Cascades Track

A short hike down to a rock platform and waterhole on Middle Harbour Creek, in the northern suburbs of Sydney.

Popular with walkers and mountain-bikers, the track down to the Cascades starts near Acron Oval in St Ives, with a locked gate at the start of the maintenance trail. Almost immediately after the gate, signs of “civilisation” disappear; unlike many other suburban hiking trails, you can’t see any houses or hear any noise road on the entire track.

The wide trail descends past the back of Acron Oval. After 900m there’s an intersection with the Upper Cambourne Track on the left; this provides an alternate access to the Cascade Track from Douglas St. Continue straight ahead.

After another 100m you pass the Lower Cambourne Track on the left. From here the track descends more steeply with a short section of asphalt, and after another 500m reaches the intersection with the Bare Creek Trail. (You can also reach the Cascades via the Lower Cambourne / Bare Creek loop, which adds 2km to the hike.) From the junction with the Bare Creek Trail there’s a final (fairly flat) 500m along the Cascade Track to reach the Cascades, crossing a concrete weir just before the end that’s normally got a bit of water running over it.

A picturesque rock platform and natural swimming hole, the Cascades is at the confluence of Middle Harbour and Frenchs creeks.

_mg_9497-lr

A popular picnic spot and Boy Scouts camping site in the 1920s, a weir was constructed in 1934 (financed by unemployment relief money given to Ku-ring-gai Council) to create a large public swimming pool called the “Bungaroo Pool”. It had an average depth of 12 feet and was 60 x 100 feet in size (20m x 33m). Access was via a  new road built from Douglas St – which is now the Cascades Track. [Source: The Secret of Bungaroo, 1934]. The remains of the dam wall can be seen below.

_mg_9510-hdr-lr

The Cascades Track, providing access to the Bungaroo Pool from St Ives for vehicles as well as hikers, was used by the Sydney Morning Herald on a few occasions to test new cars: “On the freak hill at Bungaroo swimming pool, near St. Ives, the car gave a good demonstration of its ability to climb, without wheel-spin, as nasty a slope as any motorist might encounter.” [Source: Motoring, SMH Dec 24th, 1935]

My most recent hike down to the Cascades is with 2nd Gordon Cubs, where we discuss the importance of treating water – and chase a water dragon around the rock platform! Interestingly, while the The Cascades was previously known as the “Bungaroo Pool”, the same name was given to a different area further downstream, at the tidal limit of  Middle Harbour Creek (accessed by the Bungaroo Track!). It’s thought this misappropriation of the name Bungaroo was the result of “large numbers of Boy Scouts camping in the area, who assumed it was the correct name” [Source: Bungaroo Transcripts].

From the Cascades, there are a few options to extend the walk…

  • Continuing straight ahead on the Cascades Track (below) provides alternate access to / from Davidson (about 1.5km up the other side of the valley) to Stone Parade
  • Heading in the opposite direction, a narrow bush track (Middle Harbour Track) follows Middle Harbour Creek downstream. By crossing the creek at the Stepping Stones and taking the Pipeline Track back up to St Ives, you can complete a much longer circuit (10km circuit, including 2.7km between the two trackheads by road). Or if you’re feeling more energetic, continue for 24.3km to reach Manly Wharf (the Cascades Track forms a short section of the 47km Harbour to Hawkesbury track).

_mg_9485-lr

For an alternate (and longer) route back to the starting point, re-cross the weir and turn right down Bare Creek Trail. Soon after the turn-off the maintenance trail crosses a creek and 1.2km from the start of the trail you reach a junction with the Lower Cambourne Track. Turn left onto the Lower Cambourne Track (continuing straight will take you another 2.6km to Belrose via the Bare Creek Trail and Heath Trail).

