The Bluff is one of those mountains where the closer you get, the more you wonder about the difficulty of the walk you’re about to tackle.
We acknowledge that this adventure is located on Kurnai Nation, the traditional Country of the Kurnai people who have occupied and cared for this land and water for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
- Enjoy some of the best 360-degree views in the Victorian High Country
- Eat lunch on a unique summit plateau
- In winter, watch skiers make their way down Mt Buller’s slopes from afar
Snaking through the valley below, the mountain looms over you like a giant. Whilst this hike is certainly steep, the views of Victorian High Country that emerge as you climb will keep you motivated to reach the summit.
Please note: If you plan on camping and hiking Australia’s backcountry please ensure that you’ve thoroughly prepared before you enter this fragile and risky ecosystem. Ensure that you fill out a trip intention form, familiarise yourself with alpine safety measures, and as always, practice strict Leave No Trace principles in Victoria’s wilderness, particularly in regards to toileting in alpine areas.
Reaching The Top
The first section of this walk traverses scrub touched by bushfires in recent years. In the depths of winter, expect to be walking on snow from the car park. Follow the orange trail markers until you reach a glade-like area where the trail momentarily disappears. Here, simply head upwards and you’ll find the next track marker.
As you move above the tree line the trail’s steepness increases. During winter, snowmelt creates impromptu waterfalls which cascade down the trail. The water’s extraordinarily clear and cold and is fantastic for splashing your face (or filling your drink bottles, if you’re game) on warmer winter days.
As if designed to complement the waterfalls, tufts of snow warmed by the sun fall off the few remaining trees when a breeze rolls through. Continue to follow the trail markers upwards until you reach the summit plateau
Standing on The Bluff’s plateau, particularly when it’s under snow, feels like being on some distant frozen planet. Snow and ice create a crust which sits on top of a layer of bushes. At this point, the trail disappears and the walk becomes a ‘choose your own adventure’.
Occasionally falling through the crust into knee-deep bush reminds you that a hidden world of bugs and plants lie beneath the surface (and will make you grateful for the spare pants you left in the car).
Stumbling across the plateau eventually leads you to the summit cairn. Despite the trek to get here, it’s at the summit where you’ll feel less isolated than at any other part of the journey. Mt Buller is so close that you’ll be able to see its eastern face in detail. Sitting and watching skiers slide down Little Buller Spur and Wombat Run from afar is a very enjoyable pastime!
To the south and east, the summit’s sloping plateau falls away and reveals the true extent of the Victorian High Country’s wilderness. Countless valleys and ridges keep your eyes endlessly entertained. Peakfinder will help you locate some of the area’s most iconic mountains; Crosscut Saw’s teeth and Mt Buffalo’s horn are both visible on clear days.
From the summit cairn, you can either choose to come back down the way you came, (it’s helpful to signpost the entry/exit point onto the plateau, as it can be difficult to locate under snow) or continue across the plateau to Mt Eadley Stoney and Bluff Hut.
Remember, these huts are heritage and should only be used for emergency accommodation. Make sure you still pack your tent!
Read more: Victorian High Country Huts Association
Being quite steep and featuring some tough scrambling sections, this journey isn’t for the faint of heart. However, if it’s views and a thrill you’re chasing, then it’s certainly for you.
Be warned that in heavier snow periods this walk would be significantly harder to navigate. A topographic map of the area came in handy for us and would be even more important for those tackling this in the depths of winter.
- At least 2L of water
- Camera (of course)
- Sunscreen and sunglasses (if you’re hiking on a clear day)
- Waterproof hiking shoes/boots
- Waterproof jacket
- Snacks and lunch
If hiking The Bluff in winter;
How To Get There
The walk commences from a signposted car park just beyond Refrigerator Gap. Easiest access to the trailhead is via the Howqua Track, a well-formed road which snakes through the valley it takes its name from.
After crossing the Howqua River for the first time, you’ll follow Brocks Road (the main road through the valley) until you reach Eight Mile Gap. Here, you’ll make a gentle left for Bluff Link Road. All turns are well signposted. Be warned that the Howqua Valley does not have reception, so a good ol’ driving map will come in handy.
These roads are only lightly trafficked during the colder months and heavy precipitation can cause large corrugations and potholes. Also, be prepared for driving on snow, ice, and frost if you hike in winter. If in doubt, chat to the local Parks office about road conditions.
Expect the trip to take 2 hours from the start of the Howqua Trail (ignore Google Maps, which will have you believe this is a 1.5-hour journey).
Intermediate – Advanced, depending on the conditions.
Distance Covered / Elevation Gain / Duration
3km / 500m / 4 hours return
Feature photo by @tim_ashelford