Summary: A mostly off-track bushwalk near Brooklyn, this loop walk ascends Peak Hill from the eastern side, before returning via Sandy Bay and Dead Horse Bay (a more challenging route on the western side).

I’ve been meaning to do Peak Hill for a while, so when Matt suggested this bushwalk I was very much looking forward to exploring this peak.. or hill… or both! The bushwalk starts in Brooklyn with a steep ascent up the paved firetrail.

After less than a kilometre, we veer off the firetrail and continue ascending gently up the ridge (staying just above a small cliff-line to our left).

The undergrowth is fairly light, and we get our first clear view of Peak Hill through the trees.

We soon reach a wide rock platform on the ridge – there are some great views to the north of the Hawkesbury River, looking over Long Island and Spectacle Island.

We continue ascending the ridge, with some easy clambering in places and some interesting, weathered rock formations. (There’s no track, but the occasional rock cairn marks the most common route to the top of Peak Hill.)

Another vantage point from the ridge provides more great views – this time to the north-west over Sandbrook Inlet, the Hawkesbury River Road Bridge or “Brooklyn Bridge” (which is used by the F3/M1 freeway) and just in front of it the Peats Ferry Bridge (which is used by the Pacific Highway).

To the east, you can see Broken Bay and a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean in the distance.

An old survey mark is carved into a rock – it’s not registered as a survey point, but there would have been a line of sight from here to many other trigs in the area.

The route continues along the ridge in a southerly direction, with more views of Peak Hill and the Hawkesbury River as we reach the highest point on our walk – Peak Hill is about 30m lower than the highest point of this ridge.

The trail starts to descend into a saddle below Peak Ridge; there’s a short, scrubby section before we pick up an obvious foot pad.

A side-trip explores an overhang, which has a few Aboriginal hand stencils.

We’re soon on the saddle below Peak Hill, and starting the short – but steep – scramble up to the top. Even below we reach the summit, the views start to open up.

The top of Peak Hill is marked by a stone cairn – and some of the the best views of the walk far.

The rocky peak offers 360-degree views… but just not from one spot! As there’s lots of trees on the summit, you need to move around the small summit area to get a great outlook in every direction.

The trees mean there are lots of shaded rocks, so we enjoy a break here out of the sun before continuing our loop. Our descent of Peak Hill to the east is going to be a bit more challenging than our ascent from the west. Our first attempt takes us to the top of a small cliff – while the views are great, it’s clearly not a very safe route down.

We backtrack a little, and find a more viable route down the steep side of the peak.

There’s definitely no track or cairns on this side, but fortunately the scrub is not thick – although there’s a bit of bush-bashing involved as we descend in an easterly direction. The challenge is a number of cliffs that are not shown on the topo map, requiring some judicious navigation to find a safe route down.

As Sandy Bay comes into sight below, we still have to navigate a cliff between us and the water… we eventually find a narrow slot in the cliff-line which provides a path down.

We push through a forest of ferns just above the bay, and walk along the the edge of the Sandy Bay to the Hawkesbury River. There’s a handful of people here who have come by boat, but it’s pretty quiet.

Sandy Bay – presumably named because of its sandy shore – is home to thousands of brightly coloured crabs (Mictyris). They congregate on mud flats or beaches, and bury themselves in the sand during high tide or whenever they are threatened.

At the end of the bay is a stone wall from an old and now abandoned structure.

After initially trying to follow the edge of the water along the Hawkesbury River, we’re blocked by large boulders and scramble higher up the bank where we find a rough walking track. Another old wall may have been part of a structure, or a road – the parish maps don’t show any landholdings here.

Staying a fair distance above the water, the track goes to Dead Horse Bay. Well, almost all the way – for the last few hundred metres we have to bush-bash to reach the next bay.

There’s a fair few people here; Dead Horse Bay (also called Lookout Bay) is a popular spot on weekends – it cen be reached by boat or kayak, as well as on foot.

Our Peak Hill loop finishes with a rough track back up to the firetrail that we walked up a few hours ago.

The route is about 6km, of which 5km is off-track – it took us just over four hours.

Getting to Peak Hill

Most of the route is untracked; the approach from firetrail (to the east) is much easier than the route up from Sandy Bay. The firetrail (also known as the Hobo Hill Track) is the starting point for both routes. It starts from the end of William Street in Brooklyn, which is 400m from Hawkesbury River Station if traveling by train.

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