The Fortress – Mt Thackeray circuit, located in the Grampians National Park, is an ideal weekend mission easily accessible from either Adelaide or Melbourne. It features several protected bivvy sites, meaning you can ditch the tents and sleep under the stars instead.
- Scrambling and rock climbing
- Sleeping wild under the stars
- Rocky mountain summits
The Fortress – Mt Thackeray Circuit Hike
Less than 4 hours from Melbourne and a little over 5 from Adelaide, the Grampians National Park is a huge national park with massive adventure potential. From multi-day hikes to legendary rock climbing, caves and kayaking, the Grampians has it all.
The Fortress – Mt Thackeray circuit had been on our hit-list for well over a year. So far, between the four of us, it had been impossible to find the time to make this trip happen. This is how life seems to be going – somebody’s always busy, responsibilities crop up, the moment’s just not right. You know, the usual story.
With temperatures dropping in the southern part of Australia, we told ourselves it was now or never. I called in sick for a weekend shift, we packed the car, loading our packs late Friday afternoon and driving across the desert from Adelaide to the fabled Grampians in Victoria.
We arrived close to midnight at the trailhead. The moon was full, illuminating the rocky landscape as we steeply climbed a twisting ridgeline trail that wove between volcanic boulders, beside plunging cliffs and amongst ghostly, weather-twisted trees. The trail was faint in the dark and markers were few and far between, requiring vigilance to stay on track.
After 2 hours of climbing, we descended into a shallow valley to our campsite, a rock overhang at the base of The Fortress.
Edit: Since publishing, camping under overhangs in Gariwerd/Grampians National Park has been prohibited for cultural heritage reasons. Please check current National Parks information before your journey.
Dominating the surrounding ridges and valleys, The Fortress is an imposing rock formation whose towering cliffs look like ancient, impenetrable fortifications.
The weather-eroded cliffs offer incredible rock climbing and scrambling opportunities. For the adventurous, it is possible to climb over the cliffs and into a labyrinth of eroded caves and tunnels.
From The Fortress, the trail joins a standard 4WD access road that leads to the Mt Thackeray carpark.
A trail climbs from the carpark, across a series of rocky slabs to the summit of Mt Thackeray where spectacular 360° views of the surrounding ranges and plains await you, along with a geocache stocked with condoms and lollies.
With the afternoon fading, we quickly hiked back to the road, following 4WD tracks and steep single track involving multiple creek crossings. That night, weary and footsore, cooking bacon over a campfire, our souls felt refreshed.
This is a highly recommended and achievable weekend microadventure.
- Best to travel as light as possible for this one. You will be covering some long distances involving technical trails.
- Headlamp for the night section
- Tarp (don’t worry about a tent). Good for laying under your sleeping mat to keep the dirt down.
- All your other hiking knick-knacks
How To Get There
This circuit starts from the Harrops Track carpark.
A convenient base of operations for either before or after your hike is Buandik Campground, located 5 kilometres from the start of the hike.
Intermediate (some hiking experience, route finding and a decent level of fitness).
Distance / Duration
If choosing to follow our night assault strategy, the distances are as follows:
Day 1: 4.3km (560m elevation change)
Day 2: 23km (860m elevation change)