1000 Steps / Kokoda Memorial Trail – Dandenong Ranges National Park – Upper Ferntree Gully – Victoria

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1000 Steps - Dandenong Ranges (Ferntree Gully)

 

Map
Last Visited: 09/04/2011
Length (km’s): approx. 2.8 km’s (according to MapMyHike.com)
Time (hrs/min): 1 hour
Grade: Moderate
Return / Circuit / One-Way / Partial Circuit: Return
Region: Melbourne
Park: Dandenong Ranges National Park
Closest Town: Upper Ferntree Gully
Maximum Elevation: approx. 489 m (according to MapMyHike.com)
Total Ascent: approx. 290m (according to MapMyHike.com)
Public Transport Access: Belgrave Line - Get off at Upper Ferntree Gully Station and walk east, following Burwood Highway, to the park entrance (near the intersection of Burwood Highway and Mount Dandenong Tourist Road). Head through the car park and the walk begins near the playground at the end. Total walk to the playground is around a kilometre.
Car Access: The Fern Tree Gully Picnic Ground is at the Upper Ferntree Gully end of the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road (on the west side of the road). I didn’t notice any signs saying “Fern Tree Gully Picnic Ground” but the turn-off is clear and there is a sign saying “Welcome to Dandenong Ranges National Park” (or something to that effect) at the entry (Melways Ref: 74 H4). Park as close to the north end of the carpark as you can.
Opening Hours: The gates to Ferntree Gully Picnic Ground are open between 6am and 9pm.

If you’re a bit out of shape, the name 1000 Steps probably scares the bejesus out of you (and rightly so). Though there aren’t actually 1000 of them (I think it’s actually somewhere around 770), the reality is pretty much as terrifying as it sounds. This is the hike that reminds me every single time I visit, just how desperately my body needs me to start exercising more often.

This is probably the most popular spot in the Dandenong Ranges, and that’s not just because hiking up the steps is such a good workout. The steps actually follow a creek up through a lush gully, thick with Tree Ferns and Manna Gum. Occasionally Lyrebirds can even be seen foraging in the undergrowth beside the track, not in the slightest bit disturbed by the hordes of panting people trudging their way up and down. The steps are just as perfect a spot to visit with the kids for a weekend family outing, as they are for someone in training for the real Kokoda Trail.

Plaques along the trail depict the lives of the soldiers who fought and died on the real Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea, during World War II. According to Parks Victoria’s Park Note, they "represent the ‘Golden Staircase’ a name given by Australian soldiers to the 2000 steps cut by the Australian Army Engineers and others into the track between Uberi and Imita Ridge.”

You’ll notice that not many people take any notice of these plaques, but I guess that’s because most people visit the steps on a regular basis. Though I’ve visited many times, I still occasionally use the plaques as a good excuse to stop for a breather when I feel like I’m about to pass out.

If you’re looking to visit when the crowds are minimal, try for rainy days. However, the steps can even be slippery on dry days so make sure you’re equipped with good shoes and watch your step. On the average Saturday or Sunday the hardcore fitness fanatics will be out in force from the first daylight hours, but numbers dwindle as the day goes on. Mid to late afternoon is probably the best time to visit if you want to go at your own pace, without having to stop to let people pass or wait for others to let you pass them.

There are other nice walks nearby, so if you'd prefer to cut the chances of seeing other people on your walk altogether, then you should probably go elsewhere. If you're looking to really get the heart pumping and the sweat pouring, I couldn’t think of any nicer place to do so.

 

The 1000 Steps and Kokoda Memorial Trail gets a $1 million upgrade

Keith has commented below to let us know about a $1 million upgrade planned for the Kokoda Memorial Trail. A shrine and shelter is planned to enable the hosting of celebrations such as ANZAC Day and Australia Day, but the upgrade will also include a second set of steps on Lyrebird Track to ease the pressure on the existing steps. Joggers will be encouraged to use the new steps and not the existing ones, to make them more accessible to tourists and visitors wanting to pay their respects to the diggers. The works are planned for completion by August 2012, in time for the 70th anniversary of Kokoda.

