Yarra Ranges Road Trip

Posted Sunday 3rd March 2019

With a walk at the Fainters cancelled at the last minute (for the second time this summer), I had a day off work and nothing to do. So I decided to visit a couple of places I haven’t been to for years out in the Yarra Ranges National Park east of Melbourne. And for added fun I took my motorcycle: the Reefton and Black Spurs are both renowned as great riding roads…

It was a weekday, so while I was heading for the forest, I had the pleasure of seeing the less fortunate heading to their daily grind for some schadenfreude at its sweetest. At Warburton I turned off the highway and took the road towards Mt Donna Buang. After 8 km of very enjoyable road I arrived at the Rainforest Gallery. My early start had paid off, and I had the place all to myself.

Time to exchange two wheels for two legs.

First up was the observation platform: 40 metres long and ending high up in the treetops.

The platform gives a great chance to see what it’s like up in the forest canopy, the epiphytic ferns growing on the trees, and a view straight down to the treeferns below.

Beech foliage glowing in the sunlight.

Epiphytic ferns abound on the trees.

From there it was on to the Rainforest Gallery walking track, which is a raised walkway 350 metres in length. That might sound short, but there’s a lot of scenery to enjoy and no need to rush. It’s easy to spend 45 minutes to an hour on it.

The observation platform from the forest floor.

The walk covers a range of scenery, from mossy trees to treeferns and a forest floor carpeted with ferns.

It was a sunny day, which is not ideal for photography in a forest. But you’ve got to make the best of what you get and adapt to the conditions. And since I was by myself for once, there was no rush. I was able to take my time and enjoy the photography.

A glimpse of the tragically badly named Cement Creek.

Beards of moss cover a tree.

A treefern frond unfurling.

There are a few mountain ash towering above the rest of the trees.

A short side track leads to a view of some small cascades in Cement Creek. It’s a lovely spot, despite being right next to the road (you’d hardly know).

Back at the carpark I had some early lunch, watched keenly (ravenously?) by a currawong. I didn’t dare leave any of my stuff unattended as I’m sure he would have been into it instantly.

Now it was time for some bike fun, starting with the run back down to Warburton, then round the Reefton Spur to Cambarville. Both great roads, winding their way through the forest in a series of curves that seem to go on for ever. There was very little traffic today and no law enforcement to temper my fun. And unlike the last time I did Reefton, my bike emerged unscathed: my previous ride out here ended with a stick as fat as my finger speared into my rear tyre…

At Cambarville I turned up the gravel road to the carpark: not ideal for a sportsbike but at least it wasn’t far. After finishing the remainder of my lunch and switching my riding gear for walking gear, I was ready to set off on the Cumberland walk.

Bare treetops at Cambarville are reminders of the fires that burned through here years ago.

I started the loop anti-clockwise, heading first for the Big Tree. The track was simply beautiful. Ferns were everywhere: ground ferns large and small, and treeferns. All were bursting with with new growth, as were the beech. Amongst them were the majestic mountain ash.

The elephant tree.

Fresh growth on a beech tree.

The track is an easy stroll, with minimal elevation changes as it winds its way amongst the ferns.

There’s a good variety of scenery too, ranging from dark forest to bright open areas.

The sun lit up the forest with blazing green against the dark shadows. I was having a great time with my photography.

The Big Tree was once billed as the tallest in Victoria (it has been shortened by storm damage), though there are larger specimens hidden away. Either way, it is a massive tree despite its relatively slender trunk.

After the Big Tree the track winds its way down to the Cumberland Creek in a particularly pretty section.

When I reached Cumberland Creek I was surprised to see I’d already taken over an hour, so I resolved to pick up the pace — but before not before spending some time taking photos of the creek. This was also when I realized that I must have brushed against some nettles earlier since one of my legs was stinging.

Is that hole in the creek bank a platypus’s burrow?

After Cumberland Creek the scenery was a little less pretty than it had been. And there’s no sign of the old Sitka spruce which fell down years ago. The last time I did this walk was just after it had come down in a storm and it was laying on its side. Now nothing remains.

Past the creek the forest becomes drier.

I headed down to Cora Lynn Falls, which is on a short side track from the main loop. The track ends at a viewing area where, to be frank, the view isn’t great. But there’s a short unofficial footpad which leads out the back of the fenced area and drops down to the creek below the falls. This gives a great view straight up the cascade.

The cascade from the top: I held my camera over the creek on a tripod, I didn’t stand in the water!

The view from the viewing area: nice, but obscured.

There’s a much better view from the base of the cascade.

Back on the main walking track I passed a pair of walkers — the only others I saw all day. The second half of the circuit had a few nice spots, but it’s definitely not as good as the first half. Much of it was more heavily burnt back on Black Saturday, and it’s still recovering.

There’s another short side-track down to the Cumberland Falls view, but it’s so overgrown you can’t actually see the falls. I managed to get a photo by putting my camera on a tripod and holding it up as high as I could and hoping for the best.

The view my camera saw on top of the tripod…

…and this is what I saw at ground level.

The legacy of Black Saturday.

Nettles lurking amongst the ferns.

The fires have left the forest far more open than the earlier part of the walk.

A little further along is Sovereign View, but it’s so overgrown that there’s no view any more. If it wasn’t for the sign you’d never notice it.

The day was really heating up, and I was glad to complete the walk, heading up the gravel road to the car park where my faithful bike was waiting for me.

The loop had taken me about two and a half hours, though I certainly hadn’t been rushing. All up the total for both walks was a little less than 5 km, so it was an easy day. But the amount of scenery for the effort was wonderful.

After a rest I got my riding gear on and jumped on the bike, slithering back down the gravel to the main road, before blasting along one of my all-time favourite roads down to Marysville. From there it was on to the Maroondah Highway and over the Black Spur to head home.

Bushwalking and motorcycling can be a fun combination, though they’re not ideally matched. I take cables to lock my helmet and jacket on to the bike so I don’t need to carry them on the walk… just remember to empty the jacket pockets! I take my most compact riding boots which I can squeeze into my backpack when it’s time to walk (I can’t ride with my walking boots as I find them too chunky). A better idea would be riding shoes, as they could be used for both riding and walking. Having panniers would also help, if that’s your thing.