This is the tenth post in the Aussie Hiking Bloggers guest post series for Bushwalking Blog. A couple of years back, I started asking all of the other Aussie hiking bloggers to tell us about a favourite home turf day-walk. Dayna from Dayna’s Blog has agreed to tell us about some of her favourites in the Grampians.

 

 
 

For many Melburnians, visiting the magnificent Grampians National Park (Gariwerd) in western-Victoria means setting off to Halls Gap, which is located roughly in the middle of the ranges.

I’m not sure that the small, quaint town of Dunkeld, nestled at the foot of Mount Sturgeon at the very southern-most end of the Grampians, even rates a look-in by many visitors or holiday makers. It’s a mere a dot on the map – a point that, when passed, means you’re that much closer to your intended destination.

 

Welcome to the Grampians & Dunkeld - with Mount Sturgeon & Mount Abrupt in background
Welcome to the Grampians & Dunkeld – with Mount Sturgeon & Mount Abrupt in background

 

Dunkeld town rose to prominence in 2009 when the Royal Mail Hotel won numerous awards for its restaurant (which it has continued to collect). Despite the fact that the main street is also a highway that B-doubles rumble down – although if you’re up early you can still catch a wallaby sunbaking on the road before the peak traffic starts (while the hardcore ‘foodies’ are still sleeping off last night’s degustation dinner) – there is more to this sleepy little town than a fabulous hotel. The hiking and wildlife here are simply fantastic. It’s the place where I came to understand the true meaning of a ‘dawn chorus’.

 

Dunkeld’s main street at peak hour
Dunkeld’s main street at peak hour

 

Dunkeld’s Royal Mail Hotel, Mount Sturgeon rising behind
Dunkeld’s Royal Mail Hotel, Mount Sturgeon rising behind

 

Although these aren’t local walks for me, strictly speaking, Neil has very kindly let me write about them because Dunkeld holds a special place in my heart – my first hikes in Victoria were right here, at Mount Sturgeon and Mount Abrupt. And because they are so good, my ‘Hardcore’ Hiking Buddy (i.e. my partner, Stephen) and I have been back a few times to do them again – and, yes, to stay at the Royal Mail Hotel too.

The distinctive, corrugated face of Mount Sturgseon wrapped in cloud on a stunning early morning in September from the Royal Mail Hotel
The distinctive, corrugated face of Mount Sturgseon wrapped in cloud on a stunning early morning in September from the Royal Mail Hotel

 

Neither of these walks, or the town of Dunkeld, were burnt by the bushfire that swept through much of the northern area of the national park, and threatened Halls Gap, in January 2014.

 

Mount Sturgeon (Wurgarri)

The hike to the summit of Mount Sturgeon officially starts at the small car park on Victoria Valley Road (opposite the turn off to Grampians Road) but if you’re staying in town, the short walk out (3km from centre of town) is pleasant and allows extra time for wildlife spotting.

 

Two emus in a field and a magpie on a fence post
Two emus in a field and a magpie on a fence post

 

Walking from Dunkeld to the start of Mount Sturgeon Track along Victoria Valley Road
Walking from Dunkeld to the start of Mount Sturgeon Track along Victoria Valley Road

 

A solitary tree in the paddock, Mount Sturgeon softly veiled by light rain
A solitary tree in the paddock, Mount Sturgeon softly veiled by light rain

 

While the Mount Sturgeon track is rated ‘hard’, it’s not technically challenging. If you’re prepared to take it at your own pace, I would rate it as ‘moderate’.

Beginning on sandy soils with plenty of grass trees growing beneath what I can only describe as a battered-looking forest, the vegetation gradually changes as the track leads you around to climb the long, rocky slope up the back of the mountain.

 

Grass Trees grow beneath trees leaning in all directions at the start of Mount Sturgeon Track
Grass Trees grow beneath trees leaning in all directions at the start of Mount Sturgeon Track

 

The wind and weather blowing in from the west ensures that any vegetation covering the broad rear slope of the mountain grows strong and tough.

 

The track starts to get rocky when the climbing starts
The track starts to get rocky when the climbing starts

 

Track markers are always reassuring, but the Mount Sturgeon Track is quite clear to follow
Track markers are always reassuring, but the Mount
Sturgeon Track is quite clear to follow

 

Once you have gained enough elevation to see above the trees in the pass below, the views into Victoria Valley to the west and up to Mount Abrupt are rewarding.

