Mount Buffalo National Park is an impressive sight from both near and far. The incredible plateau is characterised by its massive granite tors and boulders, flowing waterfalls, snow gum forests and panoramic views across the Australian Alps and Victorian High Country.
It’s an outdoor lover’s playground with unique flora and fauna, along with snow in the colder months disappearing to reveal hiking trails in the summer. As you likely already know, I’m partial to some great hikes and after so many rave reviews about the park, I decided to spend nearly a week exploring the plateau.
While in many ways Mount Buffalo National Park draws similarities with the more well-known Grampians National Park, the benefit of Buffalo is that it’s much more condensed and you can see most of the park in a short time.
Mount Buffalo is one of the best places in Victoria for hikers, climbers and all-round adventure seekers. So, here’s my guide to the national park for green season, when you can spend your days hiking to epic vistas and camping under the stars at night.
About Mount Buffalo National Park
It’s impossible not to be impressed by Mount Buffalo National Park. The 77, 000-acre park is located in Victoria’s High Country, just 35km west of Bright.
It’s a complete nature lovers paradise, with an abundance of wildlife and over 500 different species of native plants, some of which are not found anywhere else in the country. The landscape is a dramatic combination of dramatic cliffs, granite tors, large boulders, flowering waterfalls and snow gum forests.
From afar the unique mountain plateau rises from the Ovens Valley floor, separate but not too far away from the Alpine National Park. Mt Buffalo’s highest point is known as the Horn, standing at 1723m high.
Brief history of Mount Buffalo
The park area is recognised as being part of Taungurung Country with the area having provided a feast of protein-rich bogong moths for the Traditional Owners of the land.
By the mid-19th century, the unique mountain had garnered interest from gold miners, botanists and explorers who were intrigued by this incredible granite plateau with magnificent scenery. Word continued to spread, and the area attracted day trippers from the 1880s onwards, with a handful of locals becoming unofficial guides for the influx of tourists.
The area around the Gorge was reserved as national park in 1898 with the Chalet built in 1910. This makes Mt Buffalo the oldest national park in Victoria along with Wilsons Prom, both being declared in 1898. From then onwards, the park boundaries have expanded to include the entire plateau and lower slopes and is now administered by Parks Victoria.
The original Chalet from 1910 is still standing today with some added extensions and improvements from the past century. The building is only open occasionally for special tours, otherwise remains permanently closed. It’s listed in the Victorian Heritage Register.
When to visit Mount Buffalo National Park
You can visit Mt Buffalo National Park at any time of the year. However, which season you decide to visit will depend largely on what you want to do there.
In winter, snow blankets much of the plateau and it becomes a winter wonderland for cross country skiing and tobogganing. These activities are centred around Cresta Valley and Dingo Dell, with the roads to Lake Catani and the Horn closed during winter.
In summer, the park is a haven for all sorts of adventures. The weather is great at this time of the year (usually), with warm days and cool nights. This is the best time to visit for hiking, hang gliding, rock climbing, swimming and camping. The campground at Lake Catani is only open from November to April (and for a short time in winter for minimal snow camping), meaning that outside of these months you are largely confined to day trips.
This guide is mostly for those interested in visiting in the warmer months, with the best hiking trails and other activities outlined below.
Check out this short video of my time in the national park!
How to get to Mount Buffalo National Park
Mt Buffalo is around 325 kilometres north east of Melbourne, which is a three-and-a-half-hour drive.
The most common way people access the park is by self-driving. The park is the perfect destination for a great road trip in the Alpine region of Victoria and can easily be combined with some other nearby destinations such as Bright, Hotham, Falls Creek and the Milawa Gourmet Region.
Hiring a campervan for your trip to Mt Buffalo is an ideal way to explore the park. I took my own van and it gave me all the freedom I needed to camp, hike and catch the sunset.
Hardcore cyclists also ride to the top of the plateau at Mt Buffalo. They share the same windy road as vehicles, so look out for them as you drive.
