Walks & wildlife in the Southern Grampians – Hiking Mount Sturgeon, Mount Abrupt and Signal Peak over a 2 day break in the Grampians National Park.
We love the Grampians National Park. It is without doubt one of our favourite places in Victoria – Australia. But we really hadn’t really spent any time in the southern part before. So with our imminent relocation road trip to Queensland looming, we were desperate to squeeze in one last visit to the Grampians to explore this section of the park. With only a 2 days (Sunday/Monday) gap in the diary, we planned an action packed overnight camping trip. With some typically unpredictable weather forecast, we were excited to get there and checkout the walks and wildlife of the Southern Grampians, whatever the weather.
Mount Sturgeon (Wurgarri) Walk
Trail Type: Circuit (start and finish in the same location)
Start Point: Mount Sturgeon Walk Car Park (Intersection of Grampians Tourist Road and Victoria Valley Road)
Finish Point: Mount Sturgeon Walk Car Park
Distance: 7km (return)
Duration : 3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate (rated as ‘hard’ on the signage, but we disagree)
Driving from central Melbourne straight to Mount Sturgeon took just over 3 hours. The closer we got the more menacing the clouds appeared and typically, just as we arrived, so did the the rain! With only showers forecast for the day, we decided to head into nearby Dunkeld and delay for an hour. And the weather gods were on our side as upon our return, things looked a lot drier.
Starting on a sandy track surrounded by Grass Trees the trail is pretty flat. As you progress the track becomes firmer and the vegetation changes.
After a while you hit the rocky part of the trail and the incline starts. Once above the trees, the views begin to open up and we even got a few minutes of sunshine. This hike has what is known as a ‘false peak’. What this means is that you reach a point where you may feel you have reached the summit, but in fact you have not. Don’t worry it’s fairly obvious. If you look up and can still see higher ground directly ahead (as pictured below right) you haven’t got there yet.
Pushing on a bit further with a short downhill section followed by a swift and steep climb and you are rewarded with some spectacular vistas. Looking back the way you came, there are awesome views over the ‘false peak’ to Mount Abrupt (Mud-Dadjug) and the ranges in the distance.
Mount Sturgeon (Wurgarri) is the southernmost point of the Grampians National Park and there are sweeping panoramic views from up here. As well as Mount Abrupt (Mud-Dadjug), you can see over to the town of Dunkeld and the volcanic plains around and beyond.
Whilst on our descent on the rocky section after the false peak, we heard a nearby rustling in the bushes. Peering through the shrubs we could see a young Swamp Wallaby feeding close by. Unlike most of the Swamp Wallabies we’ve encountered, this one seemed decidedly unconcerned by us and continued to chew away only about three metres from us. It was then joined by another larger Wallaby for a moment before they both hopped off.
Trouble telling the Wallabies and Kangaroos of Victoria apart, then check out our Wildlife of the Grampians blog for some tips on spotting some of the differences between them.
Coming off the rocky section and into the flatter windswept terrain the weather began to brighten a little. Boding well for our night in the swag. This section really does look like a hurricane has just swept through.
Just short of the car park Imbi suddenly noticed a bit of colour. Sitting on a post in distance was a little Scarlet Robin. Without our trusty 100mm-400mm lens in for repair, she carefully crept up on it for some photo’s as it flew into a nearby tree. A great way to finish the hike. The first of our walks in the Southern Grampians certainly delivered – Great views and some lovely wildlife!
Wannon Crossing Campground
It was about a 20 minute drive north to the free Wannon Crossing Campground. Arriving at the campsite we were stoked to find it empty, other than one vehicle parked in the car park. This small campsite which sits alongside the Wannon River, has 7 sites, longdrop toilets and some fire pits and. Having the pick of the camping spots, we selected a site in the bottom corner, furthest from the road as we had heard there can be a bit of road noise here. It meant venturing past an angry mob of locals to get to it though.
After the earlier rain and moody afternoon skies during our Mount Sturgeon hike, we were pleased that the weather had cheered up. Once we got the fire going and had supplemented our firewood stash, we cracked some beers and opened the wine. We were in a awesome spot, surrounded by eucalypt forest with wildlife all around us. There were Kangaroos everywhere, the odd Swamp Wallaby, Gang-Gangs and plenty of other birds. With the cloud clearing it was a surprisingly warm evening and we even got a bit of sunset colour. By night the sky was full with stars. A really lovely autumnal night to be sitting out by a camp fire in nature. This is what we love about camping! A friendly Brushtail Possum even came and joined us by the fire at one point.
We fell asleep to the sound of crickets chirping and various animals moving around the campsite. We needn’t have worried about road noise as we had an incredibly peaceful nights sleep. Waking to the sound of Kangaroos hopping around our swag was a nice change from a phone alarm!
With no particular rush to get going in the morning, we were able to get a fire going and enjoy a pretty leisurely breakfast. Again there was lots of wildlife to keep us entertained and it was nice chowing down our breakfast with the roos bouncing around us.
Waiting for any moisture to dry off the swag, we couldn’t help but notice a little robin flying around the campsite. As always we couldn’t resist a photo of a pretty bird. As the stealthier of the two of us, Imbi snuck up on it. Not to be confused with yesterdays Scarlet Robin, this was the same same but different. This Flame Robin had less white on the forehead, a longer red breast and was slightly greyer rather than black, for anyone who’s interested.
