Garigal National Park, in Sydney’s north, is the fifth largest park in Sydney metropolitan area. While it’s one seventh of the size of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, the park punches above its weight in terms of supporting a range of outdoor activities. Within the park are over 20 recognised bushwalking trails (and another 20+ informal trails) covering over 120km. Many of these are shared bushwalking and mountain-biking trails – and there are two dedicated single-track MTB trails. However, with the national park split by roads into two separate sections, most tracks are relatively short (you can combine a few trails for a longer walk) and generally less challenging than those in the nearby Ku-ring-gai National Park. There’s also a number of historic trig statons in Garigal National Park.
Mostly consisting of dry sclerophyll forest, Garigal National Park supports a large number of animals and plants, including the threatened southern brown bandicoot. Within the national park is the site where Governor Philip camped at Bungaroo for two nights on his first expedition in 1788. Well before European occupation, Garigal National Park was home to the Guringai people and over 100 Aboriginal sites in the park recorded to date are evidence of Aboriginal activity. (The park is named after the word Carigal or Caregal, which was used to describe the indigenous people who lived in this area.) The Aboriginal sites within Garigal National Park include the significant Moon Rock and Bantry Bay sites.
- Bushwalks – 40+ trails across the eastern and south/western sections of Garigal National Park
- Swimming spots – creeks and estuarine beaches where you can swim
- Mountain Biking – mountain-biking (MTB) trails grouped as Easy, Moderate, and Hard/Experienced
- Kayaking – places to launch a kayak and some suggested routes
- Maps – topographical maps and bushwalking resources
Bushwalks in Garigal National Park
There are over forty bushwalks in Garigal National Park, as well as the Harbour to Hawkesbury trail which crosses the park. For convenience, the bushwalks are divided into two sections.
The largest section of Garigal National Park is on the eastern side of Forest Way, with Deep Creek running through the middle.
|Caleyi Loop||3.9km||Easy||Short loop wich passes a nice creek & waterfall||Map|
|Twin Peaks Loop||7.9km||Easy/Moderate||Challenging MTB loop which can also be walked||Map|
|Deep Creek Loop||8.3km||Easy||Waterfalls, creeks, rock overhangs and nice views||Map|
|Slippery Dip Loop||10.2km||Moderate/Hard||Great loop walk – waterfalls, views, varied terrain||Map|
|Five Mile Creek Loop||11km||Moderate||Creeks, overhangs views. Some navigation skills required.||Map|
A short-ish loop bushwalk down the Caleyi Trail in Garigal National Park, returning via the Ya Right and Coopers Blue mountain-bike tracks to form an interesting loop. The loop passes a small waterfall and you won’t see many other people on this bushwak.
Distance: 3.9km loop (1.5 hours)
The Deep Creek Loop bushwalk in the Garigal National Park combines the Slippery Dip Trail and Caleyi Trail with some bushwalking / MTB tracks. Some varied terrain, nice creeks and waterfalls and a few lookouts over Narrabeen.
Distance: 8.3km loop (2-3 hours).
An interesting circuit in Garigal Land and Garigal National Park that combines the Slippery Dip service trail with the XC Track, Road to Nowhere and Deep Creek bushwalking tracks. Varied scenery with some semi-rainforest sections, waterfalls and views plus an optional side-trip to a significant Aboriginal engraving site.
Distance: 10.3km loop (3 hours).
Grade: Moderate/Hard (Some rough / indistinct tracks).
The Five Mile Creek Loop is a somewhat complicated circuit through the northern part of Garigal National Park, incorporating formal trails and unofficial tracks (including mountain-biking tracks) to form a loop walk. It passes some nice creeks, sandstone caves and informal lookouts. You can start the loop at a few different spots.
