This bushwalk through Sydney’s north mostly follows the Great North Walk, from Gordon to Thornleigh Oval. Like all sections of the Great North Walk south of Brooklyn, it can easily be done as a one-way walk using public transport. As the route follows a relatively thin strip of bushland through suburbia, it’s not the most inspiring bushwalk – but there are some nice sections. I’m doing the walk with eight Cub Scouts, who are walking on their own. My job is to follow them from a distance, just in case they get lost or fall in the river…
Blackbutt Creek Reserve to Great North Walk
We set off from Vale St in Gordon (about 800m from Gordon station), with the first section of the walk following the Blackbutt Creek Track. It’s an easy start to the bushwalk, with the firetrail descending through the tall forest of the Blackbutt Creek Reserve.
At the bottom of the valley, we meet up with the Cubs to cross the busy Lady Game Drive. A rough and informal trail continues along Blackbutt Creek, through an area that’s been recently burnt in a hazard reduction exercise.
The track follows an old water pipeline so navigation is very easy, with one small scramble across a gap between two boulders.
Blue Hole to Browns Waterhole (Great North Walk)
The track soon meets the Great North Walk track, just before the Blue Hole. This section of the Great North Walk is also called the Lane Cove Valley Walk. There’s no sigage, which is unusual. We continue straight ahead – and hope the Cubs have gone the same way! (Turning left takes you down the river towards Chatswood.) The Great North Walk descends to cross Blackbutt Creek just before it flows into the Lane Cover River.
Along Blackbutt Creeak are some large sandstone overhangs, which would make a nice, shaded spot for a break on a hot day.
The track then climbs up the other side of the small gully, as it follows the Lane Cover River upstream. An unmarked side track (it’s easy to miss!) drops to to the river to a small beach, known as the Blue Hole. The Blue Hole was a popular swimming hole for children in the Lane Cove/Gordon area for many years; today you would be brave entering the water, with the river running through a heavily urbanised catchment.
After a break on the sandy river beach, we re-join the Great North Walk. It follows the river, staying a fair distance above it as it passes under De Burghs Bridge. (Built in 1967, the current bridge replaced one built of a single de Burgh timber truss – the longest ever built in Australia.)
There’s a vantage point back towards the bridge, and down to the river which is well below the track.
The next section of the Lane Cove Valley Walk is mostly on a narrow bushwalking trail, and while we’re still following the river it can’t be seen through the trees. The track undulates a little and crosses a few side streams, but it generally fairly easy walking.
About 1.4km after crossing under De Burghs bridge, the Great North Walk track meets the Gloucester Avenue Trail (a wide firetrail). The two trails run parallel to each other for a while and can be used interchangeably – although I prefer to take the narrow, bushwalkingLane Cove Valley Walk track over the wide firetrail. Occasionally the two trails converge. You generally can’t go too wrong navigationally, as there are frequent “Great North Walk” markers. But there is one junction where the firetrail veers away from the river and heads towards the Comenarra Parkway, while the Great North Walk requires a sharp turn back onto a bushwalking trail. It’s an easy turn to miss… and the Cubs end up missing this junction. If you go the right way, you cross Avondale Creek via a short timber boardwalk.
The route continues mostly as a bushwalking track, passing a couple of access firetrails that link the Great North Walk to South Turramurra.
As we get closer to Browns Waterhole, the bushwalking track climbs a small rocky hill, where it meets a management trail. We catch up to the Cubs (who have managed to navigate themselves back to the correct route), and descend the wide firetrail to Browns Waterhole.
Browns Waterhole to Scout Creek
The Great North Walk doesn’t quite reach Browns Waterhole, a somewhat murky and shallow pool along the Lane Cove River that was once a popular swimming spot. After turning briefly onto the Browns Waterhole Track, the Lane Cove Valley Walk (Great North Walk) branches off this paved cycling and walking path.
The firetrail follows the Lane Cove River, passing the STEP walking track which goes up to South Turramurra.
This is one of the nicest sections of the Lane Cove Valley Walk, which follows the now much shallower Lane Cove River, through very shaded forest.
There’s a few crossings of both the Lane Cove River and side creeks, which could be a bit more challenging after heavy rain.
At the junction of Scout Creek and the Lane Cover River, there are a couple of options for getting to Thornleigh…
Option 1: Official GNW Route
The official Great North Walk route continues along the Lane Cove River, past a section of ferns (and unfortunately also past some sewerage infrastructure).
After about 0.8km (from Scout Creek), the Great North Walk crosses the river and starts to ascend.
It’s a fairly constant ascent with a few sets of stone sets – but it’s only about 400m up from the river.
The track soon reaches a junction, where the Great North Walk continuing to the right, and the track to the Baden Powell Scout Camp heading to the left. Both routes are quite well marked, as they traverse an area recently burnt to reduce the fuel load.
Option 2: Via Cityview Lookout
An unmarked track heads steeply up towards the ridge next to Scout Creek. The Cityview Track is not much steeper than the Great North Walk, but is a bit harder as there’s very little shade in the burnt forest (this will soon change!) and no steps to break up the unrelenting ascent.
The benefit of taking this track is that once you reach the top of the ridge, a short (50m) detour takes you to the Cityview Lookout. This vantage point provides a view of the North Sydney and city skyline – you can even make out the top of the Harbour Bridge.
From the lookout, the walk follows the top of the ridge for about 750m, before passing the track to the Baden Powell Scout and rejoinign the Great North Walk trail. This route is not as pleasant as the official route – but worth it for the views.
Whether you finish at the scout camp (where you can camp with prior approval) or Thornleigh Oval, it’s about 900m to Thornleigh Station or 1.75km to the next Great North Walk trailhead on Morgan St (Berowra Valley National Park).