Walk Into History
  • Length: 51.2km

  • Duration: 2-3 days

  • Grade: 4

  • Style: One Way

  • Start: Warburton

  • End: Powelltown

  • Location: Warburton

  • Closest Town: Warburton

  • Distance from CBD: 84km

  • State: VIC

  • Latitude: -37.86078187

  • Longitude: 145.7448402

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Bitumen Road

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Accessible Toilet

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Picnic Shelter

Picnic Table

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Concrete Path

Timber Boardwalk

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Mountain Bike Trail

Historic Rail Trail

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Urban Walk

Coast & Beach

Historic Lighthouse

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Rainforest Walk

Goldfields & Mining

Heritage Walk

Aboriginal Art

Alpine Region

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Exposed Ledges

Rock Scrambling

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Bush Bashing

River Crossings

Scenic Viewpoints

Well Marked

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Fishing Spots

Swimming Spots

Overnight Campsites

Trail Running

Horse Riding


Walk Into History is a 51.2km, grade 4 one way hike, located in Warburton, Victoria. The hike should take approximately 2-3 days to complete.

Hike Summary

This is a fascinating journey on foot along well-preserved timber industry tramways, past old bush mills and relics of yesteryear hidden amongst the forest, reminders of when gangs of foresters called this wilderness their office.

The route as described includes a very worthwhile out-and-back to the famous Ada Tree, a 75.1 metre-high mountain ash considered one of Victoria's largest living trees and estimated to be over 300 years old.

If you are seeking to complete the full length in one push this is best done as a multiday walk. Most guides advise walking from Warburton to Powelltown, this ensures the climbing is of a mostly-gentle gradient, ascended over a longer distance early on, and the steep section along High Lead - which rises/drops 500m in only 2km - is tackled as a downhill rather than uphill. [NOTE: the Run guide to Walk Into History describes the route beginning in Powelltown and travelling to Warburton via the Ada Tree, should you wish to complete it in this direction].

The Warburton/Big Pats Creek to Powelltown traverse is an approach that delivers most of the climbing over a 9km singletrack stretch. This was once the main thoroughfare for timber workers traipsing on foot to and from the Warburton township for their working week spent in the isolated bush mills.

The trail rises up from Big Pats Creek towards Starlings Gap campsite and picnic area, an excellent place to pitch the tent for an overnight stop.

From Starlings Gap, a mostly-benched trail follows an old tramway downstream along the Ada Valley, through tall, wet forest and more temperate rainforest, with views across tea tree and melaleuca zones.

Reaching a major trail intersection, The Crossing, walkers can choose to explore a short out-and-back trail leading north to the New Ada Sawmill site (which, of course, is not new at all!), or head further east to explore the New Federal Mill, once the biggest and most prolific producer of the area, and the impressive Ada Tree, one of Victoria's biggest. Or you can skip the out-and-back and instead go straight to the rapid descent into the Big Creek valley, via the knee-crumbling High Lead, dropping 500m in 2km.

Reaching the valley, it's a moderate walk through stunning rainforest pockets and multiple creek crossings as you follow old tramway trails all the way into Powelltown.

There are shorter walk options (see Alternatives header). Our guide takes on the full-shebang from Warburton but you can always begin at Big Pats Creek (most people do).

Or, to halve the distance and take out the big drop down High Lead, try the Starlings Gap to Ada Tree return, at 24km and 422m of climbing.

Those seeking a still shorter, but no less impressive experience, can drive to near the Ada Tree, and complete a beautiful 5km loop walk to the tree and back to the car.

For more information about this trail go to Visit Warburton

More information

For more information about this trail go to Visit Warburton

Getting there

From Melbourne City to Yarra Valley (via Eastlink Tollway) - Make your way onto the Eastern Freeway and travel towards Ringwood. The Eastern Freeway turns into the Eastlink Toolway after Springvale Road. If you have an Eastlink or Citylink pass, continue on the Eastlink Tollway and go through the Mullum Mullum tunnel - make sure to stay in the left lane as the turnoff is straight after the tunnel ends. Turn left after exiting the tunnel towards Ringwood. Turn left onto the Maroondah Highway towards Lilydale. Once past Lilydale, turn right at the Warburton Highway turnoff to explore the Warburton Valley. Slight right onto Warburton Hwy/B380. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on Warburton Hwy/B380. Turn right onto Little Yarra Rd/C425. Turn left onto Reids Tramline Walk.