What you need to know before you go
- The park is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year and is free to enter.
- There are no fuel stations or supplies available once you enter the national park. If you need to refuel or pick up food, you should do this in Bright before driving up.
- There is limited phone reception in the national park. Telstra has significantly more than other networks, although Optus also had good reception at the Chalet and at any of the higher peaks and lookouts.
- The Rangers Station has very limited hours and is only open for a short time between December and February for information. Otherwise, they have park maps and brochures outside the station for you to pick up at any time.
- If you prefer to talk to someone about the park, you can call into the Tourist Information Centre in Bright or call Parks Victoria office.
- The roads to the Horn, Lake Catani campground and the Reservoir are unsealed, dirt roads. They are closed during winter and after heavy rain but are otherwise accessible for all vehicles during the warmer months.
- Camping is a popular way to see the national park. The main campground is at lake Catani and must be booked and paid for prior to arrival. Otherwise, there are two remote, minimal campsites at Rocky Creek and Mount McLeod, which also must be booked in advance. More on this below.
- The area is prone to bushfires and has had some particularly devastating ones in recent years. On Code Red Fire Danger days, the park is closed to all visitors and fires aren’t permitted on Total Fire Ban days (obviously). Check the Vic Emergency website for updates.
- Most of the hiking trails have signposts at intersections and junctions. Otherwise, they are relatively obvious trails, although can occasionally become overgrown towards the end of summer. All the trails are marked on Maps.Me.
- There is plenty of wildlife found at Mt Buffalo National Park. Take care driving at night with wombats frequently wandering onto the road. If you’re hiking in summer or on warm days, be aware of snakes on some of the quieter trails (they’re quite common, I saw a couple during my hikes in February).
Essential gear for Mount Buffalo National Park
Being an alpine area, the park sees massive changes in weather at any time of the year and you should be prepared for all weather conditions. Gear I can recommend for hiking and camping include:
- First aid kit: A must for any hiking and camping trip.
- PLB: A safety item for remote hikes and walk-in camping.
- Daypack: For carrying all your gear while exploring, around 30L is a nice size for a variety of adventures.
- Sleeping bag: A warm sleeping bag is a must for the alpine region.
- Portable solar panel: For charging your devices off the sun, this personal GoalZero panel is great for camping.
- Power bank: So you can keep your devices going while exploring, I have the GoalZero one and it’s worth the money as it’s weatherproof.
- Sturdy hiking shoes: The trails involve all sorts of terrain, so comfy shoes are best. I’ve been wearing Keen boots for the past year and I’ve been super happy with them.
Where to stay in Mt Buffalo National Park
If you want to stay inside the park boundary, you’ll be looking at camping. The Lake Catani Campground is the main camping area, along with two other remote locations. You can also choose to stay outside the national park in nearby towns and make day trips from there.
The Lake Catani Campground is the main camping area inside Mt Buffalo National Park. Located on the plateau amongst the bush, it offers 49 campsites for all different setups including caravans, campervans, car camping and tents.
You must book and pay for your site prior to arrival through the Parks Victoria website here.
It’s a good idea to check out the campground map before booking your site so you can pick the most ideal spot for you. The campground is a very well-maintained place with toilets, hot showers, a dish washing area, basic laundry area, picnic tables, gas barbecues and fire pits. However, the water is untreated, so you must either bring your own supply or treat the water before drinking.
Set on the edge of Lake Catani, there are plenty of walking trails beginning from the campground too.
The two remote campgrounds are at Rocky Creek and Mount McLeod. They are hike-in only and are limited to five tents per night. You must be fully self-sufficient, although they do offer a long drop toilet. Water is seasonally available at these spots, but it’s advised to carry your own for the entirety of your stay. Fires are prohibited, but fuel stoves are allowed.
You must also book and pay for these sites prior to arriving through the Parks Victoria website here.
Crystalbrook Cottage | As close as you can get to the national park, you can book this cosy two-bedroom house for up to four people. It’s beautifully furnished and offers a terrace with mountains views. Check their availability here.