 
Variations (marked on map):
  1. One Tree Hill (add 800m / 12 min return): Continue north beyond the top of the steps to One Tree Hill Picnic Ground (the summit of One Tree Hill). This increases your total ascent to 315m. You also have the advantage of toilets and a drinking tap at the top.
  2. Return via Lyrebird Track (add 200m / 3 min return): Lyrebird Track is well formed but very steep in places. Use it for your return and give the legs and ankles a real workout. Won’t be as slippery as the steps going down, but the forest surrounding the track isn’t as nice as in the gully.
  3. Return via 1000 Steps and Ramblers Walk Track (no change to distance/time): Near the bottom of the steps, veer off and cross the creek onto Ramblers Walk to see a different part of the gully on your return.

Related Walks:

 

Have you visited the 1000 Steps? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.

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54 Responses to “1000 Steps / Kokoda Memorial Trail – Dandenong Ranges National Park – Upper Ferntree Gully – Victoria”

  1. Melinda
    September 22, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    I just did the track myself recently and it was more difficult than I first thought though I was wearing jeans at the time so no surprise there.

    Great article. Love your blog!

    Mel

    • Neil Fahey
      September 22, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

      Hey Mel,

      So glad you like the blog. I’m just having a look at yours now. To wearing jeans on the 1000 Steps Walk, I say NO haha. It’s enough of a workout in shorts for me! :)

      Cheers
      Neil

  2. Nerrida Buck
    September 3, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    Hi Neil,

    I actually live across the road from the 1000 Steps and feel very blessed to have it all at my doorstep.

    I am a qualified Personal Trainer and recently started a Free 1000 Steps Walking Group (check out my business page ‘Clarity Personal Training’). I started it to encourage people to come and do the steps with other people who may have never done them before. I wanted people to see how beautiful the area is and feel the sense of achievement that comes with making it to the top.

    We walk every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 9.30am from the top car park near the new toilet block. I am more than happy for you to put my info. on your page so people can find out about this group that enables people to get all the support and encouragement they need to achieve this unique quest.

    Let me know if I can do anything to help with any info.

    Regards

    Nerrida Buck

    • Neil Fahey
      September 3, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

      Hi Nerrida,

      Thanks for letting us know. Sounds like fun!

      Cheers
      Neil

  3. Paul Norris
    April 16, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    PLEASE STOP RUNNING ON THE STEPS!

    I love this walk! It’s beautiful at any time, and evoking the memories of those who fought on the real trail makes it a special, almost spiritual experience. Even after many trips I still occasionally stop at the plaques and let my imagination roam.

    But over the last few years the increasing number of people running on the steps have gone a long way toward spoiling the experience; to the extent that I stopped going there. It was irritating to be pushed out of the way by people running where there is barely enough space for people to squeeze carefully past each other. I got sick of being clouted by backpacks and elbows. And worst of all was being smeared or even splashed with foul, stinking sweat! And all by people who cared not one iota for the peace and tranquility that can be found on the track.

    Now Parks have erected signs specifically asking people not to run on the steps, and this has encouraged me back to the track. Most people have had the courtesy and consideration to stop it – especially now the lyrebird track has been upgraded. But some ignorant folk still run there. PLEASE STOP! You have options, please use them. The lyrebird track is far more demanding if you want a challenge, and that track is wide enough for you to run without shoving, bashing or smearing other people.

    • Neil Fahey
      April 16, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

      Sounds like a fair call to me, Paul. Thanks for commenting.

      Cheers
      Neil

    • Ian
      April 24, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

      Here here, It’s a war memorial for goodness sake.

  4. Tj
    March 12, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    Can someone please tell me how many km’s it is from first step to the top? Thank you

    • Neil Fahey
      March 13, 2013 at 9:58 am #

      Can’t help you there Tj… That would be a tricky thing to measure.

      Cheers
      Neil

    • Stuart Crawford
      March 18, 2013 at 3:52 am #

      Tj – I ran this a couple of times last month when I was down visting my brother. My GPS tells me it was 0.56Km from the bottom step to the bench that I collapse onto at the top, 7 mins 45 seconds later – 7 mins 52 secs later the second time :o)

      • Neil Fahey
        March 18, 2013 at 8:33 am #

        Thanks Stuart!

        • Stuart Crawford
          March 21, 2013 at 11:30 am #

          No worries. What a beautiful running route. One of the highlights of my trips down under – along with Hanging Rock and running the Tan track.

  5. jess
    December 23, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    Will be doing this for the first time since I joined the army 3 years ago, before I left I was averaging 7 minutes so will be good to see where I am at.

