Why I Avoid The 1,000 Steps When Hiking

If like me, you happen to live in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, you would be well aware of the 1000 Steps (aka the Kokoda Memorial Walk) located at the foot of the Dandenongs in Ferntree Gully.

People from near and far flock to this iconic Melbourne location on a regular basis, and, for the most part, it serves its purpose.

However, given its popularity, it is constantly overrun with people of varying fitness levels, who also feel the need to park illegally on the nearby Mount Dandenong Tourist Road.

Did I also mention that it’s not even 1000 Steps? At last count, I believe it was somewhere between 700 and 800 steps.

I’ve done the steps a few times, but once I got into hiking I quickly realised that while it could be useful for training and to get fit for future hikes, it was largely a nightmare for the reasons above and more.

Something that has bothered me for some time is why do the Steps get all the love and not some of the other more picturesque and far more rewarding walks/hikes in the Dandenongs?

Are people not aware of these other walks? Do they simply want to be seen doing something popular?

What I am sure of is that there are several other walks/walking areas that are far more rewarding than the 1,000 Steps. And here they are in no particular order.

R.J. Hamer Arboretum, Olinda

Located in the popular town of Olinda, the Arboretum contains a number of walks that lead through dense bushland to other popular areas such as the Olinda Falls and the Silvan Dam picnic ground.

You can enter the Arboretum at a number of locations, however, I prefer to start and end my hikes from Woolrich Lookout on Chalet Road.

You can see right over the top from the lookout area and off into the distance. On a clear, sunny day, this is a great way to start and end your hike.

Sherbrooke Forest

1000 steps

Not too far from the 1000 Steps is the Sherbrooke Forest. While it’s not as big as the Arboretum, it does have many trails in it that you can hike and create a circuit from.

In the middle of the forest, there’s a small bridge overlooking the Sherbrooke Falls, and there are two picnic grounds – O’Donohue Picnic Ground and Sherbrooke Picnic Ground.

It’s a popular area given the short tracks and beautiful scenery, and the circuit I typically walk is around 8kms.

Mt Dandenong Transmission Towers’ Trail

western slopes hiking track

This is not an official track and certainly isn’t for those looking for an easy hike. Located south of another popular trail, The Glasgow Track, the Mount Dandenong Transmission Towers trail is an uphill slog to the top of the mountain where the transmission towers are located.

Upon arrival, you are rewarded with a fantastic view of the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. On a clear day, you can see the city.

Western Slopes Hiking Track – Mount Dandenong

western slopes hiking track

Finally, another great option in the area is the Western Slopes Hiking Track at Mount Dandenong itself.

A solid 9-11km track (depending on which side trails you take), this will give you a really good workout with some lasting gradual ascents & descents to conquer.

And best of all the view from Burkes Lookout at about the halfway mark is absolutely sensational.

In fact, much like the Mount Dandenong Transmission Tower trail, if you hike there on a clear day you can see into the city of Melbourne from the lookout.

Have you been hiking in the Dandenongs before? Are there any other places I may have missed that you love? Feel free to share them in the comments section below.


19 Responses
  1. Hi John I love your site! Can’t agree more regarding the 1000 steps, a fabulous walk destroyed somewhat. I’ve put together a site specifically on hikes in the Dandenongs, explorethedandenongs.com.au also an eBook on the walks, over 30 listed. I shall be getting g onto some of the hikes that you have listed in other areas too though!

    1. John Feeney

      Hi Jane! Great to hear from you and thanks for taking the time to read my blog article. I constantly drive past the Steps and see so many people and their cars and always say to myself ‘but there are so many other better spots!’. Even if they aren’t regular hikers and want to go for a walk on a weekend. And, if they really want a challenge, the Transmission Towers trail will give them a good workout.

      Love what you are doing with your website and your Ebook. I think that is such a useful tool for people coming to the Dandenongs who don’t necessarily want to put with the crowds that come with the Steps.

      I think I’m going to set myself a personal challenge to every trail in your Ebook.

