Twenty Walks during Lockdown

While during lockdown, the NSW government had asked all residents to limit travel and stay local, and our hikes along the paths in the Eastern suburbs had become overcrowded.

Can’t see the forest for the trees. And that’s a really nice thing.

I’d become a little paranoid about all the people in our neighbourhood. People around the beaches hadn’t shown the best sense of judgement when the pandemic began. Being a kidney transplant recipient, I take drugs (drugs!) to suppress my immune system, so Leigh and I were being extra careful. The one study on the mortality rate of transplant recipients was scary (28%), though I know I’m much healthier than the average transplant recipient. (Recently, I’ve learned through my nephrologist that kidney transplant recipients in Oz have actually faired well with covid, with zero fatalities in the fourteen cases as of early July).

Essential Enough

After seeing one person doing personal training right in the middle of the path (while another onlooker giggled at how ridiculous it looked) we’d had enough. A colleague mentioned that they had taken their family to Royal National Park, and the mental difference it made was enormous.

We thought that there might be fewer people in the park on a Friday, so we started a Friday tradition of heading off for hikes in the park. It lowered my exposure to other people (we had some days where we didn’t see a single person the entire time, and we never encountered more than 20 people total other than on the Coastal Walk).

In addition, the mental health benefits were even bigger. I need to feel the wind in my hair and the sunshine on my ears and the rustle of the leaves under my belly button.

So while “essential” travel was supposed to be the rule, I stand by the decision to exercise away from crowds and limit my exposure, and limit others’ exposure to me. If the park had been crowded, or if the bandicoots had formed militias, we wouldn’t have stayed.

Tips and Tricks

I highly recommend the Avenza app — has a map of the Royal National Park (free), and GPS always shows you your location on the map. I’m sure there are more detailed trail maps with turn by turn directions, but this was just what we needed (especially since neither of us has a great sense of direction) — a map of the trails with a GPS dot wherever we were just to make sure we hadn’t gone off the trails. And it has a library of maps to cover most of the places I’ve been in Oz.

And now, the hikes

The rest of this blog is just a collection of notes on each hike. I’d recommend just scrolling through the photos and oohing and aahing, and occasionally scratching your head.

Mostly notes for myself or maybe some unsuspecting traveler who might want to wander down a trail or two.

Each walk will have a link to the hike on Strava, and will be graded with koalas:

  • 🐨 Meh
  • 🐨🐨 Okay
  • 🐨🐨🐨 Good
  • 🐨🐨🐨🐨 Great
  • 🐨🐨🐨🐨🐨 Super fantastic

Walk 1: Loftus Loop Trail

8k, Mediocre scenery, Easy hike. Strava. 🐨

Our first hike in the park was ordinary but quick to reach. It’s the first turn off the road (Loftus) that enters the Royal National Park from the Princess Highway (A-1). The path is partially a fire trail and at times runs along the rail track, but other times you are in the woods. Mostly it’s a nice circuit for locals to exercise on (running or mountain biking). Not a great nature hike.

Walk 2: Albury to Karloo Track (and unfortunately, back)

16k, Great scenery, Difficult hike. 🐨🐨🐨 Strava.

Our second hike was much more difficult because we had to retrace our tracks due to not being able to find the river crossing once we reached Karloo pool.

We started by driving into the park and parking at Albury, then walking from the parking lot up into the central part of the park. As we walked down to the pool, we were a bit shocked. This looked like a haven for teenage rebellion against social distancing.

We set off to the right to find the trail that crossed over the river, but the trail disappeared and become overridden with fallen trees and brush. After a couple of different attempts, we turned around and began the long hike back to the car. For our second hike, this was probably the hardest of the first 20 we did.

Walk 3: Heathcote to Karloo Pool circle

Leigh finds the crossing we couldn’t find last week. Train station and back. 🐨🐨🐨 Strava.

We attempted last week’s destination, but this time from the Heathcote train stop. Leigh kept finding the trail everytime I lost it, and eventually we crossed very close to Karloo pool (not where the Avenza trail map had shown it further up). Success!

The final river crossing to complete the circuit!

Walk 4: Waterfall to Uloola Falls and back

Train station and back. 🐨🐨🐨 Strava.

A great hike, down to Uloola Falls, which we had passed twice on our hike two weeks before. But this time on a new trail. The hikes from the train stations all descend down, so you have to climb back out!

Walk 5: Engadine to Kangaroo Creek and Beyond (and back)

Train station and back! 🐨🐨🐨 Strava.

Another good hike. Mostly climbing up or down, including some really steep sections.

Each week I had planned on learning the name of a new Australian plant. This is called the green-grass-like-plant-that-grows-in-a-clump.

Walk 6: Bundeena to Coastal Track

A ferry ride, a hike in the rain.🐨🐨🐨 Strava.

This is a great way to mix up the usual “start from train station” hikes because you get to take a ferry. You can still take the train to Cronulla or drive there, and then take the ferry to Bundeena. Then you walk through Bundeena to the trail head, and the fun begins. This is very much a trail made for tourists — not difficult, and a lot of the trail is on made-man grates to preserve the ground given the volume of walkers in the summer.

Walk 7: Heathcote National Park (Mooray Walking Track)

Well worth it — less traveled but beautiful. 🐨🐨🐨🐨 Strava.

