Track Conditions: Fair – most of the track is well marked but hard to navigate in some sections; small creeks cross the track in places
Difficulty: Hard (grade four) – 5kms return with steep, rocky terrain with poor footing and cliff faces; climbing required
The Chimney Pots is a group of striking sandstone formations situated in the south-west corner of the Grampians National Park. It is a bit of a trek to get out there (about an hour from Halls Gap) but because of this, it’s a lot quieter than the many Grampians attractions in the north of the park.
The whole area feels quite remote and this is echoed by the lack of facilities and sealed roads. However, if you’re not bothered by the fact there’s no toilet or running water on hand, it’s certainly a hike to remember.
There are many campsites nearby (see below for details) and for people wanting to stay a while, there are enough mountains and waterfalls in the area to entertain yourself for at least a week.
On arriving at the Chimney Pots carpark we were pleased to find we had the place entirely to ourselves. There’s no denying it: the region does get cold in winter and early spring. But as we made our way down the winding, sandy path – through striking yellow shrubbery, punctuated by the black trunks of gums burnt in the 2014 fires – we are reminded of two reasons the Chimney Pots is a great hike to do in the cooler months. One: you don’t have to worry about bushfires. Two: there are waterfalls everywhere!
Waterfalls on the path
About a kilometre in, we came across a stunning little waterfall just to the right of the path and some further exploration revealed several in the area. Because of this, the track does get a bit soggy in places but as long as you wear some decent hiking boots and watch your step, the trade off is a no-brainer.
Just on from the waterfall, the track branches in two to make a circuit around the Chimney Pots. We chose to go clockwise; this meant a more arduous climb on the way up but an easy descent in the shade on the way back.
Just after the track splits, it becomes clear why this is classed as a grade four-track by the Victorian Government and recommended only for those with a moderate level of fitness and skill in areas like bush navigation and emergency first aid. The incline gets significantly steeper and the sandy path gives way to a rocky track that, while signposted with yellow arrows, can still be hard to follow at times.
For those wanting to stop for a breather along the way, there are several spots to stop and take in the magnificent views before the final few hundred metres (which is more a climb than a walk) as the track makes its way up the back of the sandstone monoliths that are the Chimney Pots.
The Chimney Pots
The view is truly spectacular, but you do need to keep your wits about you as there are cliff faces on every side and some of the rocks are quite slippery. The massive sandstone formations which make up the Chimney Pots jut out from the surrounding bushland in every direction and make for a breathtaking landscape. To the south, there’s a clear view of Mount Abrupt, Mount Sturgeon and beyond.
The area is also popular with climbers and it’s not hard to see why – there is a plethora of shear faces to conquer for those up to the challenge. However, if you are going to attempt a climb in the area, make sure you have the appropriate training and equipment.
Native fauna is abundant right throughout the Grampians National Park. Hikers can come face to face with echidnas, wallabies, emus, possums and kangaroos and may be lucky enough to spot an endangered red-tailed black cockatoo flying by. As in any wilderness area, make sure you look out for wildlife when you’re in the Grampians National Park.
Mobile phone reception is patchy at best at the Chimney Pots so before setting off, hikers should carry a topographic map, compass and a reliable watch. It’s also recommended visitors to the area are experienced in remote bush navigation and know how to triangulate their position with a map and compass.
For a complete guide on what to take with you when hiking in the cooler months, check out our Winter Hiking Checklist.
It is also a good idea to let a friend or family member know where you’re going and when you plan to return before heading off.
As on any trip to a remote area, you should make sure you’re equipped with quality hiking gear including a torch, spare batteries, matches, first aid kit, whistle good quality footwear, food and water and adequate clothing.
There are a multitude of camping and cabin accommodation options in the area. The closest is Strachans Campground, which is just under a 15 minute drive away. Campsite bookings can be made through Parks Victoria.
The Chimney Pots are close to four hours drive west of Melbourne and around two and a half hours from Ballarat. The last few kilometres are made up of well-maintained dirt roads that are easy to manage in a two-wheel-drive.