Hiking the Dandenong Ranges Tourist Track – Sassafras to Emerald. A visual guide to this beautiful hike only one hour from Melbourne.
Dandenong Ranges Tourist Track – Sassafras to Emerald Information
Trail Type: One-way (point-to-point) – Click HERE for trail map*
Start Point: 392-394 Mount Dandenong Tourist Rd, Sassafras – Marked as Sassafras Creek Trail on Google Maps*
Finish Point: Telopea Steps or Emerald*
Distance: 15km to Telopea Steps to 16.5km in Emerald
Duration : 4-6 hours
* This trail can be done in either direction.
Getting to Dandenong Ranges Tourist Track
If driving, it takes about 1 hour from Melbourne’s CBD. There is a small car park at the trailhead (392-394 Mount Dandenong Tourist Rd, Sassafras) – Marked as Sassafras Creek Trail on Google Maps.
Using public transport for this one couldn’t be simpler, which is ideal for a point-to-point hike. From Melbourne you can take the Belgrave Line train to Upper Ferntree Gully station. From right outside the station you can catch Bus 688 (Upper Ferntree Gully – Croydon via Tremont & Olinda). After approx 20 mins get off at Prince St/Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd (Stop ID 12099) in Sassafras and you’re right at the start point of the Dandenong Ranges Tourist Track. It’s that easy!
Dandenong Ranges Tourist Track – Sassafras to Emerald
Having hiked part of this track many years before it was one we had been meaning to comeback to for some time. Wanting to hike the whole Dandenong Ranges Tourist Track we just hadn’t got around to it until now.
Sassafras Creek Trail (Walking Track) Section
Sassafras is a sweet little village and great place for a pre hike tea or coffee. There’s plenty of cafes, deli’s and bakeries selling gorgeous fresh local produce where you can grab a feed or pick up picnic items before you head off.
The trail starts at 392-394 Mount Dandenong Tourist Rd – Marked as Sassafras Creek Trail on Google Maps. There are toilets here, should you need them and some signage with a map, history and listing some other shorter hike options. The first part of the track is nice and easy, with a well-maintained trail lined with tree-ferns.
In our opinion, the Dandenong Ranges Tourist Track is one of the easier hikes to follow compared to some of the other hikes in the Dandenong’s that we’ve done. There’s regular markers (see orange arrow below) along the way. And at all road crossings there is always a marker very nearby pointing you in the correct direction.
Being an area of temperate rainforest, this is a beautifully green hike as you’re surrounded in lush vegetation. But it’s not just greens, there was also a variety colourful fungi. And as with all our Dandenong Ranges hikes there’s lots of pretty birds darting around. Both Crimson Rosella and Eastern Yellow Robin were seemingly popping up everywhere.
Unsurprisingly for a trail that follows three creeks – Sassafras Creek, Woori Yallock Creek and Menzies Creek, the Dandenong Ranges Tourist Track is littered with wooden bridges. Crossing Sassafras Creek Road signals the start of a really nice section of the Sassafras Creek Walking Track that criss-crosses over the creek multiple times.
Some of the older bridges are almost completely covered with moss. With the temperate forest providing damp conditions year round, the surrounding forest is slowly enveloping the man-made bridges, giving them a sort of living, almost mythical appearance. The one below is particularly photogenic in our opinion.
Not all of the bridges fare so well. Sometimes mother nature has other ideas! This fairly new looking bridge certainly wasn’t afforded the chance to develop a moss coating and age gracefully. It had been pole-axed by a massive Mountain Ash. Still passable, it just meant carefully climbing over the trunk to continue on.
It wasn’t long before we came across another bridge which had a come a cropper. This was slightly more challenging to cross than the previous. More of an obstacle course, with failure likely resulting in wet boots. Luckily the scramble across the right hand section of the bridge debris went to plan.
This Sassafrass Creek Walking Track part of the Dandenong Ranges Tourist Track has loads of nice picturesque spots to get down to the creek. There’s no shortage of fallen trees straddling the water to test your balance or to rest on for a drinks break should you need one.
