I’ve got about an hour spare while my son is at tennis nearby, and I’ve been meaning to check out the Blue Gum Loop in Hornsby for a while. It’s a slightly ambitious walk for one hour and I’ll need to keep up a decent pace, but it’s also a shorter walk than I would normally do. There are a few potential starting points; I’m starting at the end of Rosemead Road next to the Rosemead Road Picnic Area. There are lots of people around, including quite a few families doing this walk. The walk starts near a large signboard, descending the Rosemead Firetrail which crosses Old Mans Creek, before ascending through a Blue Gum forest.
The first part of the walk is through Blue Gum Diatreme Forest, which is a rare ecological community with as little as 14 hectares remaining (almost all of it in the Hornsby area). Timber was harvested in the valley from the 1820s until the 1960s, so while the trees soar high above the track, they are comparatively young regrowth. (There’s also a dense grove of Sassafras trees above Old Mans Creek, on the eastern side.)
The track ascends gently around the base of a large hill, which is informally referred to as Joes Mountain. Now part of the Berowra Valley National Park, the land to the left (west) of the track was donated for conservation by Dr Joyce Vickery (then a botanist with the Royal Botanic Gardens) in 1967. The forest here is most turpentines (also valued for their timber), with large rocks and sandstone overhangs all the way up the hill.
It’s very pleasant walking through the shaded forest, with the distinctive sound of whipbirds in the background. The track starts descending after about 700m, before reaching a junction where the Blue Gum Walk veers off the service trail, becoming a narrower bushwalking track (the wide service trail continues around the western side of Joes Mountain).
Very soon after this junction, there’s another junction with a track that ascends very steeply up to Manor Road. (This is now the official Great North Walk route, which follows Morgan Road, Rosamond St and Clarinda St before joining up with the Clarinda Firetrail, to avoid the Hornsby Rifle Range.)
The bushwalking track descends quite steeply past this junction to The Fishponds, with a few timber and stone steps.
Above The Fishponds is a viewing platform, but it’s not a particularly good view, and it’s worth continuing a bit further.
Rather than bearing left along the Blue Gum Walk, head right, with the track descending to Berowra Creek.
Where the track meets Berowra Creek there’s a series of stepping stones: this is near the top of the The Fishponds.
Following the creek downstream for another 100m, the track leads to a small rock platform that’s at the bottom of The Fishponds. Situated on a bend in Berowra Creek, the long waterhole was a popular swimming spot – and locals still swim in summer – but it’s not recommended. As well as six fatalities since 1825, the water quality is pretty poor, especially after rain.
The main track goes up the hill from the stepping stones to reach a signposted junction. The Pogson Trig Firetrail continues up to the Quarry Firetrail, while the old Great North Walk (also called the Benowie Track) continues along Berowra Creek. (This section of the Great North Walk was officially closed in 2016 due to risks presented by the rifle range at Hornsby, although it’s still possible to follow this route.)
After returning the same way to The Fishponds lookout, the Blue Gum Walk continues up Berowra Creek, soon crossing a dry creek bed.
This is one of the nicest sections of the Blue Gum Loop, starting with a huge rock overhang where the track has to negotiate some giant boulders.
The track follows Berowra Creek fairly closely, past some more small cascades and and through a semi-rainforest environment.
Berowra Creek diverges along this section, with the track continuing along Waitara Creek.
The track reaches a long rock platform along Waitara Creek – a popular picnic spot on weekends, and home to an Australian water dragon that must enjoy a regular diet of leftover picnic crumbs!
At the end of this platform the track crosses Waitara Creek. There’s another set of cascades here known as the Washtub, or Spa, where the creek has sculpted deep holes in the sandstone.
From the Washtub, the Blue Gum Walk ascends fairly steeply up to a ridge, which separates the valleys of Berowra and Waitara Creeks.
As it follows the ridge, the track has some views over Berowra Valley to the north. The Peppermint-Angophora Forest is more open and exposed here, with one of the main trees being the Sydney Peppermint Gum, and there’s also a section of casuarina trees.
After passing a junction where the Great North Walk veers to the right, the vegetation changes again as the track leaves the dry and exposed northerly slope. The more sheltered forest now has Sydney Blue Gums again, and a thick understory of ferns. It’s another very nice section of the walk.
Eventually the bushwalking track reaches the Ginger Meggs Firetrail (which you can also do as a separate, much shorter and far less interesting loop). The service trail descends fairly consistently, and is easy – albeit slightly boring – walking.
At the bottom of the valley the track crosses a concrete weir over Waitara Creek, then reaches a metal gate that marks the end (or start) of the Blue Gum Loop and Ginger Meggs Loop. There’s a 600m walk along the quiet Valley Road and Rosemead Road back to the Rosemead Road Picnic Area.
It’s a great little loop, which has been recognised by the Sydney Morning Herald in 2015 in an article describing “Six of the best bushwalks” in Sydney. I managed to complete it an exactly an hour (without the side-trip to the Fishponds) – but it would have been nice to have a bit more time. I’d also recommend doing it in the opposite direction, so you’re finishing with the nicest parts of the walk.
0.0km Rosemead Road Picnic Area 0.5km Junction witn unmarked trail to the right 0.9km Veer right onto bushwalking trail 0.9km Junction with Great North Walk track to Manor Road 1.2km Fishpond lookout +400m return to end of Fishponds 1.6km Washtub (Waitara Creek crossing) 2.2km Junction with Great North Walk 3.1km Ginger Meggs Firetrail 3.6km Waitara Creek crossing (stepping stones) 4.2km Rosemead Road Picnic Area