After a fantastic day exploring Bluff and Lovicks Hut, courtesy of some local recommendations I sat down to see where we could head the next day, from our great camp site at Frys Flat Campground.
Newtracs shows that there’s a huge number of 4WD tracks, but I wanted something that we could do in less than 3 hours, that had some difficult but not extreme 4WD tracks, and didn’t land us a million miles away from camp.
I finally found the perfect loop; heading up Howqua Hills Track, onto Steiners, turning right onto Mitchells Track, then right onto Symes Track, and then taking Steiners Road back to Howqua Hills Track to return home.
How hard are the 4WD tracks?
Once again, we jagged the perfect range of 4WD tracks for us. They were easily challenging enough to get the old ticker going, whilst not being out of the skill level of me as the driver, or the Isuzu Dmax that we travel Australia in.
Howqua Hills Track is supposed to be quite challenging, but it has clearly been recently repaired, and up until Tobacco Flats Campground it was nothing more than a steep and windy gravel road. From there on though, it gets much steeper, with some ruts to avoid and a few slippery sections.
Turning onto Mitchells Track, which is also graded difficult, I wondered what we’d encounter. This has some really steep sections, a fair bit of rock, and a couple of hills that would be very nasty if you picked a bad line. Some of the ruts were deeper than the clearance of our Dmax, and we certainly had a few knocks underneath, along with plenty of scraping.
Where it was slippery, I stayed in the ruts heading down, and when there was more traction going up, I straddled the ruts to avoid bottoming out, and any panel damage from them, as some were pretty deep.
Overall, there were few places you could have done any major damage, but certainly if you got crossed up on the hills with ruts life could go sideways really fast. A couple of the hills are seriously steep, with the seatbelt holding you in place coming down, and no view of the track heading up in a few areas too.
Symes Track is rated medium, and asides from some rocky spots, a few steps and a fairly steep drive it was easy enough, and we popped out onto Steiners Road without any issues, before checking out Running Creek Campground, and heading back to our camp at Frys Flats.
Now, I want to stress that we did this in early April after about 50mm of rain over the week preceding, and there was a bit of water laying around. If you did it after a lot more rain (or more recently), it would be significantly more difficult in some sections, particularly where the big ruts are.
I also think that heading from West to East would be more difficult, but it depends on the conditions of the ruts.
What tyre pressures did we run?
I ran the same tyre pressures as we had for Bluff Hut and Lovicks Hut, at 22 PSI on the front cold, and 27 PSI on the rear. This worked really well, and I was glad of the extra footprint on a couple of occasions when it was really slippery.
What do you need?
This is not a track for a novice 4WDer, or a stock vehicle. You need a bit of clearance, some quality all terrain tyres (or mud terrain tyres) and a bit of underbody protection if you have anything sensitive hanging down low.
I’d suggest a winch is a good idea if you get stuck at the bottom of the hills, but its fairly rated at being a difficult 4WD track, and is a heap of fun.
Get out there
We really enjoyed this drive. It’d be fun to do the entire Mitchell track, and maybe we will one day, but if you want some fun 4WD tracks around Howqua, you can’t go wrong with the above.