Despite being 7 hours by car from Brisbane or Sydney, the Mount Yulludunida hike at Mount Kaputar National Park is worth every minute of travel time.
Double or triple the journey time and it’d still be worth it! In just a few short (but damn steep) kilometres, hikers have the chance to scramble up bluffs, gaze at volcanic formations and explore a distinctive landscape that really feels like it doesn’t belong in NSW.
- Off-track scrambling to the summit of Mount Yulludunida
- Explore the volcanic, crater-like, landscape in the area
- Unbelievable views of the Mount Kaputar National Park and surrounding areas
Mount Kaputar is Not Your Normal National Park
Located 50 kilometres east of the town of Narrabri in the north-west of NSW, Mount Kaputar juts out of the surrounding plains and is blessed with some tremendous natural formations.
Around 20 million years ago, angry volcanoes created the Nandewar Range and Mount Kaputar itself.
Cookie-cutter Mount Kaputar is not. Instead, there’s a wicked natural anomaly visible from every trail or viewpoint.
And in good news for Explorers looking for a bang-for-their-buck adventure, there’s a road all the way to the summit of Mount Kaputar, with numerous short trails branching off at different points along the road.
It’s easy to condense a handful of short hikes into a weekend, and still have enough energy left to enjoy the hot showers (!) at the two national park campsites positioned high up on the mountain.
The Yulludunida Hike
The Yulludunida hike provides an intricate look at many of the park’s unique formations and is regarded as one of the most challenging hikes in the area. Yulludunida is a mountain itself, with the summit reaching 1,225m (compared to the summit of Kaputar at 1,512m).
In what was a bit of a surprise, the Yulludunida trail starts from relatively low on Kaputar Road, at the Green Camp picnic area.
Having seen a few photos of the ridiculous view from the summit, I knew this could only mean there was going to be some climbing to come.
I wasn’t wrong – the trail rises almost immediately uphill through dry woodland. There are steps for most of the climb and a few open viewpoints that look out towards the west.
After 1.4km, the formed trail ends, an old dingo-proof fence is visible and in the distance, the view of the jagged peak of Mount Yulludunida pokes out.
Credit to the workers who installed the dingo-proof fence here. The terrain would’ve been a nightmare to work with. While I didn’t see any dingoes or other wildlife on the hike, Mount Kaputar is renowned as a popular spot for bird-watching and the quirky giant pink slug (Triboniophorus aff. graeffei), which can be spotted in wet conditions.
The national parks sign at the end of the formed trail advises hikers on a suggested route to the summit of Yulludunida; continue on straight for another 50 metres before using a gully to the right to cut up towards the top.
There are no formal markings (that I saw) advising further on the route up. I followed the old fence posts for a while, before scrambling up a route that looked clear. There was a little bit of bush bashing involved, but nothing overly rough.
With grippy rock underfoot the scramble is relatively easy and there are many different (and safe) routes that all lead to the top.
Is this really NSW?
Once you reach a saddle of sorts between the two main rocky peaks, head left and you’ll soon be at the summit of Yulludunida enjoying a vast view across a completely different landscape.
It wasn’t what I expected and it’s hard to believe this is NSW. The arid surrounds at the summit, craggy outcrops and unusual formations off in the distance make it feel more like a landscape befitting Central Australia.
From the summit, it’s easy to see the outline of a crater surrounding the area, which is why the hike is often referred to as the Yulludunida Crater walk. Thanks to the handy information on signs, I learned the area’s actually a ring dyke, which formed when a pool of hot molten rock drained away.
After returning back to the saddle, I climbed the rocky bluff to the north which provided a superb view over the plains to the east and back to Mount Yulludunida.
I stayed around until sunset which was incredible, with a brief interlude of golden light hitting the peaks and transforming the rocks to a deep crimson colour.
I followed the same route down and was back on the formed trail in no time. From there it’s a pretty quick descent back to the Green Camp.
With more time it’d be a great half-day adventure to scramble around the entire perimeter of the area, checking out every little peak. Next time.
Open for Adventure
Mount Kaputar National Park was damaged by a large bushfire in late 2019 but the park is open with the exception of all but a couple trails and lookouts.
The Governer is another hike well worth doing. It’s a lite version of the Yulludunida hike but still boasts splendid views and has some fun scrambling sections.
Mount Coryah is also a favourite and like most of the walks in the park, offers a tremendous view for only a couple of kilometres effort.
If you can’t be bothered packing a tent, there are also a few cabins at Dawsons Spring that look very cosy and can be booked through the NSW National Parks website.
- Snacks and plenty of water. There’s no water or toilets on the trail or at Green Camp.
- Grippy shoes for the scrambling
- Warm clothes for the exposed summit
- A map, compass or phone with a mapping app for the non-marked section of trail.
- Gaiters in the warmer months
- A fully charged up headlamp if attempting the hike for sunrise or sunset
How To Get There
Follow Kaputar Road from Narrabri until you reach the Green Camp car park and picnic area, which is 7km along the road from the Mount Kaputar park entrance. The trail starts from here. Kaputar Road is unsealed in sections but fine for 2WDs.
- Wildlife spotting
This hike is suitable for intermediate to advanced hikers, especially if you’re planning on completing the scramble to the top of Mount Yulludunida.
Distance Covered / Elevation Gained / Time Taken
Yulludunida walking track: 2.8km return to the end of the formed track, add on another 1km return to the top of Mount Yulludunida. 350m elevation. Allow 2-3.5 hours.