Walk the Pinnacle – Grampians National Park

Last Updated on May 6, 2021 by Red Nomad OZ

The Pinnacle Lookout with Lake Bellfield below, Grampians National Park, Victoria
The Pinnacle Lookout with Lake Bellfield below, Grampians National Park, Victoria

WARNING: Do NOT attempt the Pinnacle walk if you don’t like A) heights; B) snakes; C) wildflowers; or D) looking uncool!

Whether or not D) applies depends to a certain degree on physical fitness levels – and possibly hiking fashion sense! Although tragically that’s not a factor if you’re like me.  That red face, heaving chest and death-rattle puffing after ascending the 470 metre elevation (~1560 feet) of the Pinnacle hike are guaranteed to immediately counteract the effects of even the most fashionable hiking gear!

he Pinnacle (see circle & inset) from Halls Gap Main Street, Grampians National Park
The Pinnacle (see circle & inset) from Halls Gap Main Street, Grampians National Park

Sadly, the general store in Grampians town Halls Gap sells everything – except badges that state ‘Don’t Panic! I’m NOT having a heart attack!’

Mackeys Peak rock en route to the Pinnacle, Grampians National Park
Mackeys Peak rock en route to the Pinnacle, Grampians National Park

So wielding a camera as if you know what you’re doing is a far better antidote to D).  That’s because it’s possible to surreptitiously catch your breath under the guise of admiring and photographing the view.

Starting the Pinnacle hike

Thankfully, there are a lot of views to admire on the 3.6 km (2.23 mile) trek up the escarpment.  Leave from the trail-head behind the Halls Gap Caravan Park which will take you to the Pinnacle, one of the most popular vantage points in the Grampians National Park.

But admiring the staggering view from the truly impressive vantage point of the Pinnacle doesn’t come easily.

The jagged rocky outcrops forming the distinctive Halls Gap skyline appear impossibly high up and far away (see above). But the sharply pointed spur of rock with fuzzy edges – the safety rail – jutting out from the clifftop along the line of peaks above the town IS attainable!

Halls Gap Caravan Park Campground from Stony Creek
Halls Gap Caravan Park Campground from Stony Creek

Of course a ‘Hard’ grade hike requires preparation. So before you climb, take a trip to the Halls Gap Bakery, full of ready made sandwiches, rolls and apple shortbreads (me) and vanilla slices (Pilchard). Although these are readily interchangeable with the Lumberjack cake (me) and Hedgehog slice (Pilchard).

The first leg to Mackeys Peak

Stop at the grave of baby Agnes Ffoulkes, tragic victim of the hardships faced by pioneers in this once-remote spot.  The track immediately ascends to the first of many staircases that make the first leg to Mackeys Peak a pretty stiff climb. Stop to admire and photograph (yes, that’s a euphemism!) the fine views of Chatauqua Peak and across the valley to Boronia Peak.  They’re both fine walks for another day. At this point, you’ll be looking up at them.

Red rests at Mackeys Peak, 2011, wth Halls Gap and Boronia Peak
Red rests at Mackeys Peak, 2011, wth Halls Gap and Boronia Peak in the background

BUT … you’ll soon be higher than both!

If you keep going, that is. There’s no shame in returning to Halls Gap at this point.  But why forgo the excitement of an uncountable number of steps; steep drop-offs and cliffs; wildflowers; and possibly even snakes?

Keep Climbing!

Steeper than they look!!!
Steeper than they look!!!

And if you’re already a victim of D), you’ve got nothing to lose by carrying on …

Finally the stairs even out and the heavily wooded track winds almost horizontally through a scattering of impressive rocky outcrops.  Some of them have scary looking rock-climbing paraphernalia attached at crazy heights (see below). Don’t underestimate (or under-utilise) the many opportunities available in this section to further reduce the impact of D) by stopping to photograph the numerous wildflowers along the trail.

That’s if you’ve been smart enough to take the hike in spring!

The Grampians wildflower season lasts for several months, and there are many species to see along the way. And snakes, so watch your step!

