Bryce Gorge – Hikes & Camping
Bryce Gorge, in the Avon Wilderness area of Victoria, is a hikers paradise and ideal for family camping. A myriad of 4 wheel drive trails can be accessed from several directions, making it a popular destination in the Australian Alpine region. The last section of the Bryce Gorge road is closed from the first weekend in June until the first weekend in November due to snow and dangerous driving conditions It is quite possible to encounter snow at any time of the year in these areas!
I love this part of the country and first visited years ago when on an overnight hike into Lake Tali Karng, about 9 hours walking in and 10 hours walking out. This trip was all about family camping though, and only short hikes without heavy backpacks for hours on end.
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Having been to Bryce Gorge several times in the past, the most recent trip 12 years ago, I did not double-check the map though had looked briefly on the tablet prior to leaving. This resulted in heading right at the main (Arbuckle) junction rather than left to go directly to Bryce Gorge, not really an issue as we had plenty of fuel and we then passed through some superb alpine bush with views out to the major Victorian ski fields to the north. It was early in the season and a few fallen trees had been roughly cleared off the road – then we encountered one that was too big to circumnavigate and had to return the way we had come.
Lesson One for the day – always check the route on a map thoroughly! We were keeping to marked roads, so in no danger of being actually lost in the bush, it just meant we covered a few extra miles of stunning landscape.
Getting to Bryce Gorge via Licola
To access and revel in the landscape of the Australian Alpine Region, head along Highway One and up through Heyfield to the tiny town of Licola, about 3.25 hours non-stop driving from Melbourne.
This is a privately owned town with a little store that generally closes on Monday and Tuesday during the quieter seasons – fuel is available here as well as some basic camp supplies.
Licola is owned entirely by the Lions Clubs of Victoria and Southern New South Wales. It is the only privately owned town in Victoria and the only town not on mains power.
There is a caravan park with a bunkhouse in Licola for anyone needing accommodation – Ph: 03 5148 8786
Cowwarr – Some time ago, residents thought it would be amusing to create sculptures of cows to give this wee town it’s own ‘claim to fame’! The result is an amusing drive through town with cows made of scrap metal on display all over the place! Meet the herd on Flickr!
On the Licola Road, about 20 minutes before the town, is Cheney’s Bridge and a free camping spot by the Macalister River. Really pretty with accessible swimming and fishing. It is a popular area for campers with motor bikes, so likely to get a bit noisy in the summer holidays.
Not far from Licola, a pretty aspect looking down into the valley and the Macalister River. The road wends its way, following the flow of the river, slowly climbing into the Alpine Wilderness of Victoria.
Signboards at Licola indicating white for regular, unsealed roads, and green for tracks that should only be negotiated with a 4 wheel drive vehicle or trail bikes.
Turning right before crossing the bridge into Licola, leads onto the Tamboritha Road and into the remote countryside with no shops, fuels stations or regular campgrounds. This is a brilliant area to visit and one that most overseas visitors do not get to see.
The Tamboritha Road is sealed for about 23km’s with numerous free campsites alongside the river. Initially, the drive follows the Macalister River and then continues along the smaller Wellington River.
Arbuckle Junction, 46km’s away, is the point to head left and up to the Bryce Gorge area or continue on to the Howitt Plains and beyond.
An early evening walk to Bryce Gorge viewpoint from our (free) camping spot amongst the snow gum trees. Campfires are permitted unless there is a total fire ban and high fire danger – please pay attention to all signs and warnings.
Bryce Gorge walk – 8km approx/2.5 hours return
Starting at the Howitt Road car park, 23.5 from the Arbuckle Junction there is a well-defined path that is an easy walk for under 2km’s to Pieman Falls. Another 50 meters and we had a great view of the falls, then returned to the main trail and walked the 2kms or so around the cliff tops of the gorge to Conglomerate Falls.
The signposting was clear for the continuation of the track along Conglomerate Creek through the forest and open grasslands to a junction with the Wonnangatta Track. A further 3 km brought us to the wonderful old Guy’s Hut, built in 1940.
The car park is just 1km southeast of the hut. Remember to always have a map of walking trails with you, it would be quite easy to take a wrong turn in the Australian bush and head off into the wilderness!
That night we set up camp at Tamboritha Saddle. A great spot near some really old stockyards. No toilet facilities here, but it was such a pretty place. Not far up the Tamboritha Road towards Arbuckle Junction is another camping area with toilets, called ‘Lost Plain’.
Tali Karng is a popular overnight hike in the region with a few different access points. Everything needs to be carried in and all rubbish carried out, the same process that most countries adhere to when hiking into the wilderness.