If you’re after a winter break that’s less exxy than hitting the slopes, but still high on mountain vibes, then a weekend around the Kiandra Plains could be the answer.
As the sun rose after a frigid night in the tent, the hills across the plains caught the golden morning light and enticed us out of our bags for a bit of a wander.
Thanks to the legends at XTM, we had a couple pairs of their new waterproof Monsoon socks to try out for the weekend. Ideal for traipsing through the long grass and boggy trails that are definitive of this part of the Snowies.
Denisons Campground, the Perfect Free Camp
We camped at Denisons campground, which sits on a section of the Bicentennial National Trail, so you can take your pick of heading north or south from camp. We decided to head straight down to the Eucumbene River, to check out the old bridge and have a short wander before heading back to camp for a coffee brew-up.
As predicted, the trail was sodden and we were glad for sturdy shoes and waterproof socks to keep our feet dry and warm.
Jon and I’d arrived after dark the previous night; not ideal for pitching a tent, but good for eating a pub dinner on the way.
I probably wouldn’t recommend an after-dark approach if you haven’t camped at Denisons before, as the turn-off isn’t signposted from the road and is easy to miss. You emerge from recently burnt out bush after driving only a kilometre from the Snowy Mountains Highway, onto a large, open campground with plenty of pitches going.
Denisons has plenty to recommend it – rad views across the plains, heaps of open space for any size of camp setup, a basic drop toilet – and the added benefit of being 100% free.
Despite being a national parks campground, it doesn’t actually appear on their website, making it a bit trickier to find, but keeping it nice and quiet.
The Snowy Mountains Highway is One Glorious Road
Fed and fuelled, we stuffed the tent in its bag and threw it in the back of the car (tomorrow’s problem), and headed back up to the Snowy Mountains Highway for the short drive to the Kiandra Plains.
On the way, we stopped off at one of the recently burnt Kosciuszko huts, Delanys. There wasn’t much left aside from a chimney and some rubble, a stark reminder of how fierce January’s fires were. There’s evidence in all the trees, but somehow seeing a burnt-out building really made the ferocity hit home.
Kiandra (taking its name from the local Ngarigo word ‘Giandarra) was once Australia’s highest town and was a vibrant gold mining town. There’s been little left of that era for some time, and the recent fires destroyed much of the remaining buildings.
There’s still a decent heritage trail to explore, and much of the signage has survived the fires to fill you in on what was once there.
Kiandra is (was) also home to Selwyn Snowfields. Sadly the resort infrastructure didn’t survive the fires either. It’s currently closed off amid plans to rebuild and rejuvenate.
Nonetheless, the Snowy Mountains Highway that cuts through the plains is like something out of a car commercial. Winding through the hills, cutting its way across the wide-open land, the road is a joy to drive and had me dreaming of returning on a bicycle.
We followed the road all the way across the plains, views shrouded in a dense mist that hid much of the land’s beauty.
A Quick Dip in the Thermal Pools
With no sign of the mist lifting, we left the end of the plains, past the aptly named ‘Long Plain Road’ (it’s closed in winter but well worth coming back for in summer), and headed towards Yarrangobilly Caves.
Like much of the area, the caves are recovering from the fires, meaning many sections of this attraction are closed. At the time of our visit, there were still a few walks open, like the river walk and the thermal pool walk.
Despite our lack of swimmers, we headed down the fairly steep track to the pool, deep in the valley far below the plains. Here there was still evidence of the fires but the rectangular thermal pool stood out like a mini oasis in the bushland.
As we had the place to ourselves, and despite the cold day, I stripped off to my boxers and dived in for a few laps. While the water wasn’t warm, it certainly didn’t take my breath away and definitely freshened me up after a night of camping.
Exploring the Kiandra Plains
Feeling good, we drove back towards Kiandra and parked up to take a short hike down one of the many trails that delve into the barren landscape.
Like something out of Lord of the Rings, the land is a mix of heath-like scrub, babbling creeks and rocky outcrops. You could be fooled into thinking it was part of the Scottish Fells, were it not for the distant snow gums lining the horizon.
Once out of the car, we were really glad for hiking boots and waterproof socks as this is one soggy region. A combination of the open plains, recent snowfall and low scrub, opens up myriad creeks and waterways flowing across the plain, leading into the Eucumbene River.
The many tributaries criss-cross the landscape and had us hop, skip and jumping our way across and through them as we stumbled across micro waterfalls and macro views.
This is where our waterproof socks came into their own. They feature a breathable DRYTEC waterproof membrane and Merino blend inner liner. This means they’re 100% waterproof, but our feet didn’t get super sweaty.
The XTM Monsoon socks feel a little different when first putting them on, as you’d expect from a two-layered technical sock, but like any good product, you soon forget you’re wearing them.
Many Happy Returns
I’ve passed through this area several times before; usually driving straight through to ride my bicycle deeper into the wilderness of Kosciuszko National Park. But now I’ve actually taken the time to stop and experience the plains, it has me captivated.
Despite much of the area being closed due to fire recovery or as part of the regular winter closures, there’s still plenty to experience along the Snowy Mountains Highway.
Feeling like we’d barely scratched the surface, I’m thinking we’ll just have to come back again to really experience all the area has to offer.
If you fancy keeping your feet dry on your next adventure, find out more about waterproof socks and never worry about soggy feet again.
Photos by @jonharris_photography