Warburton: Mount Little Joe circuit 8.5km

Mount Little Joe is one of several “hills” surrounding the town of Warburton, east of Melbourne. There are several trails for reaching the top of Mount Little Joe and for incorporating it into a hiking circuit. I have been “up that hill” before, with some overlap from then and some new terrain this time.

The maps:


The elevation map:

As you can see from the elevation map above, the climb was something like 400 meters over a 3km stretch. Followed by descending the same elevation over a slightly shorter distance…

Well, back to the beginning…

Today, I had 2 hiking buddies. Lee is one of the chaps from YHA Bushwalking Club and Ruffy is his kelpie dog. Well, kelpie and something else mixed in.

We parked the car in Millgrove, close to the local CFA and alongside the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail. Since Lee lives locally, he suggested this hike and took the lead. Here is the man and his best friend:

Ruffy and Lee – my hiking buddies today

Of course, the rail trail is flat, however soon we diverted and crossed the Warburton Highway. Suddenly, it was anything but flat. It was up, up and up again.

Looking back down towards Warburton Highway

Mount Little Joe Track, according to the map, runs alongside Mount Little Joe but not to its top. We were on that track on and off during the day, but below it diverts to the left. And we are going to the top so right is where we’re going. Actually, there is one more track even further to the right and outside the picture, but that track looked unnamed and appeared lesser used.

OK, get on with it…

No, we are not there yet

Well, the peak of Mount Little Joe appeared to be marked by the two posts below. In other words, still the woods, just a little bit higher up than its surroundings. No views to be had. But we have arrived…

Top of Mount Little Joe

Turning around after taking the picture above, Lee is standing on the top of the mountain.

Lee conquered the peak of Mount Little Joe… again

Well, being a local and being an enthusiastic hiker, Lee has been on top of Mount Little Joe many times before. In fact, he told me that today’s circuit is his training ground and he usually hikes it without stopping and against the clock. With me coming along, new records were not going to be achieved today.

By now, Ruffy thought that we had loitered enough there so we better get cracking.

Come on, guys, let’s go

Soon, the serious descent started. The two local and experienced hikers took off ahead of me, leaving me taking my time not to fall on my backside (or worse). That maneuver saved them from witnessing any embarrassment on my side.

Capturing the slope in a photo and get a sense of the terrain is difficult. The below pic is just before the descent started.

Descending… NOW!

Even with hiking poles, or perhaps because of them(?), I found this section intimidating. Practicing “monkey feet”, the bent knees technique Good Mrs and I learned in Vietnam, helped. “Go slow” too.

Nothing happened and I safely reached the flat T-junction with Mount Little Joe Track. The photo below is from there, looking back up onto the last stretch of the descent.

Phew, end of that steep descent

Mount Little Joe Track finishes by Old Warburton Road, but just prior, the Backstairs Track commences which takes you towards Warburton. So that’s how we continued.

Passing the below wombat hole underneath a tea tree gave me visions of the tree suddenly crashing down. Well, if it will, perhaps not now. The wombat hole looked fresh, but there were no animal or droppings visible. We moved on. No tree was hurt. Neither were we.

Wombat hole in a peculiar place

A tree had actually fallen down on this next small wooden bridge. Lee mentioned that the tree was not there during his last visit so clearly these things do give up.

Newly fallen tree across wooden bridge

Almost back at the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail and close to Warburton suburbia, there is a clearing with a picnic area. It had a name, which I now have forgot. The cleared area looked like somebody’s old property, transformed into public land.

Well, with picnic tables and benches, it was perfect for a break.

Why not take advantage of this?

Soon thereafter, the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail appeared in view, running across that bridge. Warburton Highway is immediately on its other side, with central Warburton to the right.

Out of the woods

To complete today’s circuit, we now followed the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail from the east, back towards Millgrove.

You know it’s a country setting when you see horses and alpacas in the same enclosure alongside the highway. The white horse looked like he wanted a treat, but without being patted in return. I had already eaten my apple, so sorry buddy…

Feed me…

Yes, those were alpacas in the background. Zooming in just to confirm…

Alpacas enjoying the early autumn weather

Soon, we arrived back at Millgrove and the parked car. Mission accomplished. Circuit completed.

In summary, a lovely hike on the first day of autumn (if you subscribe to 4 * 3 months seasons). Cool temperatures with rain overnight and occasional drizzle while we walked made the bush smell gorgeous. You wouldn’t walk this circuit for extraordinary views, but for hill training purposes and pure exercise, it’s perfect. I understand Lee’s views.

Although that steep descent does test you… or at least it tested me… who have not walked it umpteen number of times…

PS You can finish off the hike with lunch in nearby Warburton. Which is exactly what we did next…

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