Distance: 11km (3-4 hours)
South & Western section
This long section of Garigal National Park is both on the western side of Forest Way, and continues south along Middle Harbour and Bantry Bay. Most of the official bushwalking trails are in this part of the park.
|Carrol Trig||0.8km||Easy||Short walk to historic trig station||Map|
|Koola Avenue Loop||2.8km||Moderate||Partly off-track loop down to Middle Harbour Creek||Map|
|Bungaroo Track||3.5km||Easy||Combine with Pipeline Track for loop walk (5.5km)|
|Rocky Creek Loop||4.3km||Moderate||Shaded walk with a short off-track section||Map|
|Pipeline Track||4.7km||Easy||Firetrail which follows large pipeline.|
|Pipeline Track & Bungaroo Loop||5.5km||Easy/Moderate||Pleasant loop combining firetrail & bushwalking track||Map|
|Cascades Track Loop||5.6km||Easy||Short trail (steep in parts) down to large waterhole||Map|
|Two Creeks Track||6.1km||Easy||Pleasant walk along Middle Harbour & Gordon Creek. One-way.||Map|
|Natural Bridge Loop||6.2km||Easy||Short loop walk featuring natural sandstone bridge||Map|
|Carrol Trig to The Cascades||6.3km||Moderate||Loop walk using some less-known trails. Cascades & creek.||Map|
|Killara to St Ives via Rocky Creek||6.8km||Easy||One-way bushwalk along Rocky Creek.|
|Heath Trail and Bare Creek Loop||7.0km||Easy||Loop combining bushwalking & MTB tracks||Map|
|Bantry Bay Loop||7.4km||Easy/Moderate||Varied loop. Aboriginal art, great views, rock formations.||Map|
|Flat Rock Beach circuit||8.2km||Easy/Moderate||Beach on Middle Harbour, creeks, waterfall, views||Map|
|Two Creeks Loop||8.5km||Easy||Very nice bushwalk combining Two Creeks & Little Digger tracks||Map|
|Carroll Creek Loop||8.6km||Easy||Varied bushwalk along Carroll Creek & Middle Harbour Creek||Map|
|Casuarina and Lyrebird Loop||9.1km||Moderate||Combines 3 trails. Follows Middle Harbour and Carrol Creek.||Map|
|St Ives to Davidson Park||10.1km||Easy/Moderate||Follows east side of Middle Harbour Creek using multiple trails||Map|
|St Ives to Lindfield||12.9km||Moderate||Follows west side of Middle Harbour Creek using multiple trails||Map|
|Middle Harbour Creek Loop||19.0km||Moderate/Hard||Follows both sides of Middle Harbour Creek from St Ives to Roseville Bridge||Map|
A partial loop along both sides of Rocky Creek in East Killara (Sydney north), combining two service trails with a short off-track section that requires some scrambling and navigation skills. Track is mostly shaded with some nice ferny sections.
Distance: 4.3km (2-3 hours)
Grade: Easy/Moderate (one section requies some off-track navigation)
The Pipeline Track and Bungaroo Track can be combined to create a short circuit, part of which follows Middle Harbour Creek. The Bungaroo Track is the nicest part of this walk; the section along Middle Harbour Creek between the Pipeline Track and Bungaroo Track is a bit indistinct and rough in places.
Distance: 5.5km (2 hours)
Grade: Easy/Moderate (one section a bit rough)
The Cascades Track is a short trail down to a large rock platform and picturesque waterhole on Middle Harbour Creek, in the northern suburbs of Sydney. Can be done as:
- One-way walk from St Ives to Davidson – 3.2km (1 hour)
- Return walk from St Ives – 3.4km (1 hour)
- Combined with Bare Creek Track and Cambourne Trail – 5.6km (1.5-2 hours)
The Natural Bridge Loop combines the Natural Bridge Track and Currie Road Trail to form a short loop. The bushwalk crosses a natural sandstone bridge and goes down to the water at Bantry Bay via the Cook Street Trail. (If you just want to visit the Natural Bridge, it’s 1.5km return from Cook Street in Forestville.)
Distance: 6.2km (2 hours)
A wonderful loop walk from the Carrol Trig to The Cascades. The walk takes advantage of two “unofficial” tracks to descend to Middle Harbour Creek, with the majority of the walk along the shaded Middle Harbour Creek Track. Some of the tracks are not signposted, so basic navigation skills and a map essential.
Distance: 6.3km (2 hours)
Grade: Moderate (some steep sections & navigation skills required)
A circuit in Garigal National Park, which combines the Heath Trail and Bare Creek Trail. The first half of the bushwalk is on firetrails, and the return half uses bushwalking and mountain bikes trails. Some nice views over the park, and options to extend the walk or explore side-tracks.
