Combining the Uloola Track, Karloo Track and Engadine Track, this walk traverses the Royal National Park between Heathcote and Engadine stations. It takes in the Uloola Falls and Karloo Pool, as well as the spectacular “Olympic Pool” on Upper Kangaroo Creek.
I’d seen some references to the secluded “Olympic Pool” on Upper Kangaroo Creek as the “best wild swimming spot in the Royal National Park” (Illawarra Mercury). I’ve also been meaning to do the Waterfall to Heathcote bushwalk again, so I figured I’d make the small detour to see how amazing this secret pool really is… Fearing terrible long weekend traffic, we’re taking the train. The Uloola trackhead is very conveniently right by Waterfall station, and we’re on the track two minutes after alighting from the train…
Near the start of the Uloola Track there’s a small memorial dedicated to firefighters who have lost their lives. I discover later it commemorates members of the Sutherland Shire Volunteer Bushire Organisation who were killed on the 3rd November 1980, when an out of control bushfire suddenly changed direction and trapped them in their truck.
Despite it being a warm day, it’s easy walking on the wide Uloola Track, which is fairly shaded and descends slightly.
According to one of my topographical maps there should be a walking track that closely follows the Uloola Brook, which would be more interesting than the wide firetrail. Maybe it’s now overgrown, as it doesn’t appear on any of the track signage. Or it might be feasible to walk down Uloola Brook witthout a track – I’ll need to come back and explore this option! Just before reaching Uloola Falls, the firetrail reaches a lovely elevated toilet that stands above a small clearing like a prominent attraction. From this “toilet clearing”, there’s a narrow walking track that heads down, past a long rock overhang, to Uloola Falls.
There’s a small pool above the waterfall, which is also a nice spot for a picnic. Uloola Falls is also the only place you can camp on this walk – you need to book online (capacity is 18 people).
There wasn’t much water in the creek, so the falls weren’t very impressive – it would be better after some heavy rain.
From Uloola Falls, the Karloo Track ascends slightly at first, before descending to Kangaroo Creek. This is a nice part of the walk, with the walking track passing some interesting rock formations, gnarled scribbly gums and red gum trees.
There’s even some distant city views from one of the sandstone platforms is crossed by the track.
Next stop is the Karloo Pool, a group of natural and deep rock pools, and a popular destination. There was no-one in the water even though it’s a warmish autumn day, but there are many people sitting on both banks and enjoying the afternoon sun.
From here it’s only 2.8km to Heathcote station, but we’re venturing down Kangaroo Creek in search of a natural rock pool described as: “very deep with amazing colours that shine from the abalone shells underneath. It’s a freshwater pool and pure paradise”. We start on the south bank of Kangaroo Creek, where there’s no track, but not too much undergrowth so we make slow progress. After a short distance “bush bashing” along the river, we cross to the other (north) side. Here there is a narrow and rough but distinct track. There’s a few nice swimming holes and sandstone ledges along the river.
It’s about two kilometres following Kangaroo Creek before we see what must be the long and wide “Olympic Pool” directly ahead.
It is an amazing spot: the natural rock pool is long and wide, and the water clear and deep. Despite it getting late in the day it’s impossible to resist having a quick dip. Quick being the key word, as the water is also very cold!
I’m surprised that there are only two other people here when we arrive. Once they leave, we have the pool to ourselves. We stay for almost an taking a few photos and relaxing by the water, before we head back up the creek.
Rather than returning to Karloo Pool, and then up to Heathcote, we decide to explore an alternate route. After about a kilometre we take the unsigned but obvious track up the spur, marked by a rock cairn, that we passed on the way downstream.
It’s initially very steep, but a surprisingly pleasant track (although my daughter doesn’t really enjoy the ascent, not with my assessment of this being in any way pleasant).
As we have a rest on a natural rock platform that juts out near the track, I photograph some Christmas Bells (Blandfordia nobilis): the flowers should appear in summer, so maybe these ones are running a bit behind schedule!
After we’ve reached the top of the spur, the track reaches a wide fire trail, the Bottle Forest Trail, and after another 400m there’s a junction with the Forest Ridge Track. While my original intention was to complete the walk at Heathcote station, looking at the map it only seems a bit further – and much nicer walking – to head to Engadine.
So, we follow the Engadine Track, which more or less heads directly to Engadine station, crossing a couple of firetrails on the way. It’s another easy and pleasant walking track through eucalypt forest.
Although the plan was to go from Waterfall to Heathcote with a side-trip down Kangaroo Creek to the “Olympic Pool”, I’m very happy with the route we ended up taking. The journey down Kangaroo Creek to the natural rock pool is well worth the short detour. And the walk back up from Kangaroo Creek to Engadine was so much nicer than the Uloola Track, and far less busy (we saw a total of two cyclists as we crossed one of the firetrails on the way back).
0.0km Start at Waterfall Station 6.3km Uloola Falls via Uloola Track 8.7km Karloo Pool via Karloo Track 10.1km Olympic Pool following Kangaroo Creek downstream 11.2km Junction with unmarked track up Karloo Spur 12.4km Small clearing & start of Bottle Forest Trail 12.8km Junction with Forest Ridge track (turn right) 13.1km Junction with Engadine Track (turn left) 15.6km Engadine station
|Location||Start/finish at Waterfall Station and Engadine Station (or Heathcote Station via the normal route)|
|Distance||15.6km one-way. (5-6 hours)|
|Grade||Easy/Moderate. Total ascent 265m. Short section with rough track|
|Map/s||9129-4S Otford. Covers Uloola Track only. Buy / Download
9129-4N Port Hacking. Buy / Download
Interactive topographical map with GPX download
|GPS Route||PlotaRoute map with option to download GPX / KML file|
|Track / Map Notes||Download Track-Notes-Heathcote-to-Waterfall [PDF] – normal route
Custom topographical maps (A4, 1:25K) Map 1 / Map 2