Gay hiking

Thirteen-day 160km hiking trail opens in Victoria’s Grampians National Park | Victoria

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

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

The $33.2 million project was originally scheduled to open last year but faced construction delays due to heat waves, a wet winter and the Covid-19 pandemic. But this has been in the making for much longer.

“This project has been in the pipeline for over 20 years since the first idea was first conceived, so today is an important milestone,” said Tammy Schoo, Acting Chief Superintendent of Grampians National Park.

“It was a really complex project both in its planning and in its construction.”

The trail has 11 reservable campsites and for most of its length is a level 4 walk with steep ascents and descents.

The multi-day trail in the Grampians National Park (Geriwald) has been in the works for over 20 years. Photography: Belinda van Zanen

Some sections are slightly flatter and easier and there are also more difficult level 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 upgrading or slightly modifying existing tracks and opened in 2015.

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

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

Over 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 to walk in a respectful way,” Schoo said.

The project was jointly funded by $23.2 million from the Andrews Government and $10 million in federal funding provided by Horsham Rural Town Council.

Lily D’Ambrosio, Victoria’s Environment Minister, said 34,000 walkers a year were expected by 2025, generating $6.39 million 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 are increasing investment in projects that protect our natural areas and support local communities and regional economies,” she said.

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

Sign up to receive an email with the best stories from Guardian Australia every morning

But Matt Ruchel, executive director of the Victorian National Parks Association, said plans for several cabins and other upmarket accommodation along the trail have been revised, with most now concentrated in existing town centres.

The trail itself has small cabins in two of the campgrounds.

Ruchel said these changes helped minimize trail intrusion in unique areas.

“Going forward, we will need to ensure that new trails do not compromise the integrity of the places people come to visit, he said.