Follow Jess’s footsteps as she traverses the 5km Den of Nargun Loop Walk following creekbeds through rainforest gullies, clambering over moss-covered logs, and trying to embrace inner tranquility as she questions the origin of each rustle.


We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Gunaikurnai people who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Quick Overview

The Den of Nargun Loop Walk is a 5km circuit, grade 3 hike located in the Mitchell River National Park in East Gippsland, Victoria. It takes around 90 minutes if you’re not stopping to allow a snake to slither away or wandering around in pursuit of a rad butterfly. If you want to see it all (and you definitely do) I’d recommend allowing three hours.

About the Den of Nargun Loop Walk

The Den of Nargun Loop Walk is the ideal day hike if you’re visiting East Gippsland for a weekend. It’s off the main tourist route and unless you’re unlucky enough to time your visit with a school group, it never feels busy or gets so much foot traffic that you can’t enjoy it in peace and quiet.

For anyone who hikes a lot and loves that feeling of reward when you finally reach ‘the view’ that makes it all worth it… the Den of Nargun Loop Walk feels like cheating. From the moment you start descending into the warm temperate rainforest, about ten minutes in, it’s a visual fairytale that keeps on giving.

Read more: Your Adventure Guide to an East Gippsland Getaway

Den of Nargun History

The Den of Nargun and the surrounding Woolshed Creek are sacred places that are culturally significant to Gunnaikurnai people. The Den is a communal space for women to practice learning ceremonies and gather for storytelling. Aboriginal legend prohibits Gunnaikurnai men from visiting the Den and Woolshed Creek but non-Gunnaikurnai males are welcome to visit the area.

Traditional stories tell of a half-man, half-stone ‘monster’ that lives in the Den – the Nargun – who was known to abduct children who ventured too near the rock pool. Legend has it that if you attempt to attack him with a boomerang or spear, you’ll find the weapon directed at you instead… no thanks!

The cave in the Den used to be decorated with hundreds of stalactites but sadly most of these are no longer there. There are signs requesting that you respect the space and avoid entering the cave to preserve its natural condition – please observe them and leave no trace.


How to Get to the Den of Nargun Loop Walk

The Den of Nargun Loop Walk is located within the Mitchell River National Park in East Gippsland, approximately 275km east of Melbourne. It’s 30 minutes from the closest regional city of Bairnsdale. There’s no public transport available so travelling by car is your only option.

To get to the Den of Nargun by car you’ll jump on the Princes Highway in Melbourne, chuck on cruise control, and load up a podcast. Settle in for 3.5 hours of easy driving (seriously, it’s a few round-a-bouts and one left turn to get to Bairnsdale). Once you pass Pakenham, the cars thin out and soon it’ll be just you and a depressing amount of roadkill for scenery (just keepin’ it real, folks).

Note: Make sure to take regular rest breaks. The last stretch from Stratford to Bairnsdale is only 30 minutes long but it’s one of the most dangerous stretches of road in VIC for a reason – people zone out and accidents do happen.

Some good places to stop are the Port of Sale – think restaurants plus a free (but actually good) art gallery – and the Badger & Hare Coffee Shop in Stratford.

Just before you hit Bairnsdale turn left onto the Bairnsdale-Dargo Road and follow the signs to turn right on Wallers Road. The 2WD-friendly dirt road ends at the car park and BBQ area where the Den of Nargun Loop Walk begins.

Read more: 9 Day Trips From Melbourne 2023


Skill Level


Reception is unreliable, snakes are common, 50% of the trail is slippery rocks, and if you break a limb it’s going to be a real pickle of a puzzle to get you out of there. My point? Beginners often attempt and do enjoy this trail, but if something goes wrong, it’ll go wrong fast.

If you’re walking in summer, heat stress is also a risk on the exposed second half of the walk, regardless of your experience. You’ll need to carry water and know how to operate a PLB.

Read more: How To Hike in Hot Weather

Distance / Duration of the Den of Nargun Loop Walk

5km / 90 minutes

Essential Gear for the Den of Nargun Loop Walk

Den of Nargun Loop Walk packing list

  • Water bottle
  • First Aid Kit (including snake bite kit)
  • PLB (make sure it’s charged too!)
  • Gaiters and/or tall hiking boots
  • Hat, sunnies, and sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Snacks (there are some choice picnic spots, pack cheese)
  • Layers (no matter how hot a day it is, the second you drop under the canopy the temperature noticeably drops)
  • Camera

What it’s Like to Hike the Den of Nargun Loop Walk

Keen to avoid the heat of the day, my partner and I rolled into the car park around 9.30am and made a beeline for the trailhead. About five minutes in you’ll come to a fork in the path, pointing left to the Den and right to Bluff Lookout.

