If you’re looking for somewhere different to go hiking this summer in Victoria, then my suggestion of Lake Mountain might surprise you. While the ski resort is known mostly for its family-friendly snow season, the mountain near Marysville also offers some great walking trails once the weather warms up.
The cross-country ski trails around the Lake Mountain summit and resort area melt to reveal walks through snow gum woodland with stunning views across the Yarra Ranges National Park and lower Victorian Alps. While it’s also become a mountain biking destination in recent years, there’s plenty of quiet walking trails to enjoy almost all to yourself.
Growing up not far away, I’ve made a few trips up to Lake Mountain in the summer months and walked most of the trails. In this post, I’m rounding up the best Lake Mountain walks to do around the ski resort, so you can start planning your summer hiking adventures.
About Lake Mountain
Standing at 1433-metres high, Lake Mountain is a high plateau in the lower part of the Victorian High Country. It’s part of the vast land of the Taungurung people, who are the Traditional Owners of the area.
Towering above the town of Marysville, Lake Mountain is the closest ski resort to Melbourne. It’s a very family friendly winter destination, particularly for cross country skiing and tobogganing. However, it doesn’t get as much snow as some of the bigger skiing destinations like Hotham and Falls Creek.
Outside of winter, the mountain transforms itself into one of the most sought after mountain biking playgrounds in Victoria. There are lots of new bike trails developed in recent years and a well-organised shuttle bus to get you to the top.
Aside from all these activities though, the skiing trails also turn into perfect hiking trails in summer. While not necessarily well-known for walking, Lake Mountain is definitely a nice place to go close to the city for some lovely hiking in the lower part of the High Country. You can enjoy beautiful views of the Australian Alps and Yarra Ranges from some of the lookouts and admire the snow gums that are still recovering from the bushfires in 2009.
Lake Mountain is about a 2 hour drive from Melbourne via the famous Black Spur Road. This incredible drive through the mountain ash trees of the Yarra Ranges begins in Healesville and takes you up to Narbethong, where you can then turn off to Marysville.
From Marysville, you can take the Lake Mountain Road, which is another beautiful and windy drive up to the Lake Mountain Ski Resort. You can simply park in the main car park, where all the walking trails begin from. There are no entry fees for the summer season!
When to Visit For Hiking
Lake Mountain’s snow season lasts from about June to October most years. This is when the resort is open for cross-country skiing and tobogganing with fees charged at the gate. Outside of these months, the mountain is open for mountain biking and walking for free.
I would recommend visiting anytime from November until April for the best walking weather. This is when the days will be warmer and clearer, so you’ll be able to enjoy the views from the trails.
Where to Stay Nearby
If you’re looking to stay somewhere nearby, then Marysville is the closest town. I can recommend a couple of these options for a nice weekend away:
Marysville Garden Cottages || Nicely designed, cosy cottages just a couple of minutes’ walk from the Main Street of Marysville. Perfect for a romantic weekend away, starting from $250 per night. Check availability here.
Amelina Cottages || Just a 5-minute walk from the Main Street, this property offers a variety of cottages from adult only one bedroom cottages to larger two bedroom family cottages. Starting from $250 per night for two people. Check availability here.
Best Lake Mountain Walks to Do Over Summer
Looking to head out on a walk this summer somewhere different? These four hikes at Lake Mountain are the perfect options for anyone looking for an introduction to the High Country on quieter trails than many other national parks.
There are short and long day hikes to choose from. The Lake Mountain Summit Walk is perfect for those short on time, whereas the other options listed below are longer walks requiring half to a full day.
However, you can make a couple of these loops shorter too. If you take a look at the resort map, you’ll see that there are connecting trails that you could easily make your own loop if you prefer. I would recommend picking up a map brochure from the visitor centre in Marysville before heading up to the resort.
Lake Mountain walks map
Lake Mountain Summit Walk
- Distance: 4.5 km
- Time: 1 hour
- Elevation gain: 153m
- Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
This is the easier and shorter option of the walks around Lake Mountain. It’s perfect if you’re short on time and want to get some great views with little effort. The Lake Mountain Summit Walk heads off south of the main car park in the resort.
It’s steep at first for a couple of hundred metres but then levels out once you approach the summit plateau. From here, the loop takes in a few wonderful lookouts. To the west is Marysville Lookout and then back around to the east is the Alps Lookout, both offering a fantastic scene on a clear day over the snow gums.
It’s a well marked walk and should take around an hour, although perhaps a bit longer if you stop to admire the views for a while.
Keppel Hut via Boundary Hut
- Distance: 17 km
- Time: 5 hours
- Elevation gain: 556m
- Difficulty: Moderate
This is the longer of the loop hike options at Lake Mountain and a classic bushwalkers favourite. It’ll require a day to reach Keppels Hut and return, so definitely plan to be on the trail early.
The hut was originally established after the 1939 fires on a grazing lease held by John and Jerry Keppel. It was accidentally burnt down in 1983 but rebuilt with the help of local community groups and DELWP. The hut was once again burnt in the Black Saturday fires in 2009 and has been subsequently rebuilt.
The hut can be reached by 4WD too, although this depends on road closures. Otherwise, walking from Lake Mountain provides a great way to see the remote hut and you’ll likely have the whole trail to yourself.
