Written by Caroline.
Once again I was unsuccessful in convincing anyone else other than Katka to join me for a 3 day hiking weekend. Fortunately, I love hiking with Katka, so we made plans to do the Grampians Peaks Trail. Once complete, it will be 13 days/12 nights long. Presently it’s a 3 day loop, 36km in total, starting and ending at Halls Gap (therefore accessible by public transport, which is always a plus).
We left Melbourne early and after a few errands along the way, started the hike around 11am in Halls Gap. As recommended by Colleen at the Brambuk visitor centre, we parked near the tennis courts on School Rd – plenty of space and you can access the track directly from there (though I don’t think it’s the official start). The track starts out along Stoney creek on a very nice, easy, fine gravel path.
It was a beautiful winter day and we warmed up quickly as we walked towards Splitters Falls.
We had lunch there on an unfortunately shady rock and soon I was too cold to keep eating so I left half my lunch for later and we kept walking.
The views got more and more spectacular as we climbed. We loved walking over and under and through rocky sections, including to the ‘Grand Canyon’ and Silent Street, towards the Pinnacle.
Some of these sections were a bit challenging with an overnight pack, and we had a laugh watching another hiker with a bouldering mat strapped to his back trying to squeeze through some tight sections.
In summer this section is packed with day hikers, but we were lucky that not many people are around in winter.
After the Pinnacle we skipped most of the side trips (not like us at all) and continued on towards Bugiga Campsite, our home for night 1. It started to rain lightly for the last half an hour towards the campsite. This is a purpose-built hiker-only campsite featuring several platforms to camp on, a shelter, and toilets (as well as some cool views of Mt Rosea, which we were to climb on Day 2). Pretty snazzy! (except for a huge amount of rubbish distributed far and wide near our tent site). As soon as the sun set it was freezing, so we made dinner pretty quickly (homemade dehydrated leek risotto – delicious). We met Simon, a hiker from Germany, who asked us if we had any ailments, as he was surprised by the amount of stretching we were doing before and after dinner! (we just love stretching).
Since it was freezing we headed into the tent at 7.30, where we struggled to get warm – turns out when you’re camping on a platform you get a lot colder due to the extra air coming in from underneath! I read for an hour or two, shivering the whole time, and eventually we settled in for a restless, cold sleep.
It took a while to convince me to get out of bed in the morning – I figured if it was that cold in the sleeping bag, it wouldn’t be better out of it! I wasn’t wrong, but I did get up eventually… we ate breakfast and packed up, including drying the tent as the sun finally came up over the trees to the campsite. Finally we started to get warm.
Day 2 is pretty spectacular – we headed up and over Mt Rosea, enjoying lunch in the warm winter sun just before the summit (no more shady lunch spots after yesterday!). As we hiked we kept seeing amazing views – magical mist, beautiful mountains and views over Lake Bellfield.
We had the place mostly to ourselves, though we encountered more day hikers along the hike, particularly near the summit. We loved all the awesome rocky outcrops, though cursed our packs (not the easiest for rockhopping) and kind of wished we were day hikers.
At the summit the fog came in, but we kinda liked it 🙂
We hiked down through a beautiful forest, and soon reached Fyans Creek and Borough Huts Camping Ground. We knew this was a car campground as well as a hiker campground, but nonetheless were dismayed to discover many large groups were already set up. Our dreams of an early night and catching up on sleep lost the night before were fast disappearing. Once we figured out the campsite map, we made our way to campsite 9, which was situated right in between a large group who’d booked sites 8 and 10. We rapidly decided it would be best to camp closer to the other hiker-campers – Simon of the previous campsite, and two lovely new hikers, Adrian from Canada, and James from the UK. We were hopeful that this end of the campsite would be slightly quieter.. However, as the afternoon progressed, more and more large groups set up around us and started their various speaker systems. It became clear we wouldn’t be having the peaceful camping experience we were hoping for.
One perk though was that Adrian, James and Simon were busy starting a campfire, so we spent much of the evening there, keeping warm and hoping the partiers would quieten down soon (yes, I’m aware I sound like a nanna – I just really like peace and quiet when camping!).
Eventually we settled in for another restless night – extremely noisy (we had karaoke, doof doof and pop all competing for our attention) and it was even colder than the night before. Despite 2 layers of thermal leggings, 2 pairs of socks, and three thermal tops, I was still pretty cold, but managed to sleep okay eventually.
We woke to a partially frozen tent and frost everywhere. Breakfast was in the tent and we were not tempted by James and Adrian’s roasted coffee – opting instead to pack up as fast as possible and get walking to warm up.
Unfortunately, Day 3 was not too impressive, as outlined by James and Adrian. It’s essentially a ‘joiner’ section to get us back to Halls Gap, and follows a fire trail alongside Lake Bellfield – however it’s right in the forest, quite steep and slippery at times (luckily it was a dry day) and mostly without views.
Once we reached Halls Gap we were lucky to see a herd of emus. 
We ate lunch in the park (as fast as possible – we got cold pretty fast) and then were delighted to find our car sitting in the full sun where it was nice and warm.
- The trail itself is beautiful, varied and a lot of fun, but best walked with a day pack – you can access most sections from carparks easily
- We love Bugiga Campsite, but didn’t factor in how cold we’d get with the platforms!
- Don’t camp at Borough Huts Campground – it’s WAY too noisy.
- Don’t bother with Day 3 – it’s boring.
- Basically, if hiking in winter in the Grampians, book some accommodation, keep warm, and do lots of day hikes!
- After giving our feedback to the visitor centre, I was pleased to learn that once complete, the campsites available will all be hiker-only campsites. I’ll wait until that’s the case before attempting this hike again!