The Victorian High Country is more than just a winter destination. Head into the hills for backcountry huts, epic views and an authentic Australian challenge. Join Lachlan and his mates for a 4 day circuit, starting and finishing at Howmans Gap.
- The high plains give ridiculously beautiful sunsets and stargazing
- Visiting old cattlemen’s huts dotted throughout the mountains
- Wildlife – wild brumbies, snakes, kangaroos, wallabies and birdlife
We’d loaded up the car with mates and hiking packs and set off for a 4 day tour of the Victorian High Country – looping from Howmans Gap around Falls Creek in one big circuit. Our trek wound together a group of backcountry huts and camping sites, giving views of Falls Creek, Mount McKay, Mount Feathertop and Mount Bogong.
Day 1 – Howmans Gap to Johnson Hut
‘You’re definitely going to need a swim!’
Running into a camp manager at Howmans Gap on our way out (our accomodation for the previous night), we were given the handy tip of swimming in the river before starting our climb to the Spion Kopje. Within the first few hundred metres of the track we threw off our packs and jumped into the icy cold water. Making sure to soak our hats and shirts, we slipped our packs back on and began the ascent. Within minutes we were soaking again, this time however, with sweat. Although short, the track was steep and slippery, strewn with dust, rocks and fallen trees. As we trudged above the treeline the path levelled out and the high plains came into view.
A sunny day with little shade on the high plains was hot going, but it delivered some great views of rolling mountains and wild brumbies that made it worthwhile. After making it into camp, our night at Johnson Hut delivered one of the best sunsets I’ve seen in a seriously long time. With the sun setting in one direction and a full moon rising in the other, a cup of tea at 2000m didn’t go astray.
Day 2 – Johnson Hut to Pretty Valley Campground
Despite good views along the Great Alpine Walking Trail and a lunchtime stop at the old Wallace Hut for lunch, day 2 was marred by our poor judgement when it came to water. Although the high plains have plenty of streams and creeks, to be safe you need to boil most of the water you pick up, which was something we’d forgotten to account for when packing our gas supply.
With not quite enough water on a hot, dry day, fully exposed in the sun, it’s safe to say we were a tad dehydrated trekking into camp.
Pretty Valley Campground can be a popular one (as it’s accessible by road), but there’s always plenty of space and it’s in an incredible spot. It’ss an 800m trek to the nearest water though, so stock up beforehand!
Day 3 – Pretty Valley to Bogong Jack Hut
Arguably the nicest day of the hike, the track to Bogong Jack Hut follows the Jaithmathangs both above and below the treeline, giving some stunning views in all directions at the highest points. The trees and views feel unbelievably, authentically, Australian, like something out of a Fred Williams painting or Banjo Patterson poem. The old tin huts along the way only add to the feeling, making for a fantastic day of walking.
The Bogong Jack Hut itself sits in a neat little saddle, big enough for a kick of the footy or a throw of the frisbee. On the far side of the clearing there’s also a water source, hidden away towards the corner. If you get a clear night it’s a beautiful spot for some stargazing, being so far from any light pollution.
Day 4 – Bogong Jack Hut to Howmans Gap
Although the traditional path would take almost 20km to get from Bogong Jack to Howmans, our crew was (very naively) convinced that we could complete a 1km bush bash to join two tracks together, saving almost 7km.
An hour of blackberry scratches, falling off and under logs and tearing our legs to pieces on trees later, we managed to finish our ‘shortcut’, with fairly universal acknowledgement that it was a horrible idea. From there we wound our way back to the car at Howmans, ready for some cold drinks and a swim in the Ovens River (in Bright) on the way home.
- The high plains can get hot and dry – most water needs to be boiled so stock up!
- Bushfires are a serious danger, total fire ban in summer
- Be wary of snakes
- The huts are not for sleeping, and are typically only emergency refuges
Although the 4-5 hour road trip to Victoria’s High Country is often reserved for snow trips in winter, hiking the plains around Falls Creek is definitely something that can, and should be done year round. Falls is located 4 hours north-east of Melbourne, in the Alpine National Park, and is easily accessed by car. We began and finished our hike at Howmans Gap, a cheap and well-placed camp 5km below the summit of Falls.
- Fishing (although we didn’t, some of the lakes are great for fly fishing)
Intermediate – some navigational skills are necessary
Total distance of 70km, depending on route (15-20km per day)
Summer or winter – hit the High Country