The Best Cathedral Range Day Hike – North and South Jawbone Peaks

Wednesday 10 July, 2024

Cathedral Range State Park, Taungurung Country, is an awe-inspiring mountain range, part of the Great Dividing Range. It's a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, only 90 minutes from Melbourne. It gets its name from its distinctive peaks, which resemble the spires and buttresses of a cathedral.

Are you looking for a challenging but achievable day hike in the Cathedral Range? Parks Victoria rangers recommend this section of Jawbone hikes as a great introduction to the area, avoiding more difficult trails which have needed many rescues in the past.

Felicity Irwin from Parks Victoria’s Communications and Marketing team, recounts her experience on the Jawbone hikes below.


What you need to know about the Jawbone hikes

Difficulty: Grade 4, Moderate. Perfect day hike for reasonably fit Melbournians looking for a challenge. The steep climbs and uneven terrain require good balance and strong legs. Hiking poles could be helpful. Be aware: steep, uneven rock stairs, exposed areas, great views at the top. Do this trail first, then come back for harder sections another time.

Distance: The return trip is about 5km, including the two summits.

Duration: Allow around 4 hours to complete the return hike from Jawbone car park, including good breaks.

Trailhead: The hike starts from the Jawbone Carpark on Cerberus Road (sometimes closed to 2WD). You can park at Cooks Mill (2WD accessible) to add another 1.5km walk each way to Jawbone car park. Cooks Mill car park has a bookable campsite and has toilets.

Hiker looking out to mountain views at Cathedral Range State Park

Photo: Cathedral Range State Park is a perfect day hike for Melbournians looking for a challenge.


Start in Cathedral Range State Park

The Cathedral Range is encompassed within Cathedral Range State Park, a protected area offering a variety of recreational activities, jointly managed by Parks Victoria and Taungurung Land and Waters Council (TLaWC). Hikers of all fitness levels can find suitable trails here, from the gentle Friends Nature Trail to the challenging Razorback Track that traverses the ridgeline. For those seeking a longer adventure, multi-day hikes with overnight camping options are available.


Jawbone day hikes

The Jawbone Hike is a challenging option for hikers with some experience seeking rewarding views. It is slightly less challenging than Razorback and Sugarloaf (Grade 5, Very experienced hikers) but with equal views. We were spoilt with many wildlife sightings, with Superb lyrebirds being the highlight. 

There are two main sections of the Jawbone hike: 

Jawbone Creek to Farmyard Walk: This 1.4 km one-way track leads straight up from the Jawbone Carpark to The Farmyard Campground. It's a challenging Grade 4 track with a steep climb offering scenic views of the Cathedral Ranges. Allow around an hour for this section. Have a good rest and drink/snack at Farmyard, then head up to the summits.

North and South Jawbone Summits: Both summits are worth seeing. Once you have arrived at Farmyard, you can choose to head up to North or South Jawbone Summit first. Our pick is North for the best spot to enjoy a good break, picnic and enjoy the incredible views. It has some flatter/safer areas to sit for a good break.

Both summits from the Farmyard are Grade 3 and start reasonably easy. However, the last sections of both includes large, uneven rock stair climb and a bit of scrambling. Coming down was tough. The reward is panoramic views of the surrounding area from both peaks.

Incredible mountain views from the North Jawbone Summit

Photo: Incredible views from the North Jawbone Summit.


Things to consider when hiking Jawbone Peaks

Acknowledge Country: If you are a visitor to Taungurung Country, take time to appreciate and acknowledge the significant Aboriginal cultural history and the deep ongoing connection to Country held by the traditional custodians, the Taungurung people. We suggest you do some research on the Country you are visiting prior to arrival by visiting Taungurung Land and Waters Council website.

Weather: Check the weather forecast before you go. This hike is not recommended in wet or windy conditions or on hot days (exposure to sun with no shade).  

Timing: The best time to do the Jawbone Hike is during autumn and spring. Never start this hike after lunch. Have time to get down the mountain before it gets dark.  

Navigation: While the track is well-defined in most sections, especially for the Jawbone Creek Walk, having a topographic map, compass, or GPS is recommended.  

Supplies: Pack plenty of water (+2L), snacks, and sun protection. Sturdy hiking boots with good ankle support are essential. Gators would be good in snake season.  

Company: It’s always safer to travel with someone else. If you are alone, ensure someone knows your itinerary and expected return time.  

Flora and Fauna: On our walk and drive in, we saw four Superb Lyrebirds, many blue-tongue lizards, a wallaby, a kangaroo and.... a turtle. It is an underappreciated haven for birdwatchers, with constant bird calls and many incredible species including Peregrine Falcons! You'll see a mix of dry forest and woodland eucalyptus trees as well as stunning and unexpected fern gullies. Look out for wildflowers in spring.

Track marker along Jawbone Creek to Farmyard Walk

Photo: Track marker along Jawbone Creek to Farmyard Walk.


Challenges for rangers in the Cathedral Ranges

The popularity of Cathedral Range creates challenges for park rangers. They must ensure visitor safety, especially on difficult hikes like the Razorback Track, conduct search and rescue operations in case of emergencies in partnership with the SES, Ambulance Victoria and other agencies.

You can help by being prepared, not attempting Razorback, Sugarloaf or Wells Cave before this hike and by respecting leave no trace principles to minimise your impact.


Joint Management rangers in the Cathedral Range face other challenges: 

Flora and Fauna Protection: The park is home to native plants and animals, some threatened or endangered. Rangers work to control invasive species and educate visitors on responsible wildlife viewing to protect these ecological treasures.

Balancing Recreation and Conservation: The park needs to be enjoyed by visitors but also protected for future generations. Rangers strike this balance through controlled access management, fire risk mitigation, and educating visitors on sustainable park use.

Protecting Cultural Heritage: Parks Victoria respects the deep and continuing connection that Taungurung Traditional Owners have to Cathedral Range State Park, and we recognise their ongoing role in caring for Country.

Despite the challenges, Joint Management Rangers in the Cathedral Range play a vital role. Their dedication ensures the Cathedral Range remains a place of natural beauty and adventure for all to respectfully experience.


We hope this review of the Jawbone Hike within the Cathedral Range State Park has inspired you. See you on the trails.

For more inspiration or exciting things to see and do in Victoria’s parks and reserves, subscribe to our monthly Outdoor Inspiration e-newsletter.

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