Last Visited: 14/06/2010
Length (km): approx. 9 km (according to MapMyHike.com)
Time (hrs/min): 5 hours
Grade: Moderate / Difficult
Return / Circuit / One-Way / Partial Circuit: Circuit
Park: Cathedral Range State Park
Closest Town: Buxton (12 km)
Maximum Elevation: approx. 923 m (according to MapMyHike.com)
Total Ascent: approx. 452 m (according to MapMyHike.com)
Further Details / Source(s): Scramble Across Rocky Ramparts (by John & Monica Chapman - The Age, 2003). For more information on the park, see the ParkWeb Park Note, Cathedral Range State Park - Visitor Guide.
Car Access: The hike starts from Sugarloaf Saddle carpark, which is best accessed via the Maroondah Highway. Turn right on Cathedral Lane, just after Buxton (look out for the Cathedral Range State Park sign. From Cathedral Lane, the way to Sugarloaf Saddle is well-signed.
Despite being only 9 km long and less than 2 hours drive from Melbourne, Cathedral Range's southern circuit was one of the most interesting and challenging day-hikes I’ve ever done. It’s possible to start from a couple of different places and also to do the hike in the opposite direction to what I’ve described here, but I recommend following my instructions for the safest and most enjoyable hike.
Head up the track directly opposite the parking area at Sugarloaf Saddle, ignoring the turn-off to Wells Cave Track (I haven’t tried to ascend on Wells Cave Track but have read that it’s much more difficult). After following the orange arrow markers up the gentle slope for a short time, the real climb begins. It is best to avoid this hike after rain, since the remainder of the ascent requires climbing up a series of small cliffs, using hands and feet. Don’t let this description put you off though. We saw people of all ages, shapes and sizes attacking this track in both directions (down would have been much more difficult). Just be careful and it will end up being one of the highlights of your walk.
The summit offers incredible 360-degree views, from the farmland of the Acheron Valley on one side of the range to the densely forested Little River Valley on the other, making the climb feel more than worthwhile. You’ll also get the best view of The Razorback from near the summit. A taste of what’s to come.
You’ll need to keep a close eye on the arrow markers for the Razorback Ridge section of the hike. These will help you safely dodge and weave your way along the ridge, avoiding the particularly scary drops on the east side. You might be surprised to find that this is actually a more challenging section than the climb at the beginning but it’s also lots of fun and we found it quite different to the kind of hiking we’re used to.
Razorback Ridge Track becomes much flatter and easier after about 2.5 km and at around the 3 km mark, you’ll come to a clearing called The Farmyard. This is a camping area for people on multi-day hikes and is named after the Lyrebirds in the area, which supposedly make farm-animal noises, mimicking the animals from the surrounding farmland. We weren’t lucky enough to see any Lyrebirds on this occasion and although we could hear what we were sure was Lyrebirds, they sounded nothing like farm-animals.
Take a short detour from here, on the track that heads up-hill in a southerly direction. This will take you to South Jawbone peak for more breathtaking views to the east. This made a great place to stop for a snack and a breather before we started the trip back to the car.
Return to The Farmyard on the same track and then descend to Jawbone carpark on the signed Jawbone Creek Track (the track on the east side of the clearing). This track follows the creek steeply down, crossing over a few times, and was quite slippery due to the recent wet weather. By the time we reached the final creek-crossing at the bottom of the slope, our legs were very ready for a rest. We were looking forward to strolling back to the car from Jawbone carpark, along Cerberus Road (a wide dirt road), but we hadn’t realised in the car on the way in that it was up-hill almost all the way. Fortunately it still required a lot less concentration than the rest of the walk, so we just had to get past the pain that was building in our legs.
Note: I’ve included all the required information for doing this hike here but for more of a description (and probably the best of my photos), you might also like to check out my story in the August/September 2010 issue of Great Walks Magazine.
- Cathedral Range Northern Circuit is another excellent day walk, which basically covers the other half of Cathedral Range.
Have you visited the Cathedral Range State Park? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.