Grampians Wildflowers on the Pinnacle Trail, Victoria
Grampians Wildflowers on the Pinnacle Trail, Victoria

You’ll be grateful you took those D)-preventative photographic precautions as the track emerges from the forest and into the open. Now you’re right amongst the distinctive weathered granite peaks and crags that epitomise the jagged mountain ranges of Grampians.

Rock face with Climbing gear, Pinnacle track, Grampians National Park
Rock face with Climbing gear, Pinnacle track, Grampians National Park

Keep Climbing

The track winds steadily up along rocky spurs, through narrow ravines and along ridgetops towards the Pinnacle. A red face and shortness of breath just can’t be helped here – unless you’re one of those frightening fitness-fetishists largely responsible for the high rates of low self-esteem amongst the less young and agile.

Top of the Ridge Panorama, with Pinnacle Lookout at left, Grampians National Park, Victoria
Top of the Ridge Panorama, with Pinnacle Lookout at left, Grampians National Park, Victoria

But the scenic splendour now unfolding all around more than makes up for any residual effects of a life-long love affair with country bakeries. Staggering views across the valley emerge with Halls Gap nestled WAAAAAY below.  Lake Bellfield is also glinting in the sunlight – although neither lake waters nor sunlight are guaranteed!

Pilchard and the Sleeping Giant behind the Pinnacle, Grampians National Park
Pilchard and the Sleeping Giant behind the Pinnacle, Grampians National Park

The Summit of the Pinnacle

Tempting though it is to keep your finger on the shutter button as the panorama unfolds, take my advice and save yourself for the 360° vista from the Pinnacle.  That’s if your nerves are strong enough to negotiate the safety-fenced narrow neck of rock sticking out over– well – nothing!

Halls Gap from the Pinnacle, Grampians National Park, Victoria
Halls Gap from the Pinnacle, Grampians National Park, Victoria

Unless you count the Fyans valley just under half a kilometre below.

Australian Raven at the Pinnacle
Australian Raven at the Pinnacle

If there are any left, combine the bakery goods with a breather that’ll return your complexion to normal hues before taking the proof-I-made-it-to-the-top shots. But keep a wary eye on the marauding Australian Raven, inevitably at the summit.

The grab rail safety fence is sturdy enough to lean on for the obligatory photos.  However, the view from this vantage point is just WAAAAAY too big to effectively capture in one shot.

Although it’s virtually guaranteed you’ll have time to spare while you wait your turn on the Pinnacle.  Tedious ‘Titanic’ type photo shoots are becoming de rigueur!!!

The Descent

Descend the way you came, or make it a round trip by going down through a series of natural rock formations known as ‘Wonderland’.

Unless you’ve got the stamina for a further 9.5 km hike to Lake Bellfield, and another few kilometres back to Halls Gap, the shortest return option is to retrace your steps.

Boroka Lookout View - Rocky Ridge leading to the Pinnacle at right
Boroka Lookout View – Rocky Ridge leading to the Pinnacle at right

See the whole thing from the well known Boroka lookout high on the range behind Halls Gap. A shortish drive and a 50m stroll and this magnificent panorama will give you all the context you need for your Pinnacle assault!

But not the same sense of satisfaction!

Pilchard descends the staircase from hell
Pilchard descends the staircase from hell

Keep a close eye on those killer knee-wrecking stairs as you descend to prevent them becoming killer neck-breaking stairs!

And make way for the show-offs idiots really fit people who JOG down!!

If it seems a long way down, console yourself with the thought that you’ve SO earned more Bakery opportunities at the end of it.

And that D) will no longer be a problem …

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  1. Haha! I love the warning at the beginning of the post. I’m not a huge fan of snakes, but if they’re somewhat easily avoidable I’ll still do it. I think for that view I’d be willing to brave them. I love that there are even things to see along the way! Definitely on my hiking wanderlist now!

