Whether you’re training for a seriously steep overseas trek a la Kokoda or Kilimanjaro or just want to complete the best mountain climb close to Melbourne, the Mount Donna Buang Walking Track is for you. Donna Buang boasts enough natural beauty in its own right to guarantee it is a hiking gem that can be done at a leisurely pace. However, shooting up 1170-vertical metres in 9km, the Track comes into its own as a hill training venue.
Initially the walk drops down through forest to a creek before heading north along a fence line next to a paddock. At the top of the paddock, the track turns east for a short distance before heading into forest for a minute to meet a disused aqueduct. Cross the aqueduct and keep climbing. The track unrelentingly heads straight up the mountain, mostly through Mountain Ash forest. 4 km from the end of Martyr Road, cross the sealed Donna Buang Road and continue up a gravel road to a phone tower. At the end of road continue along a well defined walking track. After 500 metres you will get to the rather flat top of Mt Victoria and the climbing ends! The next 2 km are gently undulating. At a junction, ignore the track heading south to 10 Mile and head north west towards the final 500 m climb to the summit. If you have the energy, it is worthwhile to climb the 21 metre observation tower.
From the summit, this is where the going gets a lot more challenging. Follow the summit road south from the summit. Just after the junction of Donna Buang Road you will need to locate an old and possibly non-existent trail on your left. This trail follows the steep, Walker Creek Spur down to the O’shannassy Aqueduct in the valley below. Expect extremely thick scrub and a serious amount of bush bashing as you make your way along the spur. Your pace will slow to a crawl so expect this section to take you 4 hours to complete. You will also require exceptional navigation skills so if you are not good with a map and compass don’t even contemplate this hike. Once you reach the aqueduct you will need to cross to the other side (there is never much water) and turning east, follow this for approximately 3.8km back to the original trail where you commenced your ascent. Turning right at this point, follow the trail south for a short distance back to the trail head.
From Melbourne drive along the Warburton Highway, B380, to Warburton. As you enter the town, turn left on to a bridge which crosses the Yarra River. Immediately turn right along Dammans Road and take the first turn to the left onto Martyr Road. Drive to the top of this very steep road next to the golf course and park at the corner where the road turns right and becomes Wellington Road.
You will require exceptional navigation skills so if you are not good with a map and compass don’t even contemplate this hike.
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.
Max elevation: 1255 m
Min elevation: 205 m
Total climbing: 1292 m
Total descent: -1292 m