East of Mansfield on the edge of Victoria’s High Country, you can find the picturesque Lake Cobbler. Sitting at the base of Mt Cobbler, a beautiful exposed rocky peak, the lake has long been a popular four-wheel drive destination and is often part of a longer trip that includes the well-known Craig’s Hut. However, Lake Cobbler is also a great place to head for a quick weekend away in the Alpine National Park.
While the pretty man-made lake offers a nice camping setting, there’s also plenty of walking and beautiful views to see nearby. We decided to spend a couple of nights at Lake Cobbler to explore the area, and it was an incredible spot to get a taste of what the High Country has to offer.
Here’s a guide to visiting Lake Cobbler and exploring on foot up to Mt Cobbler and Dandongadale Falls nearby.
About Lake Cobbler
Lake Cobbler is a manmade lake created in the 1960s by damming the swamp area around the Dandongadale River near Mt Cobbler. The Lake Cobbler Hut on the side of the lake was built in 1986 by the Wangaratta 4WD Club, to replace the original hut which was built in the early 1900s for grazing.
Check out the video from our trip below!
How to get there
Lake Cobbler is situated on the south eastern edge of the Alpine National Park in Victoria. It’s best reached via the King Valley and is located 50km from Whitfield. It’s a scenic drive, with most people heading north east of Melbourne to Mansfield first, before continuing north towards Whitfield and the King Valley.
From Whitfield, you need to head south again on the Rose River Road passing through Cheshunt. The road becomes dirt just after Cheshunt but is in good condition along Rose River Road to Bennies Camping Area.
From there, the road becomes progressively rougher for the next 20km until you reach Lake Cobbler. The lake will be down below the road to your right and it is a steep and rough drop down to the Lake Cobbler camping area.
From Mansfield to Lake Cobbler: 111km or just over 2 hours’ drive
From Melbourne to Mansfield: 190km or 2.5 hours’ drive
When to visit Lake Cobbler
As with much of the Alpine National Park, the area sees heavy snowfall during winter and the dirt road to reach Lake Cobbler has seasonal road closures over these months.
You should plan your trip to the area sometime from September-October until April-May. However, the best time to go to Lake Cobbler and the Alpine region is in summer when the weather is at its warmest. Although this means that the camping areas are usually busier and there’s likely to be plenty of snakes around.
We made the trip to Lake Cobbler at the start of April, just after the Easter long weekend. The weather was unpredictable with warm days, cool nights and even a storm rolling over on the second night. However, this was perfect for hiking, and the campground was also less busy (although there were still quite a few people around).
What you need to know before you go
If you’re planning a trip there, here’s some essential information:
4WD access only
The road from Bennies Camping Area to Lake Cobbler is reserved for 4WD only. While the road itself gets progressively rockier, the real challenge is the suddenly steep, rocky road you need to navigate to get into the Lake Cobbler Camping Area. There’s also a small creek crossing as you reach the Lake Cobbler Hut, so a 4WD is a must.
From Lake Cobbler, heading along Cobbler Lake Road further down to what used to be known as the “Staircase”, also requires a 4WD. If you only have a 2WD, Bennies Campground is as far as you should go.
The weather in the Alpine region is very unpredictable and can be extremely volatile. You should be prepared for experiencing four seasons in one day, with warm clothing and adequate camping gear.
It’s also important to know that there is no phone reception at Lake Cobbler. You will only get reception up on Mt Cobbler, if you decide to hike to the summit. This means that you should tell someone your plans and carry a PLB for emergencies.
If heading to Lake Cobbler in summer, you should check Vic Emergency before heading out and be aware of any bushfires in the area or any risks nearby. You should also check the Parks Vic website for seasonal closures and recent track updates.
Lake Cobbler Camping Area is located around the lake’s edge. There’s no official sites and it’s free to camp there, operating on a first in best dressed system. You will see some well-used campfires from previous campers which is where most people set up. There’s not a whole lot of room, with around 5-6 large sites right on the lake’s shore. You’ll also find a few spots back from the lake, closer to the Lake Cobbler Hut.
You can also camp further back down the road at Bennies. This is a nice shady area with plenty of spots on the river. Or, if you want to continue past Lake Cobbler and down Speculation Road, you can find King Hut Camping Area, which is another popular spot for 4×4 drivers.
Otherwise, there are a couple of wild camping spots that you can see off the 4WD tracks in this area, although they have no facilities.
The campgrounds in this area only have basic drop toilets (no toilet paper supplied). The huts are purely to provide shelter only in emergencies and do not offer any sort of comforts. There’s no water supplied either, so you’ll also have to bring enough for your stay.
If you’re going to be heading to Lake Cobbler for camping and hiking, here’s some essential gear you should take:
- Sleeping bag: I recommend the Macpac Latitude 700, it’s perfect for those cool Alpine conditions.
- Down jacket: I love my Macpac Halo Down jacket and take it with me whenever I head into the Alpine National Park.
- Rain jacket: For those unpredictable rainy days, this rain jacket from Rab is a lightweight option that is also made from recycled materials.
