Summary: A loop through the McPherson State Forest combining the Airfields Trail and an unnamed firetrail, The bushwalk explores some of the rock outcrops along the ridges.

This is the first bushwalk I’ve done in the McPherson State Forest, which is in the Central Coast to the north of Sydney. The plan for our McPherson State Forest Loop walk is to descend to Warre Warren Creek via the Airfields Trail, and then take a different (unnamed) fire trail back up to our starting point.

Down the Airfields Trail

The Airfields Trail starts near the end of Kyola Road, and heads down to Warre Warren Creek where it becomes the Warre Warren Trail on the other side.

There are still very obvious signs of the 2019/20 bushfires which devastated the area, but also significant re-growth, helped by a very wet summer. What’s not so obvious is the “former airfield”, shown on Google Maps but now completely re-vegetated: it’s somewhere to the left of the track in the image below.


There’s almost no information online on what I believed to be an emergency WWII airstrip, but have since been advised was a private airstrip built by Mr A.G. Swinton, who leased a large part of the forest in the mid 1900s. After scouring old parish maps, I finally dig out an old 1974 Mangrove 1:25K topographical map which confirms there was really an airfield here. Two intersecting runways, and a hangar right next to the the trail. 


We’re continuing along the Airfields Trail, past the invisible airstrip, and down towards Warre Warren Creek. The bush appears less burnt as we descend into the valley; large sections of the forest seems to have escaped the fires.

Unnamed firetrail back up

Just before we reach the bottom of the valley and Warre Warren Creek, we reach the junction with another, rough firetrail that goes back up the hill. 

About halfway up, we venture off-track to look for some rock engravings around a prominent rock outcrop. There’s an impressive and weathered rock overhang, with views over the forest below.

From the top there’s views over the rugged McPherson Forest.

But no Aboriginal art, other than a couple of circles: they look naturally formed (not “pecked”), but I’ve also been told they are carvings which signify that the area is “men’s country” (similar circles can be seen on other rock platforms within the McPherson State Forest and Warre Warren Aboriginal Area).

The trail continues to ascend, before meeting the Airfields Trail again to complete the loop.

While the bushwalking along the firetrails is not particularly pleasant (and it would be better to go outside summer when it’s less hot) it’s been nice to explore a new area on the outskirts of Sydney.

More information on McPherson State Forest

It’s hard to find much information on McPherson State Forest, which is near Mangrove Mountain in the Central Coast to the north of Sydney. While listed on the NSW Forestry Corporation’s full list of forests, it has no dedicated recreation areas (it appears that the network of trails which cross the forest are not recognised as bushwalking trails). In 2018 a portion of the McPherson State Forest adjoining Yengo National Park was transferred to the care of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (although the NPWS web site has no information on this area either)… one of the reasons for the transfer of part of the forest was to protect its significant Aboriginal cultural heritage. Within McPherson State Forest is the Warre Warren Aboriginal Area, which contains hundreds of significant Aboriginal heritage sites, including Swintons Cave. The area around Swintons Cave is now a restricted area, with permission needed from the Darkinjung Land Council required to enter.

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Chris · February 2, 2021 at 10:24 am

Hey Oliver,
Thanks for sharing some great info about your walk. I just stumbled across your page and it has some great information.
I’m fascinated about the aboriginal rock art around Sydney and would love to explore this area.
Do you know, do you need a special permit to visit Swintons Cave?

Jorge · March 6, 2021 at 12:56 am

Just sneak in Chrissy boy, no one will know you were there.

    Max · October 31, 2021 at 11:08 pm

    The part of McPherson State Forest where Swinton Cave is located is in an area which is of great significance to the people of the Darkinjung nation. A permit from the Darkinjung Aboriginal Land Council is required to enter the area. There are signs at entry points to the forest which clearly state that McPherson is a “locked forest” and entry is not permitted. Surveillance cameras are in place. Sadly this beautiful place is damaged frequently by weekend dirt bike riders who don’t realise how much harm they are causing. McPherson is an ecologically fragile forest. Also, there is misinformation in your article. The airstrip you mention is not an emergency landing strip from WW2. It was a private airstrip built by Mr. Swinton, who used to lease a large part of the forest in the mid 1900’s. Currently the airstrip is being used for a blackbutt plantation which will be harvested by NSW Forests in years to come. And the circles in the rock you mentioned are not naturally formed. They are carvings which signify that the area is “men’s country”. They are in many places throughout the forest. The area of McPherson in the Mangrove Creek Dam catchment area was “women’s country “. Corroboree sites and rock art sites are kept secret for good reasons, increased visitation puts these special places at risk. The Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council have a Facebook page where you can make contact for info regarding a permit to enter. They also arrange cultural tours occasionally. But please, it’s very important to show the appropriate respect.

      oliverd :-) · November 1, 2021 at 9:59 am

      Kate, thanks for your detailed comments. I’ll send you a private message around some of your points. There is very little information online about the airstrip – I spent a few hours researching this and didn’t find much.
      I sincerely hope my post shows respect to the indigenous sites in and around the Warre Warren Aboriginal Place – it’s a shame that many of these sites are kept hidden, but I understand and respect why, and never disclose locations (I visited Swintons Cave when it was publicly accessible; I note the signage has recently changed to show that it’s now in a restricted area).

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