The Brisbane Ranges National Park is approximately 50km North West of Melbourne in Victoria.
The Burchell Trail is a linear 38km trail that can be completed over 3 days, although I only consider the first and last days as half days due to their shortness. If there was a centrally located camping spot I would do it in only two days.
Day 1 – Boar Gully to Little River – 10.5km
Today the temperatures rose into the low 30s – thankfully not the 40 degree heat from yesterday – and the afternoon looked to have a shower or two. Because of the shortness of the day and the late sunset I wasn’t in a hurry to get started. I left the caravan park and headed into Bacchus Marsh to kill some time and wait out the heat of the day.
In the early afternoon, I drove to the Brisbane Ranges. Unlike the Grampians, which stand out against the plains with their jagged teeth, the Brisbane Ranges aren’t visible at all. I found my way to the Boar Gully camping ground and killed some more time putting together my food from the stash in my van. By mid-afternoon I was ready to go.
Most of the Brisbane Ranges is dry Eucalyptus forest and the trail follows either a wide dirt 4WD track or a two lane dirt road. I followed the trail as it meandered through the ranges for several kilometres going back and forth between the two different track types until it came to hill. If I sound a little excited, it’s because the hill was a change from the fairly flat and monotonous terrain. I climbed the other side and again wandered through the forest via the trail until it came out at a road that then opened the Little River Camping Ground. The weather had showered briefly during the afternoon, and was looking to grow worse. I pitched the tent, cooked dinner and set down for the night.
Day 2 – Little River to Old Mill – 17.5km
I was awakened by storms twice during the night. Once when I had just dropped off to sleep and again at about 3am. I had prepared the tent for heavy rain and watched as the water rolled down the outer sheet. It was too noisy to sleep, so as I waited for the storms to recede I read and watched for potential tent flooding. Thankfully, very little water got into the tent.
With the forecast today for high 20s, I packed up and headed out. The first tricky part was deciding what trail to follow. There was no marker at the camping ground telling you which way to go. I checked the map, and it suggested I follow the gorge to the left, so I picked one of the handful of trails and followed it along. Eventually I did find a marker several hundred metres away.
The gorge was something different from yesterday and had a water running in it – no doubt from the heavy rains. I cross-crossed it for a kilometre until the trail climbed a hill to a road which then meandered through the forest again with the occasional small hill. Through the trees I caught the occasional view of plains towards Melbourne but nothing worth taking a photo of.
The trail changed in the early afternoon, heading downhill towards the Lower Stony Creek Reservoir. It headed down along a rocky trail – my first of this hike. After a time, I came to a part of the trail that was cordoned off by a red mesh fence and a sign: “Track Closed”. Apparently there had been some flooding and fire damage to this section. With few choices, I climbed the fence and continued. Along the trail, there were four cobbled fords on the path that were overflowing with quick flowing water from the reservoir. While I wouldn’t have recommended casual walkers try to cross, the crossings shouldn’t cause experienced walkers much issue. I found my way across each of them and while the bottoms of my boots got wet, they weren’t sodden, so I continued. On the other side, I came to the reservoir and stopped for lunch – and yes, it was worth taking a photo…
After lunch, I climbed the hill along the reservoir road to a main road – a sealed one! – then across and along a dirt road for a few km until the camping ground appeared. Again, another nicely set out campsite. I lay my tent out in the sun to dry and hung out for the rest of the day, occasionally hearing people at the Fridays Camping Ground 500m down the hill. Fridays is the finishing point tomorrow, the walk taking me on a 10km round trip of the end of the National Park and bringing me back.
Day 3 – Old Mill to Fridays
I woke in the morning to rain, again. It let up long enough for me to cook breakfast and break camp. I headed uphill along the 4WD trail, across a dirt road and along another 4WD trail. The rest of the trail wandered through the National park, and for the most part was flat. Occasionally, it had a short dip and climb back up again. At one point, it walked along the side of a shallow gorge, then back to more of the same.
This last part of the national park was once a gold mining area, and near the end of the trail, I began to see some signs discussing areas where the mining had occurred. Not long after, I came out to the road a short distance from Fridays Camping Ground. The trail still had 500m to go and headed into the forest again. I guess I could have walked the 100m up the road to the end, but I like to finish things, so headed on. For half of the remaining trail, it headed downhill to suddenly start climbing back to Fridays. I honestly didn’t see the point – perhaps something happens seasonally here, but it seemed more like a, ‘go on, make them climb one last hill’ part of the hike.
I stopped for lunch at Fridays, happy to be finished then headed out along the wide road on my way back to the Pointy Brick – 18km or so away. When I got to the sealed road I got a lift 10km to a junction by a guy who used to do a lot of hiking in his younger days. From there there was only 4km walk along sealed roads to the Pointy Brick and the drive back to Bacchus Marsh.
I was disappointed with the Burchell Trail. It’s not a terribly exciting walk and there are few sights to see and thus the lack of photos. Also, while the topographic map is of very high quality, the poorly defined trail markings had me spending too much time wandering along trails hoping to find the next marker. Having a marker point into an intersection but not defining which way to follow is just frustrating.
On the plus side, it did provide a useful training hike for my coming 8 day hike in Tasmania, but I would not recommend this one beyond that.
Next, I have a few days off in Melbourne to visit friends and then off to Tasmania and a trip down the east side.
The Lone Trail Wanderer.