The opening of Victoria’s new Grampians Peaks Trail has been long awaited, an epic 13 day/164km that spans the entire length of Gariwerd Grampians, from Mt Zero in the north to Dunkeld in the south. It’s a serious adventure that trails over spectacular mountains, past waterfalls, wildflowers and dramatic rock formations, challenging and rewarding hikers in equal measure.
Laura was one of the first hikers on the trail, setting out on the first day of its opening. Here’s what she learned.
It’s harder than you might expect
Daily trail distances range from a measly 8-16km but if you think you’ll be done in a few hours of hiking, think again. This is slow terrain (average pace is about 2kph). The Grampians are made of sandstone and you’ll spend a good portion of your time rock hopping, traversing steep rock slabs, doing some serious rock scrambling or simply slogging up the seemingly endless climbs (there’s over 8,000m of elevation in total). Add in a few side trips to summit peaks or check out waterfalls and your days will be even longer. At the time of opening, the official track map/notes were seriously under-quoting walk times (trail signs in situ are far more accurate) and one 13km section will take around 8 hours.
Parks Victoria Grampians Peaks Trail information here.
It’s tough terrain
Aside from occasional sections of well-formed dirt or sandy trail, the GPT is mostly Grade 4-5 (the highest level there is) which won’t suit everyone. Make sure you’re comfortable with long days on tough terrain with a little bit of exposure and rock scrambling thrown in. Navigation is not always straightforward, largely due to the fact that the route passes over large expanses of rock where there is no worn trail to follow, but if you keep a constant eye out for those little yellow triangles you shouldn’t wander far off route. Around 100km of the trail is new and at times you’ll come across sections of super rough and freshly cut ‘route’ where you’ll be traversing loose rocks, climbing super steep dirt or balancing on a jumble of boulders.
The campsites are pretty cool
While the track may be tough, the campsites are havens of comfort. Each one accommodates between 20-24 people (with the exception of Gar and Werdug which take up to 35 on account of having a few private huts for guided walkers) and has water tanks, drop toilets and solar powered USB charging points. All but three campsites also have cool fully enclosed shelters, usually with one glass frontage facing out over an epic view. Tent pads are either timber platforms with heavy retractable chainlink to anchor your tent, or firm packed granite sand. Camps without shelters have a ‘gathering place’ offering some wind protection and picnic tables. There’s also usually a little retreat area with seating with a view of some sort.
This is what you’ll see
This is an incredibly diverse trail, passing through numerous habitat zones from sub alpine rocky mountains to eucalypt forests, abundant wildflowers, sandy trails lined with banksia, waterfalls and wildlife such as emus, roos, wallabies and echidnas. There’s nothing like hiking the entire trail to get that sense of journey and to see all facets of the Grampians but you can also section hike it if you prefer. The Northern section is probably the most dramatic in terms of vast valleys, dramatic mountains and sheer sandstone cliffs. The Central section is the most remote and exposed (it’s especially gnarly over the Seven Dials and Redman Bluff on section C3), has epic views and also features such highlights as the Grand Canyon, Pinnacle Lookout, Mt Rosea, Mt William and the Major Mitchell Plateau. The Southern section contains a lot of previously untracked terrain through open forests and grassland along with the summits of Signal Peak, Mt Abrupt and Mt Sturgeon. All of it is impressive.
This is how logistics work
This is a one-way hike which means you’ll need to either arrange a car shuffle with friends (it’s a 90-minute drive between Mt Zero and Dunkeld) or book a transfer with Grampians Peaks Walking Co. If you’re only doing a section of the trail, GPWC can also pick you up and drop you off where required (and there are heaps of entry/exit points where the trail intersects a road). They can also do food drops for you too which means you’ll never need to carry more than 2-5 days worth of food at a time (depending on how many drops you do). Or there are many road accessible trail crossings where you can leave your own food drops. There is a small supermarket in Halls Gap but you’ll have much more variety if you bring your own food and leave it at the Hiker Hub in Halls Gap. Buy the set of three maps (north, central and south) from GPWC in Halls Gap.
This is how to walk it
With numerous access points to the trail, there are some sections that can be done as day hikes as well as plenty of short multi-day hike options. If you’re planning on thru-hiking the whole thing, be aware that Parks Victoria do not allow doubling up on sections in one day. You can however fiddle the system by booking your thru hike in sections (ie, booking your onward section to start on the same day that you finish the previous one) however I personally wouldn’t recommend it based on how tough going the trail is. If the thought of tackling this kind of terrain on your own makes you a little nervous, join a guided tour with the likes of Grampians Peaks Walking Company, Trek Tours Australia or RAW Travel. You might even get to stay in one of the private huts in the Northern section which are dinky 4 bunk affairs with epic views.
This is what it costs
It’s free to hike the trail but campsites are charged at approximately $47 per site per night (that’s $524.70 for the entire trail, or $262.35 per person based on two people sharing). It’s not cheap but the cost of building campsites and 100km of new trail (that’s planning, consultation, cultural heritage surveys, design and construction using a lot of helicopters) is not insubstantial. Parks Vic maintain their goal is to ensure a sustainable walking product into the future and to discourage the use of unauthorised bush camps that have become heavily eroded and degraded with toilet waste. It is, they say, all about the broader issue of sustainability. [don’t shoot the messenger]
Laura Waters is a long distance hiker and author of “Bewildered”, about hiking 3,000km on New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail.
You can find out more information at Parks Victoria - The Full Grampians Peaks Trail
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