The Cathedral Ranges are a beautiful mountain range, providing stunning scenery all an easy daytrip from Melbourne. As a Melbournian who works in the city on weekdays, I try as often as possible to venture beyond Melbourne and see something new, and this time it was the Cathedral Ranges turn! Autumn is arguably the best month for exploring around Melbourne as the weather is mild, crowds aren’t as thick (or at all) and best of all, you won’t overheat!
WHICH HIKE TO DO
It’s really important to pick a good day to go hiking. The Cathedral Ranges are a rocky area and weather could make some tracks potentially dangerous. If it has been raining, I would avoid the Sugarloaf Saddle area completely (which is the area I am writing about in this post) and give it a few days to dry up before attempting to hike. This is to ensure you are safe and won’t slip. If it has been raining, there are plenty of other tracks in the National Park.
I picked my hike based on my fitness and what I wanted to see. I wanted to get to the peak and do something challenging. I ended up taking one of the hardest tracks in the national park. The Wells Cave track is rated ‘Very Hard’ and states 30 minutes in length (lies!!). The track is not long, however it is challenging. As you can see below on the map, there are plenty of tracks to choose from in the Cathedral Ranges national park and multiple ways up to each peak. If you want to find more information about all the varying tracks check here >>>
(Purple – Wells Cave, Pink – Canyon Track)
WELLS CAVE TRACK
If you’re reading this because you are interested in doing the Wells Cave track, you’re doing the right thing. One should not attempt the Wells Cave track without knowing what lies ahead as it can be dangerous. The views are oh so worth it though.
To begin, the Wells Cave track is ascent only. To make it crystal clear, you can only hike up this track. You absolutely cannot go down this track. I don’t intend to scare anyone off, however this is a challenging and physical track. It can require you to be on your hands and knees, with upper arm strength to pull yourself up as you will need to climb up a series of rockfaces and cliffs.
Starting at Sugarloaf Saddle, we started walking down the Canyon Track and turned off for the Wells Cave track to the right. The path is predominately steps and mud at the beginning. Following the little red arrows, we found nothing too challenging….yet! Some way down the track, we ran into our first obstacle where we needed to cross over some rocks. Easily done.
By about the third obstacle, we suddenly realised why this track is rated ‘Very Hard’ and most definitely isn’t for the faint hearted. A mass of near vertical rock and no other way to go other than up, we quickly realised we had to basically scale a rockface in order to continue. Without any equipment (which isn’t necessary) we grabbed onto a tiny rockhold and placed our feet carefully, and climbed up. I will warn, this is the point of no return. If you can climb up this, you cannot go back and must continue going up. There is no safe way down the mountain until you reach the top.
After several interesting maneuvers, we climbed our way up, and reached the next major obstacle. Going through the caves crevice. At first glance, the cave will look like a dead end as it is very skinny in the middle section, about standard shoulder width. Again, it is the only way through. We had to shimmy our way through on our sides. There is a recommendation to not wear backpacks when doing the Wells Cave track. This is why. You can carry a backpack through, just not physically on you – you’ll have to take it off and hold it infront of you at arms length.
You’ll start to realise you’re getting quite close to the top, and think the worst is behind you. Surprise surprise, the next obstacle – using a tree to climb up OR climbing through a crevice and pulling yourself up. I opted for the tree route, which had a good amount of grip and was sturdy. Once you’ve passed the tree, the rest of the track is relatively unproblematic – if you can do the majors, the minor bits are a breeze!
And finally we reach the top, with a 360 degree view!
On one side you’ll admire the Acheron Valley, and on the other dense Little River Valley forest. Once you’ve admired the view and rested/snacked, you can either take the Razorback track to get to Cathedral Peak or you can take the Canyon Track back to Sugarloaf Saddle. We opted for the Canyon Track, whichh still involves certain areas of climbing, but isn’t as challenging as the Wells Cave was going up.
Once we had made it back to Sugarloaf Saddle, we set out looking for a picnic spot. Sugarloaf Saddle has a picnic area, however there were a lot of bees around (maybe it was just our luck?)
So we decided to drive over to Cooks Mill, where there were far less bees, and a little river.
The Cathedral Ranges are near Buxton, Victoria approximately 2 hours from Melbourne.
Take the Maroondah Highway from Healesville to enjoy a drive through Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus Trees)