Introduction to Bushwalking in NSW
Although there’s still much to do, we’ve done excellent walks in regional NSW from the coast all the way to the outback. The Great Dividing Range runs down the east coast of Australia, and there many walks amongst these mountains, valleys and escarpments. The coast is dominated by sandy beaches. West of the Great Dividing Range is a mostly flat plateau that is used largely for agriculture, but there are still great walking destinations inland, like Warrumbungle National Park. Read on for more info, or go straight to a list of the walks. And if you want to learn about walking near Sydney, then go to the Around Sydney page.
It’s difficult to summarise walks in NSW because its a big and varied place, but many of our walks have been in areas that are similar to Sydney and surrounds: grand sandstone cliffs, thick Eucalypt forests, and sandy beaches. The main exceptions are the alpine walks in Kosciuszko National Park, which are described in more detail below, a few walks around the spectacular gorges of the New England Tablelands, and the walks we did on our first road trip to the outback.
Finding Track Notes
There are guide books for various regions in NSW, and we used Take a Walk in Southern NSW & the ACT by John and Lyn Daly, and Best Walks of the Southern Highlands and also of the Shoalhaven, both by John and Gillian Souter, for a number of walks in southern NSW. We’ve also used the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service website, and the website Trail Hiking Australia is good for walks across the country.
Weather in NSW
The weather in NSW varies less between seasons than many places on Earth, but there are quite large variations between regions. The coastal areas are generally a bit milder and wetter; it can be humid up north. It drys out further inland to the west of the Great Dividing Range, and eventually becomes desert on the western edge of the state. There’ll be days in summer which are too hot for comfortable hiking, and this is particularly so in the west: definitely leave walking in the outback for autumn through to spring. Winter makes for pleasant walking in all but the alpine regions, although if you have the gear then get out in the snow too.
Kosciuszko National Park
Australia’s tallest mountains, including Mt Kosciuszko at 2228m, are situated in southern NSW bordering the state of Victoria, and offer alpine scenes that are pretty rare in Australia. The northern end of the park has some excellent walks at lower elevations.
One thing to note about walking in Kosciuszko National Park is that despite the high ground there are not really many big ascents. On the eastern side the land rises quite gradually, and it’s only the western side of the mountains-the Western Ranges-that are steep. It is possible to climb from about 400m of elevation to the top of Mt Kosciuszko, but the track is overgrown and it’s not a day return walk (Hannel’s Spur Track – I’ve never done it myself, just read about it). Instead you get a selection of walks through the vegetation of the high country, including attractive snow gums. Views off the western edge of the park are extensive, and can be seen on the classic Main Range Track, but not so much from the summit of Mt Kosciuszko itself. The ski town of Jindabyne is a good base for these walks.
The northern end of the park is less famous, probably because of its lower elevation, but there is some unique scenery, not to mention a number of wild horses (known as brumbies). Tumut is a good place to stay for accessing the northern end of the park.
Kosciuszko National Park Track Notes
There are a number of guide books for this area, but we don’t go there enough to justify purchasing them, and found the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service resources were enough. Wildwalks describes some walks at the southern end of the park, and I have used a very old edition of the Geehi Bushwalking Club walking guide for a couple of the lesser known routes.
The Weather in Kosciuszko National Park
Summers are a bit cooler up high but you might be exposed in the alpine areas with little or no tree cover, so take a hat and sunscreen. The flies seem to go a bit ape in the high country summer, so be prepared for them too. They have proper winters in Kosciuszko National Park so definitely prepare for sub-zero temperatures and snowy conditions. They’re not called the Snowy Mountains for nothing.
The Walks in Regional NSW
You can browse through a list of the walks I’ve posted on so far…
Kosciuszko National Park
Kosciuszko National Park contains mainland Australia’s highest ground. The area looms large in the Australian imagination, an exotic landscape tied to the frontier spirit through epic poems like The Man From Snow River.
The highest ground of the Main Range contains all of the nation’s ten highest peaks, and lies in the southern section of the park. It’s a unique alpine landscape of grasslands, herb fields, and delicate sections of bogs, fens, and stony fjeldmark vegetation. The peaks are generally not very prominent, that is, unless you venture over to the Western Ranges, and my first pick of the walks takes in those vistas. There are glacial lakes, and Blue Lake is a real highlight visited on three of my top ten walks. At lower elevations there are iconic snow gums, one of Australia’s most distinctive and hardy eucalyptus trees.
