Hiking the Keppel Lookout Trail – Return via Steavenson Falls and Tree Fern Gully Trail. A great half day hike only two hours from Melbourne.
Hiking the Keppel Lookout Trail – Return via Steavenson Falls and Tree Fern Gully Trail Information
Described as the ‘the most challenging walk in the area’ the Keppel Lookout Trail, return via Steavenson Falls and Tree Fern Gully Trail sounded like our sort of hike. Just north of the Yarra Valley, this 3-4 hour hike combines scenic viewpoints with one of the more impressive waterfalls in Victoria.
Trail Type: Circuit (start and finish in the same location)
Start Point: Keppel Lookout Trail Car park on Falls Road. On the map below it doesn’t show a parking symbol, but there is a good size free car park at the start marked “YOU ARE HERE”
Finish Point: Keppel Lookout Trail Car park on Falls Road
Duration: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: Moderate (Grade 3)
Map: See below
Getting to Keppel Lookout Trail car park
Driving from Melbourne’s CBD, the journey takes around two hours. Make sure to drive through the stunning Blackspur Drive en-route. This stretch of road from Healesville to Narbethong cuts through the towering Mountain Ash trees and lush Tree Ferns of the Yarra Ranges and is really beautiful.
Or like us, combine the hike with some Camping in the Cathedral Range. We spent an awesome two nights in the Cathedral Range State Park and tacked this hike on to the end of itinerary to complete a memorable few days in this scenic part of Victoria.
Hiking the Keppel Lookout Trail
The Keppel Lookout trail starts right at the car park. Taking you over Robertson Gully, the ascent leads you up through Stringybark and Mountain Ash. Providing welcome shade from the late morning sun, these lovely trees were also popular with the birds. We saw plenty of Eastern Yellow Robins, Grey Fantails and Crimson Rosella. The latter frequently foraging on the trail.
The first 3km or so of hiking the Keppel Lookout Trail up to the Keppel Lookout viewpoint is all uphill. And the closer you get to the viewpoint the steeper the trail gets. It certainly get the calves burning by the time you reach it. But it’s worth the effort. There are lovely views from the raised viewing platform right over Marysville and to the Cathedral Range and beyond.
For slightly less impeded views you can make your way through the bushes in front of the viewing platform. This takes you to a small open rocky area. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic lunch, or just a good place to rest the legs for a few minutes before continuing on.
From the viewing platform the next section of the Keppel Lookout Trail leads you along the ridge. You’ve done all the hard work now, with that initial ascent, so it’s a more gentle 5.3km from here to Steavenson Falls past a couple of viewpoints. The first being the Oxley Lookout.
Del La Rue Lookout
Shortly after passing Oxley Lookout, you reach the Del La Rue Lookout. This one involves a very short detour off the main trail. There are again almost identical views out to the peaks of the Cathedral Range, home to awesome Ridgeline Circuit – One of the more challenging and most rewarding day hikes we’ve done in Victoria which we highly recommend.
Del La Rue Lookout – Steavenson Falls
Soon after leaving the Del La Rue Lookout, you begin a gradual descent. Without views to distract us, this was a nice section of the trail for some nature photography. We found one of our favourite feathered friends up here. These Flame Robins breed in the upland forests in the warmer months before heading down to lower elevations in Autumn.
It wasn’t long before we could hear the mighty Steavenson Falls as they dropped a total 84 metres over multiple tiers down into the Steavenson River Valley below. There were a few small clearings that allowed glimpses of some sections of the falls in the distance.
This part of the trail was again lovely and scenic. Nice to see this regeneration after the devastation caused by the February 2009 bushfires. After a wet Victorian summer, there were sections where we were completely surrounded by diverse lush green vegetation during our early Autumn visit, keeping it nice and cool as well as very photogenic.
