John Feeney, an avid hiker, camper and outdoor enthusiast from Melbourne, knows a thing or two about hiking in Melbourne’s outer-east. John runs the popular outdoor blog The Hiking Society and is a co-owner of an outdoor clothing and gear company called Globewalker.
The great thing about hiking in Melbourne, regardless of where you live, is that there are so many great day hiking tracks within a 60-90 minute drive of the CBD.
But, what about those not-so popular locations? Those hidden hiking gems that don’t get a lot of love?
Mt St Leonard and Condons Track
Healesville – 24.5km
This one is an absolute cracker and very much one for the experienced hiker or, at least, someone with a good level of fitness – trust me, you’ll need it! It’s a 24.5km day hike where the first seven kilometres are predominantly uphill to the top of Mt St Leonard on what can only be described as sharp inclines.
Once at the top, check out the lookout tower where you are treated to 360 degree views of the surrounding areas and, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see the city of Melbourne. Head down another hill and walk the relatively flat Monda Road for some time until you come to the beginning of Condons Track. This is where the fun begins.
It’s here that you’ll follow a track into dense bushland where you’ll head downhill for several kilometres, all the while trying not to slip over in the mud and step over thin branches. Once you get to the bottom, it’s smooth sailing from there as you are on a largely flat track back to the start.
It’s a tough hike, but a rewarding one with some amazing views. I’d recommend it to anyone who is training for a multi-day hike or is really looking for a challenge.
Mount Dandenong Trail
The Dandenong Ranges – 9.3km
Similar to the previous track, this one is a doozy! Located at the foot of Mt Dandenong on the borders of The Basin and Kilsyth, this track includes three steep sections intersecting the mountain as well as many wide, formed tracks.
A little further up the road from this track is the popular Glasgow Track. So, if you are looking for a less populated track that offers the same challenge, then this one is for you. Once you reach the top, and hopefully this is on a clear day, you’ll be able to see the surrounding eastern suburbs as well as the city of Melbourne.
Olinda Falls and Valley Circuit
Dandenong National Park/RJ Hamer Arboretum – 15.7km
Starting at the popular Woolrich Lookout car park on the border of Olinda and Silvan in the Dandenong Ranges, the Olinda Falls and Valley Circuit is such an underrated track in an underrated location.
Typically, most people who come to the Dandenong Ranges to hike or to work on their fitness will go to the over-crowded 1,000 Steps in Ferntree Gully. However, similar to the overall point of this article, the RJ Hamer Arboretum is so quiet and has so many tracks that you almost get a sense of isolation whilst walking through there.
You make your way through the western section of the Arboretum heading north to Falls Road and onto Olinda Falls. Whilst the Dandenong Ranges isn’t known for its overwhelming waterfalls, the Olinda Falls are at least a nice place to stop and rest whilst the sound of rushing water surrounds you.
Continuing on a formed track, you find your way onto a dirt road and then back into the Dandenong National Park. From here, continue heading south on several tracks and pass through the picturesque Valley Picnic Ground as you make your way back up to the lookout car park.
There are so many great things about this hike, but I believe the best part (which is also the hardest part) is right at the end as you make a last effort up to the car park. The hill is somewhat tough but make sure you turn around and admire the view of the valley beyond. It truly is amazing!
Cambarville – 4km
Located 18km outside of the town of Marysville, the Cumberland Track includes a couple of beautiful waterfalls and a giant tree that looks as though it has been there since the dawn of time. The jewel in the crown of this hike is the Cora Lynn Falls. There are two platforms where you can view it from, but the spot is the one at the bottom.
And all of this in the first two kilometres!
The second half the track begins on a gravel road past a picnic ground as you make your way back into the forest. Standing at 87.84 metres high, this is where the aptly named Big Tree is located. It really is something to see.
Unlike the previous three hikes, there aren’t many obstacles in this one which makes it ideal for anyone who is looking to dip their toe into the hiking world or doesn’t have the best fitness base.
I would even go as far as saying that you could bring young children with you on this one.
Explore more in Victoria