The northern section of Kosciuszko National Park is not so elevated, and perhaps lacks the glamour of the alpine region. Nevertheless, we discovered some excellent short walks taking in spectacular and atmospheric gorges and waterfalls, so it’s definitely worth a visit.(more…)
We managed to fit this 5km walk into the afternoon when we arrived in Tumut, ready for a few days bushwalking at the northern end of Kosciusko National Park. There’s a short climb through forest to Blowering Cliffs and Blowering Falls, and if you climb up just a little further through the cliffs from the turnaround point, you are rewarded with unimpeded views of Blowering Reservoir and surrounding hills. This last bit is quite steep and requires a scramble. (more…)
This short but steep-ish walk to Buddong Falls exceeded expectations, mainly because the falls were more spectacular than I’d expected them to be. I’d never heard of them until I scoured the internet looking for walks around Talbingo that we could fit into the late afternoon. It’s a longish drive on an unsealed road to get there, but there are quite nice views along the route which add to the experience. The upper falls are good but it’s the lower falls which make the big impression. They are 60m high but only the top half can be easily photographed.
The Bullocks Track is an easygoing walk along the banks of the Thredbo River. There are views up 800m to the Ramshead Range, and over picturesque sections of the Thredbo River. We encountered quite a bit of wildlife along the way, despite it being a fairly busy area with a major camp site at Thredbo Diggings. Not a spectacular walk but good one with children or if you need a rest from longer walks up in the alpine areas.
I’d seen pictures of Clarke Gorge on the internet, and this alone convinced me I should visit the less trendy northern end of Kosciuszko National Park (less trendy because of the generally lower elevation). It’s a very narrow gorge lined by sheer sided cliffs, and the walk through it to Cave Creek Falls must be one of the best in the park. There were brumbies (wild horses) galore in the area, and although they are non-natives, they are nevertheless charming animals that are generally quite comfortable with humans.
This circuit walk in Bomaderry Creek Regional Park was very nice, and the third walk in a single long weekend that exceeded expectations. There are lots of rocky overhangs, small cliffs, a variety of vegetation, including re-growth after fire when we did it, and of course the creek itself, which was picturesque in places. (more…)
The Budawangs Range in Morton National Park offers some of the NSW’s best hiking, and Byangee Walls is one of the classic day walks. There are spectacular sections as you walk along the base of the walls, and also under the most significant landmark in the area, the Castle. (Climbing the Castle is an even more spectacular walk, partially because of the views of Byangee Mountain itself, which is very attractive from above). The views from the top are extensive, and include nearby Pigeon House Mountain, the Clyde Valley, and looking up at the 840m high Castle. (more…)
Drawing Room Rocks are furniture shaped rock formations 600m up on the escarpment west of Berry on the NSW South Coast. The approximately 30 minute walk to the top is worth it for extensive views to the coast, only when we did it an odd sea mist closed in just as we ascended, so at the top we could see nothing. But it made for atmospheric walking nevertheless. A good option for stretching your legs on a drive further down the South Coast. (more…)
This short and easy walk in Morton National Park, inland from Sussex Inlet on the NSW South Coast, ends at a rather unique copper coloured waterfall called Granite Falls. There wasn’t much water falling on the day we went, but it’s the rock colours that make it interesting. If you are driving down or up the coast then it’s worth making the side trip and stretching your legs to check this out. There were also wildflowers in abundance when we visited in mid spring. (more…)
Barren Grounds Nature Reserve is situated at the southern end of the Illawarra Escarpment, inland from Kiama. There’s a few easy to moderate walking options that we’d done in the past (based on the Griffiths Track loop), but the route depicted here is a longish (19km) walk along the Kangaroo Ridge Trail, which continues to the edge of the escarpment for views over the NSW South Coast. The area is notable for its bird life, and contains a combination of heath and forest vegetation. (more…)
West of the Blue Mountains
