A varied track through a valley and along ridges in Brisbane Water National Park, combining the longer Piles Creek Loop and short Girrakool Loop tracks.
Today’s walk is to check out a potential route for the 2nd Gordon Cub pack; we’ll be staying at the nearby Kariong Scout Camp. There is a link track that joins the Piles Creek Loop track.
I’ve started at the Girakool Picnic Area, which is a really nice spot, providing multiple picnic sites with free gas barbecues and running water. The various tracks are well sign-posted, as I set off down the Girrakool Loop track (which starts off as a paved track that is almost wheelchair-accessible).
The first lookout, Broula Lookout, is reached after less than five minutes from the car park, with a view across the valley. Shortly after this is Illoura Lookout, meaning “creek in a gully”. From here you can see a nice pool formed by Piles Creek.
The lookout is also the junction of the much shorter Girrakool Loop and longer Piles Creek track; I continue to the left along the Piles Creek Loop track. The trail crosses Pile Creek along a natural causeway with stepping stones just above the falls.
From here the track follows the top of the ridge above the valley formed by Piles Creek. It’s a pleasant combination of eucalpyt forest and is mostly in the shade, with some deep overhangs in the sandstone cliffs.
After 1.4km I reach the (sign-posted) turn-off to Kariong Camp Scout, which you would normally ignore… as I’m on a reconnaissance mission for our upcoming Cub camp, I take this track which climbs gently up to the Scout property (it adds about 800m each way to the Piles Creek Loop).
Just after this turn-off is another (unnamed) lookout over the valley and the cliffs on the other side.
The track continues along the top of the valley, passing a large and weathered rock that I suspect will require an extended stop as the Cubs use it for some parkour practice (reminder: pack first aid kit!).
After about 3.5km (or 1.8km without the Scout Camp detour) the track starts descending fairly steeply down the into the valley, crossing a small side creek with the aid of some small bridges made of timber planks.
Shortly after this creek crossing is another well-marked intersection with the Great North Walk (GNW); the next section of the Girrakool Loop track is part of the GNW. A bit further on – and the lowest part of the walk – the track crosses Piles Creek on the very sturdy Phil Houghton Bridge (suspension bridge). The Cubs will enjoy this 🙂
The bridge was built in 1998; the original bridge was washed away in a flood, and some parts of it still stand. This might be a nice swimming hole if there’s been some rain, but today it looks brown and not particularly tempting, even on a hot day.
Just after the bridge is a nice and shaded campsite, which is used by Great North Walkers. Immediately after the campsite, the track climbs steeply up the other side of the valley.
Fortunately, being a warm day, this part of the track is well shaded, passing some high rock overhangs and sections of dry rainforest.
After the initial climb up from Piles Creek, the track continues gently climbing along the valley. Parts of the track are exposed to the sun, although there are a few caves and overhangs that make a nice spot for break.
Eventually Bundilla Lookout is reached, just before the track reaches the intersection with the Girrakool Loop track. The view isn’t particularly great, but from the right-hand side of the lookout it’s a relatively easy scramble down to Pile Creek and the natural pool (the same one we saw from the other side of the valley at the start of the walk). On a warm afternoon, it’s a very welcome diversion and and great spot to cool off and have a swim.
After re-joining the Piles Creek Loop track, it’s only about junction with the Girrakool Loop track. It would be a few hundred metres back to the car park from here, but instead I turn left and take the longer route back along the Girrakool Loop track.
It’s not an unpleasant walk, but doesn’t compare to the Piles Creek Loop track – I wouldn’t recommend coming here just to do the shorter loop. The track follows Leek Creek (which feeds Piles Creek) in a northerly direction, before reaching Boondi Lookout. The view from the lookout over the eucalpyt forest is very ordinary, but just below the lookout is an almost semi-circular cliff covered with ferns. It would be an idyllic spot… but it’s located about 30m from the M1 Pacific Highway. You can’t see the highway, which is above the cliff, but the constant drone of traffic takes away from the ambience a little!
From here, it’s an easy 400m walk back to the car park.
In short: I’d recommend the Piles Creek circuit, a quite varied walk with the option of a swim on on a hot day if you “bush bash” a short distance to the creek. I wouldn’t bother with the shorter Girrakool Loop unless you’re in the area and really only have time for this (and even if you do, just do the return walk to the Illoura Lookout.