By Public Transport Public Transport Victoria has regular trains heading to Lilydale Station. From Lilydale Station, catch a Martyrs bus to travel to Warburton .


Best completed in summer and shoulder season; muddy, slippery, potentially snowbound and difficult going in winter; car shuffle required if walking one way. There is no direct public transport between Powelltown and Warburton.

GPX File

Total distance: 51408 m
Max elevation: 796 m
Min elevation: 156 m
Total climbing: 1891 m
Total descent: -1848 m
Download GPX File


Begin your walk at Big Pats Creek, thereby cutting off the transit section from Warburton. You can also terminate your walk at High Lead Car Park, saving another 11km (from Big Pats Creek trailhead to High Lead is 31km).

GPX File

Total distance: 43048 m
Max elevation: 796 m
Min elevation: 194 m
Total climbing: 1683 m
Total descent: -1701 m
Download GPX File

For a shorter walk that is out-and-back with less climbing, you can park at Starlings Gap, and walk out to The Ada Tree and back. This is a 'highlights route' as it takes in the most spectacular parts and includes most of the historical artefacts to be discovered, plus Ada herself! It's still a decent distance, however, clocking in at just over 24km and 422m of ascent, so you may want to camp at the New Federal Mill site, 9.5km in (or 14.5km if you complete the Ada Tree loop before pitching your tent).

GPX File

Total distance: 24258 m
Max elevation: 808 m
Min elevation: 695 m
Total climbing: 566 m
Total descent: -566 m
Download GPX File

Or, for an even quicker burst, try the 5km loop (142m ascent) that goes into the famed big tree from the Ada Tree Picnic Area - it's short but worth the drive in, such is the bang for your rainforest-buck."

GPX File

Total distance: 4966 m
Max elevation: 808 m
Min elevation: 731 m
Total climbing: 182 m
Total descent: -182 m
Download GPX File

Hikes Nearby

37 thoughts on “Walk Into History (51.2km)

  1. Yep I’d be up for that. I’m back from my trip after 5th of Nov. My parents live in warburton and have a self contained home on the ground floor. I could arrange a nights stay if that was of interest.

  2. Has anyone done that track recently? I’m planning on doing it next week with dogs and I’d like to find track updates (eg do I need to pack a machete? is there water at campsites?)

  3. Completed this trail in full recently, absolutely stunning – thought I’d share some thoughts I would’ve liked prior to setting out.

    Warburton section is quite nice, there is an option to wade through the Yarra. BPC to Starlings is a gentle gradient. We did the hike on some very hot days and only bumped into one tiger. There is no water at any of the campsites. At Starlings gap, 300m down the track towards the crossing there is a creek the flows through the path that can be collected for filtering – very clear cold water. At the Ada camps there are rivers that flow nearby both that are quite easy to find. High lead is steep however we met a lot of people who were purposely avoiding this section and so losing a lot of the full experience. I would definitely say that with a paid of good boots and poles high lead is definitely not worth avoiding / missing out other sections over. Just past high lead, right before it spits you out onto the Yarra Junction – Noojee Road, there is a fork – one path continues forward and another bears left (south). The one forward seems logical however will only result in a painful thicket of blackberry bush. Take the left turn. One you exit here, you actually have to venture down the pioneer fireline a little before again picking up the signs for walk into history – this would be easy to get wrong I would imagine.

    All in all, a really pretty hike, the history is great as is the towering mountain ash, and the Ada Tree sections Myrtle and Beech rainforest.

  4. I just did part of this with my 8 year old son. First overnight backpacking trip.

    Think I might have been a bit ambitious. We started at High Lead carpark and things went OK until High Lead ascent. Walking up was a lot of not fun! Lots of stops on the way up. I can’t imagine walking down it, the suggested way. one fall and you’d roll to the bottom.

    We then walked on to Ada 2 Mill camp for a break. Talked to some people camping there and I grabbed some water from the Ada river to treat and filter (probably overkill, but new to this) and saw some Lyrebirds scratching around. No toilets at this camp.

    Then on to Starling’s gap with lots of breaks because High Lead had pretty much wrecked us. We camped there for the night. Nice camp place, long drop toilets, no water.

    Then we walked down from Big Pats picnic area. That’s a nice walk, downhill all the way.

