Barrington Tops - Easter 2018


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The plan for this trip was to try & access the northern side of Barrington State Forest from Nundle Forest via Tuggalo & Mernot State Forests crossing the Barnard, Curricaback & Pigna Barney Rivers. The roads existed on the maps but we did not know if we could access them. Turns out it was a challenge to actually make it work in real life - it all ads to the adventure of heading off not knowing where you will end up.

Day 1 - Friday

Met up with Cris & Brenda at Ponderosa Park in Nundle State Forest at 8 am on Good Friday after a 2 hour drive from home for our Easter trip this year from Nundle Tops to Barrington Tops State Forest & National Park. Weather forecast was looking pretty good with mild days & cool nights with no rain predicted. A bit apprehensive as Barrington Tops had received over 100 mm of rain the week before & maybe making the tracks a bit muddy & the river crossings difficult.

With the tracks loaded onto the Nav we headed east on Nundle Forest Way for a short distance before turning onto an unnamed track (31.489063s 151.346875e) that led up to the top of a hill called "Bakers Downfall" (1352 meters ASL) for a quick look over the valleys that we would be heading into.



Back onto the main road & heading east to our turn south on Cowsby Rd (31.444043s 151.406934e) towards Tuggalow State Forest. After around 20 km through forest & farm country we were met by a locked gate in the middle of Tuggalow Forest. This put an end to our planned route early. We thought this might be the case but we know for sure now that there is no access this way. We turned around & headed back to the site of an old sawmill for a quick coffee before heading to a side track Cris knew about off Cowsby Rd.



Nine K Rd (31.488867s 151.423730e) led down to a small campsite on Tuggalo Creek with a nice swimming hole. The track then crossed the creek before heading up a steep incline & needing low range for the climb. The track was rutted out in places with a few exposed tree roots & rocks for a bit of a challenge. When we got to the top I asked Cris how he had found the track in the first place. He replied that he had only been up it on his dirt bike & thought it would be interesting to send me up first to see how it went. This set the tone for the rest of the trip - getting each other out of our comfort zones!.


Nine K Rd joined onto Ruby's Nob Rd (31.490123s 151.496136e) which we followed north back to Nundle Forest Way, then west to the village of Hanging Rock before turning onto Barry Rd to continue our trip.

Hunter Rd from Hanging Rock via Barry Station to Ellerston is a steep winding decent on a narrow dirt road with over 20 causeways crossing the headwaters of the Barnard River, none of which had any water accross them. After an hour or so we passed Ellerston & onto the intersection with Tomalla Rd (31.850538s 151.299851e) were we headed east for the climb from the Hunter River valley to Barrington State Forest.

Carters Trail (31.828711s 151.486719e) was our access into the forest, but this track ended with a washed out gully several kilometers in, so an alternative track (31.838060s 151.521365) was found on the map which would link back onto Carters Trail (31.832660s 151.540650e). Gummi Trail(31.829840s 151.544333e) was just 500 meters past this, so we turned south for around 1 km before turning onto Watergauge Trail (31.837131s 151.551526e).



This track winds it`s way down to a campsite on the Manning River & as the name suggests there is an old watergauge on the river there. Quiet a nice spot for our first night`s stay & only two other camps there. Hit the bunk pretty early, looking forward to the next day`s travel.


Day 2 - Saturday

Up early & with breakfast over & camp packed up we headed back up Watergauge Track, a nice low range climb to get the day started up to Gummi Rd were we turned south. We had no set plan for the day other than to drive around & check out the scenery & campsites.


First stop was at the crossing of the Manning River on Gummi Rd for some photos, then past the picnic spot which was full of campers. We followed Gummi Rd to Thunderbolts Trail (31.867997s 151.563318e) which we followed for 500 meters before turning north on Wombat Rd (31.866779s 151.567445e) which led down to Cascades Camping Area in Barrington Tops Consevation Area which was also packed with campers.


We had planned to cross the Manning River at this point but after the rain up that way a week or so before the crossing was rather deep, so we turned around & headed back to Thunderbolts Trail, turning west & linking up with Dilry Circle before heading south to Barrington Tops Forest Road, then heading north at the western side of the Dilgry Circle. The Circle is a loop road that runs north to south off Barrington Tops Forest Rd & links many of the tracks in the area.

We turned west onto Pheasant Creek Rd (31.886255s 151.524221e) heading to Manning River campsite at Henrys Bridge (31880173s 151.490524e) where we stopped for lunch. This is a large State Forest campsite & there must have been at least 150 people camped along the river.

Lunch out of the way, we continued along Pheasant Creek Rd & found the turn south on Bullock Brush Trail (31.898748s 151.451559e) which led down to Gummi Falls campsite in Barrinton Conservation Area which was also pretty crowded. We crossed the Manning River & headed along the Tugalow Trail through some mud holes before turning around at a rutted out section of the track & headed back the way we came along Pheasant Creek Rd to Dilgry Circle where we turned north.


Around 50 meters along the road, Cris turned east onto Hemi Rd (31.885472s 151.524547e). I thought he was just going up the road for a toilet break but as it turned out he thought that was the way we were going. I called him up on the UHF to asked what was going on & he said that the road was a shortcut accross Dilgry Circle to a campsite we had seen earlier. I asked him how the track looked before heading up myