Our guide to the You Yangs highlights the popular trails and native wildlife and explains why the You Yangs is the perfect day trip from the city.
The You Yangs Regional Park is situated just over 50 km south west of Melbourne. It’s close proximity to the city makes it an incredibly popular place for hikers, trail-runners, mountain bikers, horse riders, picnickers, wildlife lovers and bird enthusiasts alike. Much like Victoria’s better known Great Ocean Road, Grampians National Park and Great Otway National Park, the You Yangs is the ideal place to escape city life. It has the added bonus of being under an hours drive away from Melbourne CBD, making it an easy day trip.
Trails in the You Yangs
The You Yangs has over 50km of mountain bike trails, along with numerous trails for walkers, trail-runners and dog walkers of all fitness levels. Of all the trails in the park, these are the most popular:
Big Rock Walk – 3km (return)
For an interactive Big Rock Walk map click here
Starting by the park office, you can quite simply head up and around Big Rock. Being a circuit, you will initially come to signs pointing to Big Rock in both directions. Which means you have a big decision to make – clockwise or anticlockwise? Don’t worry, it doesn’t make much difference which way you go. From the top you have great views over the surrounding bush. You’ll notice small pot holes dotted around the top of the rock. These are natural depressions in the granite enlarged by indigenous locals and utilised as water storage which was vital in these arid conditions.
If you’re not much of a walker, you can park at Big Rock carpark and save yourself the effort. There’s toilet facilitIes along with a big picnic area located by the carpark.
Flinders Peak – 3.2km (return)
For an interactive Flinders Peak Trail map click here
Starting at the Turntable car park, this is a good short, steep 450 step walk that will get the heart pumping. And it will also take you to the highest point of the park. At the lower lookout en route there are nice views, which encompasses the Bunjil Geoglyph. This Wedge-tailed Eagle shaped sculpture depicts Bunjil, the creator spirit of the Wathaurong people. This is also one of a several geoglyphs commemorating the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006.
On a clear day from atop the 340m peak, you’ll have views over to Geelong, Melbourne and beyond.
The very popular track is predominantly steps and a well trodden solid path, easily done in trainers or even flip flops in dry conditions.
East-West Walk – 4.5km (return)
For an interactive East-West Walk map click here
This hike also starts at the Turntable car park and is easy to combine with Flinders Peak. This trail circles around Flinders Peak and in our opinion, offered nicer views.
The majority of the East Walk section is uphill. The West Walk section is flat and down hill. Most people choose to walk anti-clockwise and start with the East Walk section first.
You can easily do this one in trainers too. Please note: there’s not much shade. So don’t forget to take some sunscreen with you, like we did!
Wildlife in the You Yangs
For those on a hike or bike ride, spotting wildlife is usually just a bonus. On the flip side, it is often a highlight for many. For a relatively small park, the You Yangs has an amazing amount of wildlife. You just need to know where to find it! The quieter tracks like Branding Yard Trail, offer the best opportunities for wildlife spotting. Remember, if spotting wildlife is your aim, it will require some patience. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for the first time, you can just keep coming back.
The You Yangs has a small population of Koala’s. If you have a keen eye and know which trees to peer up, you have a chance of finding some. Look up in the Eucalyptus trees in the lower parts of the park and with a bit of luck and perseverance, you might see one.
Whilst out on the tracks keep your eyes and ears open. Like the Grampians, Echidna’s are commonly seen in the You Yangs. Throughout the Australian autumn and winter, the Short-beaked Echidnas hibernate in burrows. They come out of hibernation in the warmer months. Listen carefully as you may be able to hear one foraging for food in the scrub.
Of the macropod family, Wallabies and Kangaroos live here. The Black (Swamp) Wallabies are solitary and quite elusive. They shelter in the thicker vegetation in the hotter parts of the day. Many of our Black Wallaby sightings have been around small water holes. In contrast, the sociable Eastern Grey Kangaroo can be seen grazing in open bushland. You may even see them in surrounding paddocks and on the lower tracks. During the heat of the day, they can often be found resting under the shade of a tree.
Open grassland is the best place to find Australia’s largest bird, the flightless Emu.
Aside from Emu’s, the You Yangs has over 200 species of birds. If you’ve read our Wildlife of the Grampians you will know there are over 50 species of parrots in Australia. Parrots belong to the order Psittaciformes. In Australia this comprises of Psittacidae (“true” Parrots) and Cacatuidae (Cockatoos). The You Yangs is home to Sulphur Crested Cockatoo’s, Long Billed Corella, Little Corella, Galah, Eastern Rosella, Crimson Rosella, Purple Crowned Lorikeet, Musk Lorikeet, Rainbow Lorikeet, Red-Rumped Parrot and more. A lot of which you’ll find in the flowering Gums, if your visit coincides.
Of the Passerines, the You Yangs a has many! Here’s just a few to look and listen out for: New Holland and Yellow-Faced Honeyeaters, Spotted and Striated Pardalote, Silvereye, Superb Fairy Wren, Scarlet and Eastern Yellow Robin, Mistletoebird, Red-Browed Finch, Crested Shrike Tits, Eastern Spinebill and various Thornbills.
Of our favourite order of birds the Coraciiformes, there is a good chance of seeing, or at least hearing the unique Laughing Kookaburra. In the summer months, both Sacred Kingfishers and Rainbow Bee-eaters can be found.
There are also several breeding pairs of Tawny Frogmouth that live here. These birds are camouflage experts and we’ve yet to find them. And keep an eye out for the one of, if not Australia’s smallest nocturnal birds – the Australian Owlet-nightjar.
Protecting the You Yangs
Did you know there’s one yellow flowering environmental weed causing serious damage in the You Yangs? Although Boneseed might look harmless and pretty, it is actually an invasive, aggressive weed that is thriving. Damaging the natural ecosystem by effectively out competing and smothering native species, it has a devastating impact on both the native bush and wildlife. There’s a great charity who you can get involved with to remove this Boneseed – Koala Clancy Foundation.
Please don’t feed the birds here. ‘Most birds eat a balanced diet; 90% eat insects and nectar, seed or fruit. People feeding birds the wrong food changes the balance of their diet and can negatively impact their health.’ –WIRES Australian Wildlife Rescue Organisation.
Dogs are permitted at You Yangs Regional Park provided they are under control, on a lead at all times and their waste is collected.
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