A challenging and mostly off-track loop walk, which follows the upper reaches of Kierans Creek past waterholes, cascades and sandstone caves. 

With a forecast for the hottest November weekend on record, I need to find a bushwalk that has lots of shade, and some water… making another foray along Kierans Creek an ideal choice. Originating in Terrey Hills, Kierans Creek flows through Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and into Cowan Creek. It’s an important waterway and wildlife corridor, and also one of the creeks in suburban Sydney that seems relatively unpolluted. I first “discovered” this creek via an unmarked track that descends steeply from Anembo Reserve in Duffys Forest, and later did a loop from Bibbenluke Track along Kierans Creek and back up to Anembo Reserve. This time I’m starting at Anembo Reserve, and heading as far as I can upstream.

The walk descends gradually at first from Anembo Reserve, at the end of Anembo Road, along an unmarked but distinct and well-trodden track. After 800m, a less distinct track continues more steeply towards the creek, with metal markers and the occasional rock cairn marking the route.

This last bit down to the creek is the hardest, as I’m wearing old sneakers with not much grip yet. 

I’m glad to finally see the creek, which is fairly shallow here. Last time along the creek I kept my shoes dry; this time I jump in and start wading up the water.

Most of the time I stay in the water, although there are a few deep holes where I need to hop out to avoid getting my camera and phone wet (in hindsight, I should have taken a drybag, rather than my usual hiking backpack). Most of the time the valley is cool and shaded, although sometimes there are gaps in the canopy where you can see the steep valley above both sides of the creek.  

After about a kilometre, which has taken me 45 minutes, I reach Wandana Pool. It’s a long and deep pool, and would make a nice swimming hole – although there are not many good spots to easily access the water. 

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The next section gets interesting, with the water ocassionally getting very deep and necessitating some scrambling around the bank, followed by the creek almost disappearing underground. I see a few eastern water dragons, and two enormous eels – one of them decides to head straight for me as I beat a hasty retreat (not that I felt threatened, but I didn’t really want to find out if it would bite me!)

My next stop is an enormous rock overhang, surrounded by ferns and coachwood trees. The deep deep pool under the overhang makes a nice, shaded swimming spot.

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Continuing upstream, there’s lot of small cascades and the creek is mostly fairly shallow, although my progress remains slow (about 1.5km/hour along the creek is my average – about a third of my normal hiking pace).  

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From here there are lots of short, deep sections where I neogiate the overgrown creek bank, to avoid having to swim (or rather, to avoid getting my gear wet).  

Another large pool has a rope used for swinging into the water, although I can’t see any obvious track down to the creek. 

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Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to scramble up the rocks at the end of the pool; at the top is an assortment of smooth holes in the creek bed, eroded by water over many thousands of years.

More rock hopping and mini-cascades follow, and I’m getting inceasingly confident that I won’t be thwarted by a waterfall or impenetratable section of creek as I make my slowly upstream.

The last section of Kierans Creek before I reach the Calamine Trail, a potential exit point, is again narrow and often deep. I wade through some picturesque sections where the creek is surrounded by thick ferns, but and follow the bank a few times where it gets too deep.

Once I reach the Calamine Trail, which crosses the creek, I have a decision to make: I can exit here (via the Calamine Trail), continue up Kierans Creek (to where it meets the Larool Trail in Terrey Hills) or go up an unnamed tributary (which meets the Cooyong / Neverfail Trail). I decide I’ll go up the unnamed creek, leaving the last part of Kierans Creek for another day – partly because this route would leave me with a very long walk back to the car. The “unnamed creek” is quite shallow, and much more overgrown than Kierans Creek.

As I progress upstream, there are a few deeper sections and a nice rock overhang, surrounded by leafy ferns.

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The creek gets much gradually shallower, with a few small cascades and rock pools, and progress is relatively easy (but still fairly slow)!

I’m a bit startled by a sudden rustling in the bushes next to the creek, and something flies out right next to me before landing on a branch a bit futher upstream to check me out. It’s a powerful owl, a species of owl native to south-eastern and eastern Australia and the largest owl on the continent. 

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There’s still a trickle of water, with the creek bed getting a bit rockier as it ascend more steeply. An old tyre wedged in a tree is a reminder that while I haven’t seen any signs of “civilisation” for almost four hours, the creek catches rubbish and from the surrounding suburbs (but has nowhere near as much rubbish caught on the trees as Cowan Creek and other local waterways).

There’s one last waterfall that I fear may present a challenge, but despite the imposing rock ledge above me, there’s a steep but easy scramble to the left of the falls.

At the top of the falls is a nice collection of birds nest ferns (Asplenium australasicum), commonly found in moist and sheltered forests.

After a bit of bush bashing through light scrub I reach the Cooyong / Neverfail Trail (also called the Sandy Trail on some maps), where I commence the “on track” part of the loop back to the car. It’s taken me about 3.5 hours to cover four kilometres along Kieran Creek, but despite the almost 40-degree temperatures it’s been much cooler along the valley.

I now feel the heat… although the track ascends fairly gently, within a few minutes I am questioning the sanity of bushwalking on an unbearably hot day. The wide Cooyong / Neverfail Trail skirts around the edge of the national park, first following the valley above the creek that I’d just walked up, and then ascending along Waterfall Gully. I’m plesantly surprised that there are a few trickles of water that allow me to wet my shirt, and provide a bit of reprieve from the searing heat.

I’m even more surprised when the track meets the top of Waterfall Gully, that the creek not only has a decent flow of water, but that there a couple of water holes on both sides of the track. The first one (on the left) is a bit muddy and not very deep; normally I wouldn’t even stop, but today I jump straight to cool off. 

The second “waterhole” on the right-hand side of the track is nicer, surrounded by ferns moss-covered rocks.

From here it’s just a few hundred metres up to Killawarra Road, with a relatively short road-bash back to the car (of the 9.4km loop, only the last kilometre is on road). Despite the sometimes unpleasantly hot walk back to the car, it’s been a great bushwalk to do on a super-hot day, with most of the walk along the shaded valley along Kierans Creek. I’m looking forward to exploring the very last section of Kierans Creek on the next hot day…

0.0km Anembo Reserve (Duffys Forest)
0.8km Junction with another major track; minor trail from here
1.5km Trail reaches Kieran Creek [start point]
2.4km Wandana Pool
4.4km Kieran Creek reaches Calamine Trail [exit point]
5.4km Cooyong / Neverfail Trail [exit point]
8.4km Killawarra Road
9.4km Anembo Reserve
Location Anembo Reserve at end of Anembo Road, Duffys Forest
Distance 9.4km loop (1km on-road & 4km off-track along creek)
Grade Hard. 280m total elevation gain. No track along creek.
Season/s All year. Do not attempt after heavy rain.
Map/s Interactive topographical map [AllTrails]
9130-4S Hornsby (1:25K)  Buy / Download
GPS Route Gaia GPS map with option to download GPX / KML file

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2 Comments

mattniven · December 8, 2020 at 7:19 am

Hard graft mate, I’ve walked Kieran’s before and it’s one of my favourite places.
Cheers

    oliverd :-) · December 8, 2020 at 7:21 am

    yeah, some tricky bits but it’s a great little waterway!

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