Riverview Caravan Park | For a more budget stay, you can book a powered camping site or a standard bungalow at this caravan park. It’s conveniently located on Mt Buffalo Road just outside the park boundary. Check their availability here.
Many people use Bright as a base for exploring the national park. It’s a very busy, vibrant town, especially on weekends. There are endless accommodation properties to suit all sorts of budgets. Here’s a couple of suggestions.
Ashwood Cottages | Two minute’s drive from Bright, this one-bedroom quirky cottage is the perfect getaway for two. They also offer free bike rental. Check their availability here.
The Stelvio Villas | This luxurious and modern villa is right in Bright town. It can sleep up to five guests making it great for groups. Check their availability here.
Where to eat
Mt Buffalo National Park has BBQ areas at picnic grounds and at the Lake Catani Campground available for use. Otherwise, you can also bring your own gas cooker for camp cooking.
Bright has many great restaurants and cafes. It’s the perfect place to have a meal on the way to the national park or after a few days of camping food.
Things to do in Mount Buffalo National Park
There’s so much to do in Mount Buffalo National Park, here’s a quick guide to the activities on offer.
Mount Buffalo National Park is a popular rock climbing destination in Victoria and one of the best granite climbing spots in the country. It’s home to the famous, multi-day North Wall, as well as other areas around the plateau for beginners up to advanced climbers.
There are a number of tour operators who can take you out for the day if you’re not confident on your own. You can try Bright Adventure Company.
In the winter, the national park becomes a snow playground for young families and cross-country skiers. There are marked trails beginning in the Cresta Valley carpark for both beginners and intermediate skiers.
Families also head to the plateau for tobogganing, which is free and usually much quieter than the alpine resort areas like Hotham and Falls Creek.
Hang gliding and paragliding
Hang gliding and paragliding is a popular activity in the national park. There is an official launch ramp at the lower end of the Gorge Day Visitor Area. It’s not uncommon to spot people flying around the plateau from other viewpoints. There are a few local operators who can help you launch off the plateau.
Mount Buffalo National Park has some spectacular waterfalls and fun swimming spots.
Ladies Bath Falls | At the base of Mt Buffalo, this is the first place you’ll come across on your left as you enter the national park. The falls make the perfect place to cool off but be aware that it can get very busy.
Eurobin Falls | At the Ladies Bath pool area, you can follow the stairs up to the lower and upper lookouts of the Eurobin Falls.
Rollasons Falls | Just a few kilometres up the Mt Buffalo Road inside the park you’ll see a picnic area on your right for Rollasons Falls. It’s a short but moderately steep walk down to the waterfall which is the best swimming pool on a hot day.
Crystal Brook Falls | This spectacular waterfall drops 200m down from the Gorge. You can view it from the Gorge Heritage walking track, which offers one of the best views in the park.
Lookouts and viewpoints
If there’s one thing the park has ample of, it’s lookouts. Whether you spend hours hiking or simply want to drive right to the top, there are plenty of opportunities for panoramic viewpoints for everyone.
Here are the best lookouts in Mount Buffalo National Park:
The Horn | The highest point in the park and the most popular spot to visit. You can drive most of the way to the carpark area which offers nice views in itself. Otherwise, a 500m climb gets you to the official lookout. It’s the best place to be for sunrise and sunset in Mt Buffalo.
The Hump | This incredible viewpoint overlooks the entire plateau and is located just down from the Horn. The trail is well-formed and climbs up 1km past the Cathedral, and onto the summit. In my opinion, this is a must do and is much quieter than the Horn.
Pulpit Rock and Wilkinsons Lookout | These viewpoints are two of the best on the Gorge Heritage Trail. They provide incredible views over Crystal Brook Falls and the valley below.
Mt Dunn | One of the most popular day hikes leads to this summit on Mt Dunn. The 6km return track starts not far from Lake Catani Campground and the panoramic views from the top are worth all the effort to get there. There are metal ladders to reach the very top at the end.
