The Castle ascent, Morton National Park NSW

Surely one of the best walks in NSW, summiting The Castle (847m) in Morton National Park provides spectacular views of the surrounding cliffs and plateaus in the Budawang Range. It’s only for fit walkers, and those willing to do a fair bit of scrambling, and also those with a reasonable head for heights.

The Castle Track, Morton NP

These pics are from our second time up The Castle (847m), one of NSW’s most challenging and spectacular day walks, situated in Morton National Park on the South Coast of NSW near Ulladulla. The views are probably the best I’ve seen in NSW, and with just enough exposure near the top to get the adrenaline flowing, it makes a memorable walk for any fit bushwalker.

You don’t walk all that far (11 or 12 kms) but the terrain slows you down in some sections, and there’s a decent change in elevation of about 800m. Starting in rainforest, you’ll soon ascend into dryer forest, then skirt the western edge of the Castle’s lower walls with views of Mt Nibelung and Mt Owen. It’s then up through cliffs with progressively more expansive views of the Budawangs, until you reach the summit plateau. Make sure you walk to the southern end for the best views of Byangee Walls.  There’s a box for a log book there, but I think the better views are a few minutes to the left (east) of this.

The drive from Ulladulla or Milton takes a bit over an hour on mostly dirt roads, (or faster if you have AWD and some clearance).

The Castle Track, Morton NP
Farmland outside Milton. You’ll need an early start for this long walk. Unfortunately the low lying mist had cleared by time we got up high enough for views of the valleys.

Track Notes

You’ll need good track notes for this walk as it’s easy to get lost and waste time if you’ve not done it before. There are decent notes in two books we own – Take a Walk in Southern NSW & the ACT and Best Bush, Coast and Village Walks of The Shoalhaven, but I think we used notes from the Bushwalking NSW website when we did it the first time. It helps to go with someone who’s done the walk before. We did it 90 minutes quicker the second time around, partially due to increased confidence with route finding. I’d allocate at least 10 hours for the return walk if it’s your first time.

The Castle Track: The Scenery

The Castle Track, Morton NP
The views as you slowly walk along the western side of The Castle: Mt Owen (left) and Mt Nibelung (right).
The Castle Track, Morton NP
The lower walls of The Castle are made of a conglomerate rock, which I’ve not seen much of in Australia. It looks very artificial, like a chunky pebble dash wall.
The Castle Track, Morton NP
Climbing higher, but the top still looks far away.

The Castle Track, Morton NP

The Castle Track, Morton NP
Passing through the tail of the so called Tadpole. There were lots of real tadpoles on top of the mountain. There is an alternative route which bypasses this section, but those with central obesity might nevertheless struggle on this walk.
The Castle Track, Morton NP
Sophia climbing The Castle. I borrowed this from the photos of our first ascent to demonstrate the steepness of some sections. It felt this scary the first time, possibly because of gale force winds, but much easier the second time.
The Castle Track, Morton NP
Mt Nibelung (and to the left Mt Owen) from near the top of the Castle.
The Castle Track, Morton NP
Views northish from near the top of the Castle. The Clyde River valley to the right.
The Castle Track, Morton NP
First views of Byangee Walls (centre).
The Castle Track, Morton NP
There were pools on the Castle plateau containing numerous tadpoles.
The Castle Track, Morton NP
One of many healthy looking tadpoles.
The Castle Track, Morton NP
Byangee Walls centre, and Pigeon House Mountain distant right, from the top of the Castle at the southern end.
The Castle Track, Morton NP
A panorama taking in (from left to right) Talaterang Mountain, Byangee Walls, and Pigeon House Mountain.
The Castle Track, Morton NP
Me at our lunch spot.
The Castle Track, Morton NP
A zoomed in shot of Byangee Walls. The walk up there is also good.
The Castle Track, Morton NP
Sophia optimistically trying to cross a pool on the summit plateau of the Castle. She turned back to avoid wet feet.

This video is from our first time up the Castle, when the wind was blowing a gale! Sophia almost gets blown off her feet at one point.

The Castle Track, Morton NP
Not seen this plant before.
The Castle Track, Morton NP
A panorama taking in the Clyde River valley, Talaterang Mountain, Byangee Walls, and Pigeon House Mountain. Looking east from the summit of the Castle.
The Castle Track, Morton NP
Looking down the tail of the Tadpole. This name refers to the shape of the Castle from above.
The Castle Track, Morton NP
The Clyde River valley.
The Castle Track, Morton NP
The rope was definitely handy in this section.
The Castle Track, Morton NP
This time around I ascended and descended this section without the rope, but I needed it the first time. I wonder if the difference was merely familiarity and hence confidence.
The Castle Track, Morton NP
Talaterang Mountain (centre right) and the Clyde River valley (centre left).
The Castle Track, Morton NP
Cliffs of the Castle from on the way down.
The Castle Track, Morton NP
Stripey rock.
The Castle Track, Morton NP
The walk starts and ends in rainforest.

Nearby Walks

If you are interested in other walks on the NSW South Coast then have a browse through some that I’ve done below. Many have been in the Budawangs and a few along the nearby coastline. The walk into Monolith Valley from the same start as the Castle is another absolute classic that I highly recommend (and there’s no scary exposure on this walk).

Bomaderry Creek Circuit, Bomaderry NSW
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…)
Byangee Walls Track, Morton National Park

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 Track, Barren Grounds Nature Reserve

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…)

Granite Falls Track

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…)

Kangaroo Ridge Trail, Barren Grounds Nature Reserve

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…)

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Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

2 thoughts on “The Castle ascent, Morton National Park NSW”

    1. Ah cheers Tony. Come to think of it I probably saw these from afar further down the mountain, but didn’t recognise them up close.

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