Lorne Erskine Phantom Falls 32km Loop

Written by | Great Ocean Road

Lorne is a beautiful area and offers some stunning hikes within the Otway Forest Park. Countless waterfalls and river crossings, forest ferns – what more could you want? Views? Yes there are some views on offer too, but in all honesty when you have waterfalls, who needs views?

This is a long hike. We are rating this as a Grade 4 hike mainly due to the distance of 32km. In theory you could do this at a relaxed pace in about 10 hours. We did it in 7.5 hours while taking 350+ pictures along the way and navigating. Not too bad. But after 20-25km, you will start to feel the distance. You will need a very good level of fitness to complete this hike within daylight hours.

Did we mention yet how great this hike is? This is a ripper hike. In fact we may dare to go as far as saying this is the best hiking trail in Victoria. Although we have not yet hiked every trail in Victoria therefore our view is a bit subjective. But seriously, this is an awesome hike. Just look at the photos below. There are a lot of photos… We did pick out the best ones though.

Did we mention the river/stream crossings? If you love river crossings, you will love this hike. How many? Is it possible to have too many river crossings? Well, we lost count after a while, but after looking back over our photos, we estimate about 35… Yes, 35 river crossings. Most are smallish, some bigger. Chances of getting wet feet are there, chances of slipping and falling on green rocks are high (we did).

This is a Grade 4 walk. Total distance of the track is 32km. Bushwalking experience recommended. Rough track, many obstacles. Generally distinct without major modification to the ground. Encounters with fallen debris and other obstacles are likely. Walkers may encounter natural obstacles. No modification of the natural environment. Limited signage. Users need to be self-reliant, particularly in regard to emergency first aid and possible weather hazards.

Trail Head Options:

  • The best way to get to Lorne is by car. This trail starts from the Foodworks in Lorne, near the information centre. Parking is available at Foodworks.

This Lorne Erskine Phantom falls loop hike is 32km long and will take between 7-10 hours to complete depending on your level of fitness.

Trail Features:

  • Waterfalls
  • River Crossings
  • Forest Ferns

It is best to complete this hike after recent rainfall, however if it has rained too much, some of the river crossings may be difficult and/or impossible to pass.

Trail End Options:

  • Surely after a 32km hike, you’ll want to take a rest. Grab some dinner at the shops nearby, retire to your hotel room, or drive home!

Trail Statistics:

  • Starting Point: Foodworks in Lorne
  • Hiking Trail Difficulty: Grade 4
  • Distance: 32km
  • Trail Type: Loop Hike
  • Elevation Gain: 1120m
  • Elevation Loss: 1120m
  • Minimum Elevation: 0m
  • Maximum Elevation: 435m
  • Time to Complete: Up to 10 hours
  • Ending Point: Foodworks in Lorne

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Detailed Hiking Trail Guide:

Our first destination on this hike will be Erskine Falls, which is about 11km from FoodWorks, heading straight up Erskine River.

FoodWorks is a great place to start in Lorne, because parking is not time restricted here.

Cross the road and the bridge over the river.

Take an immediate right. There is a caravan park here. We need to walk through it to get to the start of the trail. Head straight up this road until you reach the end of the caravan park.

Continue straight ahead until you see the sign for Erskine Falls.

Erskine Falls sign. It is a little longer than the stated 7.5km. More like 10km.

This hiking trail follows Erskine river all the way to Erskine Falls.

You can turn right here (a short 50m walk) to have a look at the Erskine River Rapids. You’ll need to come back to this point and go straight (veer left) to continue to Erskine Falls.

Erskine River Rapids. Have a look around, If the water level is low, you can walk around on the rocks. When done, go back the way you came and take the other path by the tree.

Left/Straight at the tree on the main route.

Along the way to Erskine Falls you may see several small paths that lead off the main path. Please stick to the main path wherever possible. Go straight here.

Veer to the left, keeping to the main trail.

As we get deeper into the forest, more ferns start appearing and more beauty emerges.

Cross the bridge – this is one of the very few river crossings on this hiking trail that uses a bridge. After this you will be rock hopping across.

Erskine River.

Keep to the main path again. And proceed with caution. This sign is here because if it has rained heavily, these trails get somewhat washed out and muddy, and river crossings can become somewhat treacherous.

Erskine River can be seen below and rises in level with you along the way.

Welcome to your first river crossing. Take note of the sign with the arrow on it pointing in the direction you need to go. These arrows become plentiful in due course.

The hiking trail that follows Erskine River is beautiful.

As we enter the forest it becomes even more beautiful.

Towering cliffs to the left are somewhat hidden behind the trees.

From here on out, the hiking trail becomes a little more rocky, and more obstacles start appearing such as fallen trees, muddy patches, and of course river crossings.

Follow the arrow. Usually located near a river crossing.

Please take care over these crossings. Rocks can become very slippery, especially if your shoes are wet. Some rocks feel grippy, while others will surprise you. Always take caution. Hiking poles may come in very useful.

