Track Conditions: Rough – most of the track is well marked but can be hard to follow in some sections
Difficulty: Hard (grade four) – 11kms return with steep, rocky terrain with poor footing and drop offs, climbing required
Facilities: Minimal – pit toilets at campground
The Cathedral Range State Park in Victoria is about two hours drive north-east of Melbourne and is home to what are arguably some of the state’s best winter hikes. There are numerous camping grounds around the base of the mountain – perfect for hikers wanting to spend a few days exploring the trails. Campsites must be booked in advance through Parks Victoria.
We set out to tackle Cathedral Peak and while the area certainly gets chilly, once you set off up the track’s steep inclines and rocky terrain you are sure to warm up before long. The track is classed as grade four by the Victorian Government and recommended only for those with a moderate level of skill in areas like bush navigation and emergency first aid.
While the climb is arduous at times (the final stretch is practically a scramble on all fours over rocks and clay), the view from the top is absolutely breathtaking and well worth the journey.
Beginning at Ned’s Gully campground, hikers can choose to go all the way up to Cathedral Peak and/or stop off at the lower (though still impressive) Ned’s Peak along the way. The track starts off very easy as it meanders through the mossy forest that fills the gully. But the incline soon increases and it’s a moderate climb for about an hour up to the turnoff to Ned’s Peak.
From here, hikers can either walk another 15 minutes of similar terrain to the smaller peak or brace themselves for the 45-minute scramble over rock and clay to reach the summit – Cathedral Peak.
On reaching the top it immediately becomes clear that the climb has been worth it. Standing atop a ridge of craggy sedimentary rock, at an elevation of 1241 metres, you can look down on the clouds and across green farmland to the Yarra Ranges. You do need to have your wits about you though as there are many sheer drop-offs and the rocks can be slippery.
From here, adventurous hikers can make their way along the razorback to the Jawbones and Sugarloaf Peak. Or if you’re spent (as we were), just take a seat and enjoy the view.
Bear in mind that while it’s faster on the way down than it is coming up, it’s still a fair trek and not something you want to be doing in the dark – so give yourself plenty of time to get back to base.
Ned’s Gully campground
Situated at the base of the mountain, Ned’s Gully campground makes an ideal base for exploring the range. There are a number of flat clean, sites with plenty of shade. There is no vehicle access to the campground and all gear must be carried in over a footbridge from the carpark which is about 100 metres away.
Campsites have concrete fire pits, however, firewood collection is banned in the surrounding forest. There are pit toilets in the carpark.
The Cathedral Range is home to a wide array of native wildlife including the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum, brush-tailed phascogale and the powerful owl. Also, keep your eye out for the superb lyrebird and satin bowerbird as both are common in the area.
As we’ve mentioned, this is a fairly serious climb and one that requires the appropriate hiking gear to do it safely. Make sure you carry a map, compass watch and route guide. Good quality hiking boots are a must for this walk, as is enough food and water to last the day.
For a complete guide on what to take hiking in winter, check out our Winter Hiking Checklist.
The Cathedral Range is just over two hours drive north-east of Melbourne’s CBD. The final couple of kilometres are made up of well-maintained dirt road and access for 2WD vehicles is not an issue.
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