The Lerderderg Northern Circuit is a challenging 28km, grade 4 overnight hike in the Lerderderg State Park, Victoria. The hike should take 2 days to complete.
The Lerderderg State Park is rugged and remote with limited directional signage. You should be prepared for all conditions and have suitable navigation experience (not just a phone app) before venturing beyond the main picnic/parking areas or Grahams Dam. Many rescues have occurred in this park that could have been avoided.
An overnight hike in the Lerdy
The Lerderderg Northern Circuit is an overnight hike I’ve mapped out that provides a great introduction to the scenic beauty and remote ruggedness of the Lerderderg State Park.
The Lerderderg has a number of excellent ‘official hikes’ from short walks to Grahams Dam to remote and challenging day walks like the Razorback and Ah Know Spurs. There are no official overnight hikes other than the full river traverse so unless you spend some time mapping our a route for an overnight hike, and know the area well, it can be challenging to piece something together.
I’ve had quite a few people asking about overnighters and where a suitable campsite can be found. I you are new to overnight hikes, or are getting your kids into overnight hikes, East Walk to Mine Camp is a great starter as its not overly long or challenging. If you are looking for something longer, more challenging and more remote, I think you might enjoy the Lerderderg Northern Circuit.
The Lerderderg Northern Circuit exposes you to the parks amazing diversity. This includes dry open woodland, one of Lerderderg's deepest tributaries, the deep and spectacular river gorge, scenic Lerderderg River, historic mining ruins and sweeping views.
For anyone looking to undertake this overnight hike, it’s important to note this is is a remote and rugged area of the park. It is extremely difficult for search and rescue teams to evacuate people on foot if you become lost or injured. It is very likely that evacuation by helicopter will be required. So make sure you are well prepared, carry and PLB and let someone know before you go.
Day 1 - 13km
Commencing at the junction of O’Briens Road/Whisky Track, you can complete this hike in either direction. I always prefer to get the hardest day out of the way first so have written this up in an anti-clockwise direction. Day 1 has a number of steep descents and ascents where Day 2 has a gradual ascent from the Lerderderg River back to the trail head. Over the two days you will climb a little over 1,100m.
The trail head
This overnight hike can be accessed from a number of places, O’Briens Road, Mt Blackwood Road, and O’Briens Crossing. Given this overnight hike is approximately 28km, my recommended trail head is O’Briens Road/Whisky Track. This places Mine Camp, the recommended campsite, right in the middle of the walk.
Whisky Track to Whisky Creek
Start this circuit hike by following Whisky Track in a south easterly direction. Whisky Track is a vehicle management track with a locked gate at the entrance. It’s only accessible to walkers and management vehicles so you shouldn’t expect any traffic. Following Whisky Track for around 3.5km, you will pass Champagne Track and Rum Track on your left before arriving at the junction of Whisky Track and Kenworthy Track (on your right). Kenworthy Track follows a steep spur down to the Lerderderg River and if part of an excellent day hike, the Whisky Creek Circuit.
At this junction, Whisky Track becomes Vodka Track. Continue past Kenworthy and continue to walk south along Vodka Track. After around1.5km, the management track comes to an abrupt end and a trail marker (used for one of the Great Dividing Trail walks) indicates the start of your steep descent into Whisky Creek, one of Lerderderg's deepest tributaries. Note: hiking poles will be useful in this section.
On reaching Whisky Creek, take a moment to enjoy this deep and shaded gully as the fun is about to begin. If you need to top up your water at this point, you may be able to find pools of water in the rocky creek bed, as this creek generally only flows after heavy rain. Follow Whisky Creek a short distance downstream (east). Keep an eye out for the trail marker and trail on the right of the creek. If you’ve walked more than 200m, and have gone past the end of the spur, you have gone too far.
Whisky Creek via Square Bottle Track to Razorback Track
The trail now follows a steep spur as you gain 100m in elevation over a distance of around 500m. After the initial steep climb following a narrow foot pad, you will reach a much-welcomed knoll and the start of the well defined Square Bottle Track. You will now follow Square Bottle Track, a vehicle management track, for just under 2km as it gradually ascends towards Mount Blackwood Road.
Razorback Track to the Lerderderg River
Before reaching Mount Blackwood Road, you will intersect Razorback Track to your left. This is another vehicle management track. Turning east, follow Razorback Track across an undulating ridge for approximately 2.5km where you will reach a small knoll and the junction of Razorback North Track. Take the narrow walking track to your left and follow the Razorback North Track for the next 1km as it steeply descends along a narrow spur to the Lerderderg River below.
