One Of The Best Overnight Hikes In The Blue Mountains
The Grose Valley, in the Blue Mountains, is a perfect place for an overnight adventure. It offers spectacular views and a variety of scenery and landscape with relatively easy access to picturesque camping grounds.
My sister and I chose this area as our first independent over night hike. We both love bushwalking but as middle-aged women, we have in the past often relied on our male counterparts to navigate and organise the walks. My husband would argue that this is mainly due to our “below average sense of direction” (putting it politely, and not the way he actually said it), which had become known as a bit of family trait, and is the source of many a family gathering guffaw. Determined to prove our partners wrong, but more importantly, to prove to ourselves that we were completely capable independent women, we decided to set off on a micro-adventure.
We started by visiting the Wild Walks website (www.wildwalks.com) which was really helpful when choosing our walk. We wanted a decent challenge but we didn’t want to go completely off the beaten track so we settled on the popular walk between Victoria Falls and Blackheath. Recommended for experienced walkers only, we knew were in for a challenge. Living in the Blue Mountains I was familiar with the area and had done a few day walks there. We studied the map and saw that most of the walk followed the Grose river and consisted of 22km of walking over two days with an estimated 6-7 hour walk into the valley the first day and a steep 5-hour walk out of the valley and to Blackheath the second day. We thought this was doable! Wild walks have detailed walking notes and maps that we downloaded, printed and laminated to take with us.
We also decided to pick up a personal locating beacon (PLB) from the National Parks office in Blackheath where we would register our walk. “Better to be safe than sorry” was our motto as directionally -challenged walkers.
This attitude extended to our packing list. We kept our packing list to the bare minimum as were aware that every gram would slow us down after hours of walking but we were sure we didn’t take any shortcuts when it came to the safety equipment. This included wet weather gear, a first aid kit and extra ‘just in case’ food. We both filled our water bladders with 2 litres of water and took water purification tablets with us, as we knew we would be near water most of the trip.
We began our walk midmorning early January knowing we had those extra daylight hours up our sleeve. Our husbands dropped us off at the end of Victoria Falls Road and gave us a hug that lasted a little longer than usual as we said our goodbyes. We both noticed a look of concern in their eyes.
“Ye of little faith” we laughed as we bounced off confidently with our packs down the path, spirits high. After a few minutes we started our decent into the valley and quickly realised the impact an extra 15kg of weight has your knees. We began to appreciate the scale of what we were doing and the giggling stopped. This walk was not for the feint hearted. After about 40 minutes, and dripping with sweat, we made it to the bottom of Victoria Falls and watched, exhausted, as the water cascaded over the 15 metre high cliffs.
We continued along a bit further through ferns and rocky outcrops and decided to rest at the edge of particularly picturesque water hole. Dangling our already swollen feet in the cool water and munching on our protein bars, we questioned if we had bitten off more than we could chew (in regards to the walk, not the protein bar, though this was particularly chewy.) Reassuring ourselves and espousing inspirational quotes from classic songs such as Eurythmics “Sisters are doing it for themselves!” and Katy Perry’s “You’re gonna hear me roar, oh a-a-a-a-oh oh” we pulled on our shoes with renewed vigour and decided to press on. After half an hour or so we came to a small clearing and triumphantly realised we had reached our first waypoint, Burra Korain Camping Area.
Staying here would be a great option if you wished to extend this walk to three days rather than two but we only stopped here for lunch (tuna and mountain bread). Leaving the camp was our first directional challenge, as we couldn’t find any obvious track out! We checked the track notes and looked at the map and walked around in a few circles, but finally found a path on the other side of the creek. This was the first instance, of a few, we probably realised we needed more refined navigational skills. We promised we wouldn’t tell our husbands and with this potential disaster averted, we continued forward to the next waypoint, Pierces Pass intersection, about an hour or so along the track. The water here looked so inviting, and I was tempted to strip down and dive in just to wash the sweat off, but we decided to push forward following the sign to Acacia Flats. Unfortunately the path we followed ended abruptly in what looked like a recent landslide. Backtracking to the intersection we consulted the map again, in a slightly contained panic. We noticed that the track always stayed to the right of the river, so we tried our luck and walked along the bank until happily, and with some relief, we came across a track that lead us up the hillside. As the track flattened and the terrain changed from grassy to forest, we knew we were getting closer to the Blue Gum Forrest. The tall eucalypts around us stood in grandeur as the track wound around them finally leading us to Acacia Flats camping ground, our destination for the night.
Acacia Flats is a large and pretty camping area. There are a couple of long drop toilets and it’s close to Govett’s Creek where we filled up our water bladders. Exhausted but satisfied, we set up camp and put some water on the boil using our Trangia Stove and made ourselves dinner (dehydrated chicken teriyaki and rice). We hit the sack early, both with a smile of achievement on our faces and mentally fist punching the air in victory (but too tired to actually do it) before slipping into a peaceful sleep.
Rising in the morning to the song of the kookaburras, our bodies were creaky and sore. After a warm tea and breakfast (muesli bar and scroggin- a trail mix of fruit and nuts) we packed up and tentatively threw our packs on our backs. Through groans and winces as our bodies readjusted to the weight (which felt at least twice as heavy as it did yesterday) we set off again out of the campsite and towards Govetts Leap.
The track nearly immediately started to incline up a small hill and this set the scene for our morning’s walk. After arriving at Junction Rock, we crossed the creek and walked along the most beautiful part of the hike so far; past waterfalls and moss covered logs; crossing creeks over slippery stepping-stones; winding up and down the hillside using steeply cut stone stairs. Our legs started burning with the steep incline and we rested often. Finally we got to the bottom of Govetts Leap Falls feeling both elated and apprehensive as we both knew that the most challenging part of the walk was ahead of us- the nearly vertical walk up the staircase to Govetts leap lookout. Precarious in places, the stairs offer tremendous views over the Grose valley.
“Can you believe we’ve come this far?” my sister pondered as she pointed down into the valley from one of the lookouts about half way up.
Finally reaching the top of the staircase, we immediately had huge regrets for not parking the car at the Govetts leap car park over night. We had an extra hour and a half to get to Blackheath via Pope’s Glen. Now, with our tanks nearly on empty, and blisters on every toe, I sincerely wished we had considered the shorter option.
This last section of our walk was the slowest, even though it was beautiful and flat and mostly on boardwalk. When we saw our car, it was like a mirage in the distance and we flung ourselves on the seats with the last skerrick of energy we had left and drove straight to the coffee shop for an extra strong flat white and a guilt free chocolate brownie.