Located between Bacchus Marsh and Blackwood, Lerderderg State Park is not very well-known to most Melbourne city folks like Niall and I. I first learnt about this little hiking gem from a friend a few years ago, who had spent a few days hiking and camping in the gorge and came back with many amazing photos taken from the top of the Gorge, and was recently reminded of it again from one of my Twitter followers after I tweeted about my day out in Werribee Gorge last year. Lerderderg seems to be a big attraction for more adventurous hikers as it is a much bigger State Park (20,180 ha vs. 575 ha), has a deeper gorge (300 m vs. 200 m), and is home to several more challenging and longer trails. Unfortunately, the trails are not well-signed a lot of the time, with arrows often being difficult to spot and signs fallen down only to be found in the undergrowth. So, it’s not surprising that Lerderderg also has a little bit of a reputation for hikers getting lost. We made sure we were well-prepared even for the short half-day walk that we planned; even with our map, we managed to get lost a couple of times. We couldn’t believe it when we passed and were asked for directions by two separate groups of very brave souls that had been hiking without a map. They’re just asking for trouble!
Given our limited time (thanks to the end of daylight savings earlier in the month and our late start to the day from Melbourne), we opted to do the O’Briens Crossing – Byers Back Track – The Tunnel walk. (3 km, 1.5 hours) and stop for lunch at the dried up Lerderderg River bed along the way. The walk was surprisingly mostly flat with some very steep and rugged sections, as well as some spectacular views when the track made its way along the cliff around the valley. Niall particularly enjoyed smashing large rocks of quartz found on the track by throwing them on the ground, vowing to come back in future to look for gold. Unfortunately, The Tunnel was a little underwhelming, but the walk was pleasant enough overall. We hope to return one day to tackle one of the longer walks (not to look for gold, if I have my way).
To finish off the day, we made our way to Shaws Lake, where Niall almost damaged his car by driving too fast for forest road conditions. After getting lost whilst looking for a nearby lookout, we decided to make our way home to Melbourne. We were lucky enough to see two wedge-tailed eagles feeding on a dead kangaroo at the side of the road as we exited Lerderderg, but unfortunately scared them off when Niall stopped the car for a closer look. It was a very brief, but spectacular way to finish off our day in Lerderderg!!