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One Tree Hill & the 1000 Steps, Dandenong Ranges National Park – 2 March 2014

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Just because you’ve done something once before, doesn’t mean you can do it again – without directions, at least.

Which is how we came to be walking by some very nice houses on Kia Ora Parade (with some other locationally challenged walkers) wondering which turn we should/shouldn’t have made to get to the 1000 Steps. But lets rewind a bit and I’ll explain…

It’s not long now until we’re off to Wilsons Prom to walk down to the lighthouse. My office day job provides, as you might imagine, ideal training for a 20-24km hike (probably to be repeated 3 days in a row, unless we’re too knackered on the middle day). The slightly downhill 3km walk home of an evening has also really helped to boost my confidence.

Even so, we though a bit of extra practice wouldn’t go astray.

We’ve been meaning to go back to One Tree Hill and the 1000 Steps for quite some time. The last first and last time we were there was before the ‘new’ Lyrebird track was (re)opened. Today seemed like a good day. Pity neither Stephen or I remembered to pick up Glenn Tempest’s “Daywalks Around Melbourne” in case we couldn’t remember which track to take, based solely on our memories of our walk from a couple of years back.

This section of the Dandenong Ranges Nation Park must be one of the most visited of Victoria’s parks. The 1000 Steps car park at the bottom of the hill (Fern Tree Gully end) is very large, but always full. I’ve never been by and not seen cars parked for hundreds of metres up the sides of the road.  As suggested by Glenn Tempest, we have always (that is to say both times now) parked at the top at the One Tree Hill car park. Compared to the crowd at the bottom, it’s like hardly anyone seems to know about it. And yet it’s only about 100m (if that) from the end of the 1000 Steps track. Go figure.

Dandenong Ranges NP - car park at One Tree Hill

Car park at One Tree Hill

A small section of the 1000 Steps Car Park

Just a small section of the packed 1000 Steps Car Park (not the clearest photo, I grant you)

Just going up and down the 1000 Steps (or Lyrebird) track with half of Melbourne’s population (well, not quite half) is not our idea of a great afternoon, so we like to extend the walk so we can look around, enjoy the bush and get to clock up 10km without collapsing (as I think could be on the cards if we did the same distance just going up and down the ‘Steps).

So after finding a park (not hard), changing into our hiking boots (there’s a convenient seat nearby), we walked to the top of the hill to start our walk along Tyson Track. It’s pretty steep going down, even if it doesn’t look it in the photo.

The bush down the western slopes of One Tree Hill is drier, with less understorey than in the lush and protected gullies, and with grasses as the majority of the ground cover. Numerous tracks crisscross the park. Some follow a level grade as much as possible, and some tracks are very steep (through not as steep as the Telecom Track in Walhalla, thankfully). The tracks are generally wide, gravel-surfaced and well maintained, and it’s not unusual to come across a number of other walkers or hikers and there are signs of mountain bike riders using the tracks, too. In fact, this section of the National Park reminds me of Toohey Forest, just south of Brisbane.

Something I’ve never seen in Toohey’s Forest though is one of these fellows, who was just to the side of The Boulevard (track) as we tried to find our way back up to Belview Terrace.

Echidna

Echidna in defensive mode

Having descended from the top of the hill, walked some streets while slightly ‘locationally challenged’, climbed almost the whole way back up again while doubling back due to a poor choice of track at Himalaya Road, we eventually found the path we originally intended to be on (Belview Tce).

Slightly surprised at the appearance of a police 4wd coming up the track (yes, the paths are that wide and no, I doubt they’d need to put it in 4wd to get up that track… well, maybe to get around some of the corners lower down) we continued down hill again until we reached the 1000 Steps car park and picnic ground. There are public facilities there and even a cafe now.

Cafe at 1000 Steps/Fern Tree Gully picnic ground

Cafe at 1000 Steps/Fern Tree Gully picnic ground

Now, I understand and fully support the principle that what you take into a national park you should also take out. That’s good, proper and the responsible thing to do. But when you buy something at a cafe, you would expect them to have a rubbish bin, wouldn’t you? Apparently not in this case. Again, I understand why – they don’t want to attract birds/possums/rodents etc and encourage unnatural habits – but there’s not even an inside bin. Which isn’t to say that the cafe staff don’t dispose of rubbish left on tables by people who ‘didn’t see’ the signs… Anyway, we took our rubbish with us – it’s not like there was a lack of space in our backpacks!

And so here we were. The infamous 1000 Steps (of which I hear there are somewhat fewer than 1000 – I wasn’t counting though). Last time we battled our way up the old, narrow,  steep, slippery track with half of Melbourne’s population who are trying to get fit and a couple of bus loads of tourists on top of that. What was the new track going to be like?

Start of the 1000 Steps

Start of the 1000 Steps

I think I’ve been told that groups preparing to walk the Kokoda track come here to train. Have I mentioned that the old track is steep? The recent works done around this lower end of the park really emphasise our history on the Kokoda Track. There are information plaques along the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk – aka the ‘old’ 1000 Steps track – but with the human traffic it can be hard to take it in. Having large, dedicated areas down the bottom that you can read before or after your climb seems a good idea. It also gives you something to reflect on while you’re struggling up the hill.

