The ski fields of Victoria’s North East have a secret passion: summer. When the snow melts and the mountains materialise, the fun is only beginning around the High Country. It’s a time for alpine hikes and trail runs, mountain bike rides, and lake and river paddles. In summer, these mountains – the highest in Victoria – truly shine.
Walk this way
Mountain hikes reach their literal pinnacle in the High Country. The Razorback Walk, stretching north from Mt Hotham to Mt Feathertop – Victoria’s second-highest but arguably most spectacular mountain – is one of Australia’s finest alpine hikes. The 22km return route sets out from Diamantina Hut, 2.5km before Hotham Village, and follows a narrow, craggy ridge to the lofty vantage point of 1922m Mt Feathertop.
Mt Hotham is also the finish post for the three-day, 37km Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing. A true exploration of the mountains, this hike combines high alpine ridges up to 2000m above sea level, snow gum stands, historic High Country huts and the namesake ski resorts at its either end. It’s unceasingly spectacular, with two campsites 14km apart along the route.
Mt Buller is also strung with walking trails, from a fun ‘Gnome Roam’ in which the kids can hunt out the mountain’s resident garden gnomes, to a two-hour Summit Nature Walk. Download the Mt Buller Walks app for ideas and interpretation along the trails.
Prefer a faster pace? The High Country peaks provide the sort of expansive views and cool climate that make them prime trail-running territory. On Mt Buller, step it out among the snow gums on the four-kilometre Gang Gangs Lazy Loop, or descend into sky-scraping mountain ash as you cross the Delatite River on log bridges on the 14-kilometre Delatite Drop from Mt Buller Village to Mirimbah.
Mt Hotham presents runners with the Cobungra Ditch, a near-level track beside an abandoned gold-mining water race, built in the 1880s, more than 1500 metres above sea level. If its 12.5 kilometres aren’t enough for your legs, branch away onto the Brabralung Trail, which connects Mt Hotham Village to Dinner Plain, to access a range of other tracks.
The High Country is The Man from Snowy River country, with much of the classic 1982 movie filmed on location, a cinematic connection that has helped make these mountains one of Australia’s top horse-riding destinations. Set out onto the slopes of Mt Stirling with McCormack’s Mountain Valley Trail Rides for a ride to Craig’s Hut, one of the most famous of the High Country’s many mountain huts. It was built as a set for The Man from Snowy River movie, and quickly acquired its own legendary status – it was even rebuilt in its classic style after being destroyed in a 2006 bushfire.
There’s fun on two wheels for everyone in the Victorian High Country
Victoria’s North East is Australia’s cycling heartland, and nowhere more so than around the mountains. Like big-name international ski resorts such as Whistler and Les Gets, the slopes of Mt Buller and Falls Creek transform into mountain bike trail networks in summer.
Mt Buller is Australia’s only accredited International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) Ride Centre, recognising the appeal of its 100 kilometres of trails to cyclists of all abilities. Rides range from fast and flowy sprints through the snow gums on Gang Gang, to the headlining Alpine Epic, which begins at the edge of Mt Buller Village, crosses to the slopes of Mt Stirling and makes one of Australia’s best descents to the foot of the mountain in Mirimbah. It’s 46km of bike brilliance along the only trail in the country to have been bestowed ‘Epic’ status by the IMBA.
Head to Falls Creek and you’ll find another 50km of mountain bike trails, including the well-named Flowtown, which links in with two other trails (High Voltage and Wishing Well) to form a fun and approachable 10km gravity ride that descends more than 500 metres. And when you’re done on the mountain tops, there are more mountain bike parks awaiting at Bright, Beechworth, Dinner Plain, Mt Beauty and Mansfield, with trails suited to all rider skill levels, from kids and beginners, through to expert.
Road cyclists have just as much to love in the High Country, with roads over the region’s mountains providing challenge and beauty in one. Pedal to the summit of Mt Buller or Mt Hotham, encouraged on by dedicated cycling road signs noting distances and gradients, or take on the mission of the 7 Peaks. This alpine challenge involves cycling to the tops of seven mountain roads – Mt Buller, Mt Buffalo, Mt Hotham, Dinner Plain, Falls Creek, Lake Mountain and the revered Mt Baw Baw with its 11.4 per cent average gradient. Do it over a week or across the course of several summers.
Flatter and gentler are the region’s collection of traffic-free rail trails: graze your way through the gourmet pickings of the Ovens Valley on the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail; cruise with the family towards the foot of Mt Buller on Victoria’s longest rail trail, the Great Victorian Rail Trail; or hug the shores of Lake Hume on the High Country Rail Trail.
Where the rivers run
Head to the valleys to take to the streams. Flowing through Bright, the Ovens River is a favourite swim spot for visitors and residents, but it’s also a versatile kayaking waterway, offering flat-water paddling and stretches of white-water. Bright Adventure Company paddling trips hit the waters in summer, when flows are low and the river slows into mellow pools and gentle rapids. There’s even the chance of a platypus sighting. There are other kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding opportunities in alpine lakes such as Rocky Valley Lake at Falls Creek and Lake Catani on Mt Buffalo.
Mt Buffalo also has some of Australia’s highest and most imposing cliffs framing The Gorge and providing a range of adventure activities. Take a step into the unknown on an abseiling trip, with options ranging from family adventures on cliffs up to 25m in height, to a day-long 300m ‘mega abseil’ on The Gorge’s North Wall.
Why not stay hanging off The Gorge’s cliffs with a picnic suspended in a porta-ledge with Bright Adventure Company, or even sleep out for a night in a porta-ledge hanging from the cliffs with Unleashed-Unlimited – it’s the world’s highest cliff camping experience.
For more information all things Victoria’s North East, see Victoria’s High Country