The new Grampians Peaks Trail is a truly spectacular way to traverse Grampians National Park/Gariwerd – knitting together existing and restored paths with 100 kilometres of new trails.
More than a decade in the making, the $33 million project began opening in stages from 2015, but the entirety of the 160-kilometre trail is now open to the public.
It starts at Mount Zero in the north, detours into Halls Gap for a night, and finishes up in Dunkeld. But hiking the full length means spending two weeks crossing some of Victoria’s most picturesque landscapes. You’ll pass through wetlands and subalpine woodlands, and the iconic Pinnacle and Grand Canyon rock formations. You’ll also encounter an enormous range of flora and fauna – from regularly seen wildlife like eastern grey kangaroos and echidnas to rare species found only in the park.
Park ranger Tammy Schoo explains that this incredible variety derives from the age of the geography. “Gariwerd is an ancient landscape; you’re talking 440 million years ago that the first sedimentary soils were laid down,” she says. “Because of the diversity of soils – sandstone, mudstone, siltstone, granite – we have different vegetation and different wildlife types throughout the park; we’ve got a huge amount of biodiversity.”
Tackling the whole trail in one is a unique challenge – even for experienced hikers – but you can choose to drop in for shorter day walks or multi-day hikes. The track has been designed to ensure accessibility for visitors of varying capabilities. “The ability to come and walk shorter sections, or to do an overnighter, is what’s so fantastic about it for people who perhaps haven’t walked long distances before,” Schoo says.
Among the best of the shorter ones is the challenging Gar and Werdug three-day hike, which hits some of the park’s biggest highlights. You’ll start off low in scrubland, silent except for birdsong and the occasional black-footed rock wallaby crashing through the undergrowth. Seasonal waterfalls bisect the trail every few hundred metres as you begin the uphill climb to the rocky spine of the Mount Difficult/Gar escarpment.
You’ll stay at the Gar campground (bookings are required), one of 11 stylish new hike-in camp sites cleverly designed to blend into the landscape. Tent platforms line the ridgeline, each positioned separately so you’ll wake up to an uninterrupted view of the surrounding peaks. A communal hut with floor-to-ceiling windows has rough-hewn timber tables, and spots to charge your phone and top up your water. This isolated clifftop location is also perfect for wildlife spotting, says Schoo. “We’ve got a lot of owls, possums and gliders that campers will see more of at night-time.”
The rest of this walk promises a stunning sunrise at Mount Difficult and breathtaking 360-degree views from the Lake Wartook lookout, before wrapping up in Halls Gap.
If you’re looking to take it a little easier, guided walks and the opportunity to book sleeping huts are provided by Grampians Peaks Walking Company. It also offers a range of hiking support from the basic (gear rental and food drops for those tackling the full 13-day walk) to the luxurious (pack-free hiking and transfers to off-grid eco-lodges with hot showers, where you can even end your day of hiking with locally sourced wine and cheese).
Once you’ve finished the trek, there’s plenty to explore in the area. In Halls Gap, some of the region’s most interesting wine can be found at The Grampians Wine Cellar. This unassuming, garden-shed-sized wine store – piled with bottles from local producers – also pours 20 wines by the glass for drinking on the front deck. The Bunyip Hotel in Cavendish is a classic, art deco country boozer serving upmarket pub fare (think Hopkins River eye fillet with cultured butter) with a riverside beer garden.
For a next-level experience, the renowned Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld has luxe, recently refurbished rooms and a billabong-inspired pool. Book ahead for a kitchen-garden-focused degustation at Wickens, and to explore the 25,000-bottle wine cellar.
The Grampians Peaks Trail includes challenging sections, and covers wild and remote areas, so always hike to the conditions and your own skill level. Consult the Parks Victoria website to book camp sites and find available facilities.