It's worth descending the entire length of the spur to the river where you’ll find a deep pool that is perfect for a refreshing dip. After spending a bit of time taking in the scenery, you will need to cross the river. As this pool is deep, retrace your steps 5-10 metres to an emergency marker (LER518) follow a short trail that leads from this marker to a more suitable river crossing point. Hiking poles would be useful in this section and even though the river level is generally only 300-400mm deep, I’d expect to get your feet wet.
The Lerderderg River to Mine Camp (the end of Day 1)
After crossing the river, the direction of travel is not always obvious. There is a small sign that points in the direction of Cowan Track, but it is generally just laying around on the rocky riverbank. Your best bet is to look straight ahead as soon as you’ve crossed the river. Locate a rocky outcrop and it will soon become obvious you need to climb up through that.
The climb out of the river is steep and sharp but it won’t be long until the terrain levels out and after around 400m from the river, you should reach the junction of Spanish Onion Track. Ignore this track to your right and continue along what is now called East Walk. After another 500m, you will reach the junction of Cowan Track. Once again, ignore this track on your right and continue along East Walk for approximately 600m towards the entrance to Mine Camp.
To access Mine Camp, keep an eye out for an emergency marker (LER 521) and faint trail on your left. Descend this trail to a flat open area on the river. This is the end of day 1.
Day 2 - 15km
Mine Camp to O'Briens Crossing
After getting the most challenging day out of the way, you can now settle into day 2 of the Lerderderg Northern Circuit. The fist section of day 2 follows what is known as East Walk. You will follow the east bank of the Lerderderg River for approximately 6.5km as it twists and turns, snake like, through the rugged wilderness of this park. This is a rewarding start to the day takes you through some of the most beautiful and remote parts of the park.
The East Walk follows the Lerderderg River upstream to O’Briens Crossing. The trail, which eventually hugs the Lerderderg River, is rough and narrow in places and subject to flood damage, which can sometimes make the path difficult to follow. If in doubt, stay on the east bank of the river, close to the water. Along the way, you'll pass a number of interesting features, including the remains of an old gold mine, with its collapsed adits and mullock heaps; A series of water races, which were used to transport water to the gold mines; A number of beautiful waterholes, perfect for a refreshing swim; The lush rainforest that grows along the riverbanks.
On reaching O’Briens Crossing, take some time to relax in this tranquil setting on the river. There are great places to swim as well as toilet facilities you can use. This used to be a camping area, but this activity is no longer permitted. It is a popular place on weekend for day trippers as it’s accessible by 2WD. There are also a number of walking trails in this area, including the The Tunnel Walk, which follows an old water race through the Lerderderg Gorge.
O’Briens Crossing to Byers Back Track
After enjoying this area, you have two options to connect to Byers Back Track. You can head directly up the spur, past the toilet block, or take the alternate Circuit Track which first follows the Lerderderg River upstream before ascending to Byers Back Track. Its my recommendation you take this alternate approach as it is a lot more scenic and not too much longer (around 500m).
Byers Back Track to Kangaroo Track
Byers Back Track runs high above the Lerderderg River and largely follows old water races which were cut into the mountainside to transfer water from dams or the river to downstream alluvial gold workings where panning for gold would be undertaken. The track is well-maintained and easy to follow, but there are a few sections that are quite steep and challenging. The trail passes through a variety of terrain, including dense forest, open grassland, and rocky outcrops.
Along the way you will cross over a number of 4WD tracks that descend to the Lerderderg River below. The first of these, Ambler Lane, leads to the Lerderderg River and Margarets Corner, a reasonably large campsite on the banks of the river. I wouldn’t recommend this be used for hikers as its accessible by 4WD and can get quite busy and loud.
The second track you will cross is Gribbles Track. This also descends to the Lerderderg River and a really interesting feature called The Tunnel. It is well worth dropping your packs at this junction and taking the short but interesting side trip.
The Tunnel in the Lerderderg State Park is a man-made diversion tunnel that was dug during the Victorian gold rush, most likely between 1855 and 1870. It was used to divert the Lerderderg River around a spur in a horseshoe bend, so that the exposed river bed could be sluiced for alluvial gold. The Tunnel is a significant historical landmark and a reminder of the ingenuity of the early gold miners. It is also a beautiful and scenic spot, and is well worth a visit.
Continuing along Byers Back Track, you will reach Kangaroo Track (approximately 2km from Gribbles Track).
Kangaroo Track to Whisky Track (trail head)
Turning left (south west) at the junction of Byers Back Track and Kangaroo Track you will slowly ascend Kangaroo Track through open woodland back to O’Briens Road. If you wanted to spend a bit more time on Byers back Track, your could continue past Kangaroo Track to Websters Track. Following Websters Track will connect you back to Kangaroo Track and won‘t add a great deal of distance.
On reaching O’Briens Road, turn left (east) and walk an easy 500m along this well maintained gravel road, back to the trail head and your vehicle.