Kokoda Memorial at the start of the 1000 Steps

One of the new Kokoda Memorials at the start of the 1000 Steps

And here it is – the spilt. Lyrebird (new 1000 Steps) on the left, the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk (aka the ‘old’ 1000 Steps) on the right.

1000 Steps vs Lyrebird Track

Kokoda Track Memorial Walk (aka 1000 Steps) vs Lyrebird Track (aka the new 1000 Steps)

We came to try out the new path, so that’s what we chose. I was surprised at the number of people still heading up the old path. It hasn’t been wet lately – I wonder if that makes a lot of difference? You won’t catch me going up there in the wet. Even with a handrail, those old, mossy, sloped steps do not make me feel safe. In comparison, the steps of the new track – though not as wide as we’d expected – are level, deep and moss free.

The new path is 700m longer than the old one (2.5km vs 1.8km), although both are rated as ‘Steep’. And since you get a choice between stairs and path on the Lyrebird Track, after a short while I found the track was definitely easier! As long as you keep to the one line and be aware that you’re sharing the path, it’s pretty good. But still quite a way up. And these signs along the way don’t help. I’ve no idea what they’re measuring. The track is 2.5km long, but the post at the top says 15oom… it’s not elevation – the top of the track is not quite 500m above sea level.

Mission accomplished we left the sweaty masses behind and wandered up the last 100m (if that) of the track back to the One Tree Hill car park. By this stage lunch on top of the hill was sounding really nice (we only stopped for a quick snack at the cafe below) and as previously mentioned, there are open and sheltered picnic tables as well as BBQ’s and facilities up top here too.

Full circuit

Full circuit

Unfortunately I’m still having issues with embedding our Garmin details, but if you’re interested in a good walk around the Dandenongs, please check it out here – and don’t forget to take a copy of your walk directions with you!

: )

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Author: Dayna

I'm interested in nature, hiking and photography - but these have been somewhat overwhelmed by a new passion... my Brompton folding bikes! You can follow me on Twitter: @daynaa2000 or @Brompton_MEL Or find me hanging out most Saturdays at Velo Electric & Folding (http://velocycles.com.au/folding-bikes/) or on a Melbourne Brompton Club ride! (https://melbournebromptonclub.wordpress.com)

8 thoughts on “One Tree Hill & the 1000 Steps, Dandenong Ranges National Park – 2 March 2014

  1. Hi Dayna, have been enjoying reading your blog. We live in Melbourne and use the 1000 steps as our training ground before going off on our adventures (check them out at http://jennyandstephen.com ). Before attempting the Camino and then later the Milford and Routeburn tracks in NZ, we would complete 2 x the 1000 steps with loaded backpacks. Not necessarily what you’d call fun, but a good guide on whether we were ready or not!

    • Hi Stephen,
      Ah, the Camino! Awesome!
      I admit I only know of this walk from watching “The Way” starring Martin Sheen, directed by Emilio Estevez. Great movie.
      Your training regime is impressive! I’m glad to get to the top of the 1000 steps just once per trip these days!
      At the end of your Routeburn post you ask if there are any similar walks in Australia… Have you done the Overland Track (TAS)? I can’t recommend it highly enough. I have blogged about it separately, but I have put a few photos up on my Cradle Mountain NP page. There’s also the Great Southern Walk in Tas which we haven’t done.
      Thanks for stopping by and your comment. Happy hiking 🙂

      • Funny, Jenny and I were so inspired by the movie “The Way” that it lead us to doing the Camino a year later. From getting to know a little of you guy’s through reading your Blog, you would both absolutely love the Camino! No doubt! If you get a chance to read our blog you will find that we travelled not much differently than what you guys have done on some of your walks and the walking whilst can be long 25-30Km per day is usually much easier than the hiking you have done. Put it on your list! Spain is lovely, the people are very friendly and helpful and overall it is very cheap.

      • Oh, and Tassy is on our growing list of walks! 🙂

      • For people who live in Melbourne, Tassie is so close there’s almost no excuse not to go!
        Avoid the summer peak and it will be cheaper, especially if you and Jenny are prepared to do it unguided.
        : )

  2. Thanks Dayna. Off to do the track and haven’t done this one in a while so was curious as to which route to take. I think one loop of the old and one loop of the new will do the trick! I’m taking a group of 9 for a training trek. An excellent way to test whether you’re read for the Great Wall of China or the heights of Kilimanjaro!

  3. Reblogged this on Adventures of the Traveller Em and commented:
    Thanks to Dayna for this great blog post on the 1000 steps in Melbourne. I’m off to do the track and haven’t done this one in a while so was curious as to which route to take. I think one loop of the old and one loop of the new will do the trick! I’m taking a group of nine adventurers from Inspired Adventures for a training trek. An excellent way to test whether you’re ready for the Great Wall of China, the mountains of Nepal or the heights of Kilimanjaro!

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