Note: This is the moment that the walk becomes a loop. The terrain is much more forgiving if you head to the Den first. The last section, which heads back up to the bluff by the river, is a series of steep bitumen slopes. They’re manageable on the way up but are incredibly slippery – borderline hazardous if it’s been raining – on the way down.


Filled with excitement to be outdoors after a week of looking at screens, we whizzed past the turn-off to Bluff Lookout and headed left towards the Den. We soon found ourselves heading down towards the forest floor along a tiny track between tumbles of rocks. This is when the rustling started.

The last time we visited was on a boiling hot day in the height of summer and it’s not an exaggeration to say that the Den was alive with the sounds and sights of a horrifying amount of slippery snakes. If you visit when it’s cooler, this is very unlikely to be your experience.

I know multiple people who have gone in summer and not seen snakes so it was probably just a happy accident that we timed our visit for the Den of Nargun snake convention. Cue eye roll – typical.



But I digress. The rustling started, our spidey senses initiated (they totally work for snakes, right?), and our banter ceased – our very lives depended on the next few minutes! As we tuned into our surroundings we were treated to the sounds of birds, bees, lizards – and other reptiles we were pretending didn’t exist – going about their day.

If it weren’t for the razor-sharp focus we were employing to notice every slight movement of the brush, it could’ve been the manifested reality of a dream-like meditative happy place. Not today – we were in the zone.

The Realm of the Rainforest

As we dropped under the canopy and entered the rainforest gully we felt the temperature markedly drop. The memory of an Eastern Brown rearing up to strike me when I nearly stepped on it during my last visit to this precise section wasn’t distracting at all as we picked our way through the overgrown mossy rocks.

I’m not a particularly spiritual person, but there’s something magical about this place, it feels special. Imagined predators aside, it’s the kind of place you instinctively want to be quieter in without really knowing why. Try to tread lightly as you pass through… but also stomp, because snakes.

Soon enough the ‘path’ disappears and you’ll need to clamber over a section of much larger rocks. And there she is – the Den of Nargun. I don’t think anyone has given the Den a gender before, but she feels like a she. Her beautiful waterfall cascades gently over the lip of the cave. This is said to be tremendous in winter, but I’ve always visited after a dry spell so it’s never been particularly thunderous, more zen garden or backyard fountain from Bunnings. (Really killed the magical vibe with that comparison, didn’t I?)



After taking it all in, perched on a rock, and comforting ourselves with the lie that snakes can’t climb, we turned around and headed back along the dry creek bed, towards the Mitchell River.

Hello Sunshine

The next section of the Loop Walk is like a hiking variety tour. We saw rock pools, a waterfall, a valley view, a boggy creek, a swarm of bees, and a smorgasbord of native wildflowers. In amongst all of this, we emerged into the sunshine onto a sandy track and were welcomed with a light breeze. After the dark, damp stillness of the forest, it was a welcome change.


‘Please be a lizard…please be a lizard…’


At this point, our snake count was at a firm zero, despite about thirty lizard-shaped false alarms. Wearing this observation like a cloak of completely unearned bravado, (denial was the mantra of the day my friends), we began to feel more confident. Our spidey senses calmed down and we relaxed into the walk. Slowly our nervous systems began to recover from reacting to every gently falling leaf with the reflexes of a Jedi. Ironically we were walking into the area most appealing to snakes so far– warm sandy paths in full sun.

There are a bunch of small trails leading to the Mitchell River along the Den of Nargun Loop Walk and if you follow any of them you’ll be treated to some gorgeous views and great places to shuck off your boots and dip your feet in. Yes, we’re aware that snakes can swim and yes you guessed correctly – our feet remained comfortably warm in their snake-proof casings, aka hiking boots. Yep, it was a missed opportunity – the earth-bound eels won this round.

Time for a Bonus Quest

Before the end of the loop, we were presented with the option of a short side trip to Deadcock Den. It’s a slightly larger, more elevated version of the Den of Nargun. We chanced upon a big Gippsland Water Dragon and enjoyed watching him chase the sun around the sizeable rocky amphitheatre as his eyes warily tracked our movements. Realising that we were to the lizard what the (imagined?) snakes had been to us all morning, we gave him a wide berth.

Visibility is great in Deadcock Den – so if you’re surprised by a nope-rope here… you’ll find me on team snake (weren’t expecting that were you?!). The rock platform is smooth and conducts heat well – if someone had set out to build a sun lounger for a snake, this is what they would have built!

There are intermittent rock pools, a waterfall, and plenty of ledges just waiting for the distracted photographer to walk off. Whatever you do, watch your feet.

Read more: Staying Safe Around Swimming Holes and Waterfalls


Snakes definitely enjoy these hot slabs!

Damn! A Devious Hill

After a decent twenty minutes of faffing around enjoying…everything, we turned back towards the Mitchell River heading for Bluff Lookout. Having enjoyed cruisy walking on relatively flat terrain for the past hour we were ready for the steep bit but didn’t anticipate it being so difficult. Annoyingly, it was a non-satisfying, doesn’t-even-look-hard kind of track.