Mount Abrupt (Mud-Dadjug) Walk with Signal Peak Extension
Trail Type: Circuit (start and finish in the same location)
Start Point: Mount Abrupt car park – Grampians Rd
Finish Point: Mount Abrupt car park – Grampians Rd
Distance: 6.6km (Mt Abrupt – return) or 11km (return – if adding on Signal Peak extension)
Duration : 3 hours for (Mt Abrupt return) or 5 hours (with Signal Peak Extension)
From the Wannon Crossing Campground it’s a 15 minute drive along the Grampians Road to get to the Mount Abrupt carpark. As you get close, you get some pretty imposing views of the mighty Mount Abrupt. The car park is a relatively small roadside layby. You need to park sensibly to maximise the space here, as there was some pretty inconsiderate parking when we arrived and we were glad it was a quiet weekday.
Crossing over the Grampians Road, the walk starts opposite the far end of the car park. Right from the beginning there were some lovely native plants. During our Autumn visit, we found Common Heath everywhere and lots of other natives including Pine Heath and Banksia.
The first part of the trail is easy to follow and fairly gentle. After a while you come to a section with some stairs that slaloms up Mount Abrupt. You can see from the surrounds that this is one of the areas that was devastated by the huge landslides caused by the flash flooding that hit the Grampians in January 2011. It must have been a massive task fixing it all up. But 10 years on, there is now a structured path that snakes its way up the still scarred section of the trail.
1.7km into the trek you reach a sign with various options. Effectively, you head right to Signal Peak (2.2km) or left for Mount Abrupt (1.6km). We decided to save the higher of the two until last heading to Signal Peak first.
From the turnoff, the 2.2km hike up to Signal Peak isn’t too challenging. The vast majority would be classed as a ‘moderate’ bush walk as it’s a fairly gradual incline. It’s really only the last 200m which we would consider steep. But it’s worth the effort, as the views from Signal Peak didn’t disappoint.
To the south you have Signal Peaks bigger neighbour – Mount Abrupt (pictured above). And out in front to the east, are plains dotted with farmland and bush. With the cloud rolling in from the north west, the blue sky was disappearing alarmingly fast.
To the north you can see along the Serra Range, the longest of the ranges in the Grampians National Park. Those menacing clouds and rain failing over the range to our west was coming in our direction, so sadly we didn’t spend too long up here.
Mount Abrupt (Mud-Dadjug)
It didn’t take too long to get back to the Mount Abrupt/Mount Signal turnoff and by pure chance, we timed it perfectly. Just as we arrived, the the rain got pretty heavy and the overhanging rock/shallow cave in front of us was probably the best place to find shelter. Luckily, it was only a quick shower and we were able to press on up to Mount Abrupt after a few minutes.
The 1.6km up to Mount Abrupt maybe shorter than the trail to Signal Peak, but it is definitely the harder of the two. In our opinion, it was the more enjoyable of the trails too. The path leads you on a relatively steep incline winding through some nice sections of native bush and plenty of birdlife.
The trail stays close to the ridge line, so there are plenty of rocky ledge sections to enjoy the landscape out to the east. If you hadn’t already guessed, we love a ledge shot with a view! There was also some cool views over the Grampians Road that we had driven down that morning.
Approaching the peak, the survey marker comes into view and you know you’re nearly there. Thankfully on reaching the summit, the low cloud/mist that had shrouded its peaks on our decent from Signal Peak had cleared and there were clear, if somewhat cloudy views over Signal Peak and the Sierra Range.
There’s lots of room up here and plenty of area to explore and enjoy those panoramic views. And there was not one other person around whilst we were there! That was definitely a perk of hiking in this far less touristy southern section of the Grampians National Park on a weekday. For us, all this makes the cut of one of the best viewpoints in the Grampians!
With rain beginning to fall again and some nastier weather coming at us, we started our descent. It was quite slippery on the way down due the aforementioned rain, so it was nice to get off the rockier parts and down into the more sheltered sections of the trail. As with all three of our walks in the Southern Grampians over the two days, there was still no shortage of wildlife on the way down. We passed a couple more Swamp Wallabies and all sorts of birds – more Robins, New Holland Honeyeaters, Silvereyes, Treecreepers, and loads of Eastern Spinebill to name a few.
Luckily it didn’t rain too hard and we made it back to the car in good time and not too sodden. After a quick bite to eat we made the three hour drive back to Melbourne coinciding our arrival perfectly with rush hour traffic.
The Southern Grampians did not disappoint, the walks and wildlife were awesome! Much less touristy than our experiences further north in this National Park, but certainly no less rewarding. Getting a little off track and heading to the quieter southern section was definitely worth it! We don’t know why we hadn’t done it sooner!
Useful information and packing essentials for walks & wildlife in the Southern Grampians
- There’s no fenced viewpoints on these walks, so use common sense and be sensible when near any edges as there are some incredibly steep drops.
- Decent footwear is important for this hike. Boots aren’t required but, shoes with good grip are recommended. Especially if it’s been wet.
- 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 those awesome views.
- As always leave no trace and take all your rubbish out with you or dispose of correctly in the appropriate bins provided!
- Drive sensibly around the Grampians! On Grampians Road be especially careful around dawn and dusk when the Roo’s and Wallabies are particularly active. You’ll likely see some grazing on the side of the road. So use common sense! These bouncy creatures can jump in front of your car in a split second. ‘Reduce your speed by 10 km an hour and reduce your risk of hitting wildlife by 20%!’ Wildlife Victoria.
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