 

Looking across to Mount Abrupt from Mount Sturgeon
Looking across to Mount Abrupt from Mount Sturgeon

 

But don’t be so distracted by the long views that you forget to appreciate what’s right in front of and around you.

 

A stunning blue feather, possibly from a crimson rosella
A stunning blue feather, possibly from a crimson rosella

 

Raindrops on eucalypt blossoms
Raindrops on eucalypt blossoms

 

Scented sundews on the path
Scented sundews on the path

 

A splash of red on the track turned out to be a Flame Grevillea
A splash of red on the track turned out to be a Flame Grevillea

 

Golden Heath, barely more than a seedling but blooming already
Golden Heath, barely more than a seedling but blooming already

 

Wax-lip Orchid
Wax-lip Orchid

 

Bush pea after the rain
Bush pea after the rain

 

When you reach the false summit, look for the track marker directing you to the right. There’s just a bit further to go.

 

The summit is that one over there - keep following the painted track markers
The summit is that one over there – keep following the painted track markers

 

A bit of downhill walking is welcome about now, but it doesn’t last long before it’s uphill again – not far now.

A red dot on a rock signals the end of the track, and the summit of Mount Sturgeon. The view over town is definitely worth the climb. Fields stretch as far as the eye can see in a 270 degree panorama. In spring many fields are a patriotic mix of emerald green and yellow gold; by early summer the fields have already dried to a dusty gold with the canopies of giant old red gums providing most of the dark patches of green that dot the fields and line the laneways.

 

Dunkeld in spring from Mount Sturgeon
Dunkeld in spring from Mount Sturgeon

 

Dunkeld in summer from Mount Sturgeon
Dunkeld in summer from Mount Sturgeon

 

The cliff face is actually layers of rock stacked atop each other
The cliff face is actually layers of rock stacked atop each other

 

The summit is an ideal place to stop and have lunch while you appreciate the view. The town is much larger from above than what it appears from street level, too.

All the while, as you’re gazing at the scenery over lunch, then as you descend back down the same track as you walked up, Mount Abrupt stands as a challenge on your left.

 

Mount Abrupt from Mount Sturgeon summit
Mount Abrupt from Mount Sturgeon summit

 

If it’s still morning and conquering Mount Sturgeon was as easy as a stroll to the letter box then you might consider doing Mount Abrupt in the afternoon. For everyone else I’d recommend saving it for the next (or another) day when it can be tackled with fresh legs.

 

Mount Abrupt
Mount Abrupt

 

Mount Abrupt (Mud-dadjug)

The Mount Abrupt track is rated ‘hard’ as it is steep and can be slippery across the granite near the top, especially if it has been wet recently.

There’s space for cars to park on Grampians Road, roughly 5km from the junction with Victoria Valley Road, or approximately 8km from Dunkeld. As there is no footpath along Grampians Road, or enough shoulder to walk there safely, I recommend driving to the start of this walk.

Although it starts off at a moderate incline, there are soon plenty of steps included as the track zigzags its way up to the top of the cliffs.

 

Start of the Mount Abrupt track
Start of the Mount Abrupt track

 

On the way the track crosses (and re-crosses) land slide areas resulting from a deluge of rain in the summer of 2010 / 2011. The tan scars were stark against the green eucalypt covered mountain sides when we were last there in September 2012. Parks Victoria have done a fantastic job reconstructing the track across these areas.

 

The Mount Abrupt track has been reconstructed in several places where it crosses this landslide
The Mount Abrupt track has been reconstructed in several
places where it crosses this landslide

 

Mount Abrupt track was repaired and re-opened in January 2012
Mount Abrupt track was repaired and re-opened in January 2012

 

Despite being generally well defined, as you climb higher (and the heart and breathing rate follows suite) there are one or two spots that may confuse a hiker and lead them astray. Here’s one:

 

Don't brush past the grass tree, but follow the track left indicated by the fading red arrow on the rock
Don’t brush past the grass tree, but follow the track left indicated
by the fading red arrow on the rock

 

Just keep an eye out for track markers, even though some are getting a bit faded.

