Sugarloaf Peak via Wells Cave Track and Canyon Track – A Day Walk in the Cathedral Ranges

First, I would like to acknowledge the Taungurung people, the traditional land owners of Cathedral Range State Park. I would like to pay my respects to the past, present and to any Indigenous people among us today. I also want to acknowledge that I have profited and benefited from the stolen land and that Indigenous people were never ceded sovereignty. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri peoples of, Naarm, where I sit and write this blog and would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the many lands my readers come from.

I have fond memories of the Cathedral Ranges as a child going on family day trips. I remember asking my mum for my 16th birthday to go hiking and camping, just us, we had a brilliant time. This is where I had my first driving experience before I got my Ls, and we survived. I also have fond memories of Wells Cave Track, having done it when I was a young teenager with my family and then again in 2021 with my family to reminisce. This track is definitely a challenging one and would only recommend attempting it if you are confident with heights, have experience with difficult rock scrambling and it has not been raining recently making the rocks slippery and muddy. This track is best done with multiple people to support each other along the way.

Our setup at Cooks Mill Campground before the rest of my family arrived.

I camped at the Cooks Mill Campground in November 2021 before starting the Wells Cave track, there are great large flat campsites there but I will warn you they fill up fast on weekends and public holidays. Also when it’s wet make sure to choose a campsite on the high ground I have seen multiple tents get washed away by people camping in the lower section during storms. There is a beautiful creek called Little River running below the campsites which is super refreshing in hot weather, I highly recommend setting up your camp chair inside the river and enjoying a crisp beverage in summertime. We drove from Cooks Mill to Sugarloaf Saddle Parking. You can hike along Messmate Track but we had already done that the day before and wanted to save our energy for Sugarloaf Peak. Due to the tight squeezes, it is best to leave your day bags behind, we took one with all the water bottles and passed it through the group during the squeezes.

The trailhead for Messmate track.

Opposite the Sugarloaf Saddle Toilets is the trailhead. There are two choices Canyon Track or Wells Cave Track, I prefer to go up Wells Cave and down Canyon Track but if you are looking for a less difficult way you can go up and down Canyon Track. Once on Wells Track, there are orange arrows to mark where to walk, keep a close eye on these as sometimes they have fallen off or faded and are difficult to find. The beginning of the trail seems not too difficult but there are three main obstacles along the way.

The beginning of the trail is a reasonably gentle gradient compared to what’s to come. The first challenging obstacle is a vertical rock scramble this was fun and a good warm-up. I kept my centre of gravity low and used my legs and knees to balance myself over the vertical rock faces while my hands grabbed the holds above. The track zig-zags up towards Sugarloaf Peak (912m) with an elevation gain of 120 metres so it is physically taxing and also takes mental focus to make sure that you are making good foot and hand holds. This hard work is definitely rewarded with spectacular views.

The vertical rock scramble.

The next challenging section is a cave or rock squeeze. This crack gets tight and is a different experience for everyone. For me being rather short there was a difficult step in the middle to manoeuvre over but once this was cleared it was smooth sailing side-stepping through. The views at this point across the park take your breath away and are worth taking the time to admire.

Wells Cave

Finally, the third challenging aspect of this track is yet another tight squeeze but this time it’s in between two vertical rocks and you must climb up through the hole to get to the peak. Luckily I had some taller family members with me and they gave me a leg up to tackle this obstacle. This was a real challenge because I did not have enough room to lift my knee and step up so I had to shimmy up the rock while attempting to rock climb through the gap. We all managed to get through this final obstacle and reach the 360-degree views from Sugarloaf Peak which were magnificent, a great place for a snack and breather.

The way down was so much simpler than Wells Cave Track but still invigorating along the ridge. Canyon track is over the rocky formations of Sugarloaf which makes it much more interesting than a regular dusty trail. But it is less of a steep gradient than Wells Cave, in no time we were down the bottom back at the Sugarloaf Saddle. This is a great option as a day walk because it is only 2hrs from Naarm.

The view from Sugarloaf Peak.
Trail NameWells Cave Track to Sugarloaf Peak and down via Canyon Track
DistanceWells Cave Track 550m
Canyon Track 650m
Estimated Time45mins each
ParkCathedral Range State Park
Access 2WD

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