Distance: 7km (2 hours)
Grade: Easy (note – not all trails are signposted)
The Bantry Bay Loop passes the Bantry Bay Aboriginal engraving site in Garigal National Park next to the Engravings Track, before descending to Bantry Bay along the Timber Getters Track and returning via the scenic Bluff Track. Some great ci and Middle Harbour view.
Distance: 7.4km (2 hours)
The Flat Rock Beach circuit is a very nice loop walk through Garigal National Park around Killarney Heights. It combines the Flat Rock Beach Track, Magazine Track and Bates Creek Track, passing cascades and waterfalls and a small beach on Middle Harbour and and offering some nice views.
Distance: 8.2km (3-4 hours)
A varied loop that combines the Two Creeks Track and the Little Digger Track. The bushwalk passes waterfalls, rainforest, creeks and sandstone caves. One of the best bushwalks in Garigal National Park.
Distance: 8.5km (2-3 hours)
A pleasant loop bushwalk through Garigal National which follows part of the Pipeline Track (along the large water pipe) and part of Middle Harbour Creek. Most of the walk is shaded, and it passes some small cascades, sandy river beaches and rock overhangs.
Distance: 8.6km (2-3 hours)
The Casuarina and Lyrebird Loop is an interesting bushwalk through Garigal National Park. It combines the Casuarina Track, Lyrebird Track and Carroll Creek Track, and has some very pleasant sections along Middle Harbour and Carrol Creek.
Distance: 9.1km (2-3 hours)
The Middle Harbour Creek circuit is a relatively long bushwalk around Middle Harbour Creek. The route goes down one side of the creek from St Ives to Roseville Bridge, returning on the opposite side. This loop combines the Governor Phillip Walk. Lyre Bird Track, Two Creeks Track and Lockley Track.
Distance: 19km (4-6 hours)
Swimming in Garigal National Park
There are not a great many swimming spots in Garigal National Park, mainly because most of Middle Harbour has mangroves and mudbanks, or oyster-covered rocks, along its shoreline. As all the ridges surrounded by the national park are developed, it’s recommended you don’t swim for a few days after heavy rain – Davidson Reserve has been rated as “Poor” for water quality in the past couple of years in the State of the Beaches report. Middle Harbour is also a breeding ground for bull sharks, with some of the deepest holes in the harbour (up to 45 metres deep) providing an environment suited to large fish and their predators. But, if you still want to go for a swim, there are a few spots where you can access the water…
Part of the Davidson Park picnic area, under the Roseville Bridge, is a netted beach on Middle Harbour. It’s more of a mud than a sand beach, and best not to swim after rain, but popular with kids in summer.
Access: Davidson Park, Forestville
Distance: 0km return.
Ease of Access: Easy
Flat Rock Beach
A protected beach on Middle Harbour, Flat Rock Beach is surrounded by trees that provide plenty of shade. The beach itself is best at low tide; at high tide there’s just a thin sliver of sand! Can also reached via a short bushwalk as well as by kayak or boat.
Access: Easiest access point is from end of Killarney Drive (Killarney Heights)
Distance: 500m return.
Ease of Access: Easy
Bantry Bay Picnic Area
A fairly long way for a swim… but if you’re doing this walk in summer, you could jump off the jetty to cool off. Although it’s worth noting that Middle Harbour is Sydney’s worst spot for shark attacks, with six fatalities since 1942! The swimming spot is on the Bantry Bay bushwalk.
Easiest access point is Seaforth Oval (Seaforth)
Distance: 1.8km return.
Ease of Access: Moderate
A natural swimming hole on Carrol Creek with a sandy beach, just below a large rock platform and waterfall. Likely to be polluted after rain. Youll pass the waterhole on the Casuarina and Lyrebird Loop bushwalk.
Location: Access via Carroll Creek Track from end of Ferguson Road
Distance: 2.2km return.
