Come November, the snow season is on its way out and the tracks and trails around Mansfield in Victoria’s high country open up for off-roaders.
4WD “double black diamond” drivers love testing their skills and their wheels against the toughest tracks Mansfield and its surrounding high country has to offer. And make no mistake, these trails can be pretty rugged, rocky and steep. Others just want to get off road – nothing too hard - and escape into the bush, alongside a river or atop a mountain to feel a whole new level of alive.
Inspired by the legendary Man from Snowy River and our mountain cattlemen, the historic huts that are scattered around the high country reveal themselves at opportune times for a break. Old mining towns and relics speak of yesteryear and beg for an explore, too. Travel up and down alpine back roads and forest tracks at your own pace and rest up, stretch your legs and prop ‘n’ stay at riverside and mountain top campgrounds where the priority is campfire refreshments. As you head higher into the High Country, you’ll notice the stringybark and mountain ash zones change to snowgums and then up to the top - the ‘no gums’ zone – where you’ll catch spectacular views and feel like you’re on top of the world.
For a trail that’s a bit more of a challenge, wind your way along the high alpine ridges to Bluff Hut (moderate difficulty) and on to Lovicks Hut past Picture Point – well named, that spot! The whole trip is one of the most stunningly beautiful 4WD routes in the High Country. On a clear day, unimpeded views stretch across to Mt Stirling, Cobbler, Mt Buller and across towards Gippsland. Cattlemen’s huts such as Bluff Hut are synonymous with ‘High Country’. Each one has its own local family story to tell and provide shelter if the weather turns nasty, as it can in the Alpine areas.
Continue through sub-alpine country and descend onto wooded flats along the Howqua or Jamieson Rivers. Stop by the Upper Jamieson Hut or enjoy a few days at one of the many beautiful campgrounds in the Howqua Valley. The roads from Jamieson to remote Woods Point and beyond to Walhalla form part of the Aberfeldy track and are dotted with relics of settlements and mines, telling the gold mining story that commenced with the discovery of gold at Enoch’s Point in 1857. Discover the steep terrain, harsh climate and densely forested ranges that didn’t deter those seeking their fortune from the gold hidden in the rivers and mountains of the Great Dividing Range.
There are still plenty of relics to find in the bush. Stationary steam engines, water wheels and stamping batteries – anything that was too big to get out after it all went bust is still on site. But beware when stretching your legs in bushland there are numerous uncapped mine shifts throughout the region. Those experienced drivers in search of a good campfire story will enjoy the remote route through the Alpine National Park into the Wonnangatta Valley and Wonnangatta Station site.
Wonnangatta is an iconic four-wheel drive destination that has a long history of cattle grazing, family tragedies and two grizzly unsolved murders from the early 1900s. In winter months many of the higher altitude and more fragile tracks are seasonally closed. Most closures take effect from the Thursday after Queens Birthday long weekend in June and remain in force until Melbourne Cup Day long weekend. During this time the lower foothill areas are still accessible. There are some fantastic tracks to discover - look out for our resident wallabies, roos and deer.
With so many choices, from short day trips to extended four wheel drive touring experiences, Mansfield and its surrounding High Country is on the bucket list for those who love off-bitumen-road adventure where the challenge of the drive is exceeded by the beauty of the landscape.
For more information, go to: <a href="www.mansfieldmtbuller.com.au">mansfieldmtbuller.com.au</a>
Words: J Dixon & D Roberts