Back in Oz, within a few weeks of the day to day grind we had a hankering for some more bush. Luckily, public holiday season was still in full swing, with ANZAC day just around the corner. The search was then on for a nice and achievable multi-day hike within a few hours of Melbourne.
I looked into trying out the newly open first section of the Grampians Peaks Trail, however a lack of foresight and organisation meant there were no remaining hike-in sites available for booking on our preferred day. No doubt this will be one to return to!
Alas our plans were not to be defeated, as I came across the Beeripmo trail, a 2-day hike that can be reached around 2-2.5 hours from Melbourne. The hike makes a loop around the lesser known Mount Cole State Forest and the Mt Buangor State Park, with a total distance of 21km to be covered. It is touted as a great option for those who have some bushwalking experience but are new to multi day hikes, a box we largely fell into having only a few such hikes under our belt.
We packed our bags with all the gear required for an overnight hike (future post about packing to come) and chowed down some breakfast. Our halfway stop was to be Ballarat, where special mention must be made for the lunch spot we stumbled upon. Round the Way Bagels is found on 30 Main Road Ballarat, tucked next to some other bars and antique shops. We opted for a Brooklyn and a Saganaki Bagel, some wedges and an iced coffee shake, all of which were perfectly proportioned, seasoned and sauced. The bagels themselves found the sweet spot between crisp and soft. Next time you make a stop in Ballarat be sure to drop by and fuel up.
Appetites whetted, we pushed on. Intending to arrive around 2pm, our plans were thwarted by the Western Highway. Extensive roadworks meant twice our GPS did not recognise roads or sent us off on roads that had long been closed. We eventually made it however after taking a ridiculous route through slim fire access tracks from the other side of the forest. The result was that we had only 2.5 hours to complete the first day’s walk (recommended 4 hours) before sunset. With this in mind, we set off quickly, the beginning of the track well signed from Richards Campground, wishing we were the kind of people who had left home before 9.
It was in the first stage of the hike, a steady climb up the small cascades of Raglan Falls, that I felt the uncomfortable twist of something in my back. Poor posture and a pack harking from the dark ages had seemed to combine to create a huge knot. I stretched and made adjustments to make things slightly more comfortable, but without much time to rest, I opted to push through the pain and made a mental note to look into getting myself a new pack.
We made it up the top off the falls, finding less waterfall, more semi impressive lookout over the valley below. The climb had taken us 20 minutes, which meant we were tracking at around 1/3 of the recommended time – we would need to pick up the pace to make it to the Beeripmo hiker’s campground without needing to call upon our head torches.
The next stage of the hike, up ‘Cave Hill’ continued to climb, albeit a little less steeply, and the vegetation began to change gradually from the ferny valleys to a more sub-alpine landscape. It was during this stage that we began to realise the perks of starting our hike towards dusk, with swarms of wallabies watching us throughout the walk but managing to hop away just before our cameras were able to snap them on nearly every occasion.
As you start to approach the top of Cave Hill, you will be treated to the first of Beeripmo’s spectacular views across the Western Plains of Victoria into Langi-Ghiran (lar-ne-jeering in the local Djab Wurrung language) and the Grampians. The approach of sunset and late afternoon light gave the view a nice hazy quality and the absolutely ideal clear weather worked in our visual favour.
The next portion of the hike was where our fitness was most tested. The climb up to the summit of Sugarloaf is very steep, the first section basically a track directly upwards and the second offering a zig zag path that only slightly mitigated the steep gradient. We decided to push ourselves here, which turned out to be a good option, as we reached the summit and the short descent to our campground for the night just in the nick of time before the sun fully disappeared. We were left to find a site (there were three other groups there so the choice spots had been taken) and to pitch our tent mostly by using our torches.
Quickly cooking and shovelling down some dinner, we settled into sleep by watching a movie on Tom’s iPhone (probably not at all in the spirit of the outdoors but it helped us get over the fact the tent seemed to be crawling with some persistent leeches).
The next morning we packed up camp being careful to avoid the large amount of wasps that were surfacing (they seemed to follow us throughout the second day). Setting off at around 10am, we walked to the Mount Buangor Lookout turnoff. Electing to dump our packs at the Mugwamp Campsite rather than lugging them up another hill, we made the short climb. The view from the lookout (which itself is reached by travelling downwards), was an impressive start to the day. Once again the skies had cleared to present to us an expansive panorama which trailed off for miles.
Having soaked up the view, we made our way back to Mugwamp, had some quick lunch then commenced the final part of the trail back to Richards. There were no more serious views to be had from here on in but the walk is still pretty. Another plus (for some) is that it is mostly downhill, so strap your knees in. You will follow a large fern valley then walk along a long hill face trail before making the final descent to the carpark.
Overall the walk comes thoroughly recommended from us. It wasn’t ridiculously strenuous but was sufficiently challenging to keep us motivated. The diversity of the landscape and the regular sprinkling of awesome views kept both days equally interesting.
Satisfied, we made our way back down the Western Highway (this time the direct way) and stopped in Beaufort for a caffeinated reward from the Pyrenees Pantry and some much needed carbs from the local Bakery.
- You will easily be able to navigate the trail by following the signs with this logo:
- Notes for the trail provided by the DSE