After a short descent, you reach a crossing of Middle Harbour Creek (below left) – it’s fairly deep here, but (unless you feel like a swim) you’ll find a small but well-trodden path on the right that lets you cross without getting wet feet. Another 100m or so further on, there’s a small waterfall and natural pool to the left of the track (below right). The Lower Cambourne Track continues another 1.3km before re-joining the main Cascades Track. From here, it’s straight back up the Cascades Track to the gate at the top…

 Location Starts near Acron Oval in St Ives (corner Acron Rd & Douglas St)
Distance 5.6km circuit (90min). 3.6km to Cascades and back (1hr)
Grade Easy. Total ascent 115m.
Season/s All year
Map Hornsby (NSW 9130-4S). 1:25,000
STEP Walking Tracks of the Middle Harbour Valley (North). 1:10,000
GPS Route  Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources Wildwalks track notes.
map-cascadetrack
Map of Cascades Track, Bare Creek Trail and Cambourne Track to the Cascades. Source: STEP

Hamilton Pool

An impressive waterfall cascades over a semi-circular cave, into a turquoise pool ringed by trees.

My last stop on the way to the airport – I wasn’t expecting anything much, but Hamilton Pool seemed to warrant a short detour from Enchanted Rock.

I arrive around 2pm – I’ve read that there may be a queue and people may be turned away during busy periods, but I have no problems. The situation may be different at peak times, so worth checking if reservations are required – or arrive early! In any case, I quickly pay the entry fee and park; the carpark is perhaps 60% full, but it’s not too busy.

Heading down the steep path to Hamilton Creek, it’s only 10min before I reach the creek (it’s only a 1/2-mile or 800m round-trip from the carpark to the pool) and turn right toward Hamilton Pool.

The pool is breathtaking. One of those spots where you know the photos won’t do justice to the scene. I try anyway, and spend some time walking around the cave and behind the waterfall. Part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, the pool and grotto were formed when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to massive erosion thousands of years ago.

There’s an inviting beach and the pool has been used as a swimming hole; a number of signs prohibit swimming due to high bacteria level. (On questioning the very friendly and helpful park ranger on my way out, it appears that there have been a couple of swimming deaths in recent years, and the swimming ban is less about bacteria and more about preventing any further drownings.)

dsc04490-lr

dsc04519-lr

I’ve got a bit more time before I need to leave, so I continue down the trail towards the Pedernales River. There’s few people on this section, which is about 1.5 miles (2.4km) to the river and back to the car park. The trail closely follows the creek and it’s a pleasant and shaded walk, with very clear turquoise water. I don’t quite make it the whole way as I’m getting short of time, but I’ve really enjoyed this walk – it greatly exceeded expectations and is somewhere I’d definitely visit again.

dsc04530-lr

Location About 30 miles west of Austin on FM 3238
Distance 800m round-trip to pool. 2.4km to Pedernales River and back.
Grade Easy.
Season/s All year round. Can get very busy on weekends and public holidays
Map USGS Topo Map Quad: Hammetts Crossing
Resources County Parks web site

Havasu Falls

A hidden gem: a two-day walk through a dramatic landscape red canyons and turquoise waterfalls.

I stumbled across this hike somewhere in the depths of the Web… it looked amazing, and yet I hadn’t seen it in any of my US hiking  books. After a bit more research, it was added to my mental “wish list” of hikes! “The Havasupai Waterfalls are the most dramatic waterfalls in the Grand Canyon and possibly even the entire Southwestern United States” and “Havasupai (Havasu Falls) might just be one the the most beautiful places on Earth” are a few of the descriptions of this hike.

Getting there was the first challenge. I needed to be in San Diego on Monday for a conference, so the best approach was to fly to Las Vegas from LAX and pick up a car, overnight in Peach Springs and drive the last 100km to the start of the hike at Hualapai Hilltop early the following morning. Getting there at sunrise, the hike started with impressive views down the Hualapai Canyon, a side canyon of the Grand Canyon. A few mules are tethered near the start of the trail – this is the only place in the US where mail is delivered by mule (UK Daily Mail).

The trail drops quickly  from 1575m down into the canyon via a series of switchbacks and follows the dry floor canyon. After about 10km the Havasu Canyon is reached, and some trees and greenery start to appear… another 2km and I reach the village of Supai at 975m).

