park at Mount Hotham. It’s 14 kilometres to Cope Hut on day one, another 14 kilometres to Dibbins Hut on day two, and a more leisurely 9 kilometres to Mount Hotham on the last day, by which point you’ll know you’ve been hiking.
The landscape takes in twisted snow gum woodland, heathland, wetlands and river valleys, and offers views of Mount Feathertop and across the Bogong High Plains. Be sure to make the short detour to historic Wallaces Hut – the oldest cattlemen’s hut in the High Country – on day one (about 2 kilometres past Langford Gap). Bookings are required from Parks Victoria for tent sites at Cope Hut and Dibbins Hut.
Beechworth, Yackandandah, Chiltern and Rutherglen
You don’t have to pack hiking boots to walk back through time. Sneakers will suffice in the northern Victorian towns of Beechworth, Chiltern, Rutherglen and Yackandandah, where gold-mining history is brought to life through a network of contemporary walking tracks.
The four towns boast more than 40 guided or self-guided walks, ranging from an easy 45-minute stroll along Yackandandah’s main street (a guided tour called “About Yack”, where you’ll hear stories from the gold-mining days of the 1800s), to a 7-kilometre circuit of Beechworth Gorge and Woolshed Falls.
You could easily fill a weekend walking in Beechworth alone, rewarding yourself with a tour of the town's dine and drink attractions. Beechworth Gorge (once a hide-out for the Kelly gang) has picnic locations on astounding granite outcrops overlooking bucolic valleys, while the gold-tinged waters of Woolshed Falls wear the colour with distinction, being at the centre of what was once one of Victoria’s richest gold fields.
The walk starts at the Beechworth Information Centre and takes between 90 minutes and two hours.
Harrietville to Mount Feathertop
Mount Feathertop might only get the silver medal for height, but it wins gold for looks. Its name comes from the way the prevailing wind blows the winter snow sideways off the top, creating a striking feathered pattern and dramatic, overhanging cornices.
There are two ways to the top: along the Razorback ridgeline from Mount Mt Hotham or up, up, up from the town of Harrietville. The Razorback track starts at Diamantina Hut, 2.5 kilometres west of Hotham village, and traverses a narrow and spectacular ridge to the summit.
Starting the climb at Harrietville and heading up the Bungalow Spur is tougher, as you’re climbing the whole way – so if you don’t like constant uphill, go with the Razorback. It’s 22 kilometres return, and you’ll pass Federation Hut just on the bushline. With the right transport arrangements you can even combine both routes, starting at Hotham Heights, climbing Mount Feathertop and descending to Harrietville, where you can reward yourself with an award-winning vanilla slice from the Harrietville Bakery.
Mount Bogong via Staircase Spur
Mount Bogong’s Aboriginal name translates as “Big Fella”, and it’s no exaggeration. The hike from Mountain Creek Picnic Area (15 kilometres from the town of Mount Beauty) to the summit and back is 21.4 kilometres, climbing around 1300 metres in altitude. You’ll pass Bivouac Hut (a good place to camp overnight if you want to break the hike up into two days) and a memorial to three skiers who perished here in a blizzard in 1943, a sombre reminder to treat this mountain – the highest in Victoria – with respect.
If you have a couple of hours up your sleeve, Cleve Cole Hut (4.5 kilometres from the top of Mount Bogong) makes a worthy detour after summiting. This spacious stone hut with ample camping is lovingly maintained by the Mount Bogong Club and feels truly remote and wild. Make it here and you can consider yourself a real high country hiker. Return via Eskdale Spur, which is steep and exposed in places, to complete the circuit.
The Victorian government is currently advising people to stay at home and avoid all gatherings of people to minimises the spread of Covid-19. If you are with other people, you must observe the rule of 1 person for every 4 square metres to ensure a safe physical distance. Limitations and closures on a range of venues are now in force. Stay up to date with the latest news on closures and restrictions around the state.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Walk High Country.