From the car park, you’ll want to pass the cafe and kiosk area and take the Royston Trail heading north. This is usually a well-kept and wide track so you’ll be able to easily follow this through the snow gums as it rises up onto the plateau.
Once you get to Triangle Junction, kept heading straight on the Royston Trail which turns into the Panorama Loop Trail. If you take the loop trail clockwise, you’ll then come to the turn off for the Hut Trail. This is where the ski trails end, but in the summer months a hiking trail continues to Boundary Hut, the highest point of the Yarra Ranges National Park, and Keppel Hut.
We chose to head straight for Keppel Hut first. Once you pass the Boundary Hut turn-off, the trail becomes a skinny path through thicker vegetation as it drops down towards Keppel Hut. This part of the hike is barely looked after or maintained during summer, so it can be overgrown sometimes.
You’ll eventually pop out on the Keppel Hut 4WD Track, where you simply turn right to the hut and picnic area. It’s the perfect spot to relax and have lunch before returning the same way back to Boundary Hut.
This time head out to Boundary Hut and admire the incredible view of the Australian Alps from the hut ruins. Then head back on the Hut Trail towards Lake Mountain Resort. We opted to continue on the Panorama Loop Trail to our left which led to the Panorama Lookout.
Once you join back up with the Royston Trail, you can opt to take the Muster Trail instead to return to Lake Mountain. This simply varies your return and makes it more of a loop hike. Otherwise, you could take Royston back again too.
Echo Flat, Woolybutt Trail and Jubilee Trail Loop
- Distance: 12.5 km
- Trail: 3 hours
- Elevation gain: 273m
- Difficult: Easy-Moderate
This half day loop hike option joins three ski trails together to form a nice walk through the snow gums to some great viewpoints of the mountains. We did this loop in a clockwise direction from the main car park area.
We first headed off on the Echo Flat Trail which winds through the trees via Helicopter Flat, The Camp and ends at The Gap. From here, we took the trail on the right, known as Woolybutt Trail. This short trail skirts around the edge of the plateau until it meets the Jubilee Trail.
The Jubilee Trail offers a nice extension out to the High Country Lookout. It eventually loops back around to The Camp junction. From there, you can either take Echo Flat again or Snowgum Trail to return to the main car park. Both are similar distance and difficulty.
The Cascades (Lake Mountain to Marysville)
- Distance: 29.5 km
- Time: 8 hours
- Ascend: 598m
- Descend: 1536m
- Difficulty: Moderate-Hard
While this is not a designated hike at Lake Mountain, when I saw that it was possible to walk from Lake Mountain all the way down to Marysville, I knew I wanted to do it! It would be perfect for anyone training for a long thru hike or similar.
This long walk takes you from the snow gums of the High Country down to the mountain ash forest around Marysville. It’s a long day out, although luckily most of it is downhill if you head down from Lake Mountain. This is a one way hike too, so you’ll need to either get dropped off at the top or arrange a car shuffle.
From the main car park at Lake Mountain, you’ll first want to take the Lake Mountain Summit Walk. However, instead of doing the loop, continue south towards the Snowy Hill Carpark. From here, you’ll be using what is referred to as The Cascades. This is the long mountain biking trail that has been built in recent years, however, it is multi-use for both bikes and walkers.
A word of warning though, it is predominantly a mountain biking trail, with steep sections, dips and berms carved into the track. This makes it difficult for walkers but it is doable. If you’re wanting to walk this in summer and on a weekend, then you’ll also have to try and stick the edge of the track or otherwise risk getting taken out by a mountain biker coming down. I did this during the week in March and I only saw a couple of bikers at the start.
The Cascades trail takes you down to Arnold Gap, past the Entry Gate, and then down through the forest until you cross over Lady Talbot Drive. This is all pretty steep downhill, and only once you get to this last section via Red Hill do you get some relief from the constant descent.
At the end, you’ll come out on the Buxton-Marysville Road just opposite the Marysville Caravan Park and Amelina Cottages (linked above for accommodation). A tiring but rewarding walk from the mountain to the town.
Safety While Hiking at Lake Mountain
- Snakes are common on warm days and can be seen on the trails, especially if they’re a bit overgrown. Be vigilant and give them plenty of room to move off safely.
- There are signposts at the main intersections, although it can be a little confusing sometimes as the names refer to ski trails. I would recommend carrying a paper map/brochure from the visitor centre and using Maps.Me or a similar GPS app.
- The trails are not as maintained or looked after during the summer months, especially the Hut Trail out to Boundary Hut and Keppel Hut. This means the grass can be long and overgrown, so wearing gaiters can be a good idea.
- Carry enough food and water with you for your chosen walk as there isn’t any available along the trails.
- While the walks are not on overly challenging terrain, it’s still a good idea to wear good walking shoes that you feel comfortable in.
My Essential Hiking Gear
Nearby Hiking Destinations
If you’re looking for other hiking destinations not too far away then I have some guides to other parks, including:
- 10 Best Walks in the Yarra Ranges National Park
- A Guide to Hiking in the Cathedral Ranges State Park
- Walks and Waterfalls on Lady Talbot Drive in Marysville