The arrows are also located on the exit of most river crossings to guide you back onto the correct path.

Across another river and into the ferns. We won’t be showing every river crossing here because there are far too many. This is generally a one way hiking trail to Erskine Falls.

Two options. Go straight, or go right. Both lead to the same point, and both are as difficult as each other. We went right.

Another river crossing. Déjà vu.

There’s an arrow in the ferns on the right. It’s another river crossing. A little confusing.

Continue straight ahead through the ferns. At times the trail is not so clear. Hence another reason why bushwalking experience is recommended.

Splitter Falls I believe.

The final approach to Erskine Falls. Take a brief right at the stairs to admire the waterfall.

Some people venture out closer to Erskine Falls, however it is bordered off.

Congratulations, you have made it 30% of the way! 11km down, 22km to go. Our next destination will be Cora Lynn Cascades, a further 7km.

Head back to the stairs, and go up!

On the right you will find a lookout overlooking Erskine Falls from above. Otherwise, keep left.

Turn to the left at the carpark.

And follow the sign to Lemonade Creek Track.

This is a pleasant stroll, the final uphill section of this hiking trail.

When you come to this grassy crossroad, turn right up the hill.

…towards Blanket Leaf Picnic Area. Note however that we are not going all the way to the picnic area.

Continue straight here.

And cross the road. Watch out for traffic, this is a busy road. The trail continues on the other side.

You will be happy to hear that it’s mainly downhill from this point on. Don’t be fooled though. Downhill is not always easy.

Turn right here towards Cora Lynn Cascades.

Follow the sign towards Cora Lynn Cascades.

Continue down the main path around to the right.

Let’s take a break here and mention that this here is Cora Lynn Cascades Camping Area. Should you wish to make this a pack-carry hike, this would be the perfect opportunity to cut this hike in two. There are no fees for this campground however, and it is a first come, first serve site. So if it is full, you may be in a compromised position without somewhere to sleep. Not to mention that there are only two sites available here! For this reason we are not listing this hike as a pack-carry hike.

The hiking trail becomes a bit muddy down towards the cascades.

TAKE NOTE! To your right is Cora Lynn Cascades. To the left, is the trail that you will be continuing on next.

Welcome to Cora Lynn Cascades! This is the halfway point of this hike. This is a great opportunity to have a rest and grab a bite to eat before continuing down Cora Lynn Creek.

Our next destination is Phantom Falls, which is approximately 6.5km away. Ahead lies many, many creek crossings, many slippery rocks, and many photographic areas.

Continue down from the stairs towards the creek bed, which we will be following for a while.

Dodgy arrows, a broken sign. These are signs of things to come. Expect: Wet feet, muddy feet, slippery rocks, and more…

This is like a canyon hiking trail. Around every corner you will be amazed.

It is not often clear which way to go. Just keep going down the river. Follow the flow of the water.

The trail goes up and around this tree to the left, and then back down to the creek again.

Straight ahead here. Apart from this, few words are necessary. This is such a stunning section of the hike.

You will come to a road at the end of all this beauty. Take a left.

And then an immediate right down this path…

…towards Phantom Falls.

Around to the right here.

And welcome to Phantom Falls! You can walk around the falls a bit, and right up to them around to the right if you are game.

Did we mention that this is a long hike? OK, so from here we have 9km to go… That doesn’t sound too bad now does it? And the best part – It is mostly flat from here on out!

On the side that you came in on, look for a zig zag trail up the hill to the top of Phantom Falls.

Take a left at the top.

And continue straight ahead…

…towards Allenvale.

Very steep downhill bit here. Take care or get your hiking poles out!

Continue straight ahead along the narrower path.

Continue straight.

The trail continues between two properties here with horses on one side, cows on the other, and a orchard at the end.

Continue straight ahead and around to the back of the orchard,

When you get to the road, look for the orange sign down the hill. The trail continues down here.

Shortly after the yellow sign, go straight ahead here.

And again straight ahead here.

Left around the corner here on the main path.

You will need to take a right across this bridge and head down the river on the other side.

Continue straight here alongside the river.

As you near the ‘Great Ocean Road’, take a left down this less defined path.

Turn right briefly here for a sweet view of Great Ocean Road, the Ocean, and beach.

Then head back up the trail, continuing straight ahead.

The trail turns into a grassy field. Continue straight ahead towards the house in the distance.

Just before reaching the house, you’ll find a trail down to the right.

Cross Great Ocean Road and follow the gravel path.

Continue straight here.

Follow the path down. There is a restaurant around to the right and the pier. Continue along the beach front.

And onto the Doug Stirling Walking Track.

Follow this path until you get to the playground and then make your way up to the road.

You will pass Lorne Information Centre. Look out for the local Koala that sits in the tree here. He’s there 50% of the time.

Cross the road, and the bridge, and you will find yourself back at Lorne FoodWorks. Jump in your car and head home, or head back down the road to one of the restaurants nearby for dinner.

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Last modified: November 30, 2017