Fern Gully Walk at West Barwon Reservoir in Forrest

A leaf covered boardwalk surrounded by ferns at fern gully

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Fern Gully is a quick 400m (800 m return) walk to a pretty little gully full of ferns. It is best if you have limited time and are looking for a quick stop to see ferns and stretch your legs or walk your dog. This track not is for leaving from the top of the hill (and I turned it into a longer loop).

The return walk is the best choice for inexperienced bushwalkers. Those looking for a longer dog friendly walk who have experience bushwalking can turn this into a loop walk by combining the track with other walking/Mtb tracks. To do this you may need to return by the grassy road edge and you need to be able to navigate sections of tracks without clear signage.

This long option is a good choice if you are looking for a longer dog friendly walk and have already completed the busier Lake Elizabeth Walk (which I would recommend instead if you only have time for one walk).

Quick Fact Box Fern Gully Walk at West Barwon Reservoir in Forrest Victoria
Distance:  800 metres return or approximately 2.6km Loop Walk (the loop walk is not signposted or easy to navigate for beginners)
[Note: I have since discovered you can also basically skip most of the hill by walking it as a return short walk from the reservoir car park, which is a great option for beginners and people with less mobility.]
Track Grade: Estimated Grade 3 due to steep downhill/uphill incline & well designated but narrow track
Dogs: Dogs allowed on lead – yay!
Walk Highlights: The small fern gully at the bottom of the hill.
Who should skip it: If you only have time for one walk in Forrest I would choose Lake Elizabeth instead as it has much more diversity in ecosystems while still taking you through amazing ferns. Avoid if your health dictates you can’t safely climb down or back up the hill and walk on a narrow path with some uneven and slippery surfaces.
Getting There: Forrest is located about 1 hour from Geelong. This walk starts on the left side of the road about 100m along the West Barwon Reservoir road.

Please note there are other dog friendly walks in the West Barwon Reservoir as well as many Mountain Bike Tracks in the region. There is a sign at the reservoir carpark with a track map and information. There is not much info on the Barwon Water Page.

Short Video of the Fern Gully Walking Track

Overview of Fern Gully Walk

This short dog-friendly walk visits a beautiful fern gully on a 400 metre walk down hill in the West Barwon Reservoir recreation area.

The walk runs into another track which is the turn around point for the 800 metre return walk option. Alternatively, you can turn this into a loop or longer walk by combining it with nearby trails and tracks.

Getting to the Fern Gully Walk and Starting Point

The entrance to West Barwon Reservoir is located about 1 hour 15 from Geelong and 2 hours from Melbourne on the M1 (the inland route). It is 30 minutes from colac and around 50 minutes from Lorne.

The walk starts about 60 metres down the entrance road to the Reservoir turn off. There is space available on the left side of the road for 1-2 cars to park. Alternatively, there is space to park near the caretakers cottage at the start of the entrance road.

A road winding to the left, surrounded by trees showing a sign pointing to the fern gully walk to the left of the road.
The start of the Fern Gully Walk in the West Barwon Reservoir is on the entrance road into the Reservior/recreation area.

Fern Gully Return Walk

The Walk meanders down hill straight into younger but thickening vegetation, where you can spot fungi, trees and other plants as well as birds.

As you head down hill the ecoystem becomes wetter and tree ferns start.

A dirt path meanders downhill amongst tree ferns on the fern gully walk in Forrest Victoria
The downhill descent on the Fern Gully walk in Forrest Victoria

Then the walk then descends into a beautiful ‘Fern Gully’ area. In the gully you cross some boardwalks/bridge structures crossing over tiny creeks (although after rain i’m sure it pounds down the gully)!

The walk has no defined designated endpoint, it just runs into the North Western end of the ‘Barlidjaru Trail’. which is part of the Southern section of the Forrest Mountain Bike Trail Loops.

THIS IS THE RETURN POINT TO WALK BACK THE WAY YOU CAME TO YOUR CAR – either turn and go back at the gully or where it runs into the track. This is the best option for non experieced bushwalkers as the rest of this loop is not clearly signed, you need to navigate yourself with at minimum a google map.

Fern Gully Loop Walk Options

To walk a loop walk back to your car from here you need to ensure you look up the track or visit the map down in the reservior carpark prior to beginning the walk and save screenshot/photos incase you have no reception.

You need to understand the basics of how to follow a map and navigate as this is not an offical signposted walk. To do a loop walk back to the car you need to combine the Fern Gully Walk with other walks in the reservior or sections of the Mountain Bike track. You may need to walk back via the wide grassy road edge depending on what walks you continue on to do.

The tracks you walk on are generally clearly defined but not all are marked (some just have coloured MTB track signage) and there are unnamed junctions of management tracks and bike paths.

I turned it into a loop walk which was extremely poorly signed (no signage at most track junctions) and only continued on because I had plenty of daylight and knew if I headed uphill I would eventually hit the road or Forrest.

In the end it worked out to be a nice little 2km loop walk but this option is definitely not worth bothering trying to navigate as a beginner. For a quick stop or with limited time in the area as there are better and more clearly signed options for seeing pretty ferns such as the Lake Elizabeth Walk (which is also dog friendly and has a shorter return walk and longer loop walk option).

However, combing this Fern Gully Walk into longer loops is a great choice for those who have some bushwalking experience and looking for a new dog friendly walk in the Forrest or Otway Region

Walking Track Grade

I didn’t find an official classification for this walk however as it is one steep hill down and then back up which is a natural dirt track which is is wet in places and unsigned except for the initial start signage it technically probably falls as a ‘Grade 3’ track.

See more dog friendly walks in the Otway & Great Ocean Road region here.

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