The Catherine River Speculation and Mount Cobbler circuit is a four day hike which traverses sections of the remote Viking Razor Wilderness Zone. Steep and scenic country with lofty tops, a high level plateau and deep valleys. There is a seldom visited section of the Catherine River with a magic little riverside campsite and swimming hole. Half of this circuit is off trail in steep, remote, rugged and challenging terrain. You will need to be fit, experienced, have excellent navigation skills and be well equipped for alpine conditions.
Day 1 (10km). Commencing at the junction of Speculation and King Basin Roads head south over the bridge and locate the narrow foot trail on the southern bank of the river. The trail heads south then turns south east then east as it ascends steeply to King Spur before following the cliff lines near the top of the ridge to Mount Koonika. From the summit, follow the ridge line south east, descending onto the 4wd track to camp at Mount Speculation.
Day 2 (10km). Today the trail will take you into remote area of the Viking Wilderness where not many people go. You will need to posses excellent navigation skills and be prepared to forge your own trail. Following Speculation Road, initially north, from Mount Speculation. At the hair pin turn, continue north, off trail, along a narrow ridge. Follow this ridge north, losing all of the height gains of yesterday to the Catherine River below. There are a lot of steep sections you will be required to descend. Follow the river for approximately 1.5km to a junction with a side stream coming off the plateau to the west. Turn left into this gully and gradually ascend to the gully head and a large water hole. Make camp here for the night or if your group size is larger, back at the junction of this gully and Catherine River.
Day 3 (10km). After breaking camp, head straight up, north west, out of the river (300m) on a very steep climb. Then west along a ridge (another 150m) to the edge of the plateau. Continue through the snow gums for approximately 2.5 km to cross the plateau before reaching the Lake Cobbler Track. Turning right (east) follow the track down to Lake Cobbler. After gathering water from the lake continue west along the Mount Cobbler Walking Track for approximately 3km until you reach a flat and open campsite.
Day 4 (10km). From the campsite, continue west until you reach a signposted trail junction. Turning north (right) it is a short, moderate and steep 1.5km climb to the summit of Mount Cobbler. From here you can enjoy amazing views of the surrounding peaks include Mount Typo to the north-east, Mount Koonika and Mount Speculation to the south-east, and Mount Stirling to the south-west.
After leaving the summit follow the trail back to the junction and continue heading south for approximately 5.5km until you again reach the junction of Little Cobbler Road and the Cobbler Lake Track. Follow Little Cobbler Road in a southerly direction. After about 700m you will reach the Speculation Road junction. Continue past Speculation Road and keep heading south for another 450m and you will reach Muesli Spur Track on your right.
Descend along the steep and rugged Muesli Spur back to the trail head and your car.
Half of this hike will be off trail through often dense scrub. There will be rock scrambling with packs, possible pack hauling, steep and very steep sections and walking through jagged cliff lines. You will need to be comfortable with all of the above and be a moderate to fast walker while doing so. You will need to work closely as a group and assist with route finding and forging a trail through the scrub.
This is an alpine area and conditions can change quickly. All of your group members must be equipped with map and compass and the appropriate gear.
Camping at the trail head
Camping is available close to the trail head at the following locations.
- Speculation Road: There is a small campsite along Speculation Road (possible 4WD) on the King River approximately 3.6km from Stirling Circuit Road.
- King Hut: Camping area on the King River Track (4WD only). King Hut is perched on the western edge of the park, about 35 km east of Mt Stirling. The dramatic 4WD-access route follows the King River Track for 7 km from the junction with Speculation Rd, which is itself reached via a turn-off on Circuit Rd about 6 km east of the Craig’s Hut turn-off. The hut itself is in excellent condition, having been recently rebuilt.
- Camping is available near the summit of Mount Speculation.
- Near the waterhole at the end of the side gully from Catherine River (not very large) or at the Junction of Catherine River and the side gully (larger and flatter)
- An open saddle near the junction of the Mount Cobbler Walking Track and a foot trail heading north-south at the top of the plateau. This is a large camp site suitable for around 5-6 tents.
Water can be procured;
- Near the trail head from the King River. Water should always be treated before drinking
- North west of Mount Speculation at the head of Camp Creek (off the side of the 4WD track) at the end of day 1.
- From the waterhole at the day 2 campsite. Or anywhere along the Catherine River (if it is flowing) at the end of day 2.
- Lake Cobbler during day 3.
From Mansfield, travel along Mt Buller Road for approximately 32km until you reach the toll gate at Mirimbah (you will need to pay an entry fee during winter). Once you’ve passed through the gates, turn left into Stirling Road (2WD) and keep going until you reach Telephone Box Junction (TBJ). Between Mirimbah and TBJ is approximately 8km of unsealed road. Turn right at the junction and follow the Stirling Circuit Road (2WD) for a further 16.5km where you will find Speculation Road (possible 4WD) on your right. Turn onto Speculation Road and travel 8.8km to the junction of King Basin (4WD) and Speculation Roads. This is the trail head.
During winter, vehicles are not permitted to go any further than TBJ, and all 2-wheel drives must carry chains when travelling to this point. In summer, all vehicles can continue further via The Circuit Road. The Circuit Road winds throughout the various sub-alpine and alpine forests around Mt Stirling. It is a gravel road but still accessible by 2-wheel drive vehicles.
Max elevation: 1653 m
Min elevation: 613 m
Total climbing: 2722 m
Total descent: -2721 m