Run Warburton and discover history along the way


Trail Walk into History incl Ada Tree
Activity Run
Type Point to point (see Alternatives header for an out and back plus loop suggestion)
Grade (if available) Easy to Difficult (Up to) TrailScore technical* Full Route – Black 41/45 Starling Gap – Ada Tree Return – Blue 29/45 Ada Tree Loop – Green 11/45 TrailScore general* Full Route – Black 9/10 Starling Gap – Ada Tree Return – Blue 6/10 Ada Tree Loop – Green 2/10
Start Warburton / Powelltown
Finish Powelltown / Warburton
Distance 51.2km (full length) or 43km (start or finish at Big Pats Creek)
Ascent 1204m or 1106m
Descent 1272m or 1107m
Max Elevation 808 m
Features Historical logging industry relics and tramways, the Ada Tree, gigantic Mountain Ash, lush tree fern forests
Facilities Toilets: Powelltown, Ada Tree Picnic Area, Starlings Gap, Big Pats Creek Recreation Area, Warburton
Car Parking: Powelltown, High Lead Car Park, Ada Tree Picnic Area, Starlings Gap, Big Pats Creek Recreation Area, Warburton Camping: Ada No2 Mill Site, Starlings Gap, Big Pats Creek Recreation Area, Warburton
Notes Best completed in summer and shoulder seasons; muddy, slippery, can even be snowbound and difficult going in winter; car shuttle required, there is no direct public transport between Powelltown and Warburton


*Check out how TrailScore works and what the ratings mean with our Trail Score Explainer                             


The name of the trail may be Walk Into History, but that doesn’t mean you can’t run it!

This is a fascinating journey on foot as you run well-preserved timber industry tramlines, past old bush mills and historical relics hidden amongst the forest, reminders of when gangs of foresters called this wilderness their office.

The route as described includes a very worthwhile out-and-back loop to the famous Ada Tree, a 75.1m high Mountain Ash considered one of Victoria's largest living trees and estimated to be over 300 years old.

It’s a tough run for the distance and the amount of climbing  – if coming from the Powelltown direction – is significant as the trail shoots up High Lead, a trail once used to drop gigantic felled trees down the steep hillside. It rises 500m in just 2km, nearly a 1-in-4 gradient, and it’s dead straight – no switchbacks to ease the climbing burden.

If you are looking for a slightly easier profile, run from the Big Pats Creek side, although beware as running down High Lead may be harder on your quads than running up it!

We know trail runners like a good hill session so we’ll run from Powelltown to Warburton. It’s an approach that delivers a good 12km of mostly flat tramway running through stunning bushland before turning north towards the ranges that separate Powelltown and Warburton.

The climb up High Lead is testing but rewards with a trail that ducks and weaves in amongst giant ferns, into rainforest gullies and past the sawmill settlement remnants.

There are shorter run options for the time or effort-restricted (see Alternatives header). To halve the distance and take out the big climb, try the Starlings Gap to Ada Tree return, at 24km and 422m of climbing. Those seeking shorter still can drive to n the Ada Tree, and complete a stunning 5km loop into the tree and back to the car.


