Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Warramate Hills Bushwalking and Hiking Guide

Steel Hill and Briarty Hill Bushwalk Guide

This beautiful micro-mountain range often catches people's eye as they drive along the Yarra Valley.  Its telecommunications tower glints in the evening sunlight and the hills cut a handsome profile from the south.  The wooded heights contain many grassy clearings, which means that walkers here can enjoy excellent views.  All around the base of the hills are creeks, frog-ponds, shady paths and of course, wineries by the dozen.  A fine destination for an afternoon walk at any time of year, save the hottest days of summer, when the range has occasionally caught fire...

Walk Distance: 10km return (11km with side-trip to Briarty Hill and Yarra River)

Walk details last checked: June 2021

Time: 3hours (brisk walking) to 4 hours (relaxed walking) for the return trip

Ascent: Starts at 125m above sea level and climbs to 422m at Briarty Hill

Difficulty:  Easy walk along 4WD tracks.  One short, somewhat steep ascent on grass up to the summit ridge is the only thing that might break your stride.

Map: VicMap Topographic T7922-1-2-2

Notes: No dogs are allowed, although this does not seem to stop people taking them in. 

This is also a potentially brilliant mountain bike location and used to be.  People have made some single track bike trails out in the bush around here, but riding off of the main track is banned at present.  Check with the group at Yarra Ranges Mountain Biking to see if there is any news as they are campaigning for access, although nothing much has happened for some long years.  You CAN ride up this walk and back.

There are no toilets or drinking water on the walk or at the start/finish.

Approach:  Drive along the Warburton Hwy to the small town of Coldstream.  Turn right here by the IGA Supermarket/Coldstream Pub into Killara Rd.  Follow this lane through the hamlet of Gruyere. About 5km from Gruyere, turn left into Yarraloch Way.  Park by the gate at the end of this road:

Amble down the track through roomy woods and grassy clearings.  The track veers right after 600m and descends to reach the Woori Yallock Creek. 

Follow this river north along the same rutted track.  After 600m you will see the track swings to the west and begins to climb.  You may see an old quarry funnel here:

If you feel like a brief diversion, you can wander north 100m from here down to the river bank and discover an idyllic meadow where the creek joins the Yarra River.  It looks like a fisherman's paradise, and is home to a family of wombats as well.

Wombat holes at the Yarra River junction

Back on route, you climb steadily past a shallow old shale quarry on the left to arrive at a mini-saddle area known as Twitten's Corner:

Twitten's Corner

The walk used to try and zig-zag around through the vineyard gates further along the path, but these are covered with 'Keep Out' signs now and so you will have to head up the grassy track shown in the picture above instead.  This is better actually, anyway.

Wide views quickly open up of the vineyards, farms and mountains below.

Mt St Leonard from above Twitten's Corner
After 250m you will join the 4WD track that runs along the summit ridge of the hills.  Take note of this point for when you return.

The rest of the hike is a simple stroll along the track through dryer messmate forest to Steel Hill, a partly open and grassy hill with some nice views.

You will pass through a gate and shortly afterwards see the track divide in two.  The NW branch is less-used and leads to Steel Hill, our destination.  You may wish to detour along the West path as well to tick off the highest point on the range at Briarty Hill.  Unfortunately, there is no view from this one, just a telephone tower.

Returning down the summit ridge 4wd track

After a snack at Steel Hill, it's just a case of easily rambling downhill along the approach route.  Back in Coldstream, I can recommend a stop at the excellent micro-brewery there if you enjoy your ales:

Coldstream Pub - recommended!

Further Information:  It is hard to find out about this area.  Considering it is a Reserve, this is quite surprising.  In theory, you could shorten the walk by approaching from the north along Range Rd, but at the time of writing the access gate gate was plastered with hostile signs saying the area was Private, out of Bounds, Banned to the Public etc.   Other tracks on the map appraoching from the south west look good but appear private as well.

There is a good webpage by Bob Padula here: http://www.worldisround.com/articles/345194/text.html but note that the walk has changed a bit because it's illegal to go through the vineyard gate.

There is a handy little bit of history here:  http://mbw.org.au/mbw_activities/MBW_tripnote.php?tripid=2004110401

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