James has always been blown away by the Budawangs, but he didn’t expect to be literally blown away! This jaunt along the 56km Wog Wog walking track in Morton National Park shows just how untamed the area really is.
We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Yuin peoples who have occupied and cared for these lands and waters for thousands of years. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present.
The Wog Wog track from Wog Wog campground to the Castle and Cooyoyo Campground cuts through the heart of the Budawangs, and captures the soul of bushwalking. It’s a tough route that requires experience and stamina, but the views and rock formations are well worth the effort.
The Budawang Range stretches across Budawang and Morton National Park. This hike takes place in Morton National Park, but I’ll still refer to it as the Budawangs.
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How To Get to Wog Wog Campground
You’ll need a car to get to Wog Wog campground near Nerriga. However, when lots of other roads in the Budawangs become brown sludge and close after rain, the road to Wog Wog is always a go. It’s just over 2.5 hours from Sydney, and under 2 hours from Canberra.
History and Culture of the Wog Wog Trail
The Wog Wog trail, in Morton National Park is on the traditional lands of the Yuin people, who have been using the country for more than 20,000 years. There are several hundred culturally significant sites in the park, including most of the mountains you’ll gawk at on the trail.
Didthul (Pigeon House mountain) is particularly significant in Aboriginal storytelling, and got its colonial name when it was observed by Captain Cook from the Endeavour in 1770.
How long is the Wog Wog Trail?
Wog Wog to Cooyoyo Creek Campground return is 56km with an elevation gain of over 1500m. We did the hike over two long days.
What it’s like to hike the Wog Wog Trail in the Budawangs
Hiking the Wog Wog trail was a reminder that wilderness is… well, wild. Things might not always go to plan, but out in the rugged wilderness, that’s half the fun.
We had plans to complete a three day hike, summiting the famous Castle, sleeping in caves, and rolling out of our sleeping bags far too early to watch the sunrise over Didthul and the Pacific Ocean. However, the wilderness would have other ideas.
Four times I’ve tried to summit the Castle. Every weekend booked in seems to become a curse; torrential rain closes roads, friends bail, Black Summer lights up or the entire world shuts down for C-who-must-not-be-named. This was my goal summit, an opportunity to finally tackle the peak I’d been yearning after for years.
In the first 400 metres after leaving the campsite, you’ll have to cross Wog Wog Creek.
All the new players to the game who’ve just perfected the tension in their boots get caught out after five minutes of walking. I started out in my Teva Hurricane XLT2’s and, because they’re waterproof, walked straight through the creek while my mates got their bums dirty sitting in the mud changing their boots. Nothing like starting a hike on the right foot. I changed into boots later when the trail got more rugged.
As you emerge from the bush, Didthul juts up from the straight blue horizon of the Pacific Ocean, with a gravity-like pull, luring you along the track and further into the wilderness.
The panoramas were stunning, however with exposure came ferocious winds. Conversation was carried off with the breeze, strong gusts would push us off the duckboard trail into the muck and marshy grass. A highlight of the route: standing on Corang Arch, felt shaky and unstable in the tornado-esque winds.
Approaching the fortress-like Mt Cole felt like entering the heart of the Budawang’s stronghold, cracking open the most desirable treasure. We camped in one of a number of caves nestled at the base of Mt Cole. We’d been smashed by wind all day and, disappointingly, the cave provided little protection.
Caves are often places steeped in Indigenous cultural significance, and are also fragile environments. They also have really, really sandy floors.
The Hurricane XLT2’s were the perfect pair of sandals to change into at the cave after a mammoth day hiking: their 100% recycled webbing leaves no negative trace on the environments we love, and they kept my feet from getting covered in red cave dust. Plus, the EVA footbed makes for an incredibly comfy, yet stable, feel. Sandals were the way to go, I didn’t want to wear hiking boots for another second.
Speaking of which, I’d always imagined cave camping to be idyllically epic – the epitome of what a We Are Explorers article should be all about. Alas, no – Mother Nature showed her power: the wind pounded through the cave from every which direction. I woke every few hours covered in red sand, my sleeping bag hood and eyes full of it. The mythical Sandman wasn’t sprinkling sand, he was hurling it into my sleeping face.
Day two: The wind had not died down. Problem. Today was the planned summit of The Castle. At the best of times, the Castle is known as a sketchy and tricky hike, using chains and scrambling up perilous rock faces. In these gusts, it would be borderline suicidal.
To get a closer look at the Castle, we passed through the Green Room – a narrow rainforest canyon slot which reminded me of canyoning near Sydney – and Monolith Valley – the closest thing to Yosemite Valley I’ve ever experienced in Australia. Great boulders rise out of the ground, each shaped in weird and beautiful wind-cut (especially today!) patterns.
When we approached the saddle of the Castle, the wind returned with greater gusto. Heartbreakingly, we turned away. The Castle once again impenetrable. My fifth attempt failed.
With the wind still howling, and our plans foiled, we put our heads down and hiked the 27 kilometres out. The wilderness wasn’t playing ball today.
There were more moments of the wild-ness of the wildness: a too close call with a brown snake, a head bang and lots of blood, and always the relentless wind whipping our hair and shoving us this way and that.
We finished the hike in two days—from Wog Wog to Cooyoyo campground return.
Humbly, we returned to our cars, realising the Budawangs are true wilderness: not manicured to suit all our adventure desires. Yet it’s better that way. If it were easy and tamed, it wouldn’t have the thrill of the wild. I drove home stoked that the wilderness, at least in the Budawangs, is still showing us who’s ultimately in control.
Cave Camping FAQs
Can I camp in caves in the Budawangs?
Camping is permitted in some caves in Budawang National Park. Check this list to to see where you can and can’t sleep.
Can I have a fire in a cave?
No – make sure anything you light is suitably away from the entrance to the cave. Campfires are a bushfire risk, so it’s best to use a gas stove for cooking for maximum leave no trace.
Wog Wog FAQs
What’s the best season to hike in the Budawangs?
Spring, when the golden wattle is flourishing, and the weather isn’t too hot on exposed sections such as climbing the Castle.
Can I camp anywhere in the Budawangs?
Monolith Valley is protected – camping isn’t permitted.
Are there toilets in the Budawangs?
There are compostable toilets at Cooyoyo and Burrumbeet campsites.
Do I need a 4WD to visit the Budawangs?
No – Wog Wog Campground is 2WD friendly whatever the weather.