Ease of Access: Moderate
Two Creeks Track
A sandy bank near Two Creeks Track, on the western side of Middle Harbour. You wouldn’t walk here just for a swim, but a nice spot if you’re kayaking or walking along Middle Harbour (Middle Harbour Ceeek Circuit)
Location: Two Creeks Track, between Koola Avenue and and Pipeline Tracks
Distance: ~2.5km return from Koola Ave.
Ease of Access: Moderate
This picturesque natural rock pool and small cascades (formed by the confluence of Middle Harbour Creek and Frenchs Creek) used to be a popular swimming hole well before the creation of Garigal National Park. Urbanisation means the water is no longer so clean, especially after rain.
Location: Access via Cascades Track (3.4km return from St Ives / 3km from Davidson)
Distance: 3.2km return.
Ease of Access: Moderate
Middle Harbour Creek
There are a few natural swimming holes will sandy banks along Middle Harbour Creek. Some may be a bit shallow if it hasn’t rained for a while – and if has rained recently best to avoid due to urban run-off.
Location: About 400m downstream from The Cascades along Middle Harbour Track & 500m upstream from Stepping Stones
Distance: ~4km return
Ease of Access: Moderate
Davidson Picnic Area is the largest one in Garigal National Park, stretching along Middle Harbour and under Roseville Bridge. To the south of the bridge is a large parking area, with a boat ramp and kayak launching area. To the north, a long grassy area has multiple picnic tables and gas BBQ, a toilet block and a netted beach. Although popular on weekend, you’ll normally be able to find a carpark and some space on the grass..
Timber Getters Track Picnic Area was once the site of the Bantry Bay ‘Pleasure Gardens’ dance hall, before being absorbed into the Bantry Bay Explosives Magazine complex. Accessed by the Timber Getters Track which descends down to Middle Harbour from Seaforth Oval (or by private boat), there’s a couple of picnic tables and toilets near the old wharf.
There are many shared trails throughout Garigal National Park, as well as a few “purpose-built” mountain biking tracks. The trails vary from some easy firetrails, to quite demanding, technical single-track routes. Some useful resources for mountain-biking are Ku-ring-gai Council’s Cycling Map [PDF], Warringah Council’s Cycling Map South [PDF] the Northern Beaches MTB (NobMob) web site and Trailforks.
Easy / Suitable for kids
- Lyrebird Track (1.7km one-way) – a very flat and generally smooth service trail from the end of Davidson Park to the start of the bushwalking track.
- Currie Road Trail (2.2km return) – easy and fairly flat service trail. Combine with Serrata MTB Track or Cook Street Trail for a much more challenging ride!
- Engraving Track (2.2km one-way) – fairly flat service trail that runs parallel to Wakehurst Parkway (return same way, or descend the purpose-built Gahnia Mountain Bike Track and return via Engraving Track for challenging 4km loop)
- Lower Cambourne Trail (1.5km one-way) – connecting the Cascades Trail and Bare Creek Trail, it has a creek crossing, a fairly steep ascent/decent and some sandy and rock sections. Combine with other tracks for 5-8km rides.
- Bare Creek Trail (1.5km one-way) – starts near the Cascades and becomes the Heath Track; this firetrail is one of the easier ones but does have one ascent/descent and some sandy sections. (Combine with Heath Trail for 8km return ride from Belrose)
- Caleyi Trail (2.2km one-way) – Service trail that descends from Mona Vale Road, before a steep dedcent where it becomes a bushwalking-only track. A few unauthorised MTB trails (Coopers Blue and Ya Right) join the Caleyi Trail to form a loop.
- Pipeline Track (2.4km one-way) – it would be easy as the surface of this service trail is pretty smooth – but it descends fairly steeply from Founders Way down to Middle Harbour. (From Founders Way to Hunter Ave it’s less steep, but the track is much rougher and undulating).
- Cook Street Trail (2.4km) – a fairly steep descent (90m elevation loss/gain) most of the way down to Bantry Bay. Descend via the purpose-built Serrata MTB track for s more challenging loop (3.2km)
- Cascades Trail (3.2km one-way) – a well-graded service trail, but descends constantly and sometimes steeply from Acron Oval in St Ives down to The Cascades. (Combine with Lower Cambourne Trail and Bare Creek Trail for 5.6km loop or with Bare Creek & Heath Trails for 12km return ride.)