From around the David Hill Road onwards, parts of the Dandenong Ranges Tourist Track were quite overgrown. Along with several large fallen trees, there were head height ferns to push your way through. The older trees had been cut through whereas others required clambering over. The arborist, or should we say artist who dealt with the below tree was obviously feeling a little creative when they cut through it.
The Butterfield Reserve area around the Woori Yallock Creek seemed to be a Kookaburra hotspot. There were lots around this part of the track. After stopping for a sandwich at the small picnic area by Old Emerald Road, we found one with the same idea. It was busy surveying the ground for its own picnic lunch.
Menzies Creek Walking Track Section
Crossing the Emerald-Monbulk Road you start on the Menzies Creek Walking Track section of the Dandenong Ranges Tourist Track. Menzies Creek was named after John Menzies. He was a Scottish prospector who became the first man to find gold at Emerald in 1859.
The Menzies Creek section makes up the final third or so of the Dandenong Ranges Tourist Track. It again has some nice bridges leading you over the creek and through the ferny surrounds. But this section certainly seemed like it was considerably less trafficked. The track was a lot more overgrown with head height ferns covering it in parts. It really felt like we had escaped the touristy areas of the Dandenong Ranges and got a little off track, just the way we like it.
There was a mixture of terrain along this final stretch of the hike. There were some open areas with tree fern and Mountain Ash. And then tree debris covered boardwalks leading through more dense ferny gully sections. It was pretty muddy in parts as we closely followed the Menzies Creek.
For the concluding part of the ‘track’ there was a bit of uphill hiking. Coming out of the dense muddy gully up into a more open part of the forest, we faced one final obstacle before the Telopea Steps. And there was no getting around this fallen tree, we just had clamber right through it.
Once at the top of the steps, the ‘track’ section ends and you start the 1.5km walk along the roads to Emerald for the final part of the Dandenong Ranges Tourist Track. You could say it’s a rather ‘flat’ way to end the hike, but it’s actually a fairly steep and uneventful walk along Telopea and Pinnocks Roads up to Belgrave-Gembrook Road and onto Emerald. Other than an Olive Whistler and some King Parrots, it was pretty underwhelming way to finish. If you’ve been to Emerald before, we’d recommend just finishing at the steps if you can arrange a pickup from there.
For those using public transport, once you cross the railway tracks and reach the T-junction at Belgrave-Gembrook Road, there are stops on either side of the road for bus 695 Belgrave – Gembrook. If you’re wanting to head to the Belgrave train station, cross the over the Belgrave-Gembrook Road to the Pinnocks Rd bus stop (ID 13959) on the far side. It’s about a 15-20 minute journey to the train station.
Or you can just turn left and follow the roadside pavement and walk into Emerald and enjoy a well-deserved drink and meal at one of the many cafes and restaurants.
The Dandenong Ranges Tourist Track is a really nice and pretty easy track for those wanting a real feel for the Dandenong Ranges. Despite its 15km distance, a few overgrown patches and obstacles, it’s certainly not a challenging trek. And although in reality you are never far from a road or a house, it doesn’t feel like it. So for a good hike only an hour from Melbourne and a proper Dandenong Ranges experience, the Dandenong Ranges Tourist Track is a great option.
Useful information and packing essentials for the Dandenong Ranges Tourist Track
- You can also hike this trail in the opposite direction, starting in Emerald.
- We recommend decent footwear for this often muddy trail.
- It’s usually a few degrees cooler in the Dandenong Ranges than the surrounding area, so make sure to pack appropriately.
- Check the weather before you go. It’s often wet here, but hiking this trail on a day of heavy rain wouldn’t be particularly fun.
- In saying that, this isn’t a hike you need perfect weather for. It’s a good one for a dull day.
- If hiking alone, always make sure people know your plans and intended route and timeframes.
- As always leave no trace and take all your rubbish out with you and dispose of it correctly!
- Take a refillable water bottle and do your bit to minimise plastic waste, as well as saving the pennies.
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