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Walking the Northern Grampians Peaks Trail – one year after opening

In November 2022 after months of planning and frantic campsite booking to capture that elusive Cup Weekend spot I set off to walk the northern section of the Grampians Peaks Trail (GPT) with a group of friends. The trip which was almost exactly a year after the trail first opened was an exciting opportunity to see one of the best new walks in the country.

This 4 day adventure in the northern Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park had a bit of everything including sunny days, gushing waterfalls, rolling thunderstorms, windy peaks, emergency rescues and stunning views.

Day one – Mount Zero Picnic Ground to Barigar Hike-in Campground

As soon as we found our bearing and set off we were immediately met with a climb up some of the distinctive Grampians rocky ground which would be a feature of our walk. As we followed the first few kilometres of the trail we passed by several rock climbing sites continuing our climb towards Mount Stapylton which was the first major waypoint of our first day.

As we climbed up to the mountain we encountered a rock which looked like a bird but the rumbles of bad weather started to overshadow this sight as the clouds rolled in. After summiting Mount Stapylton we sat down for a typical hiking lunch of wraps with a bit of cheese and salami. One of these fillings, a dry aged Dutch Gouda (selected for being the hardest cheese in the supermarket) was possibly the best cheese I have ever eaten and it’s fair to say it improved the spirits of the group greatly.

Not long after we packed up lunch and made our final push towards Barigar the rain started to hit us in waves. We crossed creeks and passed by a water tank before reaching a stunning, free flowing waterfall just outside the campsite. We arrived in the park after several months of heavy continuous rain which has made almost every creek and waterfall in the park reach capacity meaning our trip was all that bit more beautiful.

Just a few hundred metres further down the track we reached the campground which included camping platforms, a fantastic group shelter and a water tank for us to refill our bottles. Before some of us started to head to bed for the big day ahead we made some truly delicious hiking tacos which I will definitely be repeating in future.

Some of us who weren’t too tired decided to stay up. We first went off and did a short night walk, climbing some rocks and enjoying the sunset. When we got back we joined a game of cards with some of the other hikers on the trail with us who we really enjoyed chatting with.

Day two – Barigar Hike-in Campground to Gar Hike-in Campground

This day started early as we had quite a bit of climbing ahead, the walk was relatively flat through a wonderland of giant mushrooms and along the top of a ridge line which looked below to the valley. It wasn’t long until we reached the Gar Trailhead where the climb began and along the way we were met with increasingly beautiful waterfalls, each one bigger than the last.

As we passed by each waterfall we took a moment to cool down and enjoy the refreshing mist that surrounded the area. The trail was made of large rocky steps all the way up from the falls and at times felt almost endless but we kept climbing with the goal of having lunch when we arrived at the campsite pushing us.

The trail which followed any natural path it could was something beyond beautiful. As you walked on this day you started to feel part of the landscape with the views becoming better and better as we climbed. It wasn’t long before we could see all the way back to where we started on the first day and this gave the entire group a feeling of accomplishment.

After a final push up the rocky path which precedes the campsite we arrived around 2 in the afternoon. We sat down for a good lunch, set up camp and watched the storms roll in from the comfort of the chairs at Gar Campground. Though we had already reached the camp this day was far from over with quite an eventful night ahead.

The storm hit in the late afternoon bringing a heavy rainband with it but that wasn’t enough to stop almost our entire group from summiting Mount Difficult (Gar) which sits adjacent from the campground. Shortly after they returned it was discovered that a hiking partner had left the other person in their group behind and they had unknowingly broken their leg 30 min away from the camp.

The helicopter was called and people went out to try get her out of the storm which was battering the camp. A few hours later, just before sunset, we decided to head back to gar to watch the sunset while the rain was holding back. While we were there the helicopter arrived and we watched and it flew directly over us.

The wind on top of the mountain was so strong you couldn’t hear anyone else and this left you alone even while you were with others. Up there you had perfectly clear views of the entire surrounding area and we took quite some time up there enjoying the beauty of the Grampians. Just after the sun went down we headed back to the campsite and decided to get an early night for another big day tomorrow.

Day three – Gar Hike-in Campground to Werdug Hike-in Campground

This morning we got up bright and early ready to set off before the heavy rain hit us really hard. Overnight we had slept through a huge thunderstorm which hit just as I was trying to get to sleep.

Because we summited Mount Difficult (Gar) twice on the day before we decided to give it a pass today and keep moving towards Werdug. Along the trail we were all by ourselves, unlike days prior which we had seen many other groups and day walkers with us.

The wet ground makes the Grampians an even harder climb as a majority of the trail is on exposed rock face with few places to get a footing. As we walked, we slipped, stumbled and slid but we kept pushing trying to beat the 10-15mm forecast for later that afternoon.

Along the way we were met with what looked like to be a regular dip in the rock face but turned out to be a near hundred metre drop directly off the trail. Unfortunately the view would have to be imagined as fog clouded anything more than a few hundred metres in front of us but it wasn’t long before we set off again.

This day, the longest in length, was always going to be difficult but as we pushed on we wondered when we would reach the campsite. Unlike previous days where we had reached the campsite early, this day kept on going around bend after bend. Along the way we stopped for lunch and then kept on moving until reaching the campsite in the mid-afternoon.

It turned out we had beaten every other group by about 4 hours leaving us at first with a little bit of freedom and then a tinge of concern before we saw them roll into the campsite. That night we went for another night walk to see lake Wartook before making dinner which was Mi Goreng Noodles with real eggs from an egg carrier. This was exactly the filling meal we needed before an early night ahead of our final day on the trail.

Day four – Werdug Hike-in Campground to Halls Gap Village

We woke up for our final day of walking and quickly packed up all of our gear. Our goal was to reach Halls Gap Village by lunch time where we would get our ride home so setting off early was a must. For breakfast we ate just about anything left in our packs including a full box of Vita Wheats before saying our goodbyes to our fellow hikers we had shared the trail with and then heading off.

The trail climbed for the first part of the day to reach Lake Wartook Lookout (829m) which usually has great views but for us we were left with the foggy abyss and a shower of sleet. For the group, the main attraction was a yellow worm we discovered along the track which is called a Canary Worm. Alongside their bright yellow outside, a distinct brown tinge can be found at their mouth and they love the wet making this trip the perfect timing to stop one.

After we were done enjoying the wet and windy sights of the lookout we started to descend towards Halls Gap, down too many flights of steps and not enough mini waterfalls along the way. After this large section of stone steps we reached a clearing where the path became much easier on the knees. This was also where we spotted some Mountain Goats which had inhabited the area and gave us a little bit of a surprise.

It wasn’t long before we were on the final straight of our journey and we knew this because the number of day walkers we were encountering was rapidly increasing. One of the final highlights of the walk was just before we finished at the stunning Clematis Falls which after a good amount of rain before we arrived was flowing freely. This amazing sight was a great way to round off this four day adventure that has undoubtedly had a bit of everything.

1.5 KMs later we rolled into Halls Gap Village ready for a pit stop at the local café before the three and a half hour drive back home to Melbourne.

Written by Josh Welch



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