- Slippery Dip Trail (4.5km one-way) – closer to “Easy” for the first 2km from Morgan Road, and then “Hard” with some serious ascents/descents to Deep Creek until it meets the Deep Creek Trail.
Hard / Experienced riders
- Pipeline MTB track (1km one-way / 4.8km loop). An unofficial, steep single-track that descends just to the south of the Pipeline Track (return using Pipeline Track)
- Serrata Mountain Bike Track (1.3km one-way). A steep, purpose-built single-track mountain bike trail almost all the way down to Bantry Bay; return via Cook Street Trail to make a 3.2km loop. NPWS Web site.
- Gahnia Mountain Bike (2km one-way). Another purpose-built single-track that descends from The Bluff Track and then ascends to the Engravings Track. NPWS Web site.
Illegal MTB tracks in Garigal National Park
Although these tracks are quite popular, they are not legal mountain bikes tracks (most “single track” trails are generally authorised for bushwalking only):
- Upper Cambourne Trail is a firetrail, but is not permitted for MTB use
- Caleyi Trail between Slippery Dip Trail and Wakehurst Parkway (also called Deep Creek Trail) – the first 2.5km is approved for MTB use
- XC Track (also referred to as Bernie’s) which is a short single-track loop from Slippery Dip Trail
- Road to Nowhere (also referred to as Bernie’s) which continues from the XC Track down to Deep Creek
Garigal National Park straddles a long section of Middle Harbour, a “semi–mature tide dominated drowned valley estuary” (Wikipedia). Middle Harbour actually starts within Garigal National Park, near the top of the south-western section. It flows south through the national park as Middle Harbour Creek down to the Stepping Stones or Bungaroo, which is the tidal limit. From Bungaroo the waterway becomes Middle Harbour Creek: you can paddle from the southern-most end of Garigal National Park up to Bungaroo (at high tide; you may not quite make it at low tide!).
While the enclosed waters of Middle Harbour are great for kayaking, the only launch site is Davidson Park. There’s a boat ramp with some timber steps into the water on the southern side of Roseville Bridge; on the northern side of the bridge you can also launch a kayak near the netted beach.
From Roseville Bridge, paddling north gets you as far as the “stepping stones” at Bungaroo (best at high tide). It’s about 5km one-way, with Middle Harbour getting gradually narrower and shallower, until you reach the end of Middle Harbour and the start of Middle Harbour Creek. There are a couple of side-creeks you can explore, albeit not very far (Rocky Creek and Carroll Creek) and a few sandy spot where you can stop.
Heading south from Roseville Bridge, it’s about 2.5km (one-way) to Flat Rock Beach, which makes a nice spot for a break. Continue another 2.5km or so to the end of Bantry Bay, past the old Bantry Bay Magazine Complex.
There’s no map specifically covering Garigal National Park – for detailed 1:25,000 topographical maps you’ll need:
- 9130-4S Hornsby (1:25K) Buy / Download
- 9130-1S Mona Vale (1:25K) Buy / Download
- 9130-3N Parramatta River (1:25K) Buy / Download
The most detailed (printed) topographical maps you can get are from STEP – their 1:10K maps are incredibly detailed and cover most parts of Garigal National Park:
- STEP Walking Tracks of Middle Harbour (North) – Buy
I’ve created an AllTrails Garigal National Park interactive topographical map, which has all of the walks listed above, and shows most of the official and unofficial tracks.
[KEY: Light Blue trails – bushwalking trail; dark blue – fire trail; brown – MTB single-track]
Books and Resources
The books listed below provide more detail on some of the Garigal National Park bushwalks listed above – some may be out of print or hard to find…
5.5. Section on Garigal National Park. Snowys
3/5. Four Garigal NP walks Ebook
|1/5. One Garigal NP walk in Vol 2.|
For detailed track notes on many of these walks, have a look at the Wildwalks Garigal National Park Web page.
National Parks and Wildlife Service have an official Garigal National Park web page, although it only lists the more popular tracks. Check here for alerts on track closures.
Theres also informaton on local council Web sites which cover walks in and around Garigal National Park: