The Melbourne Marathon is rapidly approaching, which means the number of long runs is also rapidly climbing! As a change from pounding bike paths and trails around Melbourne, I decided to head to the Brisbane Ranges National Park, which is some 80km south-west of the city.
The Burchell Trail is a bushwalking track about 37km long, starting from Boar Gully at the top of the national park, curving around the south-west corner of the park, and ending at Steiglitz. It is an old gold town that once had a population of 1500 but now has a population less than 100, and a number of well-preserved old buildings.
My plan was to start the run at the Steiglitz court house, follow the Deadman’s Loop through the gorges to the south and then follow the Burchell Trail to the north and east before looping back to Steiglitz.
The first section was slow going as I negotiated the gorge and rock pools, losing the trail a couple of times. After climbing out of the gorge, a narrow path wound north back to the road. Crossing the main road, a dirt road plunged down a steep hill to The Crossing picnic ground and onto Box Track.
From there I (basically) followed the Burchell Trail and a few side tracks: Graham Creek Rd, Lease Rd, Hazel, Back and Banksia Tracks before reaching the Old Mill Camping Ground. I was carrying a litre of water, which was lucky, as I planned to top up at the Old Mill, but the tank water there tasted wrong, and the water at the next stop (Fridays camping ground) was clearly labelled as not potable. Running low on water, I decided at that point to start heading back to Steiglitz.
The trail is seriously undulating and a good running course for most of the time. It is a mix of almost non-existent track, with occasional markers, through to well-defined single track and fire trails. I lost the trail a few times, with non-existent markers in crucial places, and then well-defined trails with plenty of markers! Some of this may be due to the bushfires that damaged a large amount of the park back in 2006. There were some signs of track realignment, restoration and new work, such as this boardwalk across one small valley.
Here is the route. The phone’s GPS measured it at 20.9km, whereas my FR-60 footpod measured it at 22.5km. I am more likely to trust the footpod: it’s remarkably accurate and the GPS struggled in some of the forest and gorge sections. I made the mistake of relying on the DSE map and my GPS; next time I would take a decent topo map (such as the OSP one) and compass, as I usually do.
For more information about walks in the Brisbane Ranges, I recommend Glenn Tempest’s Daywalks Around Melbourne.