Dandenong Ranges National Park: 1000 Steps loop 12km

Return to southwestern Dandenong Ranges National Park to climb its popular “1000 steps”. I covered those 1000 steps in an earlier post, but today I hiked beyond last time. The map…

Crisp morning and an early start, waiting for the train at Flinders Street station.

Flinders Street station @ 6.30am

My destination was Upper Fernfree Gully, which I reached around 7.45am. A plethora of signs as you exit the train station. Obvious where to next.

Super signage

Soon though, I departed the rail trail (right below) for the shortcut (left below) to reach the start of my hiking loop on the School Track.

Morning trails

Access to the 1000 steps climb is through Kokoda Memorial Park. There is Kokoda Memorial Archway, a Kokoda Memorial Wall and Kokoda Track Monument. A cafe, bathrooms and kids playground completes the picture. Attractive if that’s what you want. Me, I quickly walked through it.

Entering Kokoda Track Memorial Walk

The direct route to the beginning of the 1000 steps is via the middle path below. Since I walked that last time, I chose the Ramblers Track on the right today. Last time, I returned via the Lyrebird Track on the left.

Track junction

The uphill walk to the start of the 1000 steps created foggy glasses in the cool weather before I even started climbing.

Bottom of 1000 Steps

12 minutes later, including a few short breaks to catch my breath, I arrived. I felt oddly out of shape, panting and sweating, with even foggier glasses. And the 1000 steps climb is really only around 700 steps…

Top of 1000 Steps

After drinking some water, I continued up to One Tree Hill’s picnic ground for a well deserved cup of tea.

I am still puzzled about that “one tree”. Plenty of trees around. Maybe one time there was only one tree…?

Tea on One Tree Hill

Beyond One Tree Hill, the terrain was all new to me. Last time I returned down via Lyrebird Track immediately to the west of the 1000 Steps. Today, I headed in the other direction. Just me and the elements once again. Nobody else seems to venture this “far off” those steps.

Janesdell Track with Tyson Track on left where I turned in

Flat but beautiful terrain westwards along Tyson Track. Plenty of cockatoos and kookaburras sighted and heard but no wallabies or kangaroos.

Tyson Track westwards

Limited and filtered views from the trail despite being high up. Like here.

Off Hansen Track looking north

In this northwestern corner of Dandenong Ranges National Park, the map said “gate”. I saw 3 gates. Anybody can drive here but not further.

This corner towards Boronia was likely the lowest altitude of today’s hike. The path descended, descended and descended more well before the “gate”. Only to….


…ascend, ascend, ascend up Chandlers Track, behind from where I took the photo above.

Today again, Melbourne’s skyline popped up in the distance among the trees. Geez, large sections of Melbourne’s suburbia are soooo flat.
Melbourne’s skyline from Chandlers Track

Fern trees lined up parts of the Macedon Track next. Looking one way…

Ferns one way…

…and back.

Ferns the other

Then I saw something “chunky” on the ground. A dead bird. It may have been a hawk but not sure.

Dead bird one way

I turned the bird over with my hiking pole which revealed its big claws. But no head. Whatever happened to this guy? Human interference or something else? Who knows?

Dead bird the other way

As I pondered what was behind the bird’s demise, the first other hiker since One Tree Hill appeared. We pondered together but our pondering was inconclusive.

We ended up walking together for the remaining 3-4km, chatting as only hikers on a trail can do. He was a Geologist, former miner, who worked in Western Australia, 2 weeks on, 1 week off. From Tasmania, he now lived in Abbotsford, Melbourne. Like me, he had taken the train out here to hike.

We had a lot in common of course. He returned to Australia last October after 1 year of travelling North and South America. He had a cousin who lived in Tucson, AZ, one of my favourite U.S. towns (where one of my favourite bands Calexico come from).

Unfortunately, I didn’t even get his name when we departed. He went to 1000 Steps Cafe for a cuppa. I ventured back to Upper Fernfree Gully train station to return home. Good Mrs’ nephew would soon arrive from Brisbane so I couldn’t linger for too long.

One final picture from the building of CFA (Country Fire Authority) close to the station. Excellent street art with letters looking almost unreal.

CFA (Country Fire Authority) building in Upper Ferntree Gully

After that lengthy and interesting trail conversation, waiting for my train, an old dodger arrived. He started to chat. Make that whinge. About the train timetable’s “inconsistencies”. According to him, it should take 3 minutes between any 2 train stations. Apparently, the train took 4 minutes to arrive here from the station prior.

The distance between 2 stations and whether that part of the train line is busy or not were not considered. I rested my case, your honour, as I stood up and walked away…

Another lovely hike to recommend, with easy public transport access from Melbourne. Weekends can be busy I heard, but today Thursday was not.

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