The bushwalk to Refuge Rock and Natural Arch starts at the end of Trevors Lane in Cherrybrook. There’s just a small “Berowra Valley National Park” sign next to a locked gate to mark the beginning of the track. The service trail runs behind a row of properties for a short distance, before the junction with another service trail, which heads away from the houses.
There’s a right turn onto another service trail, before finally I finally veer onto a narrow bushwalking track after 400m. Although the wildflowers are not as impressive as other recent walks, there are a variety of flowers along the track.
It’s a pleasant but unremarkable bushwalking track, passing the end of the Trevors Lane service trail (which goes to the base of an electricity pylon) before continuing to the Natural Arch.
There’s no signage at the Natural Arch, but its location is obvious from the rock formations that are first seen from the top.
The bottom of the sandstone cliff can be reached via one of the narrow “slots”, where there is a split in the rock.
Looking up from the bottom of the cliffs, there’s some impressive overhangs and honeycombed caves, formed by thousands year of erosion.
The most impressive feature is the Natural Arch, a natural sandstone arch also referred to as “London Bridge”.
Once back at the top of the arch, the path continues over some rocky sections.
It soon reaches Refuge Rock, a broad sandstone rock platform: compared to Natural Arch it’s a bit ot an anti-climax. The expanse of sandstone, while it stretches for many hundreds of metres in all directions, doesn’t appear as large as it is, being broken up by patches of mallee eucalypts and banksia shrubs. Refuge Rock acquired its name from being a safe haven by firefighters carrying out controlled burns, due to the large expanse of naturally clear space. The rock surface has some unusual markings, consisting of a central pit with teardrop-shaped “engravings” radiating out from the centre: these were created in the early 1940s, when General Macarthur (following his escape from the Philippines) used the area as a target for field artillery located at Cherrybrook.
Towards the bottom of the rocky platform you can see the houses at the edge of Westleigh on the opposite side of Berowra Creek. The Benowie Track (part of the Great North Walk) runs alongside Berowra Creek at the bottom of the valley – I can ocassionally hear bushwalkers, but can’t see the track.
Although I’ve almost completed the loop, I’ve got time to explore a side-track. A wide service trail descends to the right, ending at the base of an electricity pylon. But there’s also a narrow bushwalking/mountain bike track off this service trail, and not shown on any map, that descends the valley.
The trail seems to have been built as an unauthorised MTB track, although you’d need to be very experienced and possibly insane to descend on a bike – there are some two vertical drops I have difficulty climbing down.
Eventually the track reaches Pyes Creek at the bottom of the valley, where’s there’s a shallow natural pool, surrounded by tall trees.
A very rough track, marked by pink tape, continues downstream along Pyes Creek. I don’t have time to exploer further – it would be interesting to see if this eventually meets the Benowie Track, which would allow a much longer loop of the area from the same starting point…
I head back the same way, clambering back up the sandstone rocks, before taking a slightly different route that takes me back to Refuge Rock. I retrace my steps for about 200m, passing by the side track again before re-joining the Trevors Lane service trail to complete the loop.
If you’re just interested in visiting Natural Arch and Refuge Rock, you can go directly here and come back the same way (about 2km) – this is how the walk is usually described. However, it’s more interesting and only slightly longer to do this as a loop, about half of which is on a bushwalking track, rather than a service trail.
0.0km Start of service trail at end of Trevors Lane 0.1km Turn onto service trail away from houses 0.2km Turn right onto service trail 0.4km Veer right onto bushwalking track 0.8km Bushwalking track passes end of service trail 1.5km Natural Arch 1.9km Refuge Rock 2.1km Junction with side-track [1.7km return to Pyes Creek] 2.7km Trevors Lane