This is the third in our series of Great Circuits for Day Hiking and Trail Running Near Melbourne. These circuits are close enough to Melbourne to complete in a day trip by car, and offer awesome training opportunities in some lovely forest.
This 18 kilometre circuit in the Cathedral Range State Park includes a tough traverse of the range’s rugged and spectacular ridge line, as well as some easy travel on lovely foot pads through diverse forest. The drive from Melbourne includes a 30 kilometre stretch through the breathtaking forest of the Black Spur Drive, which winds through the Yarra Ranges between Healesville and Narbethong.
The majority of the traverse along the ridge involves clambering and scrambling over its rock features. This is fantastic if you’re focussing on developing proprioception and strengthening the small muscle groups, but it’s not such a great choice if you’re looking to stride it out and clock up some quick kilometres. The entire route is well marked and well signposted, although the signposting could benefit from some distances to supplement the very subjective travel times given.
Route: The Cathedral Skyline Circuit
Distance: 18 kilometres
Elevation Gain: 985 metres
The route starts at Cooks Mill, near the intersection of Tweed Spur Road and Little River Road. Head south along Tweed Spur Road for about 1.5 kilometres, where you’ll reach the start of Messmate Track. This track climbs steadily through the attractive messmate forest, gaining a bit over 300 metres along its two and a half kilometre length before reaching Sugarloaf Saddle.
From here you climb steeply, gaining almost 200 metres over the kilometre to Sugarloaf Peak. The rock is steep enough to require some scrambling using your hands and feet in sections. There is also an alternative, more adventurous, route along Wells Cave Track, which involves a squeeze through the passage of Wells Cave, followed by climbing on sections of steep rock to reach the peak. Sugarloaf Peak offers great 360 degree views of the forest and surrounding ranges.
The next two and a half kilometres along the Razorback Track to The Farmyard involves a lot of clambering and scrambling over rock. Following this, the four kilometre section from The Farmyard along the Ridge Track has a little less scrambling and clambering, but still involves a lot of rock hopping. Continue north along the Ridge Track past the intersection with Cathedral Peak Track to climb over The Cathedral and North Cathedral Peak and drop down to the intersection with Little Cathedral Track. The side trip to Little Cathedral offers pleasant views to the north of the range.
From the intersection it’s a bit over a kilometre contouring south back around the hill before climbing to Ned’s Saddle. Watch your step here as parts of the track have eroded and dropped away on the hill’s steep sides. From Neds Saddle the route follows a well formed trail for about two kilometres back down to Neds Gully which, although still a bit steep and slippery in parts, offers quite a bit of relief from the previous eight and a half kilometres of rock hopping.
The last section of the route follows Little River Track for around three kilometres from Neds Gully back to Cooks Mill. The first part of this track is quite beautiful, Little River itself is gorgeous and the track meanders through some lush forest, although the traffic on Little River Road is never far away and quite audible. The track then pops out on the side of a plantation area, which at the time of writing had been recently cleared. Although in itself quite unattractive, the clearing affords some good views of the back of the range on the final stretch back to Cooks Mill.
This great circuit traverses one of the most spectacular ridges near Melbourne and passes some beautiful forest en route. Even though it’s of moderate distance, the trail is tough and demanding due to the rugged and rocky landscape. The gorgeous drive along the Black Spur completes the package, making this a really worthwhile outing.