- Solar panel: For keeping your electronics charged while camping and hiking, carrying this personal solar panel with you can help keep your phone alive.
- Hiking boots: You can never go wrong with Scarpa. I wore my Scarpa leather gortex boots for this adventure.
- Daypack: For those hikes and side trips from the camping area, this Osprey 30L daypack served me well.
Finding your way
Use Maps.Me! If you want to do some exploring around Lake Cobbler, Maps.Me works a treat in this area. Everything is accurately marked on it, including Dandongadale Falls, Mt Cobbler, camping spots and tracks.
Things to do at Lake Cobbler
If you’re planning on hanging around for a couple of days, here’s what you can see and do around the lake.
Walk up Mt Cobbler
9km return | 3 hours | 568m elevation gained
Mount Cobbler is the 1628m-high, rocky exposed summit towering over Lake Cobbler. The Mt Cobbler walking track begins from the camping area, with a signposted trail leading off to the left of the hut. The trail is well-worn and recently maintained, so it’s easy to follow all the way to the top.
At first, it rambles along an easy trail before dipping down into a gully and over a creek. From there, the steady climb begins as you make your way above the treeline. After 3km, you’ll hit a wild camping area for hikers and then take the right trail at the intersection towards the summit.
As you emerge above the treeline, you’ll come to the bare rocky peak. From there, you have to pick your own way up to the highest point, which is across to the left. You’ll be rewarded with a 360-degree view across some of the most wild and remote areas of the Alpine National Park. Return the same way.
Note: Some people make the extra side trip to the opposite peak at the summit area (pictured below), which is down a steep and unmarked track. Only make your way there if you feel confident and the weather is calm.
Try some Lake Cobbler fishing
Many people try their hand at fishing for trout in Lake Cobbler. While quite a few people were trying when we were camping, nobody had any luck unfortunately.
Peer over the edge of Dandongadale Falls
Dandongadale Falls are the third highest in Australia, and yet, hardly anyone’s heard of them. The long single drop falls down a dramatic escarpment not far from Lake Cobbler. There are two different and incredible views of the falls.
The first is from the road, about 2km before you reach Lake Cobbler camping area (it’s marked on Maps.Me). From here you can look across towards the falls in the distance (pictured below).
The second, is from the top of the falls. You can reach it from the Lake Cobbler camping area down an unmarked worn trail. The trail starts down to the right of the hut, heading away from the lake (it’s also marked on Maps.Me). From there, you have to cross a little river and then take a sharp right. Follow this trail and it will bring you to a small waterfall. Many people mistaken this for Dandongadale Falls, but it’s not!
From there, you’ll see a faint but fairly worn trail to the left heading up. You need to take this for another 450m to the edge of the escarpment. From here, you’re sitting on a dramatic rock ledge looking over Dandongadale Falls. While you can’t see much of the falls themselves, the view across the valley is pretty incredible. Return the same way.
Note: Be careful of the ledge overlooking the waterfall. It’s a very steep and long drop down if you slip. There are no barriers or signs so use common sense.
Hike the Cobbler Plateau Circuit or further to Mt Speculation
There’s a couple of options if you want to do some overnight hiking in the area. The Cobbler Plateau Circuit takes in Mt Cobbler and Lake Cobbler in one long loop starting from the intersection of King Basin Road and Speculation Road (at the bottom of the “Staircase”). It’s around 28km and can be done in two days.
Another option in the area is the tough Mt Speculation via Crosscut Saw overnight hike. This can technically be done as a 2 or 3 night loop hike, either from the Upper Howqua area to the west or from Mt Howitt Walking Track to the east. While I haven’t done it myself (yet), from all the reports I’ve read, it’s best done from Mt Howitt Walking Track, with many trails from the Upper Howqua direction being very overgrown. Either way, it’s a tough hike with some rock scrambling, so be prepared.
Go 4×4 driving
One of the main reasons people end up at Lake Cobbler is on a 4×4 trip. It’s usually part of a circuit that includes Craig’s Hut and King Hut. Otherwise, you can also use Lake Cobbler as a base and do day trips from there.
What to do near Lake Cobbler
If you have plenty of time and want to explore some of the other surrounding places, you can try:
Mt Buller Alpine Resort village is just 48km east of Mansfield. It’s one of the most popular downhill ski areas in Victoria, but is also a great place to visit in the warmer weather for some spectacular hiking and biking.
If you’re making it a long 4WD trip, you can reach Mt Buller from Craig’s Hut and Lake Cobbler, to return to Mansfield a different way.
Before you head straight out to Lake Cobbler, you can explore more of the King Valley and Whitfield, which is known for its food and wine. While Whitfield is a small town, you can find plenty of nice restaurants and wineries around to enjoy.
Mount Buffalo National Park
If you’re keen to do some more hiking, you can head to Mount Buffalo National Park near Bright. While on a map it doesn’t look far from Lake Cobbler, you’ll have to go back to Whitfield and then around through Myrtleford to the national park.