This Mt Donna Buang via Cement Creek and Mt Victoria hike is officially closed. Parks Victoria will not reveal if or when it will be reopened. While the top half is fine, the lower part in the rainforest is difficult to follow after being closed for a few years. If you choose this route, pay careful attention to staying on the track.
This hike is a one way hike that requires a car shuffle. If you want to walk back to your cars along the road this will add an additional 5km to your hike.
The walk is Medium Plus grade, 8 km long, and will take a reasonably fit group about 4 hours including a few breaks. Add an hour if you will be walking the last 4½ km down the road rather than driving back to the start. This is the most attractive walk in the Warburton area and is mostly through cool temperate rainforest. So while it involves a 750 metre climb, it is well worth the effort. Most of the walk is moderately graded except for two short but fairly steep sections near the start. If it has rained or there is snow on the ground, there will be water on the track for the first kilometre and it may be difficult to keep your feet dry, so carry a spare pair of dry socks.
The ascent via Cement Creek and Boobyalla Saddle.
The track immediately plunges into tall eucalypt forest and crosses Cement Creek and some tributaries by a combination of bridges and stepping stones. If it has rained recently or there is snow on the ground, the first 1½ km can be quite wet and muddy with water running down the track. Soon the track begins to climb up on the north side of the creek. This is actually an old cable haulage tramline where logs were winched down the mountain. There are a few diversions where trees have fallen over the track, but it essentially continues in a straight line parallel to the creek. This is the steepest part of the walk, so take a few breaks and look around at the forest. Below the towering Mountain Ash canopy, you will see a rainforest understory of Tree Ferns, Sassafras, Blackwood and Myrtle Beech.
Soon the old cable haulage finishes and you emerge onto a flat section where the tramway was horse drawn before the climb resumes for a short distance. Soon after the end of this second climb, the scenery changes from rainforest with a Mountain Ash overstory to more open Alpine Ash woodland. Follow the track through the tall trees and just as they are changing to Snowgums, you will arrive at a track junction at Boobyalla Saddle.
Take a breather before the final section to the summit. Turn left and head south along an undulating track. There is an especially attractive spot where the track passes through a pure stand of Myrtle Beech. Before long, it joins a Melbourne Water road. Turn left and continue south for a few hundred metres until a dip in the road. Just as it starts to climb, take a track to the left heading into the forest. There is a short climb up a former ski run through beech and eucalypts and soon you will emerge at the the summit.
The summit boasts an impressive 21 metre high lookout tower with a curious double helix staircase. The view from the top is spectacular. Nearby is a slightly squalid shelter hut with partially open sides and a toilet block. At busy times in winter, there may be a caravan selling snacks.
The descent via Mt Victoria.
From the observation tower, walk 100 metres east to the toilet block. Contour north across the top of a fenced off former ski run. Soon you will pick up a good track that heads downhill, roughly paralleling the fence line. In snow the route is fairly clear and it is marked with occasional red metal arrows. At the bottom of the ski run is the ruin of an old ski lodge.
Soon you will reach a junction with a track to the right heading south to Ten Mile picnic area. Take the left hand track which stays fairly level for 2 km to Mt Victoria. The top is barely perceptible as it is really a knoll on a spur that looks like a mountain from near Warburton. The track then descends to a telephone tower. From here there is a short section of gravel road before the main sealed Donna Buang Road. If you have left a car here, drive down to the start of the walking track, otherwise it is an easy hour’s walk along the road to your cars.
The Cement Creek walk is especially attractive for experienced groups in winter, although snow conditions in July and August make things a little harder. However walking through a silent beech forest in deep snow is a truly wonderful experience and rare outside Tasmania. Everyone in the group should have a good quality raincoat that won’t tear on scrub as well as overpants, gloves, a warm hat, telephone and a spare pair of warm, dry socks. The snow can be quite deep, so it will be useful if at least one person in the group has snowshoes to help pack down the track.
While you should have a GPS, navigation in snow isn’t too much of a problem on most of the route except for the top section of the track paralleling Cement Creek before Boobyalla Saddle. Keep an eye out for the markers nailed to trees on this section. They are more easily seen looking downhill, so make sure you turn around frequently so as to stay on the track.
Drive through Warburton until the Warburton Highway, B 380, crosses the Yarra River. Shortly afterwards turn left on to The Acheron Way, C 507. The road immediately begins a steady climb which continues for 7 km to the Cement Creek junction. Park here and spend 15 minutes inspecting the impressive Rainforest Gallery, a 350 metre walking circuit that starts high in the canopy before descending to the forest floor.
The Cement Creek walking track starts 250 metres along the Donna Buang road. You can either walk or drive up and park in the large clearing at the start of the track on the left of the road.
Mt Donna Buang (1250 metres) is the nearest snowfield to Melbourne. The tall ash forests on it’s slopes were harvested at the turn of the 20th century and the timber was moved by a network of tramlines and cable haulages. The industry took off in 1901 with the completion of the railway to Warburton.. Before the Second World War, Doona was also a minor ski resort with cleared runs, a huge ski jump and four ski lodges. In 1935 12,000 watched ski races on Donna. However the snow was never terribly reliable and after the war, two of the lodges that survived the 1939 fires were moved to the more dependable snowfield at Mt Buller, while the ruins of another can be seen at the foot of an old ski run.
Today most of the mountain is parkland. It is a accessed by a sealed road and is a popular tourist destination. In winter it attracts families to play in the snow. There is a 21 metre high lookout tower on the summit accessed by a strange double helix staircase. From the top there are impressive views of the mountains and forests, as well as the farmlands and towns of the Yarra Valley.
While you can drive to the top, there are a number of walking tracks up the mountain. One is a long day hike from Dom Dom Saddle, another begins at the aptly named Martyr Road in Warburton while a third starts half way up, near the Cement Creek Rainforest Gallery. There is also an easier option of a scenic walk near the summit.
Summary provided by: David Sisson | www.australianmountains.com/donnabuang/#10
ONE WAY HIKE
Max elevation: 1252 m
Min elevation: 705 m
Total climbing: 610 m
Total descent: -284 m
Max elevation: 1252 m
Min elevation: 705 m
Total climbing: 691 m
Total descent: -691 m