Best day hikes in Mount Buffalo National Park
There are hikes to suit everyone in Mount Buffalo National Park. With around 90km worth of trails, you can be walking there for days.
Whether you’re after short and easy walks or longer more challenging hikes, here are some of the Mount Buffalo walks I can recommend from my time in the park.
Eagle Point and Og Gog Magog from Reservoir Picnic Area
10 km | 3 hours | Moderate
On the western side of the plateau you can find a number of viewpoints that are linked together by various trails: Mt Dunn, Og Gog Magog, Eagle Point, Macs Point and Mollinsons Galleries. To cover all five in one day is a bit too long with a full circuit working out to more than 30km, so most people just pick a couple to combine into a nice day hike.
I decided to do Og Gog Magog and Eagle Point from the Reservoir Road Picnic Area. To begin, I walked up the Mt McLeod Track for a couple of hundred metres until a sign on my left indicated the trail to Og Gog Magog. From there, I followed the relatively easy trail through the bush to the side trip to the viewpoint.
I climbed through the rocks to Og Gog Magog at 1480m with a nice view over the snow gum forest. Back on the trail I continued to Eagle Point. This nice lookout has a metal ladder to reach the top of the boulders which offers an incredible panoramic view of the western side of the plateau.
From there, I retraced my steps to an intersection and then took the right trail which eventually connects onto Rocky Creek Track. Once I hit the track, I turned left and it was an easy walk back to the car at Reservoir Road.
You could easily add on a side trip to Macs Point or Mt Dunn if you wanted something longer. However, some of these trails off Rocky Creek Track were a little overgrown at the time.
Mt Dunn via Long Plain Track
7 km | 2 hours | Moderate
This is one of the most popular day walks in Mt Buffalo National Park. It starts just across the road from the Lake Catani Campground, so you can either park on the side of the road at the trailhead or begin from the campground.
The trail crosses a flat plain for the first 1.5km before slowly climbing up to the top of Mt Dunn. The last steep climb to the metal ladders at the top is a bit strenuous and caught a few people off guard. Once you climb the ladders, the rocky summit offers one of the best views in the park.
Return the same way.
The Gorge Heritage Trail
2.5 km | 1 hour | Easy
This is a highly underrated Mount Buffalo National Park walk. The easy, gravel path begins either at the Gorge Visitor Area or from the picnic area just down from there. Either way it’s a short walk that takes you to a number of lookouts, including Crystal Brook Falls, Pulpit Rock and Wilkinsons Lookout, all of which are spectacular.
From there, you can actually continue onto Reeds Lookout and then keep going on the trail until it meets up with the main road further down, or just simply return to the Gorge.
While you’re at the Gorge Visitor Area, you can check out Bents Lookout on a new glass bottom platform at the car park as well as the launch point for paragliding.
The Cathedral and The Hump
2 km | 45 minutes | Moderate
Another underrated hike, this is definitely one of the best views in the park. On the road to the Horn, you’l see the car park on your right. From there, a well-formed trail leads up to the Cathedral, an interesting rock formation rising from the plateau. Then, the trail turns to the left and climbs up to a viewpoint known as the Hump.
It offers an incredible vista over the plateau and towards the Horn. It’s best at sunrise or just before sunset when the golden light is very impressive against the otherworldly landscape.
Return the same way.
2 km | 40 minutes | Easy-Moderate
This interesting feature is a giant rock standing perfectly on top of a boulder overlooking Lake Catani. The trail begins just opposite the Ranger Station and Park Office. It’s relatively easy but ascends a bit towards the end where there’s a metal ladder to climb up to the boulders.
You can’t actually climb to the top of the rock anymore, but the views across Lake Catani are still worth the walk.
3 km | 1 hour | Moderate
Often skipped by people heading straight to the top of the plateau, Rollasons Falls is the perfect place to head on a hot day. A trail leaves from the Rollasons Falls Picnic Area on Mt Buffalo Road down to the falls, from where you can head to the upper view or down to the bottom pool.
