WERRIBEE GORGE CIRCUIT WALK:
Looking for a challenging bushwalk close to Melbourne? This is it. At just an hours drive north west of Melbourne, the Werribee Gorge Circuit walk (Adventure Edition) has it all; on-trail, off-trail, lookouts, descents, climbs, more descents, more climbs, river crossings, cable climbs, wildlife spotting & rock hopping. This tough walk gives you an awesome sense of adventure, that’s why it’s without a doubt our favourite hike within an hours drive of Melbourne.
- Start/Finish: Ironbark Gorge Car Park
- Distance: 10.4 km circuit.
- Time: 5 – 6 hrs
- Grade: Moderate/Difficult. Experienced hikers only.
- Attire: Hiking shoes/boots preferable (runners will do the job). Dress for conditions.
- Where: Werribee Gorge State Park
- Nearest Town: Bacchus Marsh (12km)
- Provisions: Approx. 2 L of water per person. Lunch + snacks. A fully charged mobile phone to help navigate & in case of emergency.
- Explored In: Mid Winter. Suitable for all seasons.
WHAT MAKES THIS THE WERRIBEE GORGE CIRCUIT WALK ADVENTURE EDITION?
There are a couple of ways to tackle the Werribee Gorge circuit walk; the standard circuit or an extended Adventure Edition.
The standard circuit is suitable for all levels of experience and can be started from a number of locations on the eastern side of the river. We recommend starting at Meikles Point Picnic Area (bottom right hand corner in map below). Here you can directly access the circuit trail and complete the walk in either direction. The 8 km trail is well marked, provides plenty of stunning scenery and includes challenging cable, rock and uphill sections.
The Adventure Edition is for experienced hikers only and starts from the Ironbark Gorge carpark to the west of Werribee Gorge. Starting here adds in a hefty off-trail descent to meet up with the standard circuit, a couple of (small) river crossings and an off-trail ascent back up to the starting point. It’s the longer option, at 10.4 km, and doubles your vertical distance (approx. gain/loss; 610m, -610m).
SECTION ONE: IRONBARK GORGE CAR PARK TO FALCONS LOOKOUT
This section is approx 1.5 km along the Ironbark Gorge Track. It’s certainly the easiest section of the day and a great way to warm into the 5-6 hrs ahead.
The trail meanders through native bush before dropping into a gully. Following the path up and out of the gully, you reach a fork in the road. Left to Ingliston Granites or right to Falcons Lookout. Follow the path right a few hundred meters.
Arriving at Falcons Lookout the view is quite incredible considering it’s just a stone’s throw from Melbourne. A huge gorge, formed over 500 million years, cuts deep into otherwise flat Australian farmland.
Take a moment to get your bearings and visualise the remainder of this walk – importantly, you’re walking down to the river along the ridge going from right to left in the photo below. Do not attempt the direct route straight down towards the river, it’s very steep and dangerous.
SECTION TWO: FALCONS LOOKOUT TO WERRIBEE RIVER
Now it’s time to get down to the river and meet up with the main Werribee Circuit Walk trail. On the right of the lookout there’s a lightly worn trail (well back from the edge) that follows the ridge all the way down to the river.
Note: Don’t take the wooden stairs down below the lookout, this is a very steep rock climbing area, an adventure for another day.
Stay on the ridge trail all the way down to the river, where it flattens out. Find a place to safely cross the river to join the main track on the other side. It can be a bit of fun when the water’s up, but you should be able to get across without getting wet feet.
SECTION THREE: WERRIBEE GORGE CIRCUIT WALK
Once on the beaten trail of the Werribee Gorge Circuit Walk, head left to complete the circuit in a clockwise direction. Soon enough you’ll encounter the first big climb of the day… it’s a tough one, so stopping for a decent pit stop halfway up is a great idea. Take a break at one of the many amazing viewpoints and keep an eye out for Eagles soaring high above.
Continuing up and around this top section of the trail, views are limited but there’s still plenty to take it. The trail takes you out to a road at one point, then through a main access car park and via a toilet block before heading back down to the river.
Once back down at the river, it’s 1.6 km from the wooden bridge to the second river crossing. This section runs directly parallel to the river and includes a fun cable assisted rock climb.
After getting past the rock climb, you’ll come to the remnants of a huge rockfall around 500m up the track. Looking up and across the river, you’ll be able to see a ridge that leads all the way up to the Western Bluff Track. It looks massive and it is. The second big climb for the day and this one’s going to be tougher than the last!
Note: If you’re not confident at this stage of the hike, you can continue along the main trail to where you first crossed the river, and get back to the starting point the same way you came. If in doubt, play it safe.
SECTION FOUR: WERRIBEE RIVER TO WESTERN BLUFF TRACK
After crossing the river you should be able to pick up a light trail right on the ridge line. Note, this ridge gets pretty narrow in sections so take it easy. The views from this section of the walk are some of the best of the day, so leave yourself plenty of time to appreciate just how awesome the Werribee Gorge is!
You can feel a little unsure on this off-trail section so it’s a welcome relief when you pick up the odd marker or worn trail. Rest assured that by heading up in this direction you’re going to get to the top eventually. There are some absolute ripper views back over the Werribee Gorge as you get nearer the top, so if there’s time left in the day, take a minute to rest the legs before a final push to the finish.
SECTION FIVE: WESTERN BLUFF TRACK TO IRONBARK GORGE CAR PARK
After meeting up with the well marked Western Bluff Track near the top of the ridge, it’s only a further 700m to the main road. You pop back out at the Western Bluff Track car park near the railway crossing. From here it’s an easy 400m back to car. You beaut.
HOW TO GET TO IRONBARK GORGE CAR PARK
To access the starting point of the Werribee Gorge Walk Adventure Edition you need to get to Ironbark Gorge car park on the western side of Werribee Gorge. It’s a 70 km drive north west of Melbourne, and the easiest route is to take the M1 west before turning right onto the M8, or Western Freeway, and follow that out to Bacchus Marsh. If planning on walking the standard circuit, continue on the Western Freeway to reach the access roads on the eastern side, the rest of us need to turn off on Bacchus Marsh Rd. Ironbark Gorge car park is easy to find from this point using Google maps and there are no issues with reception. You will hit a dirt road as you near the car park, but it’s suitable for all vehicles. Enjoy!