With Easter and NSW school holidays rapidly approaching, we knew we needed to get in and out of the Wolgan Valley before the holiday hordes arrived from Sydney, sweeping into the Wolgan carrying noise, trash, and campfire smoke in a campaign reminiscent of Ghengis Khan's invasions of Eurasia.
The Newnes valley is certainly atmospheric, nestled in a deep green gorge with high sandstone cliffs above. The valley is just the western tip of Wollemi National Park, which includes the largest wilderness area in Australia. It's an area of deep canyons, lush forests, wild rivers, sandstone cliffs, and stepped pagodas. You can walk for a few hours or a few days. We did three walks while we were there, and, barely saw a person once we had left the camping area.
Glow Worm Tunnel
The Glow Worm Tunnel:
This is an old railway tunnel for the rail line that once ran between the shale oil works at Newnes and Lithgow. The tunnel is 400 metres long and curves so once you get a certain distance in, it is completely black.
There are various tracks to the glow worm tunnel, we did a circuit walk from the Newnes Road which takes you around a big pagoda, along Tunnel Creek and back down the well graded old railway line.
The first thing you have to do is ford the Wolgan River on a cement causeway. Then walk uphill on an old road to a junction, the left hand fork follows the old railway route to Newnes; continue straight ahead and uphill to a break between sandstone cliffs and a lovely valley filled with tree ferns. Gradually walking downhill you come out near Dry Creek Canyon where you can peer down and get a glimpse of this narrow slot canyon from above.
A torch helps in the tunnel as it is completely black and quite wet along the walls and underfoot, but, it is filled with glow worms which cover the roof and walls like starlight on a dark night. The exit is draped in greenery and drips with small waterfalls. There is a good view of Donkey Mountain from the old rail trail on the way back.
The Pipeline Track:
This is a steepish track that crosses the height of land between the Wolgan and Capertee Rivers and follows the route of an old pipeline connecting Newnes to Glen Davis. You can walk from either end, but walking from Newnes is probably nicer.
The first couple of kilometres follows the Wolgan River east past remains of Newnes townsite now buried in the bush. Once you cross Petries Gully - may involve wading - the track begins a steady and, at times, steep climb up a narrow valley to the height of land. At the top of the ridge, there is a great lookout atop a sandstone pagoda where you can look along the length of the Wolgan River. This is typical escarpment country, dense eucalypt forest, sandstone bluffs and a deeply incised river valley.
Doug went back from the lookout, but, being an obsessive about such things, I felt compelled to walk right over the range to Glen Davis. The track heading north is a bit thick with dense vegetation at times but, after a couple of kilometres, the path emerges into very open forest below large red sandstone cliffs.
It's a solid 500 metre climb back up from Glen Davis and hot in the afternoon sun. I wandered along the height of land on the way back following a scruffy track that leads to a couple of canyons. There were more good lookouts here.
Just before Petries Gully you can wade the Wolgan River and wander along the interpretive trail through the old shale oil works back to the campground.
The wonderful Wolgan Valley
Rocky Creek Via The Wolgan River Trail:
This is a long but easy walk along an old road that follows the Wolgan River east to Rocky Creek where there are some campsites. The walk is pleasant but not stunning. The best part is definitely the feeling of isolation.
Lookout on the Pipeline Track