The Great Dividing Trail concept, as originally envisaged in 1992, involved three Stages, all of which are now complete. The Great Dividing Trail Association later added the Lerderderg Track between Daylesford and Bacchus Marsh.
This multi-day hike traverses all sections of this track, from Daylesford to Bacchus Marsh. This is a challenging hike due to the distance covered, steepness of some sections of the trail and the limited water procurement opportunities. There are multiple entry points to this trail if you wish to divide it into shorter sections.
Entry points for the Lerderderg Track are located at:
- Lake Daylesford – on the embankment adjacent to the spillway, access via Central Springs or the carkpark near the ‘Boat House’.
- Daylesford Visitor Information Centre in Vincent Street, south of the Post Office.
- Blackwood General Store -in central Blackwood.
- Bacchus Marsh Rail Station.
The Great Dividing Trail – Lerderderg Track includes the following sections as it passes through Daylesford, Blackwood and Bacchus Marsh.
Graves Mill Section – Lake Daylesford to Leonards Hill Rd 13.5km
This section takes you from Lake Daylesford along the south eastern fringes of Daylesford township to Jubilee Lake, and then through part of the Wombat Forest to the top of the Great Dividing Range east of Leonard’s Hill.
Access is available via a lakeside walk to the left of Boathouse (where there is parking). The walk is marked from the entry station on the Lake Daylesford embankment. Walk first around the west then north side of Lake Daylesford. The track leaves the lake on the opposite side to the Boathouse and heads up the hill to cross the Ballan – Daylesford Road, along the first part of Stanbridge Street and right into Argus Street. From this point follow the GDT posts along a gravel vehicle track past the Argus Hill Lookout.
You will see lots of woody weed infestation (mainly gorse and blackberry – along the edge of the track to Jubilee Lake – an indication of the extensive gold mining that caused massive soil disturbance in this area around a century ago. Once in the forest will see evidence of very recent hardwood logging and regrowth from over a century of previous logging.
As you approach the top of the Divide you are 725 metres above sea levels – 200 metres above Daylesford and usually cooler and wetter than Daylesford itself. Once you leave Jubilee Lake there is generally no surface water because the track is manly on ridges.
Basalt Camp Section – Leonards Hill Rd to Balt Camp 11km
This section takes you deeper into some higher parts of the Wombat Forest – up and down through regrowth forest to the Balt Camp – the highest point (855 metres) on the entire GDT. This area occasionally gets snow on colder days in winter and very heavy annual rainfall, but it is necessary to carry water by virtue of the fact that it is mostly a ridge top walk.
Vehicle access is via Leonard’s Hill around 4 km east along Leonard’s Hill Rd or west from Bullarto South. There is space where the walk crosses the road for car parking.
The ‘Balt Camp’ – on Camp Road – was a refugee work camp for ‘displaced persons’ – including from the Baltic States – after World War 2. All that remain are a stone chimney and concrete foundations of the huts.
Simmons Reef Walk – Balt Camp to Blackwood 18.5km
This section takes you from the Balt Camp – on Camp Road – down into the catchment and headwaters of the Lerderderg River. While there are small seasonal streams in some of the wetter gullies – you should always carry water prior to getting to the Lerderderg River itself. There are some good views, some ferny gullies and some older trees on parts this walk. There is also some unusual, stunted high-altitude vegetation – including stands of Hakea on rocky ridges, exposed to seasonal extremes of temperature and moisture.
Access to the Balt Camp is from the east via the Spargo – Blakeville and Camp Roads, or via camp Road from Bullarto South.
There is space for car parking off the road at the Balt camp and also at Nolan’s Creek.
Nolan’s Creek Picnic Ground (with a picnic shelter) is along the walk near the junction of Nolan’s Creek Road and Lerderderg Road (that leads back to Blackwood).
Beyond Nolan’s Creek picnic ground the walk follows the picturesque and ferny Lerderderg River Heritage Trail most of the way to Blackwood. This 9 km section between Nolan’s Creek and Blackwood is a good, safe introduction to the GDT. Good drinking water is sometimes (but not always) available from the river nearby.
The track passes the highly regarded Garden of St Erth at Simmons Reef and is worth a visit if you are in not in a hurry. There are a hotel, a general store and a caravan park with on-site vans in Blackwood.
Byres Section – Blackwood to O’Briens Rd 15km
This section takes you from the small township of Blackwood along some reasonably accessible and very interesting parts of the Lerderderg River valley as the river gorge tightens up. It includes the Blackwood (Mineral) Springs Reserve (on the outskirts of town, with a range of services and caravan park) as well as grand water races from the mining days. It comes very close to ‘The Tunnel’ – cutting off a meander of the Lerderderg River for mining purposes and has great views down some very steep slopes into the river itself.
Blackwood itself is accessible by all weather bitumen road from Melbourne (take the Greendale turn off the Western Freeway) or south from Trentham.
The latter part of the walk meets and is along part of O’Briens Road – a steep (but all weather) gravel that leads down to O’Briens Crossing. O’Brien’s Crossing is off the track, but has toilets and bush camping facilities. Take particular care with vehicles if you walk along or down O’Brien’s Road.
Whisky Creek Walk – O’Briens Rd to Mt Blackwood 9.5km
This section has no services and is rated as medium to hard walking because of its steepness and inaccessibility. There is usually (but not always) water once you leave O’Brien’s Crossing – and no water at Mount Blackwood.
While some tracks leave the GDT and head down towards the Lerderderg River, the river gorge itself is very, very steep and difficult and dangerous terrain to walk in without good planning, knowledge, bushcraft and maps.
Gorge View Walk – Mt Blackwood to Swans Rd 12km
Both Mount Blackwood Road and Swan’s Road are sealed and accessible from Bacchus Marsh in all weather. There are no services – and being mostly on ridges, there is seldom any surface water. You need to carry water at all times. While some tracks leave the GDT and head down towards the Lerderderg River where there is water, the 300 metre deep river gorge itself is very, very steep and difficult and dangerous terrain to walk in without good planning, knowledge, bushcraft and maps.
With all of these cautions in mind, the Gorge View Walk itself, though steep at times (the track drops 400 metres from Mount Blackwood to Swan’s Road over the 12.6 km), is picturesque, diverse and interesting – mostly along minor vehicle tracks and with some excellent views over parts of the lower river gorge.
Township Walk – Swans Rd to Bacchus Marsh Station 11km
This section can be done in either directions– though walking down 220m over 9 km to Bacchus Marsh is obviously easier than walking up to Swan’s Rd. Some of the vistas down into ‘The Marsh’ on the climb (or descent) are excellent.
The Bacchus Marsh Railway Station is less than an hour by frequent suburban VLine trains from Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station.
There are entry station maps at both Swan’s Road and the Bacchus Marsh Railway Station.
The suburban sections from the Railway Station, north along the footpaths through town, under the Western Freeway and around the edge of Darley – are clearly marked by street signs (on metal poles, rather than by low wooden posts as on most of the GDT).
If you doing (or have completed) other sections of the Lerderderg Track walk with a small group and are keen to ‘get into the bush’ quickly rather than walking through nine km through Bacchus Marsh and the edge of Darley suburbs, consider phoning a local taxi to take your group to or from the Swan’s Road entry station.
Suggested items to pack
Overnight Pack with food and water to cover snacks, one breakfast, two lunches and one dinner. There is limited access to local water during this hike. Refer to this checklist for more information.
Max elevation: 884 m
Min elevation: 104 m
Total climbing: 2088 m
Total descent: -2511 m