    • Neil Fahey
      December 23, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

      It’s definitely a good indicator of fitness, when you have past times to compare with. Thanks for commenting Jess!

  6. J
    December 6, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    Re: Stairmaster

    My friend and I do it weekly on wednesday evenings.. We managed our quickest time from the bottom of the steps to the top last night – 7:25.. We obviously come down faster than that.. It took less than 30mins car to car.

    • Neil Fahey
      December 6, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

      Thanks for visiting and commenting, J!

  7. Helen
    September 20, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    I found the Channel 10 Track walk more interesting.

    http://www.bushwalkingblog.com.au/channel-10-track-camellia-loop-dandenong-ranges-national-park-the-basin-victoria-2/

    If you turn right at the start of Dacite Track then take Zigzag track and Kyeema track you can walk all the way to the Sky High cafe at the top.

    Walking rules. Pissing contests – not so much.

    • Neil Fahey
      September 20, 2012 at 11:44 am #

      Thanks for the comment, Helen. Not sure I understand the part about the “pissing contests”?

      (Oh actually I’ve just re-read and I think I see what you’re getting at. I’m not all that competitive myself, but each to their own. Happy walking!)

  8. Stairmaster
    September 16, 2012 at 1:01 am #

    I have a personal best of 23 minutes from the start of the stairs to the top and back down. That is the quickest time that I have heard of. Has anyone gone quicker?

    • Neil Fahey
      September 17, 2012 at 9:32 am #

      I think I might just stay quiet on this one haha… Thanks for commenting!

      Neil

  9. Sureal_1
    February 10, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

    We did it. YAY 45 mins up 25 mins coming back. It would have been much quicker going up if my buddy wasn’t stopping at ever shorter intervals as we got nearer the top. But then truth be known he only stopped to goad me, and wait for me to catch up. LOL

    Im 6ft x 120kg but and don’t mind a challenge, Id class this ass a solid workout.
    note: the joy is in the getting there, don’t expect a lookout at the top:

    suggestions: Just in case any one is listening. A water slide to get back down would be bezerk.

    • Neil Fahey
      February 10, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

      Haha a water slide is a brilliant idea! Maybe Mr Baillieu will surprise us and install one as part of the upgrade. Thanks for commenting! Glad you enjoyed!

  10. Gebreselasie
    January 30, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    I did the walk last sunday and I found it very interesting. I like the challenging nature of the walk and of course the surrounding environment. The vegetation cover is awesome.

  11. Neil Fahey
    December 28, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    Thanks for commenting Greg… The water tap is a definite advantage and probably worth the extra walk, especially in the warmer months.

  12. Greg
    December 23, 2011 at 11:52 pm #

    I went up the steps this morning. It was quite warm by 11am, and packed with joggers panting and gasping their way up.
    I was happy to just take my time, breathe slowly, and enjoy the lush scenery along the gully.
    If you make it to the top, keep walking another 500 meters to the One Tree Hill picnic ground. It’s almost deserted and there’s a water tap to soak you hat and cool off your feet.

  13. Kokoda Maps
    December 3, 2011 at 3:20 am #

    Adventure Kokoda is a trekking company specialising in organising and leading treks across the Kokoda Trail in PNG. The company conducts battlefield treks and expeditions along the Kokoda track and is dedicated to the Kokoda spirit. Kokoda Maps

  14. Julie M
    December 2, 2011 at 11:57 pm #

    Neil – I agree this is a hard/strenuous walk if you go straight up, but it’s also very doable for those who are happy to take their time and rest and all the benches on the way up, if you are content to sit and watch everyone else huff and past and sweat as they pass you!

    • Neil Fahey
      December 3, 2011 at 11:08 am #

      You’re right Julie… I think I’ll change it to just “moderate” actually.

      Cheers
      Neil

  15. Neil Fahey
    November 30, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    Thanks very much Keith. I’m working on an update to this page right now, so I’ll include this in the update.

    Cheers
    Neil

    • Keith
      November 30, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

      Not a problem Neil glad to help

  16. Keith
    November 30, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    Hi Neil

    Was reported in the Knox Journal recently and leader newspapers, they are upgrading the Trail to provide more info on the efforts of the diggers and also looking to construct a new path so as to relieve the stress placed on the trail as it is now so popular. It was reported on the 9th of Nov.
    Plans include the introduction of new health and fitness steps on the Lyrebird Track to take pressure off the Kokoda Memorial Track, which is also known as the 1000 Steps.

