The Cascades Track is popular with walkers and mountain-bikers, and gets pretty busy on weekends. The wide service trail down to the Cascades starting near Acron Oval in St Ives at a locked gate, with space for a few cars near the gate. Although you can return the same way, combining the trail with the Lower Cambourne Track and Bare Creek Track makes a nice loop walk.
Almost immediately after the gate at the top of the Cascades Track, signs of “civilisation” disappear; unlike many other suburban hiking trails, you can’t see any houses or hear any noise road on the entire track.
The wide trail descends past the back of Acron Oval. After 900m there’s an intersection with the Upper Cambourne Track on the left; this provides an alternate access to the Cascade Track from Douglas St. Continue straight ahead.
After another 100m you pass the Lower Cambourne Track on the left. From here the track descends more steeply with a short section of asphalt, and after another 500m reaches the intersection with the Bare Creek Trail. (You can also reach the Cascades via the Lower Cambourne / Bare Creek loop, which adds 2km to the hike.) From the junction with the Bare Creek Trail there’s a final (fairly flat) 500m along the Cascade Track to reach the Cascades, crossing a concrete weir just before the end that’s normally got a bit of water running over it.
A picturesque rock platform and natural swimming hole, The Cascades is at the confluence of Middle Harbour and Frenchs Creek.
A popular picnic spot and Boy Scouts camping site in the 1920s, a weir was constructed in 1934 (financed by unemployment relief money given to Ku-ring-gai Council) to create a large public swimming pool called the “Bungaroo Pool”. It had an average depth of 12 feet and was 60 x 100 feet in size (20m x 33m). Access was via a new road built from Douglas St – which is now the Cascades Track. [Source: The Secret of Bungaroo, 1934]. The remains of the dam wall can be seen below.
The Cascades Track, providing access to the Bungaroo Pool from St Ives for vehicles as well as hikers, was used by the Sydney Morning Herald on a few occasions to test new cars: “On the freak hill at Bungaroo swimming pool, near St. Ives, the car gave a good demonstration of its ability to climb, without wheel-spin, as nasty a slope as any motorist might encounter.” [Source: Motoring, SMH Dec 24th, 1935]
My most recent hike down to the Cascades is with 2nd Gordon Cubs, where we discuss the importance of treating water – and chase a water dragon around the rock platform! Interestingly, while the The Cascades was previously known as the “Bungaroo Pool”, the same name was given to a different area further downstream, at the tidal limit of Middle Harbour Creek (accessed by the Bungaroo Track!). It’s thought this misappropriation of the name Bungaroo was the result of “large numbers of Boy Scouts camping in the area, who assumed it was the correct name” [Source: Bungaroo Transcripts].
From the Cascades, there are a few options to extend your bushwalk…
- Continue straight ahead on the Cascades Track, which provides alternate access to / from Davidson (about 1.5km up the other side of the valley) to Stone Parade
- Head in the opposite direction along a narrow bush track (Middle Harbour Track), which follows Middle Harbour Creek downstream. By crossing the creek at the Stepping Stones and taking the Pipeline Track back up to St Ives, you can complete a much longer (10km) circuit
- Or if you’re feeling more energetic, continue for 24.3km to reach Manly Wharf (the Cascades Track forms a short section of the 47km Harbour to Hawkesbury track).
For an alternate (and longer) route back to the starting point, re-cross the weir and turn right down Bare Creek Trail. Soon after the turn-off the maintenance trail crosses a creek and 1.2km from the start of the trail you reach a junction with the Lower Cambourne Track. Turn left onto the Lower Cambourne Track (continuing straight will take you another 2.6km to Belrose via the Bare Creek Trail and Heath Trail).
After a short descent, you reach a crossing of Middle Harbour Creek (below left) – it’s fairly deep here, but (unless you feel like a swim) you’ll find a small but well-trodden path on the right that lets you cross without getting wet feet. Another 100m or so further on, there’s a small waterfall and natural pool to the left of the track (below right). The Lower Cambourne Track continues another 1.3km before re-joining the main Cascades Track. From here, it’s straight back up the Cascades Track to the gate at the top…
More information on the Cascades Track
- Wildwalks – Cascades Trail detailed track notes