he Victorian High Country has plenty to offer the adventurous types. Spectacular views, fantastic camping opportunities and for the 4WD enthusiast, some of the best and in many cases challenging roads in Australia. In the video below, we’re going to show you some of the roads we used on a recent trip up into the Alps, and to start off the journey, we need to cross the mighty Murray River from NSW into Victoria. The crossing is just south of the Tom Groggin camping ground and is a great place to start any High Country trip if you live in NSW.
Because Tom Groggin is in the valley south of Thredbo, you’d expect it to be pretty high, but in fact it is only at 530 metres elevation so is usually pretty warm in the colder months. Maybe that’s why the kangaroos like it so much, because there are plenty of them to see here.
Depending on the time of year you go to the high country will often dictate the road conditions. During the winter, many of the higher roads are closed due to the snow cover, but in summer and autumn, pretty much everything is open and most roads will be passable.
The road up to mount Pinnibar gets very steep in places with a solid base of red clay. If it’s wet, things could get particularly difficult. It might also be very difficult is if you only have 2 wheel drive. Coming up the hill to Mt Pinnibar, Nathan’s Triton wouldn’t engage 4WD and getting up in 2 wheel drive wasn’t easy when the road is damp like it was the day we attempted it. Having one of the cars break was not what we needed on day 2 of a 10 day trip. However, it turned out to be an electrical issue with the selector switch in the gear mechanism and we soon had it bypassed and back in 4WD.
It can get pretty busy during popular times in the Alps and Easter is probably one of the busiest as we discovered on the way up to Mount Pinnibar. With many steep climbs and only enough room for one way traffic there is often times spent waiting for other cars to go up or down. The climb up to Mt Pinnibar is no exception and we had to wait for over an hour for other vehicles who were not necessarily experienced at wet hill climbs and descents. We finally got to the 1727m peak, where there was plenty of opportunity for photos.
The scenery, road surfaces and conditions change quickly in the Alps. Many roads are in exceptional condition and could be easily accessed by soft roaders, while others are suited to High clearance only. If you choose your tracks wisely, you could easily stay on well-maintained roads all day and get to many great camping spots in low clearance cars without ever having to engage 4WD.
One of the many destinations was Charlies Creek and on the way we would get the opportunity to take in some amazing scenic views without even having to get out of the car. You are forever climbing and descending mountains in the Alps and very quickly the roads will change into deep wooded areas with quite slippery damp roads and then rise back to the top of the range where the roads are dry and dusty. Creeks run across the tracks constantly and some of the roads criss-cross the creeks for many kilometres.
There are many places where you will come across huts that look fairly newly built as well as ones that have been in the high country for many years. A lot of the huts were lost in the bushfires of 2003 and some have been rebuilt or restored. But not all of the huts are gone and some date back a long way such as the Davies Plain Hut which was originally built in 1892. It was destroyed by fire in 1939 and then rebuilt in that same year by a local family. By 1996 it was looking pretty average and in need of some repairs, so it was overhauled and rebuilt using traditional construction methods to maintain its rustic origins on the high plains. It’s worth taking a look at some of these huts, having a quick bite to eat, or if you’re desperate to escape some inclement weather, the huts do provide great shelter and a place to sit around a nice open fireplace.
On the way back from Davies Plain, we discovered that the Murray River was only a short 5 km detour, so we decided to go and have a look. Because Davies plain is at 1400m and the Murray River is at 500m, the 5km road down to the river is very steep. But the little side detour, which was also a dead-end road, was well worth it. The river is beautiful and with plenty of trout skimming the surface it is a terrific place to take a break and have a look around.
The road out from the Murray was the same road we came in on and with the weather looking like it was about to turn wet, the track out could have become pretty tricky, so we decided to make tracks back up the steep climb. Luckily the rain held off and the trip up the hill was uneventful. But it is worth keeping an eye on the weather as some roads would become almost impossible if they were really wet.
Our next destination which would be Blue Rag Range Road. Many consider Blue Rag Range Road as one of the most iconic 4WD roads and destinations in Australia and there is no doubt it is a stunning piece of road in the Victorian Alps. Located just south of Mt Hotham, this road boasts some of the highest roads in the country with spectacular views either side of the range. The road itself is in very good condition and is easily accessible off the Dargo High Plains road west of the main tarmac road out of Mount Hotham.
Whilst the road itself is a fun piece of road that follows the ridge line all the way to the 1720m trig point, depending on the weather conditions, you could find yourself without a view and totally surrounded by low cloud, fog and mist. Unfortunately for us, the wind was howling across the top of the range, bringing with it a large amount of cloud and our spectacular view was nowhere to be seen. The wind kept blowing and the clouds kept moving across the top, occasionally allowing us to see a glimpse of the views around. But as far as a 4WD road goes, this one is a gem and if you are planning to do any trip in a 4WD in Australia, then this road needs to be near the top of your list.
Our next destination is Talbotville at the bottom of the range towards Dargo, but when you find a side track that looks like a bit of fun, and there looks like a good spot for lunch at the bottom of it, then I say take it and have a crack. Along the road to Talbottville, we discovered a track down to Mad Dog lookout which was exceptionally steep and looked like a real challenge. With a name like Mad Dog, it’s just begging to be driven. The road is steep, really steep, but in very good condition and whilst it is a low range road, it was an easy descent down to the lookout. Because it was a side road, we needed to come back up again and as I’ve said a few times already, if you were to get a downpour of rain, getting back up the track could be a bit of an issue.
Our last section of roads in the video above is the Crooked River Road. A road that crosses the Crooked River over 20 times. Some of the crossings are long, whilst others are short with steep entries and exits. One things for sure, Nathan wasn’t having any luck on this trip and on the Crooked River Road, a slice in the side wall of his brand new Coopers tyre had us stopped on the side of the road. It wasn’t wanting to take to plugs and after each water crossing the plugs would pop out and the tyre would deflate instantly. It was never going to plug, so the spare would need to be put on for the rest of the trip.