The entire walk is short but the final couple of hundred metres down are quite steep, and you have to return the same way.
The lower falls is where you can jump into the natural swimming pool and enjoy the serenity of the park.
Suggested 3-day Mount Buffalo National Park itinerary
If you’ve got a long weekend off and considering a jam-packed trip to Mount Buffalo National Park, this is how I recommend you spend three days in the park. This is for warmer weather or green season trips only!
Day 1: Waterfalls and easy strolls
Leave Melbourne (or wherever you live!) and head for the High Country in north east Victoria. Stop for last minute supplies and fuel in Bright and grab lunch at one of the trendy cafes in the main street.
Leave Bright and head for Mt Buffalo National Park. Not too far after the park entrance, stop on the left at Eurobin and Lady Bath Falls. Walk to the lower and upper viewpoints and have a dip, if it’s warm.
Continue driving up to the plateau and head to the Mount Buffalo Chalet. Enjoy the viewpoints from the carpark there and head along the Gorge Heritage Walk to Crystal Brook Falls, Pulpit Rock and Wilkinsons Lookout. It should be a total of 2.5km return.
Drive to Lake Catani Campground and find your spot for the night.
Day 2: Long hikes and epic views
Prepare for a big day of walking today!
Choose from one of the longer hikes, such as Eagle Point or Mt Dunn. Spend a few hours tramping along the trails to some beautiful and secluded lookouts before heading back to camp for a late lunch or afternoon tea (depending on how early you start your hike!).
Once the late afternoon starts to hit and the sun is getting lower, drive out towards the Horn. Stop at the Cathedral Picnic Area and climb up to the Hump for one of the best viewpoints in the whole park. Sit and enjoy the view and then head back down.
Continue driving up to the Horn Picnic Area. If you still have some time before sunset, enjoy a picnic dinner there in the shelter before climbing up 500m to the highest point in the park. Enjoy the sunset from the Horn, an incredible sight on a clear and beautiful evening.
Take care when driving back to Lake Catani after dark, as there’s plenty of wildlife about on the roads at this time.
Day 3: Final fun and home time
Have a sleep in after a big couple of days and then pack your camp up for the journey home. On your way back down through the national park, stop at Rollasons Falls Picnic Area and hike down to the waterfall.
If it’s a warm day have a swim before heading back up to your car for the long drive back home.
Things to do and see nearby
If you’ve got a bit of extra time, you can explore some nearby places.
Distance from Mt Buffalo National Park: 40km
Bright is a very popular weekend destination, and the town is a vibrant place to head for a couple of days. Its streets are filled with cafes, restaurants, gift shops and boutique stores. It’s popular with cyclists, hikers and skiers, and is bustling all through the week and during every season.
I recommended a couple of places to stay above.
Mt Hotham and the Alpine National Park
If you want to keep hiking and searching for more panoramic views of the Alps, you’re not too far away from the Alpine National Park. The closest access points to the park from Mt Buffalo, include at Harrietville, Hotham, Mt Beauty, Bogong and Falls Creek.
There are hiking trails galore in the park area, with Victoria’s two highest peaks, Bogong and Feathertop the most popular destinations.
Milawa Gourmet Region
Distance from Mt Buffalo National Park: 90km
Australia’s first official gourmet region, Milawa and the surrounding towns are home to wineries, cafes, farm gates, a cheese factory and so much more. It’s a great place to spend a weekend indulging in good food and wine and stocking up on local produce to take home with you.
Check out my guide here: A Weekend in the Milawa Gourmet Region
Distance from Mt Buffalo National Park: 173km
If you’re looking for another adventure in Victoria’s High Country, then I can suggest a camping trip to Lake Cobbler in the Alpine National Park. While it requires a 4WD to reach, it offers some incredible day trips, including hikes to Mount Cobbler and Dandongadale Falls, as well as, 4×4 driving down the infamous “staircase”.
Check out my guide here: Camping at Lake Cobbler in the High Country