  2. Luckily I had a friend in the area who invited us for a weekend – I was younger and fitter then so don’t remember the hardships of climbing. Thanks for the revisit

    1. When we did this walk, bad weather had destroyed the section of the track through Wonderland so we couldn’t do the loop, which probably (possibly?!) wouldn’t have been so demanding on the knees!! The track’s open again now (until the next weather event) so next time we just might do the circuit and see!! Watch this space!!

  3. Ha ha, taking photos is the PERFECT cover!

    Wow, these views are spectacular! Haven’t been since I was a kid….looks like I need to make a re-visit, for sure! So pretty!

  4. @FruitCake – Then my work is done!! Other mountain ranges are bigger and – gulp – steeper, but the Grampians distinctive shape and personality will keep me coming back. No, they’re not paying me. Sadly.
    @PDP – As you can tell, I don’t care what I look like either!!!!
    @Saucy Kod – Gosh, I better do a crap post next or I will have left myself no where to go!!!!! Seriously, thanx for the praise, you make blogging worthwhile!!!
    @LONDONLULU – My dark secret is that it’s DEAD easy to take good shots of a landscape like this – all you have to do is press the shutter button!!!!
    @Rohrerbot – Haha, as you can see, there are NO snake pix – I was many metres away in a nanosecond!! And my blood was pumping so hard towards the top, if I’d seen a snake there it could have done what it liked because I couldn’t have run to save my life!
    @River – I may well already hold that record – but hey! Records were made to be broken!! We plan to spend all day – and often do, while the younger & fitter run right past. But I’m the one with the wildflower & rock shots!
    @J Gray – I wish I knew what they were all called – but the Correa, Greenhood & other orchids is as good as it gets!

  5. @eileeninmd – It sure helped that it was also a perfect day! How annoyed would I have been if I’d got to the top & my photos looked crap??!!
    @Pretraveller – It had also been a few years for us – now I know it’s SO worth revisiting!! Give it a go!!
    @Linley S – I can agree with you from bitter experience … the descent down those stairs was DEATH to the thigh muscles!!! But strangely, the pain faded away in the bakery afterwards … I can really recommend this area – oh wait! I actually HAVE recommended it!!!
    @SFlaGuy – Not sure if the stairs make it better or worse!! At least there’s less erosion on the trail – always a problem in extreme mountain weather!!! I’m sure one day I’ll be air-vac’ed out because some random but well meaning fellow hiker will think I’m in the throes of a heart attack … Just something about the mountains, huh?!
    @Sallie – The trick is to start early enough so you can take all day if you need it. Besides, all those ‘photo’ breaks meant I captured the rocks, wildflowers and climbing apparatus to add ‘colour’ to the post!!! And I’m sticking to THAT excuse …
    @Manzanita – Hey, for an octogenarian who can twirl a hula hoop like I SO can’t, I reckon you’d give me a run for my money … embarrassingly!!! I’ve often been surprised that the butt isn’t given more credence as a piece of mountain climbing equipment – I use mine ALL the time!
    @TMWH – Screaming? Mine actually sounded like two rifle shots going off every time I got up – or down – for WEEKS afterwards!!! BUT … yes, it was SO worth it!

  6. @Windsmoke – Luckily, you don’t HAVE to pick a fave!! And sadly, that rest stop wasn’t even half way up …
    @Andrew – Well spotted, Lake Bellfield is a dam!! Nearly dried up in the drought … HHHMMMmmm… a chairlift would get me back to the bakery SO much quicker. SO … that makes it RIGHT!!!
    @Taken for Granted – Yep, that view takes your breath away – BOTH ways!!!
    @Chris – Hey, so great to hear from you! Your right – no gondolas or chairlifts on these peaks!! At least I’ve got a new excuse for my creaky knees that doesn’t include age …
    @Rose – Haha, you’re WAY too kind!!! Must be Pilchards stellar pic-taking efforts, because I felt like D) ALL the way!!!
    @Beach Bum – Yeah … where’s a mongoose when you need one!!! Isn’t a world without snakes called ‘paradise’?? Try Fiji or Lord Howe Island for a snake-free wonderland!!!!

