Helicopter Spur & Mt. Howitt // Victorian High Country (Vic)

When the little, dotted line on the map says unmaintained track, it’s actually a code word for adventure. Best place for it? The Victorian High Country.


Highlights

  • The best views the Victorian High Country has to offer
  • A beautiful campsite nestled amongst the snow gums
  • Hiking up several steep rock bands to get into the alpine zone

The Lowdown

Here we are, sitting in the exam hall, hiking boots on and bulging packs at the back of the room just willing us to finish. Finally our pens go down for the last time, everyone stands up to leave, I glance across to my mate who’s already put on his akubra with corks dangling around the rim, and can’t help but grin.

It’s time to go hiking in the Victorian High Country. What a way to finish my last ever uni exam.

An hour from Mansfield, Victoria you’ll find the Upper Howqua Campsite, nestled along the uppermost section of the Howqua River, in behind Mt. Buller. This is the perfect place to stay on Friday night as there are fireplaces to cook dinner on and toilets to save using the sacred roll of toilet paper you’ll be bringing hiking.

Helicopter Spur is an unmaintained track that navigates its way from the Upper Howqua Campsite up through the Eucalypt forests and onto the high plains up in the alpine zone. The Helicopter Spur track begins as an old fire vehicle track that can be found on the right of the bridge you cross as you enter the campground. Soon enough it turns into single track which is slightly overgrown with baby eucalypts and fallen logs but still easy to navigate.

After a few kilometres of climbing you will approach a set of intimidating rock walls which seemingly block your path, but yes, that is where the track heads. The track up the rock bands is steep but easy to follow, take your time and be safe because a fall would likely result in a serious injury. But if you’re like us, it’s these moments of exposure which are the beginnings of an epic, memorable weekend.

Once you hit the Bluff Hut 4WD track at the top of the spur turn left and follow it for ~2 km where you will hit the Australian Alps Walking Track (AAWT). From here you walk on the AAWT over the spectacular summit of Mt. Magdala, past Hells Window and on to the final climb of the day up Mt. Howitt. 1km before the summit of Mt. Howitt you will walk through a beautiful campsite nestled out of the wind amongst a spectacular patch of snow gums. This is the perfect place to stay the night.

Whilst you should carry enough water for the two-day hike with you as this section of the high country is notoriously dry, you may find some creeks trickling down the gullies to the right of the track leading up to the summit.

An early morning rise and walk to the summit of Mt. Howitt for sunrise is highly recommended before you walk the last 12km all the way back down to your car. The last few kilometres of the track are relatively flat and you get to enjoy multiple creek crossings which are a nice cool break for your feet before completing the ending ritual of any good hike, launching your whole body into the river.

Essential Gear

  • Hiking boots
  • Pack
  • Tent
  • First aid kit
  • Food for 2 days
  • Water for 2 days
  • Howitt Map
  • A big old smile

How To Get There

At 250km from Melbourne it takes approximately 4 hours to drive to the Upper Howqua campsite on the Western side of the Great Dividing Range. From Melbourne, drive to Mansfield (which has an IGA if you need any extra food) and then join the Mt. Buller Road.

Immediately after the Mt. Buller ticket box at the bottom of the mountain turn left onto Mt. Stirling Road and follow that to telephone junction where you turn right onto Circuit Road. Follow circuit road until you hit Bindaree Road which will take you down to the Upper Howqua Campsite. While the last section of the drive is on dirt roads any car should be fine as the road has recently been graded and is very smooth.

Activities

  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Sightseeing
  • Photography

Skill level

Perfect for the Intermediate-Expert hikers

Distance Covered / Elevation Gain / Duration

Day 1

From the Upper Howqua Campsite up to Mt. Howitt is 14km and has 1300m ascent and 400m descent

Day 2

From Mt. Howitt back to the car is 12km and 900m descent.

 


Here are some more Victorian adventures for you to get stuck into…

MITCHELL RIVER WALKING TRACK (VIC)

THE LAST DAY OF SUMMER // WIRRAWILLA RAINFOREST AND MYRTLE GULLY (VIC)

KAYAKING ADVENTURES // OUR TOP SPOTS IN VICTORIA

5 EPIC VICTORIAN NATIONAL PARKS YOU PROBABLY HAVEN’T BEEN TO YET