The trail zigzagged steadily upwards at such an unrelenting incline that I legitimately considered turning around. But that would be insane, I was 800m or so from the end. Also – pride. Pride won. Eventually, I reached a bench and set my weak carcass down for a break.

Bluff Lookout was ‘nice’ but after the slog we’d just endured, it felt like a mediocre reward. The highlight of the loop is obviously the Den of Nargun (duh) and the view of the river from the bluff is entirely forgettable by comparison. Once my sweat evaporated and blood stopped pounding against the inside of my skull (almost like I’d had a snake encounter!), it was just a short stretch through dry forest to reach the track we came in on. After bunging a left at that initial junction, we were back at the car park in a matter of minutes.

Post-walk Musings

All up, this peaceful weekend wander around the Mitchell River National Park took us about two and a half hours. We dawdled. I filmed a bee that was enjoying a walk on a rock. We thought about getting our feet wet in the river and we took a tonne of photos. My Garmin watch died halfway through so I didn’t get my usual hike stats, but I didn’t really care.

The Den of Nargun Loop Walk isn’t the kind of walk you do for the stats. It’s enjoyable for the scenery, for connecting with the surroundings, jumping at snake-like rustles or bonding through an adrenaline-filled encounter! The highlight for us was the illusion of being somewhere totally different and remote, despite being just half an hour from civilisation.


Tips For Walking the Den of Nargun Loop

  • Weather conditions vary greatly between the rainforest floor and the exposed sections above. Make sure you bring layers so that you can dress according to the conditions
  • If you see a sign for a side trip – follow it! The paths are well worn for a reason and there’s definitely something worthy of your time ahead
  • Respect the history of the land beneath your feet and don’t wander beyond where you’re allowed to go. This is a sacred place and we are privileged to be able to enjoy it. Signs will tell you when an area is prohibited
  • Take your camera. You’ll kick yourself if you head here without it
  • For the best experience, visit in winter when the waterfall at the Den of Nargun is flowing strongly, but be careful on the rocky descent (your coccyx will thank you)
  • In hot weather, you need to be extra mindful of snakes, particularly on the narrow rocky section leading into the den. Exercise caution and you’ll be fine

FAQs The Den of Nargun Loop Walk

Where is the Den of Nargun Loop Walk?

The Den of Nargun Loop Walk is located in the Mitchell River National Park. It’s 30 minutes outside of the nearest regional city of Bairnsdale and approximately 3.5 hours from Melbourne, Victoria.

How long is the Den of Nargun Loop Walk?

The main track of the Den of Nargun Loop Walk is 5km in length. If you take the side track to Deadcock Den or to the banks of the Mitchell River, this will add additional length. I’d estimate that the side tracks don’t amount to more than an additional kilometre.

Is the Den of Nargun Loop Walk Free?

Yep. It’s free to walk the Den of Nargun Loop Walk.

Will I see snakes on the Den of Nargun Loop Walk?

It’s possible but not guaranteed. Don’t avoid the hike for fear of seeing a snake (then the noodles win!). If you’re worried: avoid this hike in hot weather, hike early in the day, take a mate with you, and make sure you know what to do if you do encounter a snake.

Is it safe to do the Den of Nargun Loop Walk in summer?

Yes. It’s safe to walk the Den of Nargun Loop Walk all year. Obviously in summer you’ll want to keep an eye on the weather and avoid the area if there are active bushfires nearby. Aim to walk earlier in the day and stay hydrated.

What is the cultural significance of the Den of Nargun?

The Den of Nargun is a special place that in Gunaikurnai aboriginal history is home to a half human, half stone fierce creature that will drag unwary travellers (mostly children!) underwater. The legend prohibits Gunaikurnai men from visiting the den where the Nargun lives as it’s a sacred place for women.

Are men allowed to visit the Den of Nargun?

Traditionally, Gunaikurnai men respect the legend of the Nargun and don’t enter the den. However, men who don’t identify as Indigenous are welcome to visit.

Where can I get more information about the Den of Nargun Circuit Walk?

You can access a map and check for updates about possible park closures before you head out at the Parks Victoria website.

What else can I do in Gippsland aside from the Den of Nargun Circuit Walk?

There’s heaps to see and do in Gippsland, especially if you love being outside. From visiting Omeo, to free camping at Briagalong Blue Pool, and a huge variety of towns and attractions along the coastline, you’re spoilt for choice.

This piece was brought to you by a real living human who felt the wind in their hair and described their adventure in their own words. This is because we rate authenticity and the sharing of great experiences in the natural world – it’s all part of our ethos here at We Are Explorers. You can read more about it in our Editorial Standards.