This remote and pristine part of the Victorian alps just has to be one of Australia’s best kept secrets. For as long as I can remember, nothing makes me feel more invigorated and alive than being truly amongst nature and appreciating everything about your natural surroundings, and this journey into the Victorian high country definitely delivered this in spades.
Nestled in among the rugged and remote mountains of the Victorian Alpine park lies Mt Howitt, and the aptly named “Crosscut saw”, by far the most spectacular ridge-line in all of the alpine region. Getting here is no small feat, but also in relative terms not actually that hard. Type into your GPS the gorgeous little “town” of Licola and in 3 hours of beautiful countryside driving that meanders through flat farmland, into mountainous passes and through rivers and streams you will be there. Once in Licola, pop into the general store and grab yourself an alpine map, ask for some directions and perhaps even grab an ice cream or pick up any last minute supplies/fuel, as this is the last place you can do so as from here on in, you are on your own!
Heading out of Licola, over the bridge, turn left and drive. You will be entering National park and eventually a dirt/ gravel road that continues on for another 90kms, so make sure you have enough fuel and spare tyres if you get a flattie. You will eventually encounter a fork in the road, continue on left and keep going until you reach the Howitt Trail carpark on the right. This is the trailhead for your adventure.
Park up, locked and loaded fill out your intentions in the Parks Vic book at the start and head in. The first part of the trail is relatively easy as you meander through snow gum wetlands with mellow inclines and declines for about an hour until you reach Mc Allistar springs and the most beautiful alpine hut in all of Victoria, the architecturally designed Vellejo Gantner Hut. Here you can access water from the stream, toilet facilities courtesy of “the Loo with a view” and have a well earned rest and or bite to eat at the Hut. This hut is gorgeous, I can only dream of one day being trapped in a snow storm out here and lighting up the gorgeous stone fireplace and cracking a bottle of wine whilst waiting the storm out!. Until then its best to admire the hut for its design and surroundings as these alpine huts are designed for emergency use only.
Heading off on the most obvious path down away from the hut you will find yourself on a track for the summit of Mt Howitt, the Crosscut saw and the Alpine walking track. You will see many sights along the way including the aptly named “Devils Staircase”, gorgeous valleys, and promising views of the Saw as you make your approach.
Once you have opened into the clearing and reach the top you are greeted with some of the most spectacular views I have experienced in the victorian high country that’s for sure! We choose a lovely little flat section right on the ridge line of the Crosscut Saw and set up our camp. Calculating where the sun would rise we set up our tent so that when we opened our door we would be treated with the morning rays. Thats my top tip for the most glorious wake up call of all time!
Sunset was on fire and we were so lucky, everywhere you looked the light was painting layers of texture and colour and is something I will always remember for how vivid and interesting the landscape is.
We cooked up some classic dehydrated food and nestled in for the night, high up on the Ridgeline and under the stars all wrapped up in thermals, sleeping bags and cosy in our tent.
Sunrise was nothing short of breathtaking, and the light that poured in the valley illuminated the skies and opened up views never to be forgotten. Couple that with some fresh brewed coffee from the Aero press and you have morning as close to heaven as you can get in my opinion! You can keep your 5 star hotels any day, views like these cant be bought, only earned.
Heading back down mid morning and hitting the trail home, you cant help but feel stoked for having made the effort to experience something not everyone is willing to achieve. Top it all off with an ice cream and a swim in the pristine river back in Licola to revive the old bones and get you refreshed for the drive home and you’ve got yourself one hell of a little mini victorian weekend getaway.