Things to see (text)
Mount Elephant – A self guided tour (and FAQs).
This is an introduction to Mount Elephant for visitors who do not have a guide.
Please tell us if you want other items added.
You can generally find more details on the "Study Mount Elephant" pages.
Frequently asked questions:
How old is Mount Elephant?
Recent research indicates that Mount Elephant and the other volcanoes in the district erupted about 184,000 years ago. Tower Hill near Warrnambool was more recent at about 40,000 years.
The Mountain is on the border of the Wuthawurong, Djargurdwurong and Gulidjan people.Aboriginal legend has the spirits of Djerrinallum and Buninyong fighting and mortally wounding eachother. The mountains are their bodies.
Who owns it?
It is jointly owned by the local community and a conservation group called Trust for Nature.
We bought it from a local farmer in year 2000. It is managed by the local community.
How long does it take to climb?
A fast walk to the summit and around the rim takes one hour.
However you will be out of breath and will not see much, so allow 2 hours to enjoy it.
The memories will last forever.
What are the holes in the side?
The railways quarried the north face in 1910 to 1913 for ballast for the rail line to Maroona.
The west face were commercial and shire quarries. All are now closed.
Where did the trees come from?
Early paintings showed Mount Elephant covered in trees. Logging, rabbits and the fires of 1944 and 1977 killed them all. We have replanted some every year since 2000 with the help of local schools.
Is the mountain dangerous?
There is danger. Bad weather, sun, heat, fire, uneven ground, rolling rocks, your health.......
We have a list of things that you can do to reduce the risks. But we think it will not erupt again!
Can we drive to the top?
Unfortunately no. It is a great walking experience.
What can we see?
When you reach the top there are wonderful views! But on the way there are many smaller things to see and learn. These are briefly listed in the sections below and in more detail on the web site.
Things to see: Highway to the car park
Stonework at the entrance created by Alistair Tune using rocks from the railway ballast pit and burnt railway sleepers in memory of the 1944 and 1977 fires. Funded by Uebergang Foundation.
Stencil of a dog on the entrance sign appeared one dark night. Is it a Banksy?? (Google Banksy if this means nothing to you). Again one dark night recently the stencil was removed..
The remnants of a railway line runs beside the track. It was made in 1910 to supply scoria as foundation for the main line to Ararat. You can see the cutting and embankment to maintain an even gradient.
Trees here were planted in 2004. We have planted trees elsewhere each year since we we bought it.The trees are what we think were originally here. They are banksia, sheaoak, wattles, manna gum, sweet bursaria.
Ballast was quarried in 1910 to 1913 with shovels direct into rail wagons by 10 men.
Rifle range was here from 1920 to 1967. The firing mounds were towards the highway entrance and the target pits still exist on the north side of the car park.
Here is a visitor centre with brochures and displays. it was built in 2016 with a bequest from a local couple Jack and Millie Borbidge, state and local government, and community donations and labour.
The Centre is off grid, so there is a water tank and solar power supply.
Types of rock are in a collection at the visitor centre. many are unique to Mount Elephant.
The lava is a range of scoria, volcanic bombs and solid bluestone. You may find olivine and pyroxene.
Volunteer guides are on hand to help with advice. There are walking poles for loan to prevent you slipping on the gravel track.
There is a picnic table made by the local P12 College students. This is currently being moved to another position.
Ballast pit to the crater
Trees beside the track were planted in 2000 and 2001. They include the indigenous sheoak, banksia, blackwood, sweet bursaria.
Bird nesting boxes are fitted to some trees. These are being colonised by bees.
The main track is called the Jack & Millie Borbidge track after a major benefactor.
Keep a look out for small “volcanic bombs” and olivine dislodged beside the track.
There is another winding walking track cutting up through the trees to the saddle.
You may see some kangaroos and wallabies (or their scats) who have moved into this bush.
To date we have seen 32 species of birds. They are listed on www.ebird.org.
There is an interesting weed (swan plant) which is host to a migratory “wanderer” butterfly. Caterpillars active in March.
A breach in the cone has formed a sheltered bowl leading to the crater.
Here was the site of “Music on the Mount” festivals in 2000 to 2003.
The bowl was formed when part of the rim of the cone "floated away" as lava flowed underneath out to the north.
To the south is a track to the crater rim and a rocky walk to the floor and the plug of the volcano.
On the south side of the crater are some fenced areas of original tree violet Hymenanthera dentata .
To the east is a track to a lookout over Derrinallum and Lake Tooliorook
Above this track is a spectacular area of “running postman” Kennedia prostrata
In early settlement days the mount was divided into 3 by a netting fence from stone walls on the plains, up and over the rim and meeting in the centre of the crater. The remnants are still in place.
Crater to the summit
Much of the mount is covered with a fine leaf native “wallaby grass”, putting seeds in your socks!
Scattered over the mount are green “crop circles” which may be mushroom rings.... or UFO landings??
A small snake has been recently seen on this track. We think they are few as there is not much for them to eat, but take care.
Photos in 1912 showed scattered Casurinas, Banksia and Blackwood spaced about each 30m. There are still scattered logs.
Each autumn there is a “fun run” from Derrinallum to the summit. Entries are welcome.
At the summit there is a rabbit proof fence to keep majority of the rabbits to the western slope - and you from falling off the cliff below.........!
At the summit is a trig point which is a reference for surveyors and aerial mapping. This is now replaced by satellite GPS.
The solar panel and GPS antennas on the trig point helps guide cropping tractors “hands free”.
In summer a webcam has been added for fire spotting. It uses solar power and transmits a wifi signal 9km to an internet connected farm house.
Eugene Von Guerard in 1858 sat beside the rocks here and sketched the view to the north.
The purple flower in spring is patersons curse, a bad weed which we have to spray each year. Various beetles have started to eat it.
Look for a stunted tree violet shrub where hawks eat the rabbits they catch. You may find a “lucky” rabbit's foot!
There are still some logs of the original sheoak forest from before the fires of 1944 and 1977.
Notice the difference in vegetation between the north and south slopes of the rim due to the effect of sun and wind.
View from the summit.
At the summit there is a lookout map.
“On a good day you can see forever.....”
Mountains to the north are mostly granite or sandstone, those to the south are volcanoes.
To the north near Beaufort is Mt Cole. Distant 70km. This is mainly granite
NNW near Buangor is Langi Ghiran (950m high)
NW 5km distant is Deep Lake, which is good for camping, boating, fishing.
NW past Ararat is the Mount William range of the Grampians. Mount William made of sandstone and is 1167m high. It is distant 140km.
West at Mortlake is Mount Shadwell, another volcano.
South at Camperdown is Mount Leura which is also a volcano. It is sitting on the rim of a maar.
East 5km distant is Lake Tooliorook which is good for camping, fishing, boating and bird watching.
Behind Lake Tooliorook is Lake Gnarpurt and Lake Corangamite. These are RAMSAR feeding grounds for birds migrating from northwest China and Siberia. Both are very salty. Water only flows into Corangamite. There is no river out.
NNE 80km is Mt Buninyong. Aboriginal legend has it that 2 spirits fought over a stone axe. Their bodies are the 2 mountains.
It may be that both erupted at the same time during aboriginal settlement about 20,000 years ago.