With 45km of rainforest rambling on offer (and up to 55km worth of side trips), the Gibraltar-Washpool World Heritage Walk is one of NSW’s best multi-day hikes.
- World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforest, gorgeous wetlands and towering eucalypt forests
- An abundance of birds
- Enormous granite boulders
- Sparkling rivers and secluded waterfalls
- Relics of the 1900s mining and logging industries
Gibraltar Range & Washpool National Parks
A gem of wild ruggedness in a national park you’ve never heard of!
Gibraltar Range and Washpool National Parks lie within the beautiful lands of the Bundjalung, Gumbaingirr and Ngarrabul Traditional Owners. The 45km loop-walk promises precariously balanced granite boulders, wetlands, hanging swamps, sclerophyll forests and temperate rainforests.
Visiting the park after the 2019/2020 bushfires was more confronting than expected. The first two days brought charred trees, eroded creek banks and little signs of ground-dwelling wildlife. However, the small signs of recovery – fresh green regrowth, little lizards and an abundance of birds – made it all the more special.
Although the winter boasted magical, misty mornings and an almost empty trail, we were told that spring-summer is a different kind of beautiful. The blossoming of the Gibraltar waratah and Christmas bells makes this walk a year-round must do!
Day 1: Mulligans Campground to Boundary Falls Campground
Duration: 5.5 hours
Optional side trips: Dandahra Crags
The head of the trail is a fairly long drive up from Sydney, so we stayed the night at a charming country town called Uralla, and we may or may not have been a little too charmed. Admiring frost coated farms, quaint cafes and enticing wool shops meant that we only started down the track just after midday.
With 18km to walk and only 5 hours left of sunlight, it was maybe not the smartest idea. But luckily we had plenty of scroggin and jelly snakes to power us through.
If you’re walking the loop clockwise, start at Mulligans Campground. There’s plenty of room to park in the overnight camping area – just make sure to put a note on your dash with your return date and an emergency contact.
The walk starts at the northern end of the campground and undulates south-west along Little Dandhara Creek. Keep the creek on your right-hand side past the Tree Fern Forest Walk turn off. Be sure to keep your head up and ears open because we were treated to flocks of rosellas and cockatoos playing in amongst the gums.
Continue around to the left when you come to Surveyors Creek. Once you cross Mulligans Drive, look for a metal stake – that’s your key to one of the gems of the walk! The Surveyors Creek trail meanders over marshland oozing with unblossomed red buds, and crosses over rivulets.
Once you pass over Gwydir Highway, head downhill towards Boundary Falls Campground and hang a left at the large junction. It was easy to miss – a burnt sign and some police tape.
Boundary Falls Campground is pretty special. Set up a toasty fire and enjoy the stars!
Day 2: Boundary Falls Campground to Bellbird Campground
Duration: 6.5 hours
Optional side trips: Lyrebird Falls (at campground), Duffer Falls, Coombadjha Walk
We got on the road by 10:30 am (cruisey mornings are the best mornings!) and followed the track heading north to Grassy Creek – it starts back at the police tape.
3km down the track is the turnoff to Duffer Falls – a 30-minute return side trip (or 15-minute run if your hiking buddy wants a rest). If quick dips are your thing, this is your waterfall!
Grassy Creek Campground is a great lunch spot and is home to some remnants from the region’s tin and gold mining history during WWII. Make sure to refuel before a steep ascent to O’Hara’s Gap.
The track slowly winds downhill through quickly changing vegetation heading into Bellbird Campground. The area sports large coachwood trees and a moist temperate rainforest.
Although we planned to stay at Coombadjha Campground (a hikers only campground nestled amongst the Coachwood trees), we ran out of sunlight to go the extra 2km. Bellbird however was a delightful compromise – and has barbeques!
Day 3: Bellbird Campground to Mulligans Campground
Optional side trips: Granite Lookout, Tree Fern Forest Walk
With the aim of getting on the road back to Sydney early, we woke up before the sun, scoffed down our porridge, inhaled some coffee and embarked on the slow climb up Coachwood Drive to Gwydir Highway. Considering the fire damage of the last few days, we were completely taken aback when 15 yellow-tailed black cockatoos passed over us!
On the other side of Gwydir Highway, the uphill continues through some dense rainforest. Maybe take a pause on singing Disney songs here, because along Pidcocks Trail we spotted both a Superb lyrebird and a Parma wallaby hiding in the rainforest understory.
We followed the shorter track back to Mulligans, but if you have time the Tree Fern Forest Walk is ‘one of the most magnificent forests you can ever walk through’ (Ultra Friendly Lady We Met On The First Day, 2020). It’ll add 3km to your final day journey.
Before arriving back at the car, you come across Mulligans Hut and remnants from an abandoned 1900s hydro-electric scheme. A word of warning – the river looks very enticing for a post-hike swim, but dang, it’s frosty!
- National Parks Pass (buy online before you leave, don’t rely on the pay stations in the park having enough forms and there’s no WiFi once off the highway).
- Maps – you can print them off the national parks website or contact the NPWS Glen Innes HQ for the printable topographic map
- Matches – the NPWS provide firewood at all the campsites apart from Grassy Creek
- Gloves, beanies and thermals – in winter it can drop below zero and although the misty mornings can be magical, they’re a lil’ chilly
- Waterproof boots – the first day along Surveyors Creek can get a bit marshy
- Water purification tablets, steriliser or enough fuel for boiling. Although water is abundant at all campsites and rivers, it’s advised to treat it.
How To Get There
Personal or hired car
The fastest way to Mulligans Campground from Sydney is 7.5 hours up Thunderbolts Way, through Gloucester, Uralla, Armidale and Glen Innes. Alternatively, you can take the New England Highway through Muswellbrook and Tamworth. Mulligans Drive is a dirt track, but you don’t need a 4WD (we were fine in a small car).
It’s a long drive up from Sydney, so we split up the drive and stayed just outside of Uralla at Woodridge Recreation and Fossicking Reserve. The only payment the council asks for is to support the local community and grab a coffee (Michael’s Garden Café is a winner, they do a ripper veggie brekky roll!).
The hike is 2.5 hours inland up the Pacific Highway/Gwydir Highway from Coffs Harbour.
Intermediate – some hiking experience needed
Distance Covered / Elevation Gain / Duration
The World Heritage Walk is 45km and has 1626m of elevation over 3-4 days. You can extend the walk to 4 days by camping at Grassy Creek. This’ll give you more time to do the side trips – pick and choose from an additional 55km!
The majority of the track is on a wide fire trail, so you could also do the track on a mountain bike.