After my successful foray into Australia’s Great Outdoors with a hike in the Kosciuszko National Park, I was thrilled to discover a hidden gem not far from home. The Cathedral Range State Park is just two hours drive away and forms part of the Great Dividing Range.
With a clear mountain stream running through the 3577ha park it is an ideal spot to camp or to enjoy a picnic lunch. There are a number of walking tracks to enjoy, from the easy Friends Nature Trail through to the very hard Wells Cave Track for experienced climbers to ascend to Sugarloaf Peak.
We choose a combination of all three track gradings – easy, medium and hard. Setting off from the car park at Neds Gully, we take the Little River Track which is an easy half hour walk along the road and beside the river towards Cooks Mill camping area. As we pass through the manna gum forests along Saint Bernards Track it’s hard to believe that 92% of the park was decimated in the 2009 Black Saturday fires. Once we reach the Jawbone Carpark on Cerberus Road it is a quick descent down the stairs (I don’t count how many, but there is quite a few and I’m thankful to be going down, not up!) before the track climbs steeply up to The Farmyard. It is a fairly exhausting climb upwards and we are a little apprehensive about the next leg of of planned route as Saint Bernards and Jawbone are graded medium and the Ridge Track is hard.
Although the terrain is difficult, we enjoy scrabbling over the exposed rocky outcrops that form the ridge line between the Farmyard and Little Cathedral Peak. All the huffing and puffing pays off with magnificent views to both our left and right from the vantage points along the way. Perched atop boulders that sit precariously on the edge of the ridge for the requisite photo opportunity is exhilarating, but once the shot is taken we hurry back to the safety of the track!
The final leg of the hike on Neds Gully Track is quite a steep incline down from Neds Saddle back to the Carpark. It’s rather jarring on our, by now, tired legs but takes less than an hour to complete.
For more information visit www.parks.vic.gov.au