Off Track in the Royal National Park (NSW)

Highlights:

  • An overnight, off-track experience following a seemingly untouched creek
  • Only an hour from Sydney CBD, fully accessible by public transport
  • Discover hidden pools, scramble along rocky banks and bush bash through scrub before camping at Uloola Falls
  • Easy navigation as you follow a creek for most of day 1 and then follow the Uloola and Engadine Tracks on day 2

Waterfall to Engadine via Kangaroo Creek

When you’re hiking up a ridge to your campsite in the dark, you know you’ve had an adventure. It was hard to believe Garry and I had been getting off a train at Waterfall only 6 hours earlier.

From the station carpark, we walked straight onto the Uloola track in Royal National Park. Pretty soon we came to a turnoff which follows a rough bush trail (marked with occasional plastic ribbons) down through scrub until it hits a beautiful rock platform and some small waterfalls above Kangaroo Creek.

From there we descended to the creek proper, following a trail that became fainter and fainter until at last it petered out, right after a massive natural pool, fed by a 4m waterfall.

After that we scrambled across terrain that ranged from thick banksia scrub to rocky scrambles, flood debris and slippery creek banks. The guide book implied ‘a negotiable trail’, marked here and there by cairns. But we barely saw any sign of a cairn or trail, maybe because of the massive storm that had lashed Sydney a few weeks earlier, maybe because we’re terrible route finders (a bit of both, I suspect). Eventually we came to a small cliff overlooking Goondera Brook. It was 4:15pm and we still had a decent walk ahead of us.

By the time we emerged from the creek at Karloo Pools, we had the head torches on and it was pitch black. Garry had snapped one of his brand, spanking new walking poles.

Thankfully the trail from Karloo Pool to Uloola Falls campsite was much easier going. We felt as though were floating uphill in comparison to the hard slog along the creek. Uloola Falls hosts a lovely primitive campground, right next to a running creek and, of course, a waterfall. I had allowed about 5-to-5.5 hours walking in total but it had taken a bit over 6.5.

On Day 2 we still had a half-day’s walk ahead of us and plenty of highlights too, notably when we rejoined Kangaroo Creek where it pools at a creek junction halfway between Audley and Engadine. But, no matter how pretty this part of the walk was, the real adventure was behind us.

You could do the walk as a (very long) day hike, but why would you when you can throw in an overnight camp with one of your best mates?

Essential gear required

  • General overnight hiking equipment (decent bacpack, tent, sleeping and cooking gear, food, etc.)
  • Boots/Shoes with good grip for rock scrambling
  • Head torch (we finished Day 1 in the dark: it’s so much harder to estimate times when you’re off-track)
  • Port Hacking 1:25,000 Topo Map and compass
  • First aid kit
  • Water filter
  • A friend (you don’t want to roll an ankle here on your own!)

How to get there

Catch a train to Waterfall Station and then join the Uloola Falls, keep an eye out for the turnoff to your left, just as the trail starts. The walk ends at Engadine Station. 

Activities

  • Bushwalking – about half on defined trails, half along a “negotiable trail” next to Kangaroo Creek.
  • Camping

Skill Level 

Intermediate

Distance covered / Elevation Gain

19-20 km (depending on how efficient you are going down Kangaroo Creek) / approx. 380m gain