In Victoria, we’re truly spoiled when it comes to natural beauty – and a lot of it's not too far from the city.
From lush rain forests and stunning rock pools to secluded beaches and mighty granite peaks, our state is blessed with picturesque hiking trails that are only a stone’s throw away.
If you’re looking for a nature fix without too much hassle, the You Yangs Regional Park is an iconic destination and it’s within a short drive from Melbourne.
Here for the weekend? Celebrate your well-deserved getaway at one of these stunning restaurants in Geelong.
You Yangs Regional Park
Just 55km from Melbourne and 22km from Geelong, the You Yangs Regional Park is an excellent spot to enjoy nature close to the city. Part of an Aboriginal cultural landscape in the traditional Country of the Wadawurrung People, the distinctive granite peaks of this park rise abruptly from the flat volcanic plains below, giving a gorgeous, picturesque view of the surrounding landscape. The highest point, Flinders Peak, stands at 319 metres and offers uninterrupted views of both Melbourne and Geelong.
Much like Victoria’s iconic Great Ocean Road, and Grampians National Park, the You Yangs is the ideal place to escape city life, especially when you need to blow off some steam. There’s truly something for everyone: hikers, families, mountain bikers – you name it!
Located at 5 Branch Road, Little River in Victoria, the You Yangs Regional Park is situated just over 50 km southwest of Melbourne. Nestled along the Princes Freeway or M1, it’s about an hour’s drive from the city, with clear signposts to help you find your way. From Geelong, you’re only about 25 kilometres away and it will take you about 30 minutes to drive there.
You Yangs Regional Park is open every day, including weekends and public holidays. The park is closed each evening, from 5pm non-daylight savings and 6pm daylight saving.
With an optimal location, it’s a great spot for Melburnians looking for a quick retreat into nature that’s close to the city.
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Lace-up Your Hiking Boots
Within the You Yangs Regional Park, visitors can take a leisurely stroll or do the more demanding walking trail instead. Walking is one of this park’s most popular activities and there are walking trails to suit all levels of fitness and ability.
The favourite is of course the 3.2-kilometre Flinders Peak Walk, which takes you to the highest point of the You Yangs. With 450 steps, an elevation rise of 200 metres and some real steep gradients, starting from the Turntable car park, it’ll definitely get your blood flowing, but best of all you can do it will your furry pal – yes, the You Yangs are dog-friendly.
Other walks worth doing include the Big Rock Walk, which is a 3km walk from the park office car park, wind your way around Big Rock and then back down the same path or there’s the Big Rock, which is a quick and easy 100m walk starting from the Big Rock car park this short walk takes you to Big Rock with brilliant views towards Geelong.
To get you puffing, the East-West Walk is a two hour 4.5km trek worth tackling. Starting and finishing at the Turntable car park, this challenging walk guides you around exceptional rock formations, bushland and native foliage, while providing excellent views of the park and surrounding countryside.
If you’re after something gentle but lengthy, the Branding Yard Trail is a 5km, 2.5-hour return hike. This mild walk starts from either the Turntable car park or Branding Yard Road. From the Turntable car park, walk down a medium gradient to connect with the trail. With this trail, you can walk to view the Bunjil Geoglyph, from the ground. The spectacular stone structure, in the shape of a wedge-tailed eagle was created by Andrew Rogers to commemorate the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games. In spring and early summer, admire the blooms of wildflowers across the rocky landscape.
Lastly, there’s the Northern Range Walk – a 3.5km, 1-hour walk one way. Extending from the East‐West Walk and the Branding Yard Trail, this walk provides a more challenging walk, with some steep gradients. With impressive water views, you can bet the hike is well worth it.
If you’re really not sure where to start, the You Yangs also take Guided Park Walks. The Park Walks are free and guided by trained volunteers. Park Walks allow you to enjoy walking in urban parks or bushland without having to worry about where the trail is or how long it might take. You will be free to enjoy the beautiful trees and wildlife or even just to relax and catch up with friends or family.
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Jump On The Bike
If you love downhill thrills or just enjoy cruising along a dirt track, the mountain bike trails at the You Yangs are unmissable. This custom-designed mountain bike park has something for everyone no matter their skill level and are heralded as some of the best tracks for riders who want to challenge themselves.
Here, you’ll find two designated mountain biking areas that contain over 50 kilometres of exciting and environmentally sustainable trails.
The easier and flatter Kurrajong Plantation weaves for 20 kilometres and consists of three loop tracks through established Eucalypt plantations. The Kurrajong Plantation is ideal for family groups, wanting to experience mountain biking for the first time right through to experienced riders wanting to test their endurance and speed.
For those with a bit more mountain biking experience under their belt, the more testing Stockyards area in the north of the park has a range of flowing single trails and steep technical sections through rocky landscapes. This area contains three downhill tracks and a range of cross-country tracks that will test riders of all levels, complete with tree-dodging and gap-jumping.
All trails are clearly signposted with directional information and gradings, so you won’t be left out on your own, and all the trails have been designed in collaboration with Parks Victoria, You Yangs MTB and Geelong Mountain Bike Club to protect the environmental values of the park, whilst providing a high-quality Mountain Biking experience. So, there’s a lot of love about that.
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Immerse Yourself in Wildlife and Nature
Whether you’re hiking, mountain bike riding or at the You Yangs for a picnic, there’s something anyone with a pinch of patience can do – watch the wildlife and embrace the bounty of nature’s beauty.
The You Yangs support a rich variety of plant species. Tall eucalypts such as manna gum, yellow gum and river red gum give way to sparse undergrowth of native shrubs and groundcovers. Patches of wattle and drooping sheoaks also occur. The endangered brittle greenhood orchid is one of 30 species of orchids found in the park, all beautiful things to keep an eye out for.
Alongside the plants, the park provides a range of habitats for several amazing wildlife. More than 200 species of birds have been recorded and koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, brush-tail possums, echidnas and lizards are commonly seen by those on a hike or a bike ride. Keep an eye on the open grassland too to spot Australia’s largest bird, the flightless Emu.
We recommend hitting up the quieter tracks like Branding Yard Trail if you main, offer the best opportunities for wildlife spotting. Remember, if spotting wildlife is your aim, it will require some patience. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for the first time, you can just keep coming back.
Pack A Picnic
Dig out your tartan rug, it’s time to go picnicking! Nestled within You Yangs’ distinctive and highly recognisable granite peaks that can be seen between Melbourne and Geelong, this regional park of course offers the perfect positionings for picnics.
There’s just something about eating outdoors with a perfectly curated spread of cheese, meats and dips that makes it all taste that much better, especially when you’re surrounded by the beauty of this regional park.
There is a multitude of picnic spots/grounds to choose from with gas barbecues, picnic tables, barbecue shelter and toilet blocks.
For large groups and big families, the Lower Picnic Ground is an ideal spot. Here you can relax amongst the large red gums and let the kids explore, while taking advantage of the ample space and parking. There are a number of gas barbecues, picnic tables, barbecue shelter and toilet block. Take the 500m Lower Link track to the Turntable car park, a trailhead for a number of other walks or just take in the magnificent views of the countryside.
To find out more, head to Parks Victoria.