Hanging Rock is a hidden geological gem, located around 45 minutes north west of the Melbourne CBD. Popular with the locals, its one of those fabulous spots that you'll be lucky enough to visit if you know someone 'in the know' but would otherwise go missed. Never mind, because now you're in the know and can add this spectacular location to your 'to do' list when visiting Melbourne!
It's a little off the beaten track, so you'll need a car to visit Hanging Rock. You'll cruise along City Link for a portion of the ride, which is a toll road, so make sure to organise this with your rental company or buy a pass / make sure the car has an eTag if you're borrowing a car as there are no toll booths along the way.
At over 6 million years old, this magnificent rock formation has seen a lot in its time and is a prominent Aboriginal site in the area. For those keen on geology, you will appreciate being able to see and climb this rare volcanic structure, known as a 'mameleon' or more commonly a 'volcanic plug'. In fact, it is one of the best examples of this kind of natural structure in the whole world.
At only 45 minutes from the CBD, on the Tullamarine and Calder Freeways, it makes a stop on a bigger adventure to the Macedon and Spa Country region of Victoria or a great way to spend part of a day. It is also only around 25 minutes away from the Melbourne Airport, so may make a great pit stop if you've got part of a day free before flying out.
Hanging Rock is a great place for a hike as you don't need to be particularly prepared to do so. All that's required is a comfy pair of shoes and everyday casual clothing. If it's a hot day a drink bottle is a great idea as there are no taps or amenities once you're on the trail. There is however a visitor's centre by the carpark where you can purchase a drink or even have lunch before or after your walk.
A low to moderate range of fitness is required to climb Hanging Rock which is a combination of stairs, bitumen path and scrambling over rock. There are plenty of places to stop for a breather and it's around 25 minutes to the top if walking at a normal walking pace, so don't fear if you're a little unfit, you'll make it in the end!
You'll begin your hike at the cafe and visitor's centre, where you can learn a little more about the geological wonder, the region and the 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' mystery. It's an easy paved ascent and about 5 minutes in you can select between the shorter but stepper, or longer but more gentle ascent.
Once you hit the rock, it's all off path. At the summit you'll find the volcanic rock has weathered and eroded over the years providing an excellent opportunity to channel your inner mountain goat as you scramble over, under and through crevices and boulders. Finding the highest peak is all part of the fun as you search for a foot hole and scramble the smooth rock.
You'll be well rewarded it you're brave enough to climb up for a look at the view, with sprawling green pastures, lush hills and tiny houses below come into view. It's a great place to take a drink and a snack and sit with a friend as you enjoy the view.
As your hike draws to an end, why not say hello to one of the friendly kangaroos that love to lounge around in the carpark. Many stop for a photo, although we wouldn't recommend giving them a pat. Kangaroos are quite strong creatures and you wouldn't want to get on their bad side! Make sure you validate your parking ticket on the way out or you'll get stuck at the boom gate.
Although it's a fictional novel (also made into a movie), The Picnic at Hanging Rock story has become somewhat of a folklore tale in the area. In the story, two girls on a school excursion leave the group and go missing, never to be seen again. The story has been told and retold so many times that some wonder if there is an element of truth to the mystery and it is now ingrained in the history of the location.
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