Supai is an interesting place. Home to the Havasupai Tribe, which has a population of about 600 people, it’s the smallest Indian nation in America. Reached by foot, mule and helicopter, Havasupai tribe has been living in the area for centuries. The land on which the Supai village is now situated was claimed from the National Park in 1975, after many court battles, granting the tribe a trust title to approximately 185,000 acres (source: Wikipedia). The village now has a shop, cafe, church, post office, health clinic and a lodge, which is where I stayed overnight (day-hikes are not permitted, and it would be a very long day hiking back up to the top of the canyon). The village looks pretty run-down and while many locals are reliant on tourism, no-one appears particularly friendly…

I check-in to Supai Lodge around midday and continue hiking down Havasu Canyon. The best is yet to come: Havasupai is roughly translated as “the people of the blue-green waters”, in reference to the amazing turquoise colour of Havasu Creek, formed by leaching from minerals. Navajo Falls is reached first, a short detour off the main track about 3km beyond the village. It is spectacular. One of those spots where I know the photos won’t do justice to what I am seeing.

I take many photos, and continue… Another 3km and I reach (arguably) the star attraction: Havasu Falls. Being outside peak season there are a few other people on the track and swimming, but there is also a sense of isolation and serenity. It’s somewhere I could happily camp and stay for a few days.

_mg_0138-lr

A little further again (another 2km) after walking through the fairly-empty Havasu camping ground, and I reach the 70m-high Mooney Falls (these are the highest). The base of the falls is accessed through a rough track carved through the cliff and then down some less than confidence-inspiring wooden ladders. But worth the effort. Each waterfall seems to outdo the last in beauty and amazing-ness!

_mg_0017-lr

I climb back up the narrow trail to the top, with one last waterfall to reach. There’s now a 4km stretch to Beaver Falls. The track is well-defined it gets rough in sections, with a number of ladders and steep sections to scramble down as it alternates between the two banks of Havasu Creek.

At last, Beaver Falls. I’ve walked 24km from the start of the hike at the top of the canyon many hours ago. I still have another 11km back up to the lodge at Supai where I’ll sleep tonight. It’s another 7km further before  Havasu Creek meets the Colorado River, and I fear that I won’t be back at Supai village in time to get some dinner.

I take a few (more) photos, and reluctantly head back up the trail. I’ve got enough time for a swim at Havasu Falls – the water is warm and relaxing – and make it back to the Sinyella cafe in Supai on the far side of the village about half an hour before it closes. A cold drink and fry-bread never tasted so good!

Supai Lodge is fairly basic, but I sleep very soundly (after a mix-up with rooms is eventually solved, and I am allocated a room that doesn’t already have an occupant)!

It’s an early start again the next day. Back through the village, up Havasu Canyon and then the final ascent up Hualapai Canyon to the car.

I get back mid-morning. It’s been a spectacular day and and half. I wish I could stay longer and I will be back one day. But today, I have a conference to get to.

img_5544-lr

Location From Highway 66 near Peach Springs, turn onto Indian Route 18 and follow this for 100km to Hualapai Hilltop
Distance 47km (35km Day 1 to Beaver Falls; 12km Day 2).
Grade Moderate.
Season/s March through June considered the best time. Avoid monsoon season (mid-July to August) where flash flooding can occur
Map Havasu Falls, AZ  36112C6
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources Permit required: refer NPS web site
Good track notes on BigBoyTravel web site
Photos Google Photos gallery

map-havasu

Mumbulla Falls

Short walk to a beautiful gorge and waterhole on the south coast, with Aboriginal significance.

Mumbulla Falls (or Mumbulla Creek Falls) is located in the Biamanga Cultural area (which is part of the Biamanga National Park on the NSW south coast). A very short paved track and boardwalk leads to a look-out with great views over the falls and gorge, and there’s a number of interpretive signs about the local Aboriginal heritage along the track.

_mg_9685-lr

The Aboriginal custodians request that visitors don’t swim in the Mumbulla Falls area, as the site is sacred to the Yuin People; when we visited there were many people in the water and jumping off the falls.

At the start of the trail, there’s a picnic area and BBQs by the Mumbulla River.

_mg_9689-lr

 

Location From Bega, take Tarraganda Lane which becomes George Mountain Drive (11km) and then turn onto Mumbulla Creek Road (13km). Access via Glen Oakes Road on the Princes Hwy at Brogo is now closed!
Distance 500m return
Grade Super Easy
Season/s All year round. May occasionally be closed due to floods
Map Brogo (NSW 8824-1n). Not required.
Resources NPWS Biamanga National Park web site