Canyons of Donkey Mountain // Wolgan Valley (NSW)

Donkey Mountain towers over the Wolgan Valley as a spectacular 360º vantage point and its flat summit has enough canyons, nooks and crannies to keep you exploring for days. Just be sure you know where you’re going…


Highlights

  • Spectacular valley lookouts
  • Fascinating canyon formations
  • Picturesque sunrises/sunsets
  • Astro-photography on the summit
  • Wildlife

The Wolgan Valley

Our crew of five set off for the Wolgan Valley and found Donkey Mountain with ease before midday after visiting some nearby spectacular points of interest in the morning (Lithgow Blast Furnace, Capertee Lookout, Hassans Walls).

Canyons of Donkey Mountain // Wolgan Valley (NSW) Dan Jee, peak, person, summit, valley, trees

Donkey Mountain is a fascinating lone mountain (350m from the base) sprouting out from the middle of the Wolgan Valley, thirty minutes along Wolgan Road from Lidsdale. There were plenty of wombats, kangaroos, and even elusive foxes to be seen on the way.

The best way up is marked as the “Grand Entrance’ but without checking properly we headed straight for Donkey Mountain from the carpark via what looked like the most direct route up. A slow incline quickly turned into a 45° trek up the mountainside with the last 50m ascent basically a vertical scramble.

Donkey Mountain Summit

After two hours of exploring and scrambling across fairly ominous cliff lines we found a way onto the flat summit of Donkey Mountain and wandered through and around its amazing pagoda formations and lookouts. We also caught sight of an enormous wedge-tailed eagle taking flight!

With just over an hour left until sunset we looked for a way down but to no avail. We ended up emergency camping up top in a enclosed canyon with nothing but what we had on us. We looked up and saw an amazing window of stars from our canyon and safely scrambled to the freezing cold pagoda top and viewed an amazing starry sky and milky way. (This was, unintentionally, my first try at astrophotography).

Canyons of Donkey Mountain // Wolgan Valley (NSW) Dan Jee, astrophotography, stars, night sky

After a cold sleepless night, morning came and we eventually found the ‘Grand Entrance’, a much easier and safer way up and down Donkey Mountain… but not before stopping at a Wolgan Valley lookout over the One and Only Emirates Resort shrouded in mist…

Essential Gear

(Providing the Grand Entrance is found before beginning)

  • Good maps (Geoff Fox’s maps are a good start)
  • Compass/GPS
  • Tent/Torches/Camping gear to stay up top overnight (highly recommended for experienced hikers)
  • Food
  • Lots of water is essential as there’s no water available immediately on or around Donkey Mountain
  • A good sense of direction and navigation is required. Donkey Mountain is highly remote and completely surrounded by cliff edges prone to falling.

How To Get There

Donkey Mountain is in the Wolgan Valley which lies in the Greater Blue Mountains, NSW. Drive along Castlereagh Highway towards Lidsdale from either Mudgee or Lithgow, and turn onto Wolgan Road towards Wolgan Valley. After driving for just over thirty minutes Donkey Mountain should come into sight and the road winds to the left (north of Donkey Mountain). You will see a fenced carpark on the right with a small steel ladder signposted.

For more detail on routes up and down the mountain, see here.

Activities

  • Dry Canyoning
  • Unrivalled astrophotography (it’s completely lightless at night and a must do for experienced hikers/photographers)
  • Hiking/climbing
  • Bird watching
  • Photography opportunity at every angle from the flat summit of Donkey Mountain looking out 360º onto Wolgan Valley.
  • Camping

Skill Level

Intermediate to difficult because of the difficult canyons to navigate on top of the mountain and the moderate level of fitness required to climb 350m at quite a sustained incline with a lot of scrambles.

Very limited phone reception, none available inside canyons. There are no trails marked and it is easy to stray from the right path at any given time.

Safety First!

We encourage you to avoid emergency campouts with limited gear, but you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do! Check out these articles on how to stay safe before you head out!

How to Stay Safe in the Bush (and Keep your Mum Happy)

What Happens If I Activate My Distress Beacon?

You Should Download the Emergency+ App Right Now

How to Survive a Snake Bite

Distance Covered/Elevation Gain

Donkey Mountain is 950m above sea level. Elevation is 350m from the Wolgan Valley base which inclines at a fairly high rate. There are many latter sections at a 45º+ angle.

The total distance covered from the carpark to Donkey Mountain summit and return is less than 10km but this can be extended via the amount explored on top of the summit and the route chosen to get up.

 


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