If you live in Melbourne, there’s every chance you will have heard of the Dandenong Ranges.
Known for its many cafes, restaurants, spectacular views, amazing wildlife, and many trails, it’s a place that many flock to every weekend – including outdoor adventurers.
And with those sorts of people in mind, we have come up with an adventurers guide to some of the places we think are worth hiking in the Dandenongs i.e. that aren’t the 1000 steps!
Hiking in the Dandenongs
Not far from the popular Glasgow Track, the Mount Dandenong Trail (which are calling it) starts at the base of the mountain in the Doongalla Forest and climbs all the way up to Burkes Reserve.
It involves three steep inclines as you make your way to the top and, best of all, you’ll avoid all the crowds that are hiking the Glasgow Track.
Once you get to the top, you’ll have all the views of the city (on a clear day, of course) and you’ll be able to make your way around Kyeema Track to Burkes Lookout to get an even better view of the city.
At roughly 9kms and relatively difficult, this isn’t easy hiking in the Dandenongs, so we’d recommend it to those who are comfortable with hills and have a decent level of fitness.
Start and Finish: Corner of Pavitt Lane and Sheffield Road.
Located not far from the Mount Dandenong Trail, the Sassafras Circuit is one of those hikes that you’ve probably driven past a million times on your way through the area but never knew was there.
A fraction under 4kms, and with only one serious hill to really contend with, this is absolutely a beginners hike that is typical of what you would find when hiking in the Dandenongs: lots of ferns and lots of Mountain Ash.
Start and Finish: Car park on the corner of Mountain Highway and Old Coach Road.
Another hike in the Dandenongs geared towards beginners, this 8km trail wanders through quite possibly the most picturesque location in the area.
A fairly well-formed path that cuts its way through the western side of the forest, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the Sherbrooke Falls mid-way through your adventure.
There are a couple of spots you can start this from, but most will start it from the Sherbrooke Picnic Ground where there is a decent car park and toilet block available.
Be sure to keep your eye out for a lyrebird as they are notorious for being seen whilst hiking in the Dandenongs.
Whilst it does have a reasonable hill to climb at the three-quarter mark, we still reckon it’s suitable for beginner hikers.
Furthermore, it’s a good one for parents and kids as you can modify it to make a shorter 4km return hike from the car park to the falls.
And on the eastern side of the Sherbrooke Forest lies – you guessed it – the Eastern Sherbrooke Forest Walk.
Somewhat similar to its sister hike on the western side of the forest, it follows a well-formed path that has very few obstacles to navigate save for one decent old hill that will at least offer you a challenge.
We’d probably recommend starting and finishing this near-on 7km hike at Grant’s Picnic Ground; at the very least you’ll have a coffee/drink/tasty treat waiting for you at the end (the pumpkin soup is amazing!).
We’d also recommend doing this hike in an anti-clockwise manner so you can really give yourself a challenge as you make your way up “that” hill.
There is so much more to hiking in the Dandenongs than taking a trip to the 1000 Steps and we reckon you’ll find plenty of alternatives in the RJ Hamer Arboretum in Olinda.
And we reckon you won’t find a better alternative than the Olinda Falls & Valley Circuit.
This is a fairly long-ish hike at almost 16kms but takes in an ever-changing scenery that includes Olinda Falls, Valley Picnic Ground, and the Woolrich Lookout.
Depending on the pace at which you walk, we’d recommend giving yourself 4.5-5.5 hours to complete this Grade 3 hike.
We’d say that you’ll find the going a lot easier from Woolrich Lookout to Olinda Falls, but once you come back into the forest and head south to the trailhead, there are plenty of hills that will almost certainly slow you down – including one decent hill right before the end.
Start & Finish: Woolrich Lookout Car Park, Olinda.
One of the great things about hiking in the Dandenongs, especially in the RJ Hamer Arboretum, is that there are tracks within tracks.
If the 15kms of the Olinda Falls and Valley Circuit doesn’t appeal to you, then an alternative might be the 7km Valley Picnic Ground to Olinda Falls Return trail.
It’s a fairly manageable hike where you get to explore both the Valley Picnic Ground and Olinda Falls, but without as many hills as the 15km version.
The great thing is that you still get that sense of isolation in the deepest sections of the forest as you’ll most likely not see anyone until you reach the falls.
We’d say those who have a reasonable level of fitness and some bushwalking experience would be more than capable of tackling this amazing adventure.
Start and Finish: Valley Picnic Ground, Dandenong Ranges National Park
If you’re a parent with small children and have no interest in the previous two mentioned hikes, but still want to get in some good hiking in the Dandenongs, then the Valley Picnic Ground to Eagles Nest Picnic Ground is for you.
A fairly easy 4km return trail, you can start it from either picnic ground as they both have a decent car park attached to them.
And to really extend it out, we’d recommend making a point of spending as much time as possible at Valley Picnic Ground as it is such a vast and picturesque place that you’ll kick yourself if you don’t.
Start and Finish: Valley Picnic Ground or Eagles Nest Picnic Ground
A stunning 9km track around Mount Dandenong, this hike takes in a number of highlights including the Kyeema Memorial, Sky High, and Burkes Lookout.
A well-formed path, that is also well-signed, you’ll not only get a good workout along Fireline Track, but you’ll be rewarded with stunning views from Burkes Lookout all the way into the city.
This walk can also be attempted from a number of different locations thus making it a really accessible hike in that regard and one that should be on everyone’s list when visiting the area.
Start and Finish: Multiple areas including Ridge Road opposite Falls Road, Sky High car park, Kyeema Track car park, and Eyre Road car park.
A hike that very few specifically drive out to the Dandenong Ranges to do, the Olinda Creek Walking Track Return hike is a fairly easy hike to do.
If you’re a beginner hiker or someone who doesn’t want to put much thought into where they hike, then this one is for you.
Starting and finishing at a makeshift car park across the road from the Silver Reservoir Picnic Ground, you will follow an easy path through the forest area before venturing out into wider paths to the Mount Evelyn Recreation Reserve and back again.
It should take you no more than a quarter or half a day to hike which means you can squeeze another shorter hike in or duck up to Olinda for something to eat and drink before you head home.
Start and Finish: At a makeshift car park across the road from the Silver Reservoir Picnic Ground.
Not to be confused with the track of the same name in Melbourne’s Botanical Gardens, the Tan Track in the Dandenong Ranges is an incredibly easy two-kilometre walk.
Located opposite the Sherbrooke Forest, the entire path is wide enough for multiple people to walk side by side.
Furthermore, it’s a good one for parents with little kids who might not be able to take them into the nearby Sherbrooke Forest.
Best of all, and if you have the time, you can duck into the Piggery Cafe at the halfway mark for a drink and something to eat if you really want to stretch out the walk.
Start and Finish: Ferny Creek Reserve. However, you could start it from other nearby spots but this seems the most logical.