Steavenson Falls Upper Lookout
Reaching a T-Junction on the trail, you can continue hiking down the Keppel Lookout Trail by turning left. But it is worth first detouring a minute or so to the right for some views from atop Steavenson Falls. There is small platform here for a different angle as the falls cascades down several tiers to the valley floor.
Returning to the Keppel Lookout Trail there were again nice views over the forest as we began the short series of switchbacks down to the falls. You’ll come across several unofficial detours (shortcuts people have created) along the way. These save you no time at all and looked pretty slippery to us. More importantly they just cause unnecessary degradation to the surrounding area, so just stick to the main trail.
Steavenson Falls Viewing platforms
Once we reached the falls, we made our way to the bridge that spans the Steavenson River for a few photos of it from a distance. Arriving early in the afternoon, the sun beautifully backlit the falls. Surprisingly, it wasn’t really busy at all, with just a handful of other visitors floating around. We guess this was one of the major perks of visiting on a weekday just before the school holidays. We’ve heard it can get extremely busy here in peak periods.
There are two closer viewing platforms, one on either side of the river. Our favourite was the one to the left (as you look at the Falls). From these viewpoints you really only see the final section of the waterfall as it drops just over 20m. You don’t really get to appreciate the full scale of the 84m falls, but it’s still very impressive.
Tree Fern Gully Trail
The last part of the hike is the 2.4km section of the Tree Fern Gully Trail, which starts just down from the Steavenson Falls viewpoints. It takes you the last couple of kilometres back to the start point of the Keppel Lookout Trail and car park to complete the circuit. Running parallel to Falls Road, it’s a nice easy finish to the hike as it leads you along a gentle fern lined path.
After about 2.4km, you’ll reach a signed intersection. If you continue straight it leads you a further 1.9km along the Tree Fern Gully Trail to Marysville. So don’t miss the left turnoff to complete your day of hiking the Keppel Lookout Trail. After turning, it’s only about 200m to the Falls Roads car park and the completion of the Keppel Lookout Trail return via Steavenson Falls and Tree Fern Gully Trail.
And to complete a perfect few days in this part of Victoria we stopped at Matilda Bay Brewery in Healesville on the way back to Melbourne. Coinciding our visit with happy hour we made sure we were adequately rehydrated after our hike, sampling their full range of beers. Well, at least the one of us who wasn’t driving did!
Hiking the Keppel Lookout Trail return via Steavenson Falls and Tree Fern Gully Trail is a great way to spend half a day. The trail is nice, quiet and scenic. After the initial 3km climb it’s very easy-going. The views and falls are pretty impressive. So, if you’re in the area, it’s great way to spend half a day and well worth adding to your itinerary.
Useful information and packing essentials for hiking the Keppel Lookout Trail
- You can start at this hike at any point really – the Car park on Falls Road, Steavenson Falls, or Keppel Lookout viewing platform. But we recommend starting at the car park on Falls Road. This way, you start with the steepest part of the Keppel Lookout Trail up to the Keppel Lookout viewing platform and get the nasty bit done first.
- If you choose to park at the Steavenson Falls you need to pay $3 in coins. There is no function to pay without coinage.
- If you enjoyed this hike but are looking for something a bit longer and harder in the area then checkout our Hiking the Cathedral Range – Ridgeline Circuit blog for a bit of inspo!
- Decent footwear is important for this hike. Boots aren’t required, but shoes with good grip are recommended. Especially if it’s been wet.
- Take a reusable water bottle and do your bit to minimise plastic waste, as well as saving the pennies.
- Check the weather before you go and plan accordingly. This hike would not be fun in very wet and windy weather. Obviously clearer days will allow you to really enjoy the views.
- If hiking in spring and summer, don’t be surprised if you come across a snake or two. But don’t be too concerned, just use common sense and they’ll cause you no problems. For some really useful information on Victoria’s most common snakes and snake safety click HERE for a handy PDF.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask or comment. We love helping people get a little off track, especially out in the wild and enjoying Australia’s amazing native wildlife!
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