Let’s find out…
Why the High Country (like you needed to ask)?
When it comes to Australian off-road destinations that set the bar for camping accessibility, mind-blowing scenery and tracks ranging from stocker-friendly to bring-out-your-Boggers, the Victorian High Country really does set the bar. Other states and land management organisations take note. The High Country not only has common sense environmental impact measures in place, but it actively promotes 4WD tourism.
Imagine that. A destination that recognises and encourages responsible use of the land. If only the whole nation had such sensible practices in place. And didn’t just shut everything down at the first hint of whining from some “land preservation group” that’s made up of pearl-clutching outrage specialists who never actually visit the place they’re “protecting”. NSW, we’re looking at you, champions.
But back to the High Country. It’s got myriad tracks and destinations to come and experience and as stated. It caters to everyone from beginners to those born under the pale blue light of an Air-Locker switch. However, every major destination has that one bit that transcends the others. The Simmo has Big Red; the Cape has the Tele Track; Tassie has Balfour Track; and the High Country, well, that has the Blue Rag Range track.
What’s the Blue Rag Range story?
Once little more than a goat track that required lockers, good tyres and suspension upgrades, not to mention nerves of titanium, Blue Rage Range leads to a Trig Point elevated some 1726M above a Bondi beach house. However, these days, it’s semi-regularly graded. A lot of the treacherousness has been removed. Although you still need to have nerves of at least cast iron to wheel it. This got us thinking. Could you take a stock vehicle up there? What about if it hadn’t been graded in a few months?
For your viewing pleasure…
It’d be rude not to try. So Evan Spence, the man vaguely steering the Unsealed 4×4 ship, heroically volunteered to take a new (stock as a rock) Isuzu MU-X out and give it a red hot go. It’s almost as if he preferred the chance of being in a fiery wreck avalanching down the side of a literal mountain to coming into the office. Weird.
The path to adventure – in a stock 4×4
Getting out to the track is pretty straightforward. Punch either Harrietville or Dargo into your GPS and jump onto the Great Alpine Road. From there, turn onto the Dargo High Plains Road. Then on to the Blue Rag Range Track itself. Roughly 60 kays short of the Dargo township.
Now, this track is rated pretty much everywhere you look as “difficult”. This can be either bang-on-accurate or completely misleading. Track conditions can wildly vary dependent on the weather, the time of year and how long ago the grader has come through. A week after it’s been graded you can drive 90% of it in your Nan’s Xtrail. Six months after heavy weather and no sight of a grader’s blade will have it more chopped up and dicey than a bowl of seafood salad that’s been left in the sun too long. In other words, plan accordingly.
With that said, 90% of the time, it’s really only a few sections that offer any real challenge to most modern 4WD with a modicum of clearance and most likely a factory-fitted rear diff lock. And even then, there’s generally plenty of traction on tap. The difficulty is found in how steep it is.
Driving tips for Blue Rag Range
We’re talking nothing but sky filling the windscreen. And the prospect of a sheer drop of what looks like every one of those 1700 metres, placed at spitting distance either side of you. It’s pucker factor eleven folks, and if you’re not careful you’ll tear a hole in your seat covers.
Hold your line, keep your cool, modulate your throttle input, remember to breathe and crawl your way up to the Trig point, however, and you’ll be rewarded handsomely. One of the best 360deg views on the planet awaits you. It encapsulates the enormity of the area and the sheer beauty will rob you of words. Endless ghost gums growing on the mountainsides, wedgetail eagles soaring majestically overhead, Mounts Feathertop, Hotham and Buffalo overwhelm you with their magnitude – it really is a hell of an experience and worth the drive.
Driving it straight off the factory floor
Which brings us to the $60,000 question: can a stock fourby do it?
Yep, no worries. But, and it’s a big one, you want to be cool, calm and collected behind the wheel. Having a bit of experience on steep, loose terrain is the best “mod” you can have for this one.
Evan has been to the VHC countless times (he really doesn’t like the office it seems). So he barely needed to check his HT tyre pressures before hitting the track. But if this is your first trip out in your brand new 4X4, maybe tag along with a more experienced guide for your Blue Rag debut.
Trust me, there’s not a lot of room for error – the track is wide enough for one vehicle at a time in many places. Knowing what you’re about is essential.
Once you’ve soaked in the views you can either continue along the track down the other side of the range to a small (RTT or swags only) campsite at the Wongungarra River. This track is seasonally closed so check ahead of time, but it’s the High Country, there are plenty of other campsites.
Be warned, this one does get pretty gnarly so probs best to give it a miss in a stocker, or any vehicle without a winch for that matter. Or head back down the range then hang a right onto the Dargo High Plains Road and drive to Dargo Pub for a well-earned beer and a feed.
Who said you needed lift, tyres and lockers to enjoy one of the most spectacular drives in Australia? Sure they help, but if you travel with the right people and the right attitude, you’ll have a trip of a lifetime.
What you need?
- First aid kit
- Warm clothes (it can snow even in summer)
- GPS would be handy
- Recovery gear
- Sense of adventure
- A good spotter to help guide you if required
Where is it?
When to go?
Track is closed May to November (like a lot of the High Country)