Julie is the author of a number of guidebooks, including 'Melbourne's Best Bush Bay and City Walks' & 'Melbourne for Dogs' (with RSPCA). Read more of her adventures at her walks blog: walksmelbourne.com
Published April 15th 2012
Sometimes you just need to get out of the city and smell the bush, but sometimes you don't have a lot of time to spare. If that's the case, head off to the You Yangs, just under an hour's drive from Melbourne, off the Geelong Freeway.
These ancient volcanic hills are a rare sight on the massive lava plain west of Melbourne. Covered with huge slabs of rock, they were once home to the Yawangi Balug, a family group within the Wauthaurong Aboriginal clan, and you can see evidence of their presence even today, in the water collecting pools on Big Rock and the rock shelter on the East West Rock.
Today the You Yangs provides myriad options for picnicking, mountain bike riding and, of course, walking. There is a Parks Victoria visitor information centre just as you go in the main gate. If it is open, there are interesting information displays inside, though it is rarely manned. There is a good information board outside which outlines the main walks. The best thing is to go online before going there and download the excellent Parks Victoria Park Notes, which includes a rough map. Dogs are allowed in the You Yangs park, but must be on a lead at all time in order to protect the wildlife.
There are a variety of walks for all interests and abilities. There is the straightforward but beautiful 3km return walk from the visitor centre to Big Rock (which can also be reached by car at the picnic area for those unable to walk very far). This is a terrific walk for children, though keep a close eye on them near the edges, which are very sudden and steep.
Another classic walk is the East-West circumnavigation of Flinders Peak, which is gently undulating and only 4.5km, but in that time, you get 360 degree views of the countryside and a really interesting walk through fascinating rock formations and with the bonus of viewing the enormous Bunjil Geoglyph eagle rock sculpture on the plains below.
If you still have energy at the end, you can skip up the 450 stairs to Flinders Peak before lunchtime!
Another favourite walk, which is in a quieter section of the park, though it starts from the same Turntable Picnic grounds as the East-West Track, in the Branding Yard Trail. This is a much more classic bushwalk, through largely undisturbed bushlands and there is a good chance you might even catch an echidna or wallaby not far from the track (though not if you have a dog with you).
Remember that like many Victorian Parks, the You Yangs will be closed on days of Extreme Fire Danger (Code Red), but then if it's that hot, a coastal walk might be a better option, as the bush here is pretty dry. Save the You Yangs for milder days and you will be amply rewarded - in spring there is the added incentive of wildflowers. Whenever you come, bring plenty of water and your own food, and remember that the Park Gates shut at 430pm on weekdays, and 6pm on weekends and during daylight savings hours.
Thanks Sue. The you Yangs was always 'those bumps' which I drove past on the way to Geelong - I really only started exploring them two years ago and they are just fabulous - you really won't be disappointed.