A good friend of ours told us about Bungonia National Park when we first arrived in Sydney, saying it was one of the best and most challenging hikes she had done in New South Wales. The hike involved walking through a large limestone slot canyon along a dry creek bed, clambering over giant boulders and sliding up and down slippery shale inclines, and best of all the campsite had hot showers. Yes. Hot showers.
Getting there and away
Bungonia National Park is a two and a half hour drive (190km) from Sydney, or an hour and a half from Canberra (140km). There doesn’t appear to be any direct bus routes to the Park, so a car is the best way to get there, and you’ll have no problems driving around the National Park with a 2 wheel drive car. In either direction from Sydney or Canberra, this National Park is very easy to do as a day trip or for an overnight camping trip.
Once you arrive at the National Park, pull into the Information Centre and pay your $8 National Park fee (unless you have a NSW National Parks Permit). Additionally, you should sign you and your party into the hiking folder for safety reasons, and don’t forget to sign out when you complete the hike and leave the National Park. There is a large camp ground here ($12 per day, per person) and can be paid at the Information Centre (I recommend having correct change for this option) or you can book it online in advance. Did I mention the campsite had hot showers? Yes. There are hot showers.
The Red Track
Siu On and I don’t normally take the easy track, ever, and of the five tracks that meander through Bungonia National Park we choose the hardest one, the Red Track. This 3.8km hike starts and ends with very steep sections as you ascend and descend into the canyon and follows the Bungonia Creek creek bed.
The size of the sheer limestone walls made us feel like tiny ants walking along the creek bed, and we spied a lot of shiny new bolts and hangers indicating some climbing activity going on in the canyon. The routes looked especially slabby and the difficult access would make the rock climbing here only for the very fit and advanced.
Further long the creek bed these giant white boulders suddenly appear and it feels like some sort of rocky space landscape where you’re jumping from boulder to boulder, ducking under huge round rocks held up by small rocks and trying to figure out the best way through. This was definitely the most enjoyable part of the track, but the boulders were not very climbable as they were smooth and hard to grip.
The final ascent is a very long, sustained, and steep hike back up the ridge line of the canyon to the carpark, and you can take in the view from the nearby Bungonia Lookdown platform to see where you walked through and get a better idea of the scale of the place.
Overall the track’s condition was on the challenging side. The descent and ascent was very loose shale rock and there were many sub tracks that branched off from the main track, making it difficult to navigate if you miss a red trail marker. Once you’re down and on the creek bed, it’s a mix of fine river silt and large pebbles, which then turn into giant white boulders. Sometimes it was a lot easier to walk under the boulders than to go over them, so look ahead to where you’re going and make the best decision.
How did we go?
Our legs were burning and our knees were like jelly from the loose shale but we smashed this hike out in a leisurely five hours. The Red Track is definitely up there with some of the hardest we’ve done in New South Wales (such as The Castle Hike), and it was incredibly satisfying once we got back to the carpark and took in the view from the Bungonia Lookdown platform to see where we hiked.
Again, did I mention that the campsite has hot showers? These were great for Siu On and I to rinse off the sweat and dirt, and soothe our aching thigh muscles after the hike. Another great tip we have is to have shoes with good grip and ankle support, I always hike in my hiking boots but found the soles not especially grippy on the smooth boulders, on the other hand Siu On’s approach shoes were fantastic on these rocks due to the softer rubber soles.
Lastly, if you’re short on time and can only take in one viewing platform, I’d stick with the Bungonia Lookdown and skip Adam’s and Jerrara Lookout. Both Bungonia Lookdown and Adam’s Lookout take in the same view, and Jerrara Lookout wasn’t anything to brag about.
After more Sydney Day Trip ideas? You can read more of them here! As always, to keep up to date with what we’re doing, where we’re going and what we’ve been seeing, follow us on Instagram (@thetravelleur) and on Facebook, and we’ll have the accompanying video up for this on our Youtube channel.
Jelena and Siu On
All photographs by Jelena Stipanicev.