The Grand High Tops Circuit with an added side trip to Bluff Mountain (1200m) is arguably the best walk in the Warrumbungles, especially for views. From Grand High Tops there are classic views of the pleasingly named rock formation, The Breadknife, which is a tall, thin and sheer slice of rock that you pass on the way up. There are also great views of nearby Crater Bluff, and of Belougery Spire, both prominent and striking hunks of rock. (more…)
The circuit walk through Ferntree Gully Reserve passes through a scenic gully containing interesting rainforest vegetation. This includes various types of ferns as the name suggests, as well as vines and trailing roots reaching down over rocks to find the ground below. There are also good views from above the gully. It’s a short but rewarding walk that I recommend if you are in the region around Rylstone. (more…)
Mt Exmouth (1206m) is the highest point in Warrumbungle National Park, and I’ll admit to a spot of peak bagging in doing this walk. Nevertheless, I’d read that the views from the summit were excellent, and they were, although a bit hazy on an overcast day. Unexpectedly though, another feature of this walk stole the show, and that was the preponderance of fabulous grass trees on the final ascent to the summit. I’ve never seen so many in my life, and they were fine specimens indeed. So I’d recommend this walk even just for these, but the views will be an added bonus. (more…)
The Dunns Swamp area is very picturesque, and a shortish drive from the also picturesque village of Rylstone, in NSW’s Mid-Western region. The short walk on the Pagoda Lookout Track passes along the foreshore of the dammed but still very attractive Cudgegong River, and takes you to the base of impressive rock pagodas. From there it’s a short but steep climb to the top of the rocks themselves. There are great views of the rocks and over the surrounding area. Definitely worth spending half an hour or so exploring the area around the lookout, and obsessively taking pictures (obviously). (more…)
This walk on the Pipeline Track climbs out of the spectacular Wolgan Valley to a high point at Pagoda Lookout. It starts in Newnes Campground surrounded by high cliffs, and at first passes through mining relics from the early twentieth century. The track then climbs up through an attractive gully to excellent views back down into the valley. (more…)
This route climbs Cathedral Rock, the (almost) high point of the New England Tablelands at about 1580m, and goes on to visit the attractive Woolpack Rocks. There are various interesting boulder formations throughout the walk, and expansive views from on top of the two main rock formations. You start above 1300m, so only moderate effort required on an undulating track to visit these destination points. (more…)
Two shortish walks here that are filled with spectacular gorge scenery. The scenery is quite different from the valleys around Sydney, and one of my Instagram followers thought it reminiscent of the Italian Alps. I’ve never been, although I see plenty of the Dolomites on Instagram, and I think she was referring to the preponderance of steep rocky slopes. There are big waterfalls here as well, and in fact Wollomombi Falls is the third tallest in Australia, however we didn’t see a single falls with water in them on our trip, due to dry conditions. Definitely worth the visit nevertheless. (more…)
A very short and accessible walk around the rim of Apsley Gorge. There are good views of the falls, and of the vertical slate walls of the gorge. We arrived at this spot in twilight so we were unable to do the slightly longer walk around the other side of the gorge, but I did manage to get a few shots in before the sun went down. Track notes at the end.
Far Western NSW
On a 2009 road trip to Broken Hill we did a walk along the shore of a large, natural, ephemeral lake, and saw scenes typical of the Australian outback. There was lots of wildlife (both native and feral), flat arid land, and the shallow but expansive lake. (more…)
In 2009 we took a road trip to the Australian outback for the first time, stopping for a night each in Cobar and White Cliffs on our way to Broken Hill in far western NSW. Before we got to Broken Hill we stopped to do a walk in Mutawintji National Park. This was probably our first taste of proper outback scenery, (although we had done a walk in fairly arid woodland on our way from Cobar to Wilcannia). This circuit walk takes in many rocky sections in that red ochre colour the outback is famous for. Tree cover is sparse and the trees fairly stunted, and surrounding the area are flat arid plains.
Not a bad walk if you are driving out west along the Barrier Highway from Sydney to Broken Hill, as we were in September 2009. The Ngiyampaa walking track climbs through mallee woodlands to a trig point on Mount Grenfell, for views over flat-as-a-pancake woodland for as far as the eye can see. (more…)