Feeling like your family is ready for an overnight hike, but have no idea where to start? Let us take you on a walk which ticks all the boxes for the perfect first time overnight family adventure – Razorback ridge in the Australian Alps.
A perfect family walk
The distance is just right – not too easy, but not too far. The climbs are mild to moderate, following the undulating ridge. The views are awesome all day long. There is a lovely grassy campsite to rest on at the end of a day. And for the more energetic, the sunset on the top of Mt. Feathertop is a free bonus to the package.
Every Christmas we escape the crowds and heat of the Australian summer and head up to Victorian High Country. No matter how crowded coastal campsites might get during school holidays, there is always space up in the mountains. Even fewer people venture beyond the short walks from the main road. The temperature at 1700 meters is a friendly 15 to 20 degrees Celsius, rather than 35 to 40 down in the valley. All perfect reasons to go hiking.
Razorback Ridge walk
Pictures of hikers on the exposed Razorback Ridge were tickling our fancy for some time. Walks with great views are always high on our list. For the family adventure, we have chosen the straightforward two-day option. We start from the road near Mt. Hotham Alpine village and follow the narrow path along the Razorback ridge for 10.5 km to Federation Hut. This route is the easiest: You start from your car at an altitude of almost 1700m, and then follow the more-or-less level ridge, with only a few ups and downs between 1600-1750 meters, all the way to the hut. The entire ridge is above the treeline and the views are stunning and uninterrupted all day long.
This seems to be also a popular route for the day walkers. Christmas break is the busiest time of the year, and the number of people walking, jogging and running the 22 km to Mt. Feathertop and back in a day surprises us – we are not used seeing many people more than 2-3 km from the road. But an even bigger surprise to us is the number of families – not just day walkers, but also on an overnight trip. We meet three families loaded with camping gear, with the youngest boy being 7 years old, same as Tobias. They are all excited by the adventure – this was their first overnight hike – and they enjoyed it so much that they had already planned more trips. Once at the Federation hut campsite, we meet two more families plus two more dads, one with a son, another with a daughter. Overnight hiking with kids is mainstream!
Federation Hut campsite
The campsite is beautiful, flat and grassy. Despite the number of hikers, there is plenty of space for all of us. Also, we are lucky – the water tank by the hut is full. We set up camp and rest.
Mt. Feathertop summit climb
After dinner, we leave with just a day pack for the second part of today’s adventure – an evening climb up Mt. Feathertop. It is 1.5 km straight and 200 meters up from Federation Hut to the top. It takes us about 50 minutes to get to the 1922 m summit of Victoria’s second highest mountain. We are making most of the 360-degree views and picture-perfect evening sun. When the sun starts falling to the horizon, we return back. We get to the tent just after sunset but with the last daylight, for a well-earned sleep.
|What||overnight hike along Razorback Ridge to Mt. Feathertop|
|Where||Australian Alps, near Mt. Hotham Alpine Village, Victoria, Australia|
|How far||24km (21 km return Razorback Ridge + 3 km climb up the Mt. Feathertop return)|
|Kids ages||Tobias turned 7 on the trip, Anika 10.5 years|
|Backpacks||Tobias 3 kg, Anika 5 kg, mum 8 kg, dad 13 kg|
Practical tips for the trip
|Check the weather||Make sure you know the weather forecast. Razorback Ridge is exposed, well above the tree line. What makes it such a lovely walk with infinite views on a good day, can make it a nightmare in the wind, rain or snow. There is nowhere to hide, and once the sun disappears behind a cloud, temperatures drop rapidly. It can snow anytime – including the middle of the summer. At Federation Hut, at 1723 meters, we had frost on the tent in the morning, yet afternoon temperatures down in Harrietville reached 35 degrees Celsius. Remember your boy scout days – be prepared!|
|Water||There is a water tank at the Federation Hut campsite. There is also a spring in the valley south of Federation Hut, and another one in the valley on a path towards MUMC Hut (about 1 km from campsite). Check with rangers or hikers before you go, though – depending on the season, there might not be water in any of them.|
What was fun for kids
|Playing with other kids||To our surprise, several other families camped with us at the Federation Hut. There were 6 other kids to chase and play games with. It always amazes me how fast can kids recover: an 11 km hike with a backpack and another 3km climb to Mt. Feathertop did not stop any of the youngsters from running around the campsite and chasing each other until well after the sunset.|