Walking tracks

Burralow Creek (difficult, 2 km return, 1 hr return). From the Burralow Trail east of Burralow Creek Camping Area, this track descends steeply to the valley. It is a more interesting way of approaching the area and combined with the Bulcamatta Track and exploration of the creek and valley makes an excellent day in the bush.

Bulcamatta Falls Track (easy, 3 km return, 1 hr return). The delightfully flat track is signposted on Burralow Creek on the western side of the camping flat. It leads along alluvial flats through tall forest with prominent clumps of sawgrass (Gahnia sp.), beside deep, sedge-lined pools of Burralow Creek. A pit constructed from sandstone blocks (part of the original settlement) and a natural stone grotto are passed. The track then leaves the main creek to follow a smaller side-creek through increasingly moist vegetation. In a narrow gorge with a small waterfall at its head, shelter and moisture reach their peak to nourish warm temperate rainforest of sassafras (Doryphora sassafras), coachwood (Ceratopetalum apetalum), lillypilly (Acmena smtthii) and cedar wattle (Acacia elata). Clumps of umbrella ferns (Sticherus flabellatus) grow on the shaded floor of the forest. This is a good example of the numerous rainforest gorges found throughout the sandstone country.

The Gorge (moderate, 2 km return, 1 hr return). From the Waratah Native Garden, The Gorge track sidles around the hillside to overlook the deep mossy gully of a tributary of Hungerfords Creek. Koalas have been reported from this area, but you are more likely to hear the piercing mimicry of a lyre-bird. Return the same way.

Mount Banks (difficult, 2.5 km return, 1 hr return). From Mount Banks Picnic Area, a narrow track winds up the ridge to the 1062 metre basalt summit—the highest point in this precinct and the end-point of Caley’s 1804 explorations. At first the walking is through beautiful low heath of sedges and dwarf casuarina (Allocasuarina nana), with excellent views over the cliff-girt valley of the Grose River. The track steepens towards the summit where forest takes over, and then the basalt is reached. The ground becomes covered in grasses and herbs, contrasting with the typically bare ground of sandstone soils. The ‘montane basalt cap forest’ here is quite a rare community and includes ribbon gum (Eucalyptus viminalis), brown barrel (E. fastigata) and narrow-leaved peppermint (E. radiata). Many wombats are found in these rich, moist forests. There is an old picnic area in a slight clearing near the summit, but no views. An alternative but longer way back to the car lies down an overgrown vehicle trail to join the Banks Wall Trail (see below) and complete a circuit.

Banks Wall (moderate, 11 km return, 4 hrs return). The Banks Wall Trail (management track) leads from Mount Banks Picnic Area, around the side of Mount Banks to the very brink of the Grose Valley cliffs. It winds around, dipping in and out of numerous gullies coming off the slopes of the mountain to maintain an even grade. The track passes through open woodland of hard-leaved scribbly gums (Eucalyptus sclerophylla), grassy heath and other communities before emerging onto a narrow ridge-crest of low heath at the edge of the Banks Wall cliff. A small foot pad leads onto the top of Frank Hurley Head, named for the great Australian photographer who went to Antarctica with both Shackleton and Mawson and also photographed the Blue Mountains. The spacious vista looks out over the tall tree crowns of Blue Gum Forest, 500 metres below, and straight up the Govett Gorge arm of the Grose Valley towards Katoomba. To the right, the multi-tiered ochre cliff of Mount Banks curves away. This largest cliff in the Blue Mountains, 400 metres high, cuts through the complete sandstone sequence from the top of the Permian slopes—Burra Moko Sandstone at the base, then Banks Wall Sandstone to complete the Narrabeen group, with some remnant Hawkesbury Sandstone just below the capping basalt. Layers of siltstone show as bushy terraces that separate the main layers.

Walls Lookout (moderate, 3 km return, 1 hr return). From the parking area at the top of Pierces Pass Road, the track leads over stony ground to the edge of the Grose Valley, first through open woodland of silver-top ash (Eucalyptus sieberi), hard-leaved scribbly gum (E. sclerophylla) and Sydney peppermint (E. radiata), then low heath. It is best to take in the view from one of the rises well back from the edge of the cliff, which is overhanging and unfenced. Heath is not widespread in the Greater Blue Mountains, favouring places where thin, stony soil and exposure to strong winds prevent the growth of trees. Here on the windswept cliff-tops of the Grose Valley, heath covers large areas. This also reflects the fire history, with frequent burns exposing the ground to the blast of wind and rain which further depletes what little soil there is.

Rigby Hill (moderate, 1.5 km return, 1 hr return). From Pierces Pass Picnic Area, a steep track leads to the top of Rigby Hill, another heathy, windswept viewpoint over the Grose Valley.

Pierces Pass (difficult, 5 km return, 3 hrs return). Pierces Pass is a relatively gentle way into the Grose Valley, but still involves many steps and a steep and long descent and ascent. Once called Hungerfords Track, it was used to get stock into and out of Hungerfords lease at Blue Gum Forest - which was purchased by bushwalkers in 1932 to ensure the forest was protected forever. Being a natural breach through the cliffline, the pass was almost certainly used by Aboriginal people long before the arrival of white man’s cattle. The track winds down into the delightful rainforest gorge of Hungerfords Creek before emerging suddenly at the base of the main cliffline with views over the valley. Old coal adits in this area suggest that the track may be associated with exploration of the coal seams that lie at the top of the Permian sediments. The descent to the river down the friable Permian slopes passes through tall forests nourished by the better soils and higher availability of moisture. Mountain grey gums (Eucalyptus cypellocarpa) are common here, and waratahs (Telopea speciosissima) sometimes flower along the track in spring. At the Grose River, cross carefully to the other side to reach the rough track that goes upstream to Victoria Falls Lookout (about 4 hours) and downstream to Blue Gum Forest (2 hours). These unmarked routes require a topographic map and navigation skills.

Mount Wilson Several short walks explore the forests and views around Mount Wilson. See the booklet Mount Wilson Walks by Elizabeth Raines. A highlight is the Waterfalls Walk which includes a cascade over a basalt cliff.