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
One of NSW and Australia’s classic day walks, the Main Range Walk in Kosciuszko National Park is also Australia’s highest walking track, maintaining an elevation between roughly 1800m and 2200m. It’s a 22km loop through alpine vegetation, taking in glacial lakes and Australia’s most extensive views along the way. The side trip to Australia’s second highest peak, Mt Townsend (2210m), is well worth it, and offers a more interesting experience than the shorter side trip to our highest peak, Mt Kosciuszko (2228m). If you were keen you could do both, but we by passed Kosciuszko as we’d been there before. The walk as depicted here was about 25km with 750m change in elevation. (more…)
Australia’s Kosciuszko National Park is a home to the nation’s highest ground, and its landscapes are uniquely attractive, if not always particularly dramatic. Well, that impression changed after climbing the isolated peak of Mount Sentinel (1900m), which provides excellent views of the so called Western Fall. Mostly out of reach for the casual day hiker, I hadn’t seen these rugged and sometimes near vertical drop offs before. But the Sentinel happens to stick out in the middle of it all, and hence provides some of the best views on all of the mainland. (more…)
Mt Kosciuszko is Australia’s highest mountain, and as such all Australians should climb it once (I suppose). The Mt Kosciuszko Summit Walk is not the best walk in the alpine region of Kosciuszko National Park, but it is nevertheless a uniquely beautiful area, so any walk here is nice. We walked it in spring of 2008 and there was still quite a bit of snow left, which made nice patterns over the landscape. If you walk it in summer there will be lots of wildflowers out, and I’ve quite liked the autumn colours in this area (see the Mt Tate Circuit).
There are other worthy options to consider starting at Charlotte Pass, such as the classic Main Range Track, which will take you past the summit anyway (but is a longer walk). There are also some semi off-track options such as Mount Sentinel and Mt Twynam, and much shorter but still scenic tracks (Mt Stilwell). Track notes at the end.
Mt Kosciuszko Summit Walk: The Scenery
The shortest way of getting to the summit is to take the chairlift (expensive) at Thredbo and walk from the top station: a straightforward 13km return walk from 1900m. At the other extreme there is a route along Hannels Spur (to the west) which takes you from about 450m of elevation, and hence you can claim to have climbed it from the bottom. Unfortunately this route is only just being cleared (2019) after years of being overgrown, and it’s probably a two day affair for most.
The Mt Kosciuszko Summit Walk that we did is in the middle of these two options, a gradual 9km ascent to the summit (2228m) from Charlotte Pass (1830m), and then back the same way. It can feel like a bit of a slog as it’s along an old road that takes you close to the summit, and I find these walks along vehicle tracks a little boring. The track is obvious the whole way, but if you want more information then check out the NPWS website.
The Mt Stilwell Walk was quite a find for us, as we’d walked other routes from Charlotte Pass before without giving it much attention. It turned out to be a great short walk with views of the Main Range, and over the boulder strewn alpine plateau to the south of the summit. There were numerous wildflowers in summer which added to the appeal. You also get to bag a 2040m peak while you’re at it: bonus 🙂 (more…)
Two short walks starting at roughly the same place in Macquarie Pass National Park, on the escarpment inland from Kiama on the NSW South Coast. Both walks are through rainforest or similar vegetation. Macquarie Rivulet is reasonably scenic, and there is a swimmable pool up stream. Cascade Falls are a small but scenic waterfall accessed on a track starting on the other side of the Illawarra Highway. The water features on these walks are nice enough, but the rainforest vegetation is probably the highlight. (more…)
One of the classic NSW day walks, the trek into Monolith Valley is often overshadowed by an ascent of the Castle. For sure the Castle is a must-do walk, but Monolith Valley is an excellent alternative for a different kind of spectacular. The walk into the area along the Castle walls is already awesome, and the views of Monolith Valley are first seen by continuing just past a chained section of Nibelung Pass. There you can climb one of the smaller monoliths for 360 degree views of huge textured rock landforms and distant cliff faces.
The Mount Bushwalker Track provides really wide open views of many significant features in the Budawangs Mountain Range, and all for relatively modest effort. There’s also a short side trip worth taking into an atmospheric place called The Gaolhouse, a pocket of rainforest in the crack created by a section of rock falling away from the main cliff face. (more…)
This circuit walk in Narrawallee Creek Nature Reserve exceeded expectations. It starts in fairly open forest and heads towards the coast, then passes through an area containing many cycads, ancient and attractive plants that predate conifers on the evolutionary timeline. It then runs south along Conjola Beach to the many colourful rocks on Buckley’s Point, further on to Narrawallee Creek itself, and then back to the start through a variety of open forest. There’s various bird life along the way, including sea birds nesting along Narrawallee Creek, and black cockatoos in the forest bordering the creek. (more…)
This longish circuit walk in Murramarang National Park near Ulladulla takes in a very pleasant section of the NSW South Coast, and also rises up about 525m to the top of Durras Mountain. The mountain is forested and doesn’t provide much in the way of views, but it’s a nice enough section and contains lots of cycads, which I don’t see much of. On the coastal stretch there are lots of sandy beaches, rock platforms, bays and headlands. (more…)
West of the Blue Mountains
The views on this walk in Kanangra-Boyd National Park are some of the best in NSW. The impressive Kanangra Walls and deep Kanangra Valley are front and centre at a lookout near the start, and then the easygoing Plateau Walk passes along the edge of the Walls for more great views across the valley to Thurat Spires and into Kanangra Gorge. Continuing on to Cottage Rock through heath and forest means you can stretch your legs a bit more, and there are 360 degree views from the top of the rock of surrounding forested hills. (more…)
A very short walk in Kanangra-Boyd National Park, starting at Kanangra Walls Lookout. The track drops steeply down to the picturesque Kalang Falls (otherwise known as Kanangra Creek Waterfall on Google Maps), and you can have a look down stream a bit if you like. (more…)