Get out there: You Yangs- Saddle Back Track

Welcome to the first installment ‘Get out there’ trail review posts.

As a beginner trail runner, there were few things I found more daunting than finding somewhere to run. I was worried I would get lost, that I would run out of water, that I would wear the wrong shoes and the “real” trail runners would laugh at me.

I hope this series will help some newbies find some new trails to run. I’m working on getting a Google Map going but in the meantime, just click in the “Trail Directory” category or You Yangs category to find different trails that have been reviewed.

This one is for all my westies and Surf Coast Trail runners out there.

Situated about 55 km west of Melbourne and 20ish km from Geelong, The You Yangs regional park is the Dandenongs of the west.

The You Yangs or the Youies as it is known, is home to various running/hiking trails, mountain bike tracks and rock climbing challenges. The official Parks Victoria website sprouts about orienteering as well.

With a car it’s pretty easy to get there. From Melbourne, straight down the Princes Highway (watch out for all the speed cameras under the bridges), get off at Lara and follow the signs.

Public transport is a bit harder. It’s about 10 km from Lara Train station to the turntable car park and walking/riding is pretty much your only option. The main road in, Forest Road north is a 100km/h zone so take care if you decide to walk or run. People do it all the time and the council should probably put in a decent shoulder or a footpath but until then stick with the fluro and leave the headphones at home.

Every weekend tourists and locals alike flock to the turntable to have a crack at the infamous Flinders Peak Steps track. Don’t worry folks, we’ll get to Flinders Peak, but today is all about the Saddleback Track.

The Saddleback Track is situated around the main hub of the You Yangs, the turntable.

It’s a pretty cruisey track for the most part. Start at the sign that say “Branding Yard Track” at the top of the turntable to the east of Flinders Peak.

Start here: Photo by me!

A 5 km round trip, the first 1 km is predominately downhill single track.  In late winter, early spring, this section is peppered with yellow wild flowers and Australian wattle in full bloom.  If you’ve ever wondered why Australia prides itself on it’s green and gold, a trot around the You Yangs in Spring will answer all your questions. At the bottom, you’ll find a sign directing you to continue on the Branding Yard track, ignore that and take the track to the left up “the Saddle”. I’m not going to ruin the Saddle experience for you. But it goes up for a little bit, and a little bit more. When you do get to the top there’s a bit of an intersection. Keep going straight and it will take you down hill, before flattening out and bring you full circle back to the Turntable carpark. Don’t take either of the single tracks to the left (East West Loop) or the right (Northern track), we’ll save those for another day.

The Start of the Saddle climb. Photo by me

Whilst not as scenic as Flinders Peak or East West Loop, on a clear day you’ll get a great view to the east of the Melbourne skyline and the bay to the south.

Kangaroos and wallabies are common especially at dawn and dusk, as are wild goats. . I’m told there are also Echidnas but I’ve never seen one myself.

Local wildlife. Photo by me

Strava Segments
There are four main segments if you are going anti-clockwise around the Saddle Track (as you should be!).
Turntable to Turnoff
Brand Road Climb
Saddleback Track Ascent
Where the feck did that come from Tyrone?

If you are feeling a little hard core, do a few hill intervals of the Saddle climb. There’s an up and back segment too!

Distance5 km
TrackMostly fire trail
Elevation Gain:162 m
Elevation Max:340 m
Water available:No, take a hand held
Toilets:At Turntable carpark
Shoes:Road shoes are fine
GPX FileComing soon:

Rather run the Saddle back Track in an organized, “impossible to get lost” fashion, Trails Plus run multiple events per year from 5 km to 100 mile, most of which include at list one climb up the saddle.

The You Yangs Trail Running Festival is held in July each year but there are also some cool night runs. Rumour has it there may be some changes coming in 2018 so keep an eye on the website or Facebook page.

Otherwise, make friends with the Surf Coast Trail Runners on Facebook. A great group of local runners who do monthly runs at the You Yangs as well as beginners runs and volunteer at many local events. Trail running is all about the folks you meet so hit up this awesome group if you are in the area.

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