WErribee Gorge Circuit
Werribee Gorge State Park
Quarry Rd Picnic Area
Directions - Located an hour from Melbourne, take the Western Fwy (M8) west until you reach the Mortons Rd exit. Turn right and then left onto Pentlands Hill Rd. Follow this until you see the Werribee Gorge signs on Myers Rd and continue on to the picnic area.
The Hike - With a three week holiday booked to spend some time in Tasmania and Victoria, I of course saw an opportunity to get a cheeky hike in. Returning to lovely Daylesford for a few days before heading to Tasmania to do the Three Capes with Caris' aunt and uncle, I started researching nearby hikes that looked interesting. Having already completed the Tipperary Track on a previous visit in 2015 I cast my net a little wider and set my sights on one of Victoria's best day hikes in Werribee Gorge. With a good mix of great views, river walking and a fun ledge scramble, I settled on this hike so just had to set a date to get out there.
In the end I visited on my own as Caris wasn't sure a day hike so close to the Three Capes would be a good idea and Candy and Hal had other commitments on the only morning it made sense to go out. With some lovely gloomy weather hanging around Daylesford during our stay, I woke up to more of the same and figured I would be capturing some moody scenes at Werribee Gorge. Borrowing the Holden ute that Candy and Hal had kindly lent me I drove out of town and towards the Western Freeway. Once I was south of the Wombat State Forest the weather cleared and it was mostly sunny for the rest of the day. Google directed me there perfectly and I decided to start at the Quarry Rd site because it was the first one I found and it seemed like a good idea. Having read a few blog posts and guide books before my visit, I decided that tackling the "least interesting" bits first would make for a better hike overall. Although this would be better achieved by starting further down at the Meikles Point Car Park, I feel the way I took balances out the climb you would have to undertake starting lower down at Meikles.
Immediately getting into the climb, you walk up the hill from the car park and are popped out onto Myers Rd. I was hoping that road walking didn't play a big part of the day and thankfully there are a set of markers on a post not too far along pointing you back onto a trail. Having not hiked since finishing a seven day stretch on the Bibbulmun Track just under a month ago, the first hill had the blood pumping and was a good way to get the legs working again. There are a few information boards along the trail telling you about the flora and fauna or the local history and I had a chuckle at the first one as it pointed out that echidnas can be found in the area. Long time TLoP readers will understand why I had a chuckle as the echidna has been my white whale over the past few years, having never spotted one in the wild.
My bad luck continued with no spiky bush fluffs showing their faces as I hiked on to the first highlight of the day, the eastern lookout. A rocky section on the edge of the forest, marvel at the views provided of the surrounding farmland. With a few clouds hanging around this made for an idyllic picture although this was just a taster of what was to come. Spotting some pig face that was just coming into flower, the trail follows a rocky 4x4 track up to the highest point on the hike. With not a lot of ground cover you can appreciate the quirky angles and umbrella shapes of the eucalypts. Coming up over the hill and onto a more defined ridge you get views of the river valley and the hills on the western side. You get a real close up opportunity to view the steep cliffs as you approach them from a little side path. The extent of the drop isn't apparent straight away as the cliff edge is covered in plants and bushes but then you peer over the edge and the trees at the bottom of the valley look like seedlings and Needles Beach looks like a small puddle.
It's no real surprise to find out that several people have died here over the years as there isn't much stopping you from falling off the edge if you slip. Keen to explore the ridge I continued on and wound around the rocky path towards the western lookout. This was one of the most enjoyable parts of the walk with a sense that the great views were close but not wanting to rush and miss something. Reaching the western lookout you spot a large cairn that is a nice feature to have in the foreground of your photos. The views here looking north and west are the best of the hike with rolling hills of forest and farmland contrasting nicely against the blue skies. Almost pyramid in shape, you can see that these ancient hills have been carved out over the eons by the river below.