1000 STEPS DANDENONG WALK:
The 1000 Steps Dandenong Ranges walk is extremely popular with tourists, locals and fitness fanatics alike, and there’s good reason for it. The trail is a beautiful winding bushwalk that follows a creek up a luscious valley in the Dandenong Ranges National Park, giving you a sense of being embraced by nature while you get the heart rate up!
- Start/Finish: Round trip from the 1000 Steps Dandenong carpark.
- Distance: 4.3 km circuit (up the 1000 Steps, down the Lyrebird Trail).
- Time: 40 mins.
- Grade: Steep sections, lots of steps.
- Attire: Sports clothes & runners will do the job.
- Where: Upper Ferntree Gully, Dandenong Ranges.
- Nearest Town: Upper Ferntree Gully.
- Provisions: 1 L of water per person for a round trip.
This unique environment gives you a brilliant sense of stepping out of the city and into the middle of some ancient forest. Established in the early 1900’s, it wasn’t until 1950 that concrete steps were installed. In 1998 the Victoria veterans from the Kokoda campaign adopted this park as their memorial, and today you’ll find 14 plaques dotted along the trail. The name of the walk has also been changed to the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk, incorporating the 1000 Steps to reflect this.
The actual 1000 Steps section of the walk starts approximately 800m from the carpark area and it’s around 1.8km to the top from this point. While 1000 Steps is a catchy name, there are more like 770 steps and a round trip takes around about 40 minutes if you can maintain a decent pace.
It starts off fairly easy but pinches towards the end, nothing you wouldn’t be able to handle if you have average fitness levels and a water bottle. There are a few things to keep an eye out for along the way, 1) Lyrebirds live in the wet forest and can be heard and seen scratching around & 2) fitness fanatics pounding up & down the track, covered in sweat.
When you reach the top you expect to get an epic view over Victoria but the bush – which makes this gully what it is – only gives you glimpses. So give your mates a pat on the back, stretch the legs and re-hydrate. You still have to go back down.
You can take the 1000 Steps Dandenong Ranges trail back down, but most people prefer to head down the Lyrebird track which is 2.5km long and more like a dirt road. It’s a lot wider and still has stairs along the way if you prefer to them to the gradient. As always, the way down is a lot more manageable than the way up and you can have a bit of fun if you’ve still got some gas in the tank…
All in all, the 1000 Steps Dandenong Ranges walk is a great way to explore something new near Melbourne, spend a morning with friends and get some fitness in while you’re at it.
If the 1000 Steps walk is a little busy (or steep) for your liking, consider the Living Bush Nature Walk.
The Living Bush Nature Walk is a more relaxed walk that branches out to the right at the Acacia Picnic Ground, which is just before you reach the actual starting point of the 1000 Steps walk – it’s well sign posted so you can’t miss is.
This trail is a loop of around 2.5km and it’s relatively easy going. The walk takes you through some beautiful dense native bushland where you’ll be ducking under ferns and admiring the towering Mountain Grey Gums.
It’s amazing to see such a mature forest so close to a built up area, particularly a city as big as Melbourne. It’s also crazy to think how many forest fires they’ve seen, and survived in their time – which must be hundreds of years. A testament to the adaptability of Australian native bush.
There’s plenty more to keep you entertained along the way including a few fallen trees where you can test your balancing skills. Not recommended if there’s any hint of moisture (dew or rain) mind you – those smooth logs can be treacherous.
The final section of the Living Bush Nature Trail (along the Telegraph Track) is close to the road and not as peaceful as the majority of the walk, but it certainly doesn’t detract from the overall experience of the walk.
Once you reach the end of the loop you’ll be feeling good, particularly if you’ve backed up after walking the 1000 steps circuit. Now, time to head up to Sassafras and treat yourself to something tasty at one of the boutique cafes (10 minute drive up the Dandenong Ranges).
Last but not least, I’m going to leave you with 5 tips to ensure your adventure’s good fun.
1) Get up there as early as possible. The 1000 Steps is so popular that you’ll literally be parking 2km up the road if you arrive after 10am, particularly on weekends.
2) If you do arrive later in the day (it happens), drive to the top of One Tree Hill, which is the top of the 1000 Steps walk and start there. Not many people consider this option, so parking shouldn’t be an issue.
3) Take plenty of water and a few snacks. If you spend a few hours exploring the trails you’ll need to refuel along the way.
4) Wear well fitting runners or other appropriate footwear. Your feet will thank you on the way down.
5) If you make it up there early, head to Sassafras after your walk for breaky. Plenty of nice little cafes where you can get your caffeine fix.