I’ve been camping here for over 30 years and not much has changed. Parks Vic (or whatever their name is these days) do a great job of servicing the park by doing tree checks, grading the roads, vegetation management, tree hazard checks, managing the toilets and facilities. The rest is up to you. If you want to camp somewhere that has everything done for you, this is not the place. Rangers have more important things to do than change the toilet paper rolls so be prepared for a beautiful simple camping experience.
You can access Sugarloaf Saddle via The Mt. Margaret Road from Marysville or via Buxton. I’ll assume you are coming off the Maroondah Highway. Make your way to the Cooks Mill camping ground located off the Little River Road. Access with a 2wd is fine, albeit a little bumpy on the road in. Follow the signage west to Sugarloaf Saddle. It’s a little steep and doable in a 2wd but it’s a rocky and bumpy road. From Melbourne head east through Healesville and through the mountainous Black Spur. Once you have left the Maroondah Highway and have driven north of Buxton, you will see the signposted turn off to the Ranges.
If you are looking for a bushwalk, head up the track directly opposite the parking area at Sugarloaf Saddle. You have a choice of going via Wells Cave Track or around to the south. I’ve done both dozens of times. Wells Cave Track is harder and more exposed. Even me, a experienced climber found it a wee bit harrowing as I stepped out onto the arete and climbed up. However, if doing a loop with students, I’ll go up through Wells Cave as I can rope them up with harnesses and helmets and rope the difficult sections. It’s easier going up this way than coming down. Follow the orange markers all the way up and down. There are plenty of them, particularly after the fires, there are
LOTS of them. If you are going up the south route to the top, it would be worthwhile taking a rope as it does get steep in a few spots. Just take your time. Don’t rush and be patient. I’ve had Year 6 students to people aged 60+ climb this route but it’s all about patience and enjoying the journey rather than the destination.
Once you reach the summit – you’ll be rewarded with the most beautiful 360-degree views, from the farmland of the Acheron Valley on one side of the range to the densely forested Little River Valley on the other. This is what makes the whole trip worthwhile. I recommend you sit and absorb all that is around you. Allow a half hour. Depending how far you walk across the ridgeline will depend on whether you see the stunning views of The Razorback from the summit.
Rather than speak about walking along the Razorback and beyond, I’ll talk to either returning the way you came or taking the alternate route to which you came up. Beware: wet weather makes this treacherous. Good shoes are essential. Runners won’t really cut it – solid shoes with good soles are essential.
There are a number of excellent rockclimbing sites around the Wells Cave area. Please only take on the climbing if you have significant experience. Do not take it lightly. I had a friend break his ankle here back in the late 80’s due to his high over inflated opinion of his ability and his underestimation of the degree of difficulty of the climb.
No bookings required.
There are toilets at the carpark at Sugarloaf Saddle. Don’t rely on there being toilet paper so please bring your own. Don’t toss your rubbish into the toilets.
There is now a fabulous shelter at Sugarloaf Saddle where you can sit and have lunch, take shelter in case of rain and hang out planning your days activity. Originally there was nothing, then a small shelter but these days it’s gone much more upmarket. It is not for camping, so please don’t attempt to set up here for the night. The Rangers do come regularly and check.
No fires allowed at Sugarloaf Saddle.
Recommend you bring your own water and plenty of it. There is a water tank available but once found a dead possum in it so ever since then, I bring plenty of my own water.
Carry in, carry out. There is no rubbish collection within the park and there are no rubbish bins so you’ll need to take it home
There is no longer camping available at Sugarloaf Saddle. I used to camp there a lot in the mid 90’s but alas, no more. And frankly, I can see the whole area revegetate and revive from the fires and human impact. It’s been a positive step for the area to not have camping.
The lyrebirds are prolific here and in the days of camping at the saddle, you could wake up to a cacophony of a variety of different sounds they make. They’ll often imitate chainsaws from the loggers. You’ll also find kookaburras, cockatoos, galahs and even the protected peregrine falcon. At night, the wombats come out along with the possums. Beware that the possums will rummage through your food if you leave any out before you return to your car. Kangaroos and wallabies tend to come out at dusk and dawn but you will often surprise them on walking trails.
Not bad on the top of the saddle but otherwise dodgy at the best of times. It’s intermittent and can drop out quickly.
No known swimming spots here. No fishing allowed. No horseriding. No canoeing or kayaking.
Now it’s your turn. What are your experiences like of camping at Sugarloaf Saddle? Share and leave a comment below.