      1. Thanks John, tell me when you finish all the walks! I have to add the loop right around Sherbrooke forest too… Let me know if you find any errors in my notes!

        1. John Feeney

          I certainly will! I’ve just done a blog on the loop of the forest. If you have a second, check it out.

          If you’re ever keen for a hike in the Dandenongs some time, let me know. I love getting out and hiking with like-minded people.

  2. Bridgeen

    I can’t stand the steps!
    Another great walk I love is from Birdsland in Belgrave to Lysterfield Lake Park!
    Very nice.
    Great write up John!

    1. John Feeney

      Sorry for the late reply, Bridgeen. Will have to check out that trail some time I reckon. Thanks for the tip and I’m glad you enjoyed the article 🙂

  3. Adrian

    The other side of Mt Dandenong/Kalorama have some good hills as well. Start at Mt Evelyn recreation reserve, walk up the Tramway track and go from there.

    Wols, Melba, alpine, angle tracks all fairly descent hills to go on. Easy to turn into a 10-12km loop, or keep going up to either Sky High (via cascade/mechanics track) or Olinda (via George’s/KC and RJ Hamer Arboretum).

    If your feeling particularly keen you can use the tracks from Ridge Rd Olinda all the way back to the 1000 steps.

    1. John Feeney

      Sounds like you’re a very knowledgeable local, Adrian. I love the Arboretum. It’s probably one of my favourite places. All your suggestions are by far and away so much better than the steps. Thanks for reading 🙂

  4. Ken

    I enjoyed the 1000 steps but it was rather crowded. One reason I picked it when I was in Melbourne was that it was fairly obvious how to access by public transport. What Melbourne definitely needs is more information on walks that are accessible and how to get to the start/finish especially on a Sunday when transport is less available. Sydney is much easier because many of the walks are near to the rail lines.

  5. Andrea

    I did the 1000 Steps in 2009. It was o.k as it wasn’t very well known at that time. I didn’t do it again until last week. It was horrible! People everywhere, taking selfies, pushing others out of the way in their quest to set a new PB. Cars, people, noise. Ugh! In contrast, I LOVE the trails throughout the Dandenongs. I have only got into trail hiking recently so am still exploring all the wonderful trails up there. Fresh air, peace and tranquility. You can’t even compare the two; the trails win hands down.

    1. John Feeney

      Yep the traffic and crowds are what does my head in, Andrea. If you were to go to the RJ Hamer Arboretum in Olinda, the most traffic you would get would be at Woolrich Lookout and that’s because the car park is there. Once you get into the forest, you rarely see anyone. Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I really appreciate it.

  6. The Arboretum is absolutely my favourite walk, particularly in the autumn when some of the trees are changing colour. We rarely encounter anyone there as most people do a super fast loop and don’t even get into the trails properly. I haven’t even visited the 1000 steps, crowded hikes are not for me!

    1. John Feeney

      There is so much to do in the Arboretum, Oceana. In no way, shape or form am I dismissing the cultural significance of the Steps. It’s just that I see/hear about so many people going there to train for multi-day hikes that I reckon it’s worth bringing places like the Arboretum to their attention.

  7. Wayne Cerry

    Hi John, I also try and avoid the 1000 steps but what my mate and I now do is a walk that we have called Station to Station(mate is a Bowie fan and that was one of his albums) Start at UFTG station walk up the 1000 steps and then to Ferny creek. When you reach the Tourist road there is a trail that leads up to O’Donohue’s Picnic graund. From there you pickup the Clematis track and walk down to Grants Picnic ground. Once at Grant’s turn left and take the track around the forrest. When you get to the houses you follow them down to Micawber tavern turn left and walk to Belgrave train station and catch the next train back to UFTG station. It is 17klm long and takes anywhere between 3 and 4 hours. Hope you enjoy this one.

    1. John Feeney

      Hey Wayne!

      Funnily enough, I did something very similar a couple of years ago! But yes sounds like a great walk, mate. Thanks for having a read of the article and taking the time to respond.


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