Please note: Dharawal is an important National Park, housing many sensitive areas of vegetation and wildlife. Ensure you stay on the designated trails and respect the park. Scroll to the bottom for safety advice.
Rugged bush, wide open trails, flocks of black cockatoos – this trail makes for a fun day out for the tribe to enjoy some sunshine and the all-important fresh air, exercise and sunshine.
This is essentially a service trail, which makes it ideal for mountain bike riding and especially beginners. It’s a great long-distance ride for the weekend warrior and not-too-serious rider. You can also explore the offshoot management trails - just ensure you check the signage as not all are accessible.
The best starting point is on Appin Road where there is a inconspicuous parking area and gated entrance. It’s a dangerous road, so please be careful entering and exiting. Once you get there and unload, you’ll need to lift your bikes over the gate … yep, get the guns out here!
The road starts in a Gymea-filled landscape on a fine crushed gravel road. This soon turns into a scrubby heath and a coarser red gravel road, which is a a bit slipperier under the wheels for beginners, especially with a bit of speed. The track is a return trail; enjoy a cruise down a light descent towards the halfway mark at the gorge.
You’re nearly at the halfway point when you reach a massive descent. (Trust me, you’ll know it once you get there – it’s really steep! Well, it is for a non-MTB rider, at least.) You’ll then reach Stokes Creek Gorge, a perfect place to chill out and have a bite to eat. It’s a peaceful spot, abundant in birds, Angophoras and some lovely little cascades. The trail does continue from here, but by this point the kids will be more than likely ready to turn around and head back the way you came.
Be aware: the ascent back up the hill is hell. (Let me know if you rode up it; I’d be super, super impressed!) Once you get to the top, take your time to recover, have a really good drink and a stretch too. The return trip is not flat; that light, coasty cruise on the way there now turns into a consistent uphill ride. Not big hills, just a constant incline. Throw your gears back, take your time and enjoy the thought of the 30kms you’re going to complete (only 15kms to go!).
Parking and transport:
The parking is limited here, but very accessible for multiple cars. Be mindful not to park in front of the gate, or you could expect a fine from the NPWS.
The trail is pretty straightforward. There’s not a great risk of getting lost - just remember you are on the 10B trail, so don’t turn off onto the 10C trail etc. In terms of any riding, be prepared. Ensure you have a suitable bike that can handle the trail, no fixies or cruiser bikes. You should always carry spare tubes and repair kits. It’s likely no one will be on the trail, so if you get a flat – you’re walking out.
You should also carry a medical kit as it’s super easy to have a stack on the gravel, especially if you ride down the gorge. If you are a beginner, wear the appropriate clothing and padding, such as knee pads, to avoid gravel rash.
There is not a great opportunity for photos, other than the gorge – obviously it’s hard to take photos and ride at the same time.
This is a long trail and would suit a long-distance trail run.
What to pack:
- Sunscreen it’s a really exposed trail
- Wind jacket, it can get chilly
- Medical kit
- Repair kit
- Heaps of water and some food (Camelbak, if you have one, makes it easier to hydrate on a bike)
Signage and track condition:
The signage is pretty good on this trail. All the off roads are also clearly marked, including their accessibility. The start of the trail has an information board and the gates are fully signposted. The track is in good condition; no major potholes and minimal corrugations.
Data and cellular coverage:
Google Maps works OK on most of this walk. It will give you a general indication of your location and the direction you are travelling. There is cellular coverage for most of the trail except for the gorge.
This track is great fun for families, in particular it will keep the tweenies and teens occupied with the challenge of the distance. It’s not suitable for smaller children, unless you consider going only partial distance. If you are not a competent rider, don’t consider taking this ride alone. Go with a group of experienced MTB that are happy to take a slower pace and take in the sights.
You will need a moderate fitness level to take on the distance and inclined ride. For those who aren’t big bike riders, expect a sore butt from the seat, sore legs and, if you are a wus like me and grip the handlebars like crazy when going fast, sore hands and arms. If you’re are an experienced rider, it should be a piece of cake.
Hiking/riding grade: Grade 2
I took a stab at rating this trail. I went for a 2 based on the distance. It’s not too steep for most of the way, but has a steep ascent/decline in one section.
Distance and time:
The track is a round trip, roughly a 2-3hr ride at a cruise pace. Distance is about 30km return.
Pollution/rubbish status: Grade 4
Surprisingly, the rubbish on this trail appeared to be commercial rubbish from the trail maintenance crew. Bits of barriers and larger pieces of rubbish that looked like they didn’t clean up after they upgraded a fence or barrier. Outside the trail gate was a large dump of domestic waste – very disappointing. Hopefully council sorted the dump, and the NPWS got onto the in-house rubbish.
Please ensure you take a garbage bag to collect rubbish if you find any. We suggest collecting it on the way out, before taking a photo of your collection and tagging us in #bushwalkthegong #cleanupgongsbushland – let’s spread the word that littering in or around our bushland areas is NOT OK!
All dogs (except for assistance dogs), motorbikes and smoking – and alcohol.
For more information, visit Bushwalk the Gong on Facebook and instagram @bushwalkthegong.
Bushwalking safety advice from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
- Plan your walk
- Research your walk and make sure everyone is comfortable with the planned route
- Go at the pace of the slowest person and don’t overestimate your abilities
- Walk in groups of 3 or more people – in an emergency one of you might need to wait with the injured person while the other gets help.
- Check the difficulty – some walks require rock scrambling and abseiling skills. If you’re note sure of the difficulty, contact the local NPWS park office.
- Check weather forecasts and park conditions and be aware that weather conditions can change.
- Tell somebody
- Give route details to your friends and family or the NSW Police. Tell them about any medical conditions and when to expect you back.
- Check in when you return
- Stay on track
- Walking tracks in NSW national parks parks are not always signposted or maintained, so be sure take care.
- To protect our landscapes for generations to come, please ensure that native plant and animal communities are disturbed as little as possible.
What to bring
- You may not have mobile phone service; if you’re really heading bush, consider taking a locator beacon which can be used as a last resort.
- For longer walks take plenty of water, snacks and a first aid kit
- Wear or take appropriate clothing and closed-toe footwear and always take a windproof and waterproof jacket
- Take a topographic map and compass and be confident with how to use them
- If you're camping take a good tent, sleeping bag, insect repellent and a torch.
- In a natural environment there is sometimes no escape from pests including mosquitoes, ticks and insects. Be sure to wear appropriate clothing to prevent bites, spray clothing and exposed skin with an insect repellent and reapply as directed, particularly if camping – and be sure to close that tent flap at night. More information is available at NSW Health
Staying safe near water
- Beware of fast-flowing water, submerged objects and deep water.
- Check the conditions – ask someone who is familiar with the area.
- Beware of slippery banks or paths near waterfalls
- Never swim alone – ensure that someone else is there to provide or get help.
- If you are caught in a rip or current, float on your back and travel downstream.
- If you get into trouble in the water, stay calm. Signal for help, then float and wait for help. Float with a current or undertow if in a river.
- Always check the water depth before entering
- If you feel cold in the water, get out as quickly as you can.
- If someone needs help in the water, stay dry and reach out to them with a stick or throw a rope.
- In some parks, high levels of blue-green algae can occur in lake systems under certain conditions. Please avoid direct contact with blue-green algae in the water and as surface scum. Warning signs will be displayed when algae levels in the lakes are high. Algae can exist in the shallow muddy bays and sediment disturbance in these areas should be avoided at all times.