  7. That looks like one heck of a climb!
    The sort of thing I could only do in my dreams.
    I’m not afraid of heights or anything else, but I probably don’t have the endurance.
    I’d probably set the record for the slowest ascent ever.
    And an equally slow descent.

  8. You adventurous soul:) Lovely views but the heights and snakes would get my blood pumpin:) However, with such excellent bird and wildlife opportunities, I would do it in a heartbeat:) Thanks for the share and experience:) About those snakes….

  9. Those views are just amazing!! But LOL, I’ve done exactly what you did, catching my breath under the guise of photographing a hiking scene! It’s worth it all for stunners like this…beautiful!

  10. This was just an astounding post. I love it when you actually show photos of you both at the different levels of your climb. The scenery is just so beautiful. I would want to climb to the top too, resting here n there to observe each delicate flower and snake? ha,ha The bakery sounds like a must do, the granite peaks of the rock wall and the view from the top – just stunning. Great Post my dear, you have outdone yourself again. Loved this post.

  11. Well A and B would do it for me Red, if I made it to the viewpoint I’d just be so chuffed I wouldn’t care what I looked like..stunning landscapes as always.

  12. Congratulations – you’ve finally managed to show me why the Grampians are so popular. Until now I’ve only seen isolated shots that looked like bit of rock anywhere. Taken as a whole I can see why they are so impressive. My knees appreciate the trouble you’ve taken to spare them.

  13. Oh my! I would certainly have screaming knees by the time I made it up there, but the view would be worth it!

  14. I like B and C and am not at all afraid of A or D but I still doubt I could make it to the top….. I wouldn’t want to wear that T shirt b/c I’m afraid I might BE having a heart attack, especially now that we spend most of our time in the ‘flatlands’. But oh wow it is so beautiful up there…thanks for sharing the amazing views. Wonderful post.

  15. Red, thanks for a great article describing the walk to the top of the Pinnacles! It has been a few years since we last visited the Grampians but I agree that it is an amazing place to visit!

  16. Love this. Now you’ve come into my kind of territory. I’d try to do that climb, although I probably couldn’t make it. I’ll practice up on Mount Helena behind my house and make the climb with you. Kidding, of course, but I’d love to. Now in the winter, I walk with with Cody around the fair grounds (flat and often muddy) but I stay off the mountain in the winter as it’s STEEP AND MUDDY. Coming down in winter is a real trip…. often on my muddy butt.
    I’m looking at the babe on her picture-taking-break. Whooo Hooo

  17. When I’m not in Florida, I prefer the mountains. This scenic spot reminds me of Chimney Rock, North Carolina. Minus the cool metal steps with no hand rails. I always think I’m fit enough for the climb but at 4,000 feet higher than my home, the air is not quite so thick and chewy and full of water. I tend to make it to the overlook Red faced and wheezing like a buzz saw to witness a view that takes my breath away. Always worth it.

  18. A fantastic post Red, beautiful photos. From experience, I think the climb down is harder on the legs and knees than climbing up, Will have to put this area on my To Do List.

  19. Wow, the views and rock formations are awesome! And the wildflowers are a pretty sight to see. Sounds like a great time. Wonderful photos!

  20. Do NOT attempt this walk if you don’t like A) heights; B) snakes…

    Snakes!?!? I can deal with all those things except snakes.

  21. G’day Red, the photos and the views are totally sensational, worth (D) 🙂 although you don’t look too (D) in the photo Red!
    the wildflowers are gorgeous!!! and I won’t have to attempt it myself one day because I have you. If you weren’t such a good photographer, well, I might but hey! you are…….
    I think this is called armchair travel at its best….. now shall I turn the aircon up a notch?……

  22. Marvelous post, Red! This is my kind of day for the obsessed hiker in me. We normally choose trails that have gondolas to take us back down the mountain (to save our knees). For this one, I’d have to walk back down, right?

    Hope you’re doing well!

  23. Very impressive views. The lake appears to be higher than the valley. Water supply? I think the Pinnacle would be a fine place for a chair lift.

  24. Bonza photos, i can’t pick a favourite one this time. You certainly look like you needed that rest after all the climbing.

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