The hike to the summit of Mount Lofty is one of the most popular hiking routes close to Adelaide. But while the masses tackle the 3.9 km route from Waterfall Gully to the summit, our preferred route is the less traveled path from Belair Railway Station via Belair National Park, Crafers and Cleland Conservation Park. The route is definitely longer but takes in a huge variety of Adelaide Hills landscapes and the more gentle gradient makes it a great option for a trail run.
Elevation Gain: 600m
Running time: 1.5 - 2.5 hours
Hiking time: 4 - 5 hours
The Belair to Mount Lofty hike starts at Belair Railway Station, a relaxing 40min ride from Adelaide Station in the Adelaide CBD via the Adelaide Metro public train service. Trains leave around every 30mins throughout the day and the journey takes in views of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital (apparently the third most expensive building ever built), the Mitcham foothills (including a number of tunnels) and views back to the beach at Brighton and Seacliff.
You will need to get off the train at the last stop, Belair Station, and look for the archway at the entrance to Belair National Park. From here there are a number of trails that will take you to the gate at the top of the National Park. We recommend following the sign posts for Yurrebilla trail past Playford Lake, through Echo Tunnel and up to the Lower waterfall. A short detour will take you to the viewing platform at the top of the falls, although you will be lucky to see significant water flowing over them.
From the Lower Falls you need to divert off the Yurrebilla Trail and on to the Waterfall Hike. Follow the Waterfall Hike up a steep climb and then onto a beautiful section of trail along the top of the cliff top to the Upper Falls (this section is one of our favorite sections of trail in the Adelaide Hills).
After enjoying the falls continue upwards along the Adventure Loop Trail onto Queens Jubilee Drive and then onward to the park's top gate on Sheoak Road. Queens Jubilee Drive is a great section of runnable fire trail that meanders along on a gentle incline through sections of fern trees and is a good location to spot the park's resident kangaroos, koalas and even the occasional emu or echidna.
When you get to Sheoak Rd turn right and follow the trails along the side of the road up towards Crafers. This 3km section is the only part of the route that's along the road but has the bonus of giving a glimpse of some of the great properties in the Adelaide Hills. At the end of Sheoak Rd turn left and continue along Waverley Ridge Road to the roundabout at the South Eastern Freeway off ramp. From here continue along the road over the top of the freeway and look for the stairs near the church and the green sign posts for the Crafers Circuit hike.
Crafers is also the home of The Crafers Hotel, a great option for lunch or a drink depending on the time of day.
From Crafers follow the Crafers Circuit signs along Mount Street and then right onto Shurdington Road.
From here you'll join the Crafers - Mount Lofty Trail (look for the blue signs) for the remaining section up to Mount Lofty Summit. This trail is relatively new and meanders through the Eucalyptus Forest with great views over the Adelaide CBD. Most of the trail climbs gently and provides some great trail running or relaxed hiking.
Continue along the marked trails, which includes a sample of the Heysen Trail, the 1200km trail from Cape Jervois to the Flinders Ranges. This trail is one of Australia's greatest walking trails and is worth exploring if you have more time.
Continue along the trail until the Mount Lofty Cottage YHA where you will turn right and head up the final steep section to the summit. This last section is part of the popular Waterfall Gully to Mount Lofty hiking trail and will often be busy, particularly on a Sunday morning.
After a short push you'll arrive at the summit with breath taking views out across Adelaide, the surrounding suburbs and the St Vincent Gulf. The Summit cafe also provides a good option for lunch or a snack while enjoying the view out over the city.
From here we normally opt to run back down the way we came (it's quicker on the way down) but public transport options are also available to get you back to Crafers where you can then change to a bus back to the city.
Happy trails and let us know what you thought of the route on our Facebook page.