  17. Neil Fahey
    November 30, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

    Hi Keith,

    I haven’t heard anything about a new track. Can you point me in the direction of some further info?

    Thanks
    Neil

  18. Keith
    November 30, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    went up yesterday with my daughter , hope to do it ever week and will be doing it for soccer training next year , looking forward to the new track to be built to take the strain off the steps

  19. Neil
    November 2, 2011 at 9:06 am #

    Thanks for sharing!

  20. ArhTMedia
    October 28, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

    Heres a video i made of the steps! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqA0ixdDcb8

  21. Neil
    July 25, 2011 at 7:24 pm #

    I'm wishing I lived closer so I could get back into it… I'd be so much fitter! Thanks for the comment! :)

  22. PinkK
    July 25, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

    Just a quick FYI, the earlier you go the less people walking the track… :)
    I love the stairs, I try and do it both Saturday and Sunday.
    PB – up and down in 25min walking both ways
    up and down twice in 50 min walking up and running down.
    Aiming to beat 15min up! :D

  23. Kokoda
    May 7, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    Your post is full of all use full information, needed for a good and safe trip.

  24. Yonka
    May 6, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    A great post, proud to be a part of your post. I got a lots of new information from you.

  25. Neil
    October 31, 2010 at 11:03 pm #

    Cheers David… That one has been on my 'to do' list for ages but not living over that way anymore so haven't got there yet. Having read your post I'm extra keen now. Stay well!

    Neik

  26. David
    October 30, 2010 at 5:27 pm #

    Hi again Neil. Re-did the longer loop variation this week. Was very good. Some details at http://www.artwill.com.au/sic/2010/10/29/1000-steps-loop-walk-dandenongs/

  27. Neil
    April 5, 2010 at 11:59 am #

    Thanks for commenting James – They will enjoy it for sure… Make sure they keep an eye out for Lyrebirds around the creek!

    Cheers
    Neil

  28. Anonymous
    April 5, 2010 at 12:13 am #

    Thanks for very detailed record of your experience. We're going to give it a try this tomorrow, hope kids will enjoy walking and fresh air there.

    Cheers
    James

  29. Neil
    May 11, 2009 at 8:10 pm #

    I must be a lot more unfit than you then! Have fun though!

    Cheers
    Neil

  30. Grey Armada
    May 11, 2009 at 6:27 pm #

    Haha yeh, we’re heading up there friday or saturday this week, although i hear saturdays are beyond packed, which may make it hard.

    Jogging up the track to the steps isn’t too hard, 1km of gradual incline, and jogging, wait, running down that isnt hard (impossible to jog, it just forces you to run) but running up any parts of the Lyrebird track was damn hard.

    I recommend if you want to run any of it (great for your fitness) run the early corners of the steps, where there is only 3-4 steps a time. It allows you to help build up your quads and glutes, but after a while as you know, the steps become too steep and uneven.

    Going down them at a decent walking pace seems to work the shin/calf muscles real well, i actually pulled up all right the next day, so this week we’re gonna try and beat the 1000 step challenges.

    Up n down steps in 30 mins.

    Up n down steps, up lyrebird, down steps in 50 mins.

    Up lyrebird, down steps, up lyrebird, down steps in 60 mins.

    Lyrebird track seems to take longer due to steeper grounding and not quite as scenic, whether we accomplish any of those challenges who knows, but worth a shot lol.

  31. Neil
    May 11, 2009 at 9:14 am #

    Geeez you’re keen! We did it again on Saturday and we’re hoping to do it twice next Saturday but there’s no way I’m up for running (especially not up Lyrebird Track)!!! Well done!

  32. Grey Armada
    May 8, 2009 at 9:46 pm #

    Done this walk for the first time today, myself and a few mates, myself being overweight and trying to lose it, one mate average fitness and another fairly fit.

    We jogged from the start area of lyrebird to the steps, and jogged maybe 30% of the steps, and walked down.

    Then sprinted downhill to the Lyrebird track, walked up that (with a few small jogs, VERY steep), came down the steps again.

    Finally, started the steps again jogging, and walked the rest up and down.

    Was a fairly wet day (8th may 09) but still plenty of people on the track, and was extremely challenging overall. I weight in at 90kg and 5 foot 7, so to do it 3 times including running i was pretty happy, gonna feel it tomorrow though, lol.

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