Thirteen-day 160km hiking trail opens in Victoria’s Grampians national park | VICTORIA

A 160km multi-day hiking trail running the length of the Grampians (Gariwerd) national park will open to the public on Saturday, becoming one of the longest trails in Victoria.

Connecting some of the park’s most spectacular peaks, the Grampians Peaks Trail is a 13-day / 12-night journey starting at Mt Zero and traveling south over the ranges that make up Gariwerd and ending in the town of Dunkeld, 270km west of Melbourne.

The $ 33.2m project was originally slated to open last year but faced construction delays as a result of heatwaves, a wet winter and the Covid-19 pandemic. But it has been in the making for much longer.

“This project has been in the pipeline for well over 20 years since the first idea, so today is a milestone,” said Tammy Schoo, the acting area chief manager for the Grampians national park.

“It’s been a really complex project both in its planning and its construction.”

The trail has 11 bookable campsites and for most of its length is a grade 4 walk with steep climbs and descents.

The multi-day trail in the Grampians (Geriwald) national park has been in the pipeline for more than 20 years. Photograph: Belinda van Zanen

Some sections are slightly flatter and easier and there are also some more challenging grade 5 sections in the central Grampians south of Halls Gap.

The trail was built in stages. The first stage, a 60km section from Halls Gap to Bugiga, involved improving or slightly modifying existing tracks and opened in 2015.

Schoo said the work to complete the remaining 100km required construction in remote areas with materials brought in by helicopter.

The trail extends over the ancestral lands of the Djab Wurrung and Jadawadjali people and Parks Victoria worked with traditional owners to guide the trail alignment and shape the visitor information and stories.

More than 90 wildlife species live in the park and 900 types of plants – 49 of which are unique to the national park.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for people to immerse themselves in the environment and culture of the area and walk the walk in a respectful way,” Schoo said.

The project was jointly funded through $ 23.2m from the Andrews government and $ 10m in federal funding provided through the Horsham Rural City council.

Lily D’Ambrosio, Victoria’s environment minister, said 34,000 walkers a year were expected by 2025, generating $ 6.39m in economic benefits and tourism development opportunities.

“The value of our parks and reserves has become more evident in recent times, which is why we’re boosting investments in projects that protect our natural places and support local communities and regional economies,” she said.

Early in the trail’s development, conservation groups raised concerns about what is known as “infrastructure creep”, which refers to the expansion of accommodation and other recreational infrastructure in pristine areas.

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But Matt Ruchel, the executive director of the Victorian National Parks Association, said plans for several huts and more high-end accommodation along the trail had been revised, with most now focused on existing town centers.

The trail itself features small huts at two of the campgrounds.

Ruchel said those changes had helped minimize the intrusion of the trail into unique areas.

“We have to be careful in the future that new trails don’t compromise the integrity of the places people come to look at,” he said.

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