LERDERDERG EAST WALK RETURN VIA COWAN TRACK:
Lerderderg State Park is just over an hours drive north-west of Melbourne, and at 14,250 hectares (142.5 km2), there’s plenty to explore. Within this massive park, the gorge is one of the most interesting areas, and that’s exactly where the Lerderderg Gorge circuit walk takes you!
It’s worth noting that East Walk provides most of the highlights on this hike, so take your time exploring the Lerderderg River section and any mine shafts you discover along the way (please be careful around these!).
- Start/Finish: O’Briens Crossing
- Distance: 13.5 km circuit.
- Time: 4 – 5 hrs
- Grade: Moderate. Plenty of rock hoping and some river crossings may be required if flowing.
- Attire: Hiking shoes/boots preferable (runners will do the job).
- Where: Lerderderg State Park
- Nearest Town: Blackwood (9 km)
- Provisions: Min. 2 L of water per person. Plenty of snacks.
- Explored In: Autumn. Suitable for all seasons, although river level varies with recent rainfall.
- Adventures close by: The EPIC Werribee Gorge Circuit Walk
START THE LERDERDERG GORGE CIRCUIT WALK AT O’BRIENS CROSSING CAMPGROUND
O’Briens Crossing is a popular free campground and picnic area nestled deep within the beautiful Lerderderg Gorge. There’s plenty of space if you’re keen to spend a night or two camping, fires are permitted in the designated areas and there is a toilet block. You beaut.
FOLLOW THE LERDERDERG RIVER DOWNSTREAM
Once you have your bag packed (don’t forget the lollies) and your laces tied, it’s time to set off on the East Walk, which follows the Lerderderg River downstream. There’s a slight gradient, so even if the river isn’t flowing you should be able to tell which way to set off (southern direction).
The track isn’t always easy to pick-up or follow for the first 1 km or so, but if you stick close to the river you can’t go wrong. You’ll be following the Lerderderg River for approx. 6 km.
EXPLORE THE HEART OF LERDERDERG STATE PARK
The East Walk takes you through some beautiful native bush, and if you’re lucky you may spot some of the Australian animals that inhabit the area, including Koalas, Eastern Grey Kangaroos, Swamp Wallabies, Wombats and Echidnas, not to mention the many bird species.
If you don’t see much in the way of wildlife there’s still plenty to see and explore on this section of the walk. If the water’s up you’ll get to enjoy the river, and if not, you can explore the riverbed and the many pools. A great chance to reflect, literally, and skim a few stones.
As you near the end of East Walk you’ll spot Mine Camp 50 m off the trail, down to your right. Drop down to take a look around and explore, but be sure to continue on the East Walk another 6oo m to intersect with Cowans Track.
It’s worth noting that Lerderderg Gorge was heavily mined back in the 1800’s and there are plenty of old mine shafts and other remnants not far off the beaten track. If you do go exploring, bear in mind that they’re old and unstable, so treat with caution.
TAKE COWANS TRACK BACK TOWARDS O’BRIENS CROSSING (VIA O’BRIENS ROAD)
At the end of the East Walk you’ll reach a junction that’s sign posted (see below). Take Cowans Track back towards O’briens Road, which will lead on towards O’briens Crossing.
This section of the walk starts with a significant climb up a ridge that will test your fitness – you’re doing well if you can knock it over without taking a break, or two.
Cowans Track takes you up and out of Lerderderg Gorge along a fire trail, and while it’s a little same same, there are some great views of Lerderderg State Park. Much like the Werribee Gorge, it’s amazing to ponder that you’re just over an hour from Melbourne’s city centre, but deep within a forest with barely another soul in sight. If you’re lucky.
CUT-BACK TO O’BRIENS CROSSING FROM O’BRIENS ROAD
Cowans Track will spit you out onto O’briens Road. Here you turn left and follow it downhill a km or so until you reach the cut-through track, pictured below. It’s not sign posted, but it is well worn, so you should be able to pick it.
From here, you’ve got a 400 m drop down to O’briens Crossing, which does get quite step for a few hundred meters. It’s likely the feet will be feeling the pinch from a decent walk, but kick on as you’re almost done!
Once you’re back at O’briens Crossing, get those shoes/boots off and dump the bag. If the rivers up and it’s not too cold, a quick swim could be just the ticket to take in the beautiful surroundings one last time before heading home. Enjoy!
HOW TO GET TO O’BRIENS CROSSING IN LERDERDERG STATE PARK
To access the starting point of the Lerderderg Gorge Circuit Walk you need to get to O’Briens Crossing campsite. It’s a 91 km drive north west of Melbourne, and the easiest route is taking the M1 west before turning right onto the M8, or Western Freeway, and following that out past Bacchus Marsh.
Not far after, take a right onto Greendale-Mryniong Rd and head up to Greendale. Here you take another right onto Greendale-Trentham Rd, and it’s on another 8 km towards Blackwood before you turn onto O’briens Rd.
There is mobile phone reception all the way to O’briens Crossing, so plug it into Google Maps and you shouldn’t have any trouble. Enjoy!
Keen to see more of the best bushwalks in and around Melbourne? Check them out here.