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Cathedral Range – Southern Circuit is a 11km, grade 4-5 circuit hike located in Cathedral Range, Victoria. The hike should take approximately 3-4hrs to complete but can take longer due to the steep and challenging ascent.
The route via Wells Cave is an ascent route only. NO NOT attempt to descend via Wells Cave. If you are not experienced in near-vertical rock scrambling or have a fear of heights and exposed ledges, DO NOT attempt this hike. The section ascending from Wells Cave should be considered a Grade 5 section. That is why this has been classified as a Grade 4-5 hike.
The Cathedral Range is a spectacular seven kilometre ridge of sharply upturned sedimentary rock. A variety of walking tracks ranging in difficulty from easy to challenging offer the opportunity to explore the park’s main features and climb the peaks to enjoy views of the forests and farmland in the valley below.
This Cathedral Range – Southern Circuit hike explores the southern section of the range, taking in some fascinating features such as Wells Cave, The Canyon, Sugarloaf Peak, The Razorback, The Farmyard and South Jawbone. This is a hike for those with a sense of adventure as it involves a serious amount of unassisted rock scrambling along exposed ledges and steep rocky outcrops as you make your way up to Sugarloaf Peak and along the aptly named Razorback Track.
Commencing at Cooks Mill make your way in a southerly direction along the well formed Tween Spur Road. After about a kilometre of easy walking you will reach the recently opened (2012) Messmate Track to your right.
The Messmate Track winds it way across several wooded gullies connecting the Sugarloaf Saddle visitor area with Cooks Mill Heritage Site and camping area. It is quite a pleasant section of the hike and along its 3km length you will experience a gradual ascent until you reach Sugarloaf Saddle.
From the car park you have two options in order to gain Sugarloaf Peak. You can continue along the main track through attractive open forest to the start of a rocky ridge. The trail climbs the very crest of this ridge to Sugarloaf Peak. The alternative, and route for this hike is to take the lesser traveled Wells Cave track. This is recommended for experienced hikers only as it is steep in places, requires a lot of rock scrambling and unassisted climbing and traverses some exposed ledges en-route. While this track can be challenging in places you will be rewarded with a real sense of adventure and in my opinion is well worth the effort provided you have a head for heights.
On reaching Sugarloaf Peak you will be rewarded with amazing 360 degree views of the valley and ranges below.
From Sugarload Peak, the trail continues north, gradually ascending along the rocky and narrow ‘Razorback’. There is a lot of rock hoping, scrambling and abrupt drops along the way. The going is fairly straight forward and the trail easy to follow (just stick to the ridge). Make sure you take the time to stop and appreciate the views as they truly are spectacular. After approximately 2.5km the trail becomes easier and the rocky ridge is replaced by open woodland. Soon after this a junction is reached as you arrive at the open grassy flat called The Farmyard. This is a great spot to stop for lunch or for an overnight camp. It is quite sheltered and protected.
From the Farmyard there is 15 minute side trail which takes you to South Jawbone Peak and another opportunity to take in the rewarding views.
After returning to the Farmyard turn east to follow the Jawbone Creek Track as it slowly descends Jawbone Saddle to the car park below. This section of the trail follows a series of man made steps and is quite easy to follow. Poles may be useful on this section to reduce jarring of your knees.
Continue your descent through Jawbones car park as the trail winds its way through open forest back to Little River and your starting point at Cooks Mill.
Only attempt the gain Sugarloaf Peak if you have a head for heights and don’t mind exposed ledges and rock scrambling. Never descend via Wells Peak. Poles may be useful in sections. Many of the trails are steep and rocky and can become slippery following rain or misty weather. Orange trail markers have been provided in places. Generally rugged terrain will result in slower progress times. Allow 1.5-2km per hour in places.
Circuit via Messmate track
Max elevation: 899 m
Min elevation: 375 m
Total climbing: 650 m
Total descent: -651 m
Circuit via Cerberus Road
Max elevation: 897 m
Min elevation: 375 m
Total climbing: 643 m
Total descent: -644 m