I’m camping with friends close to Barrington Tops (staying at the private Ferndale Park Camping Area in the hope of avoiding the crowds on a long weekend) to enjoy some time in the bush. I’m also keen to explore some of the Barrington Tops bushwalking trails.
The first bushwalk is along the Williams River to Rocky Crossing, which also incorporates the shorter Blue Gum Loop. (I end up doing the hike on my own as the kids are too busy playing and swimming!) The walk starts at the well sign-posted car parking area at the Williams River Picnic area, accessed by Salisbury Road (via Dungog).
The first section is shared with with the Blue Gum Loop, witht he track initially heading a short distance downstream where it crosses the Williams River.
Just after setting out I spot a swamp wallaby (also known as a black pademelonblack wallaby), and while there’s not many flowering plants the rainforest environment supports many interesting funghi. (Further down the track I see the generally elusive lyrebird, although it’s too quick for me to get a photo.)
The Blue Gum Loop now follows the River Williams upstream, but immediately ascends after the bridge so you can’t see or hear the river. It’s easy and pleasant walking through the rainforest, with sassafras, red cedar, and giant stinging trees towering above. (Most of Barrington Tops National Park is declared wilderness and forms part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area – the most extensive area of subtropical rainforest in the world.)
After about 2.3m km you reach the Fern Tree Picnic Area. It’s a somewhat fancy term for a single picnic table – but it’s a great spot for a picnic. Situated next to the clear-flowing Kywong Gully creek (it’s not actually Fern Tree Creek, which is in the next valley), there’s even a small swimming hole if you feel like a dip!
Shortly after this picnic area (which is just off the Blue Gum Loop trail) you cross the Williams River again on another very sturdy bridge. Soon after this second crossing the Blue Gum Loop Track joins the Rocky Crossing Track.
I turn right, and continue down the Rocky Crossing Track: it still follows the Williams River but far enough away that I never actually see it.
The next sighting of the Williams River is a side-track down to Lions Rock. I’m not sure why it’s called “Lion Rock” – there’s a rock above the river that apparently looks like a lion, but I obviously needed to squint harder or look from a different angle! The river cascades down through two large boulders; below these are some narrow but deep pools that would also be a nice swimming hole if you clamber down the rocks.
After re-joining the Rocky Crossing Track, it’s only another kilometre or so to the next side-track down to Pool of Reflections. It’s a slightly longer path down the river (about 300m), but is one of the highlights of the walk. My photos don’t really do justice to the large, deep and crystal-clear pool surrounded by rainforest. Although it’s getting late in the day and fairly cool, I can’t resist a quick plunge into the cold water.
After the Pool of Reflections there’s a long stretch through the rainforest before the next “attraction”. If you’re looking for a shorter walk or are running out of time, turn back here to make it a 10km walk.
It’s almost 3km further to the last, and very short, side-track to a giant Strangler Fig. It’s an impressive vine, but the least exciting of the side-trips.
I push on to Rocky Crossing, the end of the walk. Which is just spectacular. The first thing you see as you reach the river is a narrow but deep channel carved through the rock by the river, with a small cascade below leafy ferns.
At the far end of the channel is another set of cascades.
Continue just a bit further upstream, taking off your shoes to cross the river, and there’s an almost perfectly circular pool with a waterfall at the far end. Another irresistible spot for quick dip, especially when you have this idyllic location to yourself.
Looking downstream before I return up the path to the main track, it’s an almost eery sight as the Williams River winds through a series of mudstone terraces.
(From the end of the walk, if you organise a car-shuffle, instead of returning the same way you can continue about 800m up to the William Top Picnic Area, which is accessible via the William Top Road. This would make it ahout a 10km one-way trip – or of course you could start here so the walk would be generally downhill.)
I return the same way: it’s been a fantastic walk, with its combination of verdant rainforest, beautiful swimming holes and picturesque cascades. Having started late in the day, I’ve only seen five other people on the track, and I’ve had all of the swimming holes to myself. The last part of the track completes the rest of the Blue Gum Loop, and there’s one last side-track down to the Crystal Pool. It too looks beautiful judging by what I can see with my headtorch, as it’s now pitch-black…
0.0km Start at Williams River Picnic Area 0.3km Bridge over Williams River 1.9km Fern Tree Creek Picnic Area 2.3km Blue Gum Loop Track joins Rocky Crossing Track 3.4km Lion Rock (100m side-trip from main track) 4.8km Pool of Reflections (300m side-trip from main track) 7.7km Strangler Fig (50m from main track) 8.8km Junction with track up to William Top car park & picnic area 9.2km Rocky Crossing 15.2km Junction with Blue Gum Loop Track 16.1 Crystal Pool (100m side-trip from main track) 16.8km Return to Williams River Picnic Area