Victorian High Country – A Place For All Seasons

Victorian High Country

One of my favourite locations in Australia for outdoor pursuits is without doubt the Victorian High Country. For one, it’s stunning! There’s not many places in Australia where you can truly feel ‘in the mountains’ but the high country is definitely one of them. Secondly, there is always something to do there, no matter what the season. Hiking or biking in spring and autumn, skiing in winter, climbing in summer, this place has it all. What more could an outdoor enthusiast dream of? A place where there is an outdoor activity for all seasons!

Here’s a quick guide to what this wonderful region has to offer in all 4 seasons:

Summer

As a child, my family summer holidays were spent at the beautiful town of Bright which is nestled in the Ovens Valley at the foot of the Victorian High Country. We spent the long, hot summer days swimming in the Ovens River, riding tandem bikes around town to the local ice cream shop, and occasionally taking the drive up to Mt Hotham for the awe inspiring views of the mountains.

These days, I head straight for Mt Buffalo to climb the incredible granite tors that rise precipitously from the 1700m plateau. Not for everyone, but one of Victoria’s most spectacular climbing locations.

The weather can be extremely hot down in the valley i.e. Bright, but pleasant once up at elevation in the mountains so hiking is still a possibility. One of the main draws for hiking in summer is the wildflowers. It’s the best time of year to find yourself surrounded by carpets of billy buttons, royal bluebells and silver snow daisies at the various National Parks of the region.

It can get very busy in Bright during the summer holidays, so book ahead as accommodation can be hard to find in peak times.

Autumn

Probably my favourite time of year in the Victorian High Country. The weather is at its most stable, the temperatures perfect for hiking and the famous autumn leaves start to show their colours. 

Average temperatures are in the low-mid teens up in the mountains which is the perfect temperature to tackle the immense range of hikes in the area. My all time favourite is the Razorback Ridge to the summit of Mt Feathertop. This 20km return day hike sits mostly above the treeline with vast mountain vistas the norm. As you track along the ridge, the imposing Mt Feathertop starts to loom and the steep scramble to the top rewards you with truly awe inspiring views.

There are also several multi day hikes around the Bogong High Plains at Falls Creek, including sections of the Australian Alpine Walking Trail. This 655km epic, heads from Walhalla to Canberra and is a challenge that few have undertaken in full. Luckily you can tackle small sections of it, visiting the classic mountain huts that the area is famous for.

Down in the valley, Bright attracts visitors from around the world during it’s autumn festival. The reason; it’s many deciduous trees take on a range of beautiful colours before dropping to the ground for winter. It’s a special sight and a photographer’s delight.

Winter

In my late teenage years, spending holidays with my folks became less appealing, and the need for adrenaline with my mates started to take over. Skiing and snowboarding became a passion and the Victorian High Country was the only place in Australia that delivered. Every winter, a few friends and I would head to Mt Hotham to burn away that teenage energy with days full of carving down the slopes, and nights full of apres ski beers.

There are several ski resorts in the area: Mt Hotham, Falls Creek and Mt Buffalo. Hotham has the most challenging (i.e. most interesting) terrain, and typically gets the most snowfall. Falls Creek is still a great place to ski as there are 14 lifts to whisk you to nearly 100 trails. Mt Buffalo has only a few lifts and is best for the beginner who wants to give skiing a try.

You’ll need your winter woolies for this time of year as even down in the valley can get frighteningly cold! 

Spring

Also a great time for hiking, Spring can be perfect… if you jag the weather! The country looks amazing at this time of year as the snow melt creates roaring rivers, lushness in the forests and the odd patch of snow to play in. 

Late winter storms are not uncommon though, so if hiking in the mountains, be prepared for sudden changes in weather. 

It’s also a great time of year to jump on the saddle and go for a bike ride. One of Australia’s premier cycling locations, the Victorian High Country attracts many a lycra warrior. You don’t have to take on any of the big mountain climbs though, there are some fantastic flatter trails that any biker can handle. The Murray to Mountains rail trail from Wangaratta to Bright is a beauty that winds through natural bushland, verdant farmland, delightful hidden valleys and some of Australia’s most spectacular mountain ranges. As a bonus, along the ride you can even savour some of Australia’s finest gourmet produce, renowned wines, and handcrafted beer. It’s over 100 kilometres of sealed off road trails so you don’t have to worry about getting side swiped by any cars or trucks!

So you see, the Victorian High Country has it all, no matter what time of year you visit! If you haven’t been there’s no better time than now…. or summer, or autumn, or winter!

Adam

IO Guide.

Inspiration Outdoors run guided, lodge accommodated walking tours of the Victorian High Country in Spring and Autumn each year. For full details click here.

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