This hike was great because it was beautiful and deserted, and more natural than the manicured sections of Royal National Park.

For this hike, you can either start from Waterfall train station and walk 1 km across the road that crosses the highway, or just drive and park on the neighbourhood road right near the trailhead on Warabin street.

From the trailhead, we followed the signs to the Bullawaring Track, then headed South on the Yelguh Cave Track, stopped for lunch on the return, then hiked NorthWest on the Bullawaring Track to Python Gully. Shortly after that, we were running out of time, so we turned back, and made our way back to the Mooray Track junction and took the Mooray Track back. We lost the trail a couple of times (accidentally took smaller side trails). The biggest miss was that we missed the turn from Mooray onto the Warabin Street track, and ended up going an extra 1k through the same rocky ups and downs as we had started with! Our legs were pretty shot after that.

Walk 8: Burning Palms

A long hike with a rewarding end. 🐨🐨🐨🐨. Strava.

About an hour into this hike I fell into a river we were crossing, and spent the rest of the trip drying out. While my butt was damp, my spirits were not. The final section of the hike is hard — especially in the rain, with slick rocks that you’ll need time to navigate through. And to cap it off, we both found leeches on us from our river crossing! But highly highly recommended.

I had actually fallen into the river (in the first time in my memory) earlier that day, so this time we just waded across.

Walk 9: Canoeing from Albury

Arms not legs. 🐨🐨🐨 Strava.

We decided to try out canoeing inside the park. While the river requires a bit of navigation, it was a really great day.

Walk 9*: Aboriginal Heritage Walk in West Head

An excuse to go see West Head. 🐨🐨 Strava.

I’ve done this hike once before. It’s good, though it’s often more crowded, especially on the sections near West Head.

Walk 10: Heathcote National Park, Part 2

Not as beautiful as the first part. 🐨🐨🐨 Strava.

The “pipeline” trail is a walk along a fire trail next to a giant above-ground pipeline. It’s almost as beautiful as the “powerline” trail that it leads to. But, we loved the rest of the trail, which overlapped the original Heathcote National Park we did (Walk 7). When the regular trails become busy, this is a good bet to get away from the crowds.

The trails here are more rugged, and you might not see a single soul all day long. Perfect escape into nature.

Walk 11: North of Burning Palms

A beautiful walk along the coast. 🐨🐨🐨🐨 Strava.

These coastal hikes are great. This might be my favourite section because you hike into the beach rather than start from it, and there is plenty of altitude change, along with great coastal scenery.

You get to drop down onto the beaches in a lot of sections of the Coastal Walk. This section has the best beach walk segments.

Walk 12: Gibraltar Peak / Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

Great hike about an hour outide Canberra. 🐨🐨🐨🐨 Strava.

It was -1C when we started the day in Canberra, after I’d had a couple of days of work. We didn’t want to break the streak so we found a great nature reserve. The hike to Gilbraltar Peak was great — well marked, had some climbing, and the view from the top was amazing since we had a clear sky.

This is my favourite photo from the entire 20 hikes. Roos in the frost on the way to Gibraltar Peak.

Walk 13: North Head

My old stomping grounds. 🐨🐨🐨

We were in the neighbourhood and so we walked up to North Head. This is where I did most of my training for the Overland Track in Tassie. Not actually that much climbing, but always a great walk.

Walk 14: North of Guacamole Beach

Great walk. Not difficult, but even on a cloudy day it’s a beat. 🐨🐨🐨 Strava.

Wattamolla Beach quickly became Guatemala beach which changed to Guacamole Beach in my mind. So thus I have renamed it so I can remember it. Another great coastal walk, with easy trails but a bit of climbing.

Walk 15: Minyon Falls (near Byron)

Really great hike, straight down and then straight back up. 🐨🐨🐨🐨 Strava.

We were in Byron and drove an hour through the crazy, winding back roads to reach the park. The hike was great, and lunch below the waterfall did not disappoint.

Walk 16: Lane Cove National Park

One half easy, one half quite hard. 🐨🐨🐨Strava.

We thought this would be an easy, flat walk. The first half was a cake walk. The second half was the cake walking all over you, and standing over you in triumph, smearing itself in your face.

Walk 17: South of Guacamole Beach

Like most of the northern sections of the coastal trail, it’s an easy walk. 🐨🐨🐨 Strava.

This completed the coastal walk for us! We’d done all the segments, though in a bizarre out-of-order fashion.

Walk 18: Palm Beach Lighthouse

Short, steep, quick, crowded (though it was a weekend). 🐨🐨 Strava.

This hardly qualifies in our list but we include it here anyway! 1 hour return even when smelling the flowers, or if no flowers are present, smelling the lighthouse.

Walk 19: Winifred Falls

Mediocre trail, beautiful destination. 🐨🐨🐨Strava.

The trail starts very hard and steep, but eventually turns into a narrow walking trail. You cross the main road and then take a fire trail until the last bit to the falls.

Walk 20: Wallumarra Track and Forest Island loop

Fire trail to hiking trail, beautiful loop around Forest Island. 🐨🐨🐨Strava

While you can park very close to the Forest Island loop, we started back on the main road and hiked in, then did the loop and hiked out.

More to come…

While I may not blog them, we’ll keep our Friday tradition up as long as we can.



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