The Wurrundjeri people once passed their winters near the Dandenong Ranges. They passed through the area en route to the Yarra Valley where they spent their summers on the banks of the Yarra River. Other sources place the Woiwurung people in the area prior to European settlement.
The first European known to set foot in the Dandenongs was botanist Daniel Bunce who was drawn from Melbourne by the image of the looming western slopes in 1839. Guided by a party of Aboriginal people he climbed Mt Corhanwarrabul (628 m) and Mt Dandenong (633 m) - the two highest peaks in the ranges. Burkes Lookout (see entry on Olinda) is now situated atop the former. Another botanist, Ferdinand von Mueller, who was responsible for the Melbourne Botanic Gardens, also explored the area in the 1850s.
The forests drew timbergetters in the early days of European settlement who supplied a growing market in Melbourne. The demands of this same market later saw some of the forest cleared for the establishment of farms.
However, the popularity of the area as a destination for holidaymakers and nature lovers saw the first land reserved for recreational purposes in 1882 at Ferntree Gully. Many more reserves were declared in subsequent years and these were amalgamated and extended in 1987 as Dandenong Ranges National Park.