An increase in the track gradient and effort required means you’ve made it to the top… of the escarpment. It’s a good, shady spot to take a breather and have a drink.

 

Nearing the top of the escarpment
Nearing the top of the escarpment

 

Quick stop for a drink and to catch your breath while enjoying the view
Quick stop for a drink and to catch your breath while enjoying the view

 

If it hasn’t rained lately the next section across to the slope of Mount Abrupt itself is pretty cruisey. The track crosses a couple of sloping granite slabs that are often wet and could potentially be slippery.

 

Some bits looks pretty slippery, but there aren't too many
Some bits looks pretty slippery, but there aren’t too many

 

You know you’re on the final ascent when your heart rate picks up again after having returned to a more usual rate while crossing the easy section. The geo-marker that looked so close just minutes ago now feels like it’s never going to arrive – or possibly that was just me.

 

The final ascent to the summit of Mount Abrupt
The final ascent to the summit of Mount Abrupt

 

It's a tough but beautiful ecosystem on the exposed slopes of the Grampian Ranges
It’s a tough but beautiful ecosystem on the exposed slopes of the Grampian Ranges

 

At 827m Mount Abrupt towers over Mount Sturgeon’s (at 548m), Dunkeld and the surrounding plains. The Serra Range, of which Mount Abrupt and Sturgeon are at the very tail end of, runs off to the north and is quite breath-taking. Victoria Range is the name given to the mostly parallel line of mountains to the west.

 

Signal Peak and the Serra Range of the Grampians National Park from Mount Abrupt
Signal Peak and the Serra Range of the Grampians National Park from Mount Abrupt

 

Survey marker at the summit of Mount Abrupt
Survey marker at the summit of Mount Abrupt

 

Again, the track back to the car is the same as the one up. It’s a well-trod path through the scrub up top, and just keep an eye out for painted arrows on the rocks where the track cross those sections.

 

Heading back down from the summit of Mount Abrupt
Heading back down from the summit of Mount Abrupt

 

Now that it’s more or less all downhill from here, don’t forget to enjoy the flora along the way. Spring is a great time to visit if you enjoy photographing flowers.

 

Leafless Bitter-pea
Leafless Bitter-pea

 

Banksia flower by the track
Banksia flower by the track

 

Common Heath, Victoria's floral emblem
Common Heath, Victoria’s floral emblem

 

Pine Heath
Pine Heath

 

A native pea, an unusual dark red colour
A native pea, an unusual dark red colour

 

Tiny, delicate flowers of the Slender Snoke-bush
Tiny, delicate flowers of the Slender Snoke-bush

 

 

Need to know

Mount Sturgeon

Length (km): 7 km
Time (hrs/min): 2 hrs (Parks Victoria estimated time: 3hrs).
Grade: 4 (Australian standard).
Elevation change: 343 m
Return / Circuit / One-Way / Partial Circuit: Return.
State: Victoria
Park: Grampians National Park
Closest Town: Dunkeld.
Car Access: Dunkeld is situated 260km west of Melbourne on the Glenelg Highway. To get to the car park for this walk, drive out of town along Victoria Valley Road for approximately 3km. The car park is on the left, opposite the junction with Grampians Tourist Road.
 

Mount Abrupt

Length (km): 6.5 km
Time (hrs/min): 3 hrs
Grade: 4 (Australian standard).
Elevation change: 457 m
Return / Circuit / One-Way / Partial Circuit: Return.
State: Victoria.
Park: Grampians National Park.
Closest Town: Dunkeld.
Car Access: Dunkeld is situated 260km west of Melbourne on the Glenelg Highway. To get to the car park for this walk, drive out of town along Victoria Valley Road for approximately 3km. Turn right onto Grampians Tourist Road and drive another approximately 5km to where there’s a cleared area on the right side of the road. The track starts on the left side of road and is marked by a sign and steps. Take due care crossing the road.
Maps: Both of these walks are covered by the same maps. Parks Victoria’s Southern Grampians Map is available from the Cultural Centre at Halls Gap. Spatial Vision Maps also produce a Southern Grampians outdoor recreation guide. If you’re happy to use your phone as your map you can download the free Avenza Maps app (on Android, iPhone, or Windows) and purchase NSWtopo’s Dunkeld North map for AUD$2.99.
 

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Have you visited the southern end of The Grampians? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.