Wollemi, NSW: My favourite walks

Wollemi, NSW: My favourite walks

Megan Holbeck speaks to wilderness advocate (and keen bushwalker) Caro Ryan about her favourite tracks in NSW’s second largest national park

For Caro Ryan, it's the feeling of mystery that lies at the heart of the Wollemi’s appeal.
“Because of its vastness and scale, there is so much within it that we don't know. And I love the mystery: it keeps me in awe and wonder, and gives me a sense of curiosity.”
Image: Caro in Wollemi National Park by Hugh Ward

Just a couple of hours drive from Sydney, Wollemi is NSW’s second largest national park. This diverse landscape of mountain rainforests, sandstone pagodas, swamps, forests and spectacular cliffs offers spectacular walking, with tracks for day walkers as well as rewarding off-track exploration for the experienced. Although close to Australia’s largest city, it’s an ancient, unspoilt landscape.

Image: Campground at Wollemi by Gary P Hayes
“As you drive down into the Wolgan Valley through the pass, the walls rise up on either side of you. It’s like you're being sucked down into this beautiful, ancient sandstone canyon, and you drive to the very end and that's where the campground is.”
Image: A waterfall in Wollemi by Royal Botanical Garden Sydney

An experienced off-track walker, Caro recently did a three-day off-track walk from Newnes. She talks of walking in places where she couldn’t see footprints or manmade structures, of sleeping on rock shelves warmed by the sun. Within a few hours walk of Newnes she reached places where it felt possible that no one else had ever been.

Part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, Wollemi has been an ark of biodiversity for tens of millions of years, with a remarkable variety of classic Australian flora such as eucalypts, banksias, waratahs and wattles. This extraordinary diversity of plants also sustains an abundance of fauna, including one-third of Australia’s bird species (265), 50 mammals, 30 frogs and over 60 species of reptiles. Back in 1994, botanist David Noble was exploring deep within the labyrinth sandstone canyons and found a stand of Wollemi pines, trees dating back to the time of the dinosaurs.

Image: Caro taking in the views
“You can let your gaze fall along the landscape and try and picture what it was like 200 years ago, before colonisation. Wild places like this haven’t been changed much, which is the point: they gift us a lens to look back through time.”

Image: Wollemi Pines by Royal Botanical Garden Sydney

The Wiradjuri, Dharug, Wanaruah and Darkinjung people have a strong and ongoing cultural association with these lands. There are 120 Indigenous sites within the park, some of which can be reached by easy walks from the Ganguddy-Dunns Swamp campground. The rock art in Wollemi is thought to be between 2,000 and 4,000 years old, with a significant site at Eagle’s Reach showing animals long since extinct in the area.

As well as off-track exploration for the experienced, there are shorter, easier walks within the Wollemi. Caro also recommends walking from Newnes to the Glow Worm Tunnel, once part of the railway line to the historic Newnes oil shale works. The railway was dismantled in 1940; the 400 metre tunnel now taken over by glow worms. The walk takes in the area’s clifflines and diverse vegetation in a 22km loop from the campground, although there’s a 10km return version starting on Wolgan Road, or a shorter version from Lithgow or Bells Line of Road via Newnes Plateau. (Both tracks are currently closed.)
Wollemi trail guide

Wollemi trail guide

Use our handy guide to experience the best of what Wollemi National Park has to offer.

The Wollemi National Park is protected, but adjacent state forest and Crown land—indistinguishable from the National Park—is not. Three coal mines were proposed for the doorstep of the National Park, the last only retracted by the NSW Government in May 2022

Image: Looking over the proposed Rumker coal release area near Wollemi National Park by Victoria Jack
“These places are so precious. They have to be cared for and protected.”

Introducing Nature's Elders

Australia is an ancient and diverse continent, with incredible landscapes, wildlife and stories. From this wide range of natural beauty and diversity, the Wilderness Society has identified a collection of special places holding natural and cultural values that are unique on a global scale—including Wollemi National Park. Called ‘Nature’s Elders’, these places have long pasts... and you can help them have living futures.