If you’re looking for a more challenging hike in the Northern Rivers, the Historic Nightcap Track is the one for you – lush rainforest, an overgrown trail, and some breathtaking views combine to make this feel like a solid adventure, less than 1.5 hour’s drive from Main Beach, Byron Bay.
We acknowledge that this adventure is located on Bundjalung Nation, the traditional land of the Widjabul people who have occupied and cared for this land for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
- Epic views to Wollumbin / Mt Warning and across the caldera from Nightcap Bluff
- The eroded volcanic vents of Dirangah Rocks
- Camp anywhere on the trail
- Wildlife and World Heritage-listed rainforest
An Ancient Abandoned Trail
About 20 million years ago, a volcano erupted in Northern NSW, forming a huge volcanic crater.
This dramatic event seems much more recent as you wind through misty ancient rainforest (a dinosaur would not look out of place) and past large vertical rocks, the remains of volcanic vents.
While the trail was used for thousands of years by the Widjabal people, and more recently by loggers and postal workers in the 1800s and 1900s, these days it feels like not many people use it.
The 19km Historic Nightcap Track can be done in a day, but it’s a great opportunity for an overnight hike. The first half is the most scenic, winding through rainforest with occasional gaps to epic views.
While the trail isn’t well-maintained, it’s usually easy to find and is on maps.me and several other hiking apps. The second half is mostly on fire trails – Gibbergunyah Range Road and Peates Mountain Road.
Lyrebirds, Leeches, and Lookouts
The trail traverses Whian Whian State Conservation Park and Nightcap National Park, and as it’s less busy than many hikes in the region, it’s possible to spot some of the shyer wildlife.
We spied an Albert’s lyrebird, loads of king parrots, and a common tree snake. If you’re lucky, you might see spotted tail quolls, koalas, pademelons, and other unique native species.
Some other things to look out for are the Postman’s Tree (a huge, burnt out tallowwood tree that postmen used as a shelter) and the Tea Tree Lookout – a short detour down the Mt Jerusalem crossroad with an incredible view over Wollumbin and Doughboy Mountain, and even down to the coast at Cape Byron.
Sleep Under The Stars (Or Among The Trees)
In a world of numbered campsites and strict booking policies, it’s a breath of fresh air to find a trail like the Historic Nightcap Track where you’re allowed to bush camp anywhere.
This freedom to choose a cosy rainforest nook or scenic cliffside bivouac comes with serious responsibilities – it’s important to leave no trace of your stay. Use a portable stove (no fires allowed) and carry out all your rubbish.
For more info on how to leave this trail as beautiful as you found it: The Ethics of the Outdoors
Leeches: A Likely Hiking Companion
The sub-tropical climate means you may end up hiking with these tiny bloodsuckers. If you do end up with a leech (or ten) attached to you, don’t panic!
They’re easy to remove and aren’t dangerous or painful, just ‘scratch and flick’ – use your fingernail or a stick to scrape and detach the mouth end, then flick it away before it can re-attach.
- Hiking boots
- Insect repellent
- At least 3L of drinking water – there are occasional small creeks but best to BYO water
- Long sleeves and long pants plus gaiters (or pants tucked into socks, for the stylish hiker) – to avoid unwanted leech or tick interactions
- First aid kit (including snake bite kit)
- Head torch – even if you want to do this as a day hike, you may end up hiking past sunset
- A PLB is advised
- Tent and camping gear if you’re making it an overnighter!
- Topographic map and compass
How To Get There
The easiest way to do this track is west to east so start at Mt Nardi, about 1.5 hours from Byron Bay and 20 minutes from Nimbin. Ideally a friend will drop you off and pick you up, but failing that you can leave a car at each end if you hike with a friend, or some local companies offer a shuttle service.
The track ends at Rummery Park in Nightcap National Park.
Hot tip! You can extend the adventure by spending another day exploring the trails to Minyon Falls from Rummery Park campsite.
Intermediate – Advanced
This trail is overgrown in sections, is sometimes steep and slippery, and often has no phone signal, so it’s best to be self-sufficient and have basic navigational skills.
It’s rated by National Parks NSW as Grade 4 (experienced hikers only). It’s also recommended to register your hike with NSW National Parks.
Read more: Navigating With a Map & Compass
Distance Covered / Elevation Gain / Duration
19km walk / 486m / 7 hours
The track starts at 792m (Mt Nardi) and ends at 369m (Rummery Park) via the 829m high Nightcap Bluff.