  1. Beginning at the Powelltown Picnic Area (look for the interpretive signage), it’s a cruisy run for the first 11km as you track east alongside (and cross a few times) the Noojee Road, paralleling the Little Yarra River.
  2. Begin along the footpath beside the road, crossing over at the 700m mark. Here you duck up the side of a church hall, crossing a small yard to reach Blake Street, Continue straight across looking for the ‘Walk Into History’ signposts.
  3. The route runs along what becomes Lloyds Rd. Where it turns left back towards the main road, you should continue straight ahead.
  4. Just after dipping down some steps and back out of a gully, be mindful to keep with the trail as it sweeps to the left. At a clearing with a house ahead of you watch for the trail signpost to the rear of the clearing – don’t continue on the trail straight ahead past the house. You need to dip down at the back of the clearing and cross the main road again to pick up Mackley Creek Rd (2.2km).
  5. 800m along Mackley Creek Rd look out for and pick up the signed ‘Walk Into History’ singletrack.
  6. The next section follows and repeatedly crosses the Little Yarra River.
  7. Not long after the 6km (cumulative) mark, you will come to the first major point of interest, the historic Bump Tunnel, a railway tunnel constructed in 1925. Spanning 313m in length, it was constructed to avoid winching up the extreme inclines found here.
  8. Soon after is a road crossing – take care – which keeps you on the southern side of the Noojee Rd for just under a kilometres before crossing you back over to the north side where you again sidle alongside the road on singletrack for a further 3.5km, eventually reaching High Lead Car Park (located on the road). This is a good put in point if you want to cut off the first 11km, perhaps looking to an out-and-back to the Ada Tree, inclusive of the big climb up High Lead.
  9. From High Lead Car Park, runners head north/north-west following the Big Creek for 2.5km. This is a beautiful fern gully section that warms you up for the climb ahead.
  10. At 13.5km, the trail straightens out, shooting directly up towards the spur above, a leg-burning ascent of 500m in just under 2km (qualifying it in terms of gradient as ‘Skyrunning’ territory, albeit not long enough for a full qualification).
  11. At 15.5km you will cross Dowey Spur Rd. Continue directly across, picking up the stairs leading up the singletrack. 1km further on you will reach the Ada River and the Ada No.2 Mill site, strewn with rusting relics of the timber milling age. It is possible to camp here.
  12. Shortly thereafter to the north is a trail junction known as ‘The Crossing’. Straight ahead another trail leading to the New Ada Mill (visit on an out-and-back if you want a few extra kilometres). The route here turns right, toward the New Federal Mill site and the Ada Tree.
  13. At the 19km mark is the New Federal Mill, which was the dominant mill of the region in its heyday, closing in 1949.
  14. Here runners can choose to go in either clockwise or anti-clockwise direction to reach the Ada Tree. We suggest continuing on anti-clockwise, up towards Federal Rd and eventually to the Ada Tree picnic ground.
  15. From the picnic ground (20.7km, toilet facilities available), take the ‘Island Creek Walk’, perhaps the most stunning section of the entire run, with a groomed singletrack twisting its way in to the Ada Tree, across bridges and into gullies. It’s very much Lord of the Rings-style fairy tale rainforest for the 1.6km in to the tree viewing platform.
  16. From the Ada Tree you can continue the loop around following the Little Ada River until re-joining the track you ran in on at the 24km mark.
  17. Turn right (west) to run back along the trail towards The Crossing (26km). When you reach it continue on straight through (west).
  18. The tramway trail moves 7.5km upstream along the Ada Valley, through tall wet forest and temperate rainforest, with views across tea tree and melaleuca zone below.
  19. At 33.5km, you will reach the Starlings Gap picnic and camping area. This is a great alternative location to start and finish a run out to the Ada Tree and back (24km). For those running the long haul it’s an excellent place for any support crew to meet you for lunch, with 2WD access all the way.
  20.  At Starlings Gap, cross the road and pick up the singletrack dropping off the right hand side of the road on the west side of the intersection.
  21. Ahead is 9km of trail that gently drops down the valley towards Big Pats Creek picnic area. This is the route that many timber workers would travel back to Warburton on foot for their day off (many to play a game of football) before trudging back up it to return to their mills. 
  22. You can choose to finish the run here at Big Pats Creek (assuming a car shuffle or pick up has been arranged – note that there are no shops or facilities other than camping sites and toilets).
  23. For those not done with the running, you can hoof it all the way back in to Warburton township by turning right onto Riverside Dr, and then left on to Warburton Highway. There is a trail you can pick up on the right hand side heading back towards town. It eventually crosses back over the highway, and turns into a great little singletrack popping out at the rear of the caravan park. Follow the banks of the river, which will take you to another crossing of the highway (under the bridge), and take the singletrack heading downriver on the banks of the Yarra all the way back into the centre of town.
  24. Alternatively, you can shorten the distance by going via Big Pats Creek Rd (still a pleasant run along the valley floor), turning left on to Riverside Dr which will take you all the way back in to town.



Terminate your run (car shuffle pending) at Big Pats Creek. Further, you can also begin your run from High Lead Car Park, located 11km past Powelltown, just before Savin Ck Rd, where the trail pokes away from the main road to the north and starts climbing up High Lead. This takes a further 11km off the total distance (from High Lead trailhead to Big Pats is 31km).

For a shorter run that is out-and-back with less climbing, park at Starlings Gap and run out to The Ada Tree and back. This is a ‘highlights run’ taking in the most spectacular parts of the entire route and includes most of the historical artefacts to be discovered, plus Ada herself! It’s still a decent distance, however, clocking in at just over 24km and 422m of ascent.

Or, for an even quicker burst, try the 5km loop (142m ascent) that runs into the famed big tree from the Ada Tree Picnic Area – it’s short but worth the drive, such is the bang for your rainforest-running-buck.







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GPX Ada Tree Starlings Gap Big Pats Walk into History

KML Ada Tree Starlings Gap Big Pats Walk into History