This is a challenging multi day walk, descending over 1000m from the highpoint on the Great Escarpment into the New England wilderness and Bellinger River headwaters, and beyond through the abandoned farmlands of Brinerville.
Day 1 – to Sunday Creek
Form the start along Robinsons Trail then Grasstree Trail to the campsite at Sunday Creek is 15km, and takes us a solid 6.5 hours with our full packs.
If the weather is clear, detour to Wrights Lookout for the panoramic views. As you wander along the Snowy Range, there are tantalising views through the canopy of Killiekrankie, Tuckers Nob, and back to Point Lookout.
The descent of Grasstree Ridge, with tree falls and vines, is slower, but the trail is not hard to follow. We pass the sign for the antimony mine before climbing up the ridge – who said this was all downhill?
Reaching Sunday Creek, we set up our tents in the small clearing. Oh the night life in that remote forest! The joyous cacophony of frogs, owls, and other wildlife, with the gentle sounds of the nearby creek, was a highlight of our trip. In the morning, the equally raucous bird chorus had us up at dawn.
Day 2 – to Brinerville
Next day we head straight for the water, for 5km of slow creek walking. We have constantly wet feet, and some scratches and nettle stings from bashing along the banks, clambering over obstacles. The river is wild and beautiful, and it’s all good fun, even when some of us fall in.
If you have maps, skills and time (and energy!) you can take a detour to explore up the headwaters of the Bellinger River toward Crescent Ridge, the heart of the Ebor Volcano that created the basalt escarpment at Point Lookout some 18 million years ago.
Eventually we reach Scraggy Creek campsite, and pick up the management trail. The walking is easier now, the Bellinger river wider and sparking in the morning sunshine.
After a couple of hours, we reach the abandoned farm houses of Brinerville, and set up camp on a small beach alongside the river. A full moon rises over the forest ridges high above us, and in the morning a layer of steamy mist hovers low on the water.
Day 3 – to Cool Creek
The walking on our third day is easy and fast along the pretty riverside track. At Dardenelles the crossing is knee deep near the lonesome concrete pier – a reminder of the powerful floodwaters that claimed the bridge.
We reach the end of our walk at Cool Creek – wet shoes and socks are quickly removed, then we light up our stoves for a satisfied cup of tea while waiting for a kind family member to fetch us.
Challenges on the New England Wilderness Walk
There are no facilities on this walk and no mobile coverage, so come prepared with maps to navigate.
The campsites are basic – Sunday Creek campsite can accommodate 3 to 4 hiking tents at most, but Scraggy Creek campsite is bigger. Floods and plant growth can change camping conditions, so don’t rely on information from old blogs.
Check river heights and weather forecasts before you leave, the river rises rapidly. Expect wet feet and many crossings on slippery rocks, with varying depths and cold water. Take poles and waterproof your pack.
The track has many obstacles: tree falls, stinging nettles, lawyer vine, lantana, snakes, leeches, ticks. Pack a decent first aid kit, and consider wearing long trousers, long sleeves, and gaiters.
A very long car shuffle is required – the distance one way is 105km or 1h45. It is easier if you can arrange a friend or family member to drop you off, or pick you up. The first day is long, with no water until Sunday Creek, so we suggest staying near Point Lookout the night before so you can start early.
The recommended time is 3 days. If you are a trail runner, see if you can beat the fastest known time of 7 hours.