  5. Adding some comments provided by Lachie Sprigg

    The first section (Big Pats Creek to Starlings Gap) is in reasonable condition. Track isn’t washed away anywhere, the brush is encroaching the trail for the first few kilometres to the point of walking in single file, but the path is still easily discernible. There were about 2 dozen downed trees along the first section, with one massive one at about the 8km mark requiring some serious jungle gym action.

    Adding some further information here on rest points along the way..

    From the Big Pats Creek end, Starlings Gap camp area is at the 10km mark. Here there are fire places, picnic tables, a long-drop toilet and a short scenic walk. Area gets very busy as it is 2WD accessible so don’t expect to have the place to yourself, and arrive early if you plan on stopping here.

    From there, 10-12km will find you at the Federal Mill camp area, involving a 2km detour off the route to the finish (there’s a 4-way intersection with starlings gap behind you, the high lead (the way out) to the right, the camp ground straight ahead and the historic mill area to the left) . Vehicle access is limited here so the area is quite often unoccupied. It is about 3km further to the Ada Tree carpark where the nearest long drop toilet is, which keeps the casual campers away! No other facilities are present apart from designated firepits

    No other facilities are present along the route after that until you reach Powelltown. There are very limited places to resupply water along the first sections, but a few good running sources of water along the lower sections after the High Lead descent (although purification is still recommended)

    The second section (Starlings to the High Lead Junction/Ada mill area) was the worst section. A lot of the timber foot bridges are in serious decay, requiring careful footing for traction and fear of falling through. It was probably also the section with the most downed trees- i wouldnt hesitate to number it close to 50 in total. That said, the actual trail was still in good condition, no washed out sections or major detours required.

    The section from the Ada tree carpark-high lead Junction (the detour section if you need the long-drop) was in fairly reasonable condition, the federal mill camp-site was in good nick, and not too many downed trees through there.

    The high-lead Junction to the high lead carpark was pretty good. Quite a few downed trees between the Junction and the start of the descent, but none on the critically steep sections fortunately. The trail was also in really good condition there, with metal bridges replacing a lot of the dodgy timber ones. You would do well to have a warning about the high-lead descent though; in wet conditions it can be treacherous without a trekking pole/stick. The walk out from there to the carpark was fairly incident free, just a lot of spider webs.

    The high lead carpark- Powelltown section was pretty good. There was one section where confusion can happen (can’t remember the exact kilometres but it was only a few into that section) where the path peels off to the left but a game trail continues straight- we caught on fairly quickly but we are seasoned hunters and hikers, so the less experienced may fall victim. There were a few sections where the bush forced single-file once more, and there are some serious steep climbs in and out of a few small gorges with lots of steps-hell on knees that are already 40km into a walk! There is also a section where the trail appears to just end at a road, less than 5km out from Powelltown. There is no signage to indicate, but you need to turn left down the road and follow it to the T-intersection at the end, where the trail resumes on the other side.

    That all being said, we managed the whole trail in a day. 11.5hrs walking time from memory, 15.5hrs overall. It is a pretty, ever-changing landscape with good conditions under foot for 90% of the time

  6. I did this as an overnight hike in June/July 2020. This was the wettest hike i’ve done, it rained both days and all night. In terms of the track condition, and noting that it may have changed since I did it, I wouldnt entirely agree with Darren/Lachie above, we didn’t have any issue with trees down blocking the track (other than one large one along the Yarra Junction-Noojee Road section), also didn’t see an issue with the numerous bridges – these were all in quite good condition and sure, you need to watch your step, but I thought they were quite good – definitely beats a river crossing!

    We started at Big Pats creek and went all the way to Powelltown, camping at Federal Mill. After constant rain water was reasonably easy to come by, but you will need to filter it as the streams were all fall of mud and plant matter. Federal Mill campground is very enclosed and there is space for about 8-12 small tents. There are leeches at this camp ground. The High Lead descent – as other people have noted – is no joke, its directly down at about a 30-35 degree gradient, muddy as hell, we all fell on our arses multiple times, so be prepared for this section! We parked the car at Powelltown and did the last 9km stretch along Yarra Junction Noojee road – this section could easily be cut out if you parked a car at the section where the trail intersects the road. You wouldn’t miss much at all by doing it this way as the stretch by the road was the least pretty, you cross the road often and hear the road noise the whole time.

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