The Heath Trail and Bare Creek Loop is a bit of an exploratory walk in a section of the park I haven’t been to before. It combines the fairly popular Heath Trail and Bare Creek Trail in Garigal National Park with what I hope to be some “secondary” trails to form a loop. I set off down Ralston Avenue, having left my car at the very end (I could have driven further down). The start is not very well sign-posted, but based on what my map is telling me I turn off the road near the microwave tower. A service track passes a private property on the left, and the tower on the right.
There’s another gate, this time locked (you could technically drive up to this gate, but you’d need a 4WD for the last bit (and there’s no parking) before finally reaching a sign that indicates I’m on the right trail.
After the third gate (yep, there’s a few!) I finally feel like I’m in the bush, and a bit further I pass a “Garigal National Park” that marks the boundary of the park.
While the service trail, shared by bushwalkers and mountain-bikers (and horses), is easy walking, the fairly constant view of electricity transmission cables and the occasional pylon takes away a little from the experience. The cables go to the Belrose electricity substation, which is the near the start of the walk (as the trail descends to Bare Creek the cables become less obvious). Once the trail reaches the bottom of the valley, the flora changes from low heath to tall trees – and there is a noticeable drop in temperature.
Just before the Heath Trail reaches Bare Creek, it becomes the Bare Creek Trail. There’s no sign or demarcation between the two trails – just that one minute you’re on the Heath Trail and next you’re on the Bare Creek Trail. It’s a seamless transition! The Bare Creek Trail follows Bare Creek, although it’s rarely visible. At one point there seems to be a track descends to the creek, crosses it and continues up the other side…
I figure I’ve got enough time for a small detour, so I continue up the the narrow track. It’s obviously one of the many unauthorised mountain-biking tracks that can be found across Gariga National Park, but makes an equally enjoyable walking track and is a nice change from the service trail.
After about half a kilometre, the trail splits into two, and I take the left-hand fork which soon joins the Treeloppers Tip Trail (I suspect if you continue straight ahead, you’ll join the Treeloppers Tip Trail a bit further on). I turn left, to return to Bare Creek Trail via this wide service trail.
The Treeloppers Tip Trail crosses Bare Creek at the bottom, where there’s a small but picturesque cascade and what would just pass as a swimming hole a little further downstream.
A few hundred metres further there’s a junction with an unnamed bushwalking track to the left (south). In the distance I can see the Lower Cambourne Trail, which forms part of the Cascades Loop that I’ve done many times (from St Ives). I expected this to be another unauthorised mountain bike track, as it’s not show on the NPWS Web site – so I’m surprised to see a post with a National Parks emblem and “no bikes” sign (which has clearly been ignored).
It’s a nice track, and a pleasant change from the wide service trail. It feels like there’s a few more wildflowers out each time I walk, even though we’re still almost a month away from Spring.
The track gradually but constantly ascends, reaching a wide rock platform that provides a view over the national park.
After a bit more climbing, a short side-track leads to a rocky outcrop with an even better view out to the west (towards St Ives).
A little further on, rather than continuing straight ahead I take a track that veers up to the right, through a couple of boulders and a small sandstone overhang. There’s another lookout here from a rock outcrop, which has the best views. Not that there is much to see, other than lots of trees and the outskirts of St Ives…
It’s not a bad spot to watch the sun set.
I forgot to bring my headtorch, so as the sun dips below the horizon I make haste, continuing to ascend another couple of hundred metres to reach the highest point of the walk. There’s a nice view of North Sydney in the distance from the track.
The bushwalking track continues for just under a kilometre, before it reaches a service trail that runs parallel to Ralston Ave.
Rather than walking down Ralston Ave, there’s still a bit of light so I ignore the trail going off to the right and continue down the service trail, past the Heath Track and back onto Ralston Ave at the same place that I started.
There’s a few families and mountain bikers around, even though it’s almost dark.. yet I didn’t encounter a single person on the walk. It’s been a nice circuit – a bit too much walking on service trails for my liking, but also some nice sections on bushwalking tracks and some nice lookouts.
0.0km Unlocked gate (corner Ralston Ave and Elm Ave) 0.2km Turn off Ralston Ave onto service trail 0.6km Turn right onto Heath Trail 2.5km Junction with side-track (goes to Treeloppers Tip Trail) 3.0km Treeloppers Tip Trail (turn left) 3.6km Bare Creek Trail 3.8km Turn-off onto unnamed MTB/bushwalking track 5.1km First lookout (just off the track) 5.3km Second (better) lookout 6.2km Junction with track to Ralston Ave 6.8km Ralston Avenue 7.0km Corner Ralston Avenue and Elm Avenue