Trail Notes – Lerderderg Trail, Vic

Trail Snapshot:

The Lerderderg Trail (LT) is a feeder track to the Great Divide Trail, winding between Daylesford and Bacchus Marsh through a variety of landscapes across the Central Victorian Uplands. In completing this hike, you’ll traverse through dry woodland and wet forests, along often sharp ridge lines and through denser vegetated gullies, with various side trips available to the Lerderderg Gorge and River. Six major headwaters begin in the park – including the Werribee, Lerderderg, Maribyrnong and Campaspe – whilst the surrounding bush is home to threatened and endangered species including the Powerful Owl and the Greater Glider, along with internationally rare plants including the Wombat Leafless Bossiaea.

Trail Stats:

Length: ~90km, taking 3+ days to complete.
Camping: There are camping options including the Lerderderg Campground and dispersed camping. The hike is approximately split 50/50 distance wise between Daylesford/ Blackwood/ Bacchus Marsh, with each town having private camping and other accommodation options.
Map: The LT is a feeder track of the Great Divide Trail, which has had maps for sale in the past as well as .gps files to download. There is the Wombat State Forest map, by Meridian Maps  (Scale 1:50,000). This covers most of Lerderderg State Park as well. Maps are available online, and at the Daylesford Information Centre (as of November 2019).
Distance to capital city: ~60 km north-west of Melbourne, ~1 hour drive.
Areas of interest: (The Proposed) Wombat Lerderderg National Park.

The Canopy Shade: 

Forest walking is special, and so unlike coastal or alpine treks. When the track and your footsteps are 20-40+ meters below the canopy for days on end, and there’s minimal ‘vistas’, you’re inclined to interact with the landscape around you on a completely different platform. Does the bush close in around us? Or is it our opportunity to look closer at the lower stories – those area’s usually blocked by the canopy when viewed from a lookout – to see what they’re all about??

The Wombat and Lerderderg patches the LT stretches through are diverse. The scenery shifts from dry ridge-line forests of stunted eucalypts growing in the lime or yellow coloured rocky soil, to relatively dense lines of bush within a chains distance of water courses, with ever taller mountain ash and juxtaposing blackwoods putting on bulk in their post-logging respite.

Once the cooler and wetter portion of the year has passed, the wildflowers explode in exceptional ways – especially on the Whiskey Track leg of the hike. Heaths, orchids, and grass trees paint the bush with new growth that comes in a whole spectrum of native colours. Along the creeks and rivers that flow freely through the forest, ferns shoot up brilliant crisp green fronds to power them through the summer.

Highlight: Excepting at Mt Blackwood and towards the LT’s southern terminus in the Lerderderg State Park, you’re in the scattered shade of the forest. Watch for changes in the vegetation, and the shifts in species that call these different areas home. Wetter gullies are home to energetic robins and fantails (some of them migrating from interstate), the blackwoods are preferred roosting sites for vulnerable powerful owls (the largest Australian owl), whilst the open river areas are alive with various honeyeater species darting amongst the foliage.

Future Proofing:

“The central western forests have incredible natural value”. But what does their future look like?

Our hiking community values the foresight of national park protection in our backyard. These areas of evolutionary variety, high biodiversity, and nationally spectacular landscapes deserve a strong legacy of protection. Places where we enjoy extensive hiking and long distance trails – the Prom, the Alps, the Otways – all have a strong history of protection and Victorian foresight, that have allowed the bush the sanctuary it needs to thrive, in turn creating the renowned hiking we know and love!

Yet as biodiversity continues to decline, habitats become more stressed, species become more threatened and the climate crisis escalates, action is needed. It has been almost a decade since the last major additions to our national parks system in Victoria. The areas of high biodiversity are best prepared to face future threats, and national park protection offers them sanctuary to do so.

National parks are great for people and nature. Whilst those reading this won’t see massive trees in Wombat Lerderderg National Park as grand as they were pre-colonisation, future generations will be able to. It is a legacy for future generations, and a sign of real leadership on nature conservation.

Take Action: For years the Victorian National Parks Association, along with local community, has been calling for these important areas of central western forest to be protected within new national parks. They, along with folk from all around the state, are calling on the Victorian Government to step up in protection for nature across Victoria – our National Parks, forests, grasslands, rivers, beaches, oceans, native plants and animals deserve it. RSVP to the “Nature for Life Rally” on Thursday November 28th today!

On the Trail:

It’s so special having a multi-day hike within such close vicinity to Melbourne, and one that’s easily accessible by public transport too (train and coach to Daylesford; train to Bacchus Marsh). Weekends do welcome more day hikers, but it’s not a very well known trail so far as multi-day hikes go, and during the week it isn’t frequented by many people at all.

The LT experience is different from other multi-day hikes in Victoria. The trail on the Wombat State Forest side is shared almost exclusively with 4WDs and motorbikes, and what trail is dedicated to walking only is used by motorbikes anyway. As such, it’s in poor condition through this section which deducts from walking experience (although it is very well marked by signposts). The Lerderderg section features more walking only sections, which do traverse some of the ‘wilder’ bush so close to Melbourne. There’s areas of the Lerderderg valley which look and, owing to the lack of water on the top of ridge lines, feel super wild and remote!

Existing trail notes and maps exist (physical and online) that follow the ‘old’ route of the LT, which travels through the western portion of Lerderderg, rather than the present marked route which leaves the park and follows the Greendale Trentham Road (November ’19). The ‘old’ route is far more enjoyable, although not as well sign posted – be sure to take appropriate navigational steps.

View the full collection of images from the proposed Wombat Lerderderg National Park, here.

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The Lerderderg Trail, and the potential National/State Parks & Forests from where these photos were taken, is the traditional country of the Wurundjeri and Wathaurung people. I respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Owners of these lands and waters on which I was able to traverse, learn, and appreciate – and pay respect to the First Nations Peoples and their elders, past, present and future.