It’s worth mentioning the purpose of the emergency markers I’ve referenced as these are a very useful aid. Emergency markers in Parks Victoria parks are used to help emergency services locate people in an emergency. They are green signs with a unique alphanumeric code, which is linked to ESTA's CAD system and specifies the location, GPS coordinates, road access route or navigational data.
Emergency markers can be particularly helpful in large parks or areas with poor mobile phone reception. They can also be used to direct emergency services to specific locations within a park, such as a particular walking trail or campground. To use an emergency marker, simply call Triple Zero (000) and quote the code on the marker. This will help the dispatcher to quickly and accurately locate you.
It is important to be aware of the location of emergency markers when you are visiting a park, so that you can easily find one if you need to. You can also use the Emergency Markers portal to view a map of all emergency markers in Victoria.
- Gravel Path
- Rough Trail
- Well Marked Trail
- Undefined Trail
- Trail Running
- Dog Friendly
- Goldfields & Mining
- Exposed Ledges
- Rock Scrambling
- Steep Terrain
- Off Trail
- River Crossings
- Scenic Viewpoints
- Untreated Water
- Swimming Spots
- Overnight Campsites
- Do not attempt this hike following heavy rains as the river is subject to flooding and river crossings may be impassable.
- Be mindful of snakes in warmer weather, especially along the river sections where Red-bellied black snakes like to bask in the sun.
- The Lerderderg State Park is rugged and remote with limited directional signage. Keep an eye out for orange trail markers and emergency markers as walking tracks may not always be clearly defined.
- You should be prepared for all conditions and have suitable navigation experience (not just a phone app) before venturing into the park. Many rescues have occurred in this park.
- Mine Camp has no facilities other than the Lerderderg River nearby. I'd recommend treating water.
- Leave No Trace. Pack out all your waste, including human waste where possible. If you are unable to, choose a spot at least 100m away from campsites and watercourses. Dig a hole 15cm deep. Bury all faecal waste and paper, mixing it with soil to help decomposition and to discourage curious animals.
- Use fuel stoves only. Fires are permitted only in the fireplaces in this park and there are none available on this hike.
- Let someone know before you go. You can always use this online trip intentions form.
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The start of the Lerderderg Northern Circuit is located in the north western section of the park, along O'Briens Road. The trailhead is located approximately 500m from the Greendale-Blackwood Road, with the turnoff approximately a 5km drive north of Greendale. This section of O'Briens Road is a gravel and is suitable for 2WD vehicles. There is no official car park at the junction of Whisky Creek so be mindful of this and park off the road as much as possible. Do not block the locked management gate as access is required 24/7 by management and emergency crews..
- 2WD Access
- Gravel Road
- Small Car Park
Rising in the Great Dividing Range, the Lerderderg River has cut a 300 metre deep gorge through sandstone and slate, almost bisecting the park. The park has a wide variety of vegetation and wildlife and some interesting relics of gold mining. Lerderderg State Park encompasses scenic and geological gorge formations surrounding the Lerderderg River as well as the volcanic cone of Mount Blackwood. The adjacent and separate block called the Pyrete Range forms part of the park. The Lerderderg is known for its remote setting and the 300m deep Lerderderg River gorge is a dominant feature. Private land abuts the park to the south and the Wombat State forest abuts to the north and west.
Lerderderg State Park (incorporating the former Pyrete State Forest) is a 14,250-hectare park located between Bacchus Marsh and Blackwood, an hour's drive from Melbourne, Australia. There are several maintained tracks for walking through the park and camping is allowed.
The park is named for the Lerderderg River which has cut the 300 metre deep Lerderderg Gorge through sandstone and slate, almost bisecting the park. Parks Victoria maintains six designated walks: three short walks of 3.5 km or less; Blackwood-O'Briens Crossing and return (22 km); O'Briens Crossing-Cowan Track loop (14 km); and the overnight walk O'Briens Crossing to Mackenzies Flat (20 km).
In addition, one leg of the Great Dividing Trail, the Lerderderg Track, passes through the park, entering from Blackwood in the park's northwest, and exiting south towards Bacchus Marsh. Bicycles are prohibited from one section of this track, due to a conservation area.
My planning, food and packing checklists provide an introduction to things your could consider (as well as the Ten Essentials) on your day, overnight and multi-day adventures. Everyone, and every hike, is different, so customise your outdoor kit according to your personal needs, always considering safety first.
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Let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return. Fill in an online trip intentions form to privately send important details about your adventure to your emergency contact. They can then inform emergency services if you don’t return on time.
Acknowledgement of Country
Trail Hiking Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the lands on which we hike and pay respects to their Elders, past and present, and we acknowledge the First Nations people of other communities who may be here today.