I’m doing the second of the two bushwalks that start near the Dungog entrance of Barrington Tops today, with my son joining me for the ascent of Careys Peak. I’ve warned him it might be a tough hike, which is the most effective way to pique his interest in coming with me! We’re at the start of the Corker Track and on our way just after 9am, a bit behind schedule…
The aptly-named Corker Track is hard work. An old maintenance track that follows a long ridge up to Careys Peak, it pretty much goes straight up. And up. With no respite. Fortunately it’s not a hot day and the tall forest of turpentine, blue gum and sassafras trees provide plenty of shade. There’s even a touch of autumn colour, with the leaves of some of the Antarctic beech trees (which are partly deciduous) turning orange.
A few sections are almost like a rainforest, with tree ferns under the towering trees. (Unfortunately, there are also a couple sections of non-native stinging nettles and wild raspberry.)
About a third of the way up to Careys Peak there’s a small “window” with a view out to the west: the long ridge you can see is the Allyn Range, which joins the ridge we are ascending. The small peak on the very right is Careys Peak (I think!).
Almost all the vertical altitude gain is in the first three kilometres, before the track starts to flatten out. (Looking at the elevation profile a few days later, none of the walk is really flat at all, but it feels flat in comparison to what we’ve just done!) It also feels like we’ve broken the back of the walk, and progress is much quicker – and my son far more cheerful! The vegetation also starts to change, becoming more drier and open, with thicker undergrowth.
After almost 8 kilometres there’s a phytophthora foot cleaning station – it seems odd to have it located so far along the track. Soon after there’s a junction with the Link Track to Gloucester Top and the Wombat Creek campground (where you can get water if you’re getting low).
There’s another couple of junctions over the last two kilometres up to Careys Peak, which are well sign-posted so you can’t really go wrong (although all of the distances shown are incorrect). Just before the last few hundred metres to the summit there’s a small clearing, at the edge of which stands Careys Hut. Built in 1934 and then re-built in the early 1970s as it was falling into disrepair, it was part of a grand plan to develop ski fields and turn Barrington Tops into the “Katoomba of the North”. It’s very basic and would useful only as an emergency shelter. The cleared area around the hut would be perfect for camping on an overnight trip, providing easy access to Careys Peak for sunrise/sunset.
There’s a final 250m (5min) to Careys Peak, through sub-alpine forest and for the first time on a bushwalking track (rather than an old maintenance road), which is a nice change! It’s a funny summit, in that there is no view at all until you’re right on top of the peak, which is more of bump in the long ridge that extends to Mt Barrington (1,555m). Two people are leaving as we arrive, and two more people reach the peak just after we do – so the area is not at all busy, even on a long weekend.
From the Careys Peak summit there are sweeping views to the east – and apparently on a very clear day (westerly winds are best) you can see the coast. I wouldn’t call it a spectacular view – more rugged bushland as far as the eye can see. It would be better at sunrise/sunset if you camped at Careys Hut.
From here, it’s back the same way… There are a few different options to extend the walk, but they require a car-shuffle or a two day (or longer) day walk.
It’s much easier (and an hour quicker) going down… we’re back at the car just before 4pm, making it about a 6.5 hour walk, including a short break for lunch at the top.
0.0km Start at Lagoon Pinch Picnic Area (685m asl) 8.6km Junction with Gloucester Tops track (300m to campground) 9.6km Junction with Big Hole Track 10.1km Side-track to Careys Peak 10.3km Careys Hut 10.5km Careys Peak summit (1,545m asl) 20.6km Return to Lagoon Pinch Picnic Area
Accommodation near Careys Peak
There are many camping areas within the State Forest (NSW Forestry – Chichester State Forest), with the White Rock Camping Area and Allyn River Camping area being a short walk from the start of the Corker Trail. If you are doing Careys Peak as an overnight bushwalk you can camp near the summit at Careys Hut, which is an informal campground (hut is for emergency use only). Wombat Creek and Black Swamp campgrounds are both within a few kilometres of the summit. These two NPWS campgrounds must be booked in advance – or you can bush-camp anywhere in the Barrington Tops National Park as long as it’s at least 200 metres from the track.
Ferndale Park is about a 45min drive away and located on the Chichester River. It offers much more secluded and private camping than the State Forest and National Park campsites, which get very busy on holiday weekends.
If you prefer not to camp, at the end of Salisbury Road and on the border of the Barrington Tops National Parks is some cottage and lodge accommodation. These make a good base for some of the day-walks in this section of the park, including Rocky Crossing and Careys Peak.
More information on Careys Peak
The Corker Trail is the shortest route to Careys Peak. There are other ways to get there, including from the east (via the Link Trail) and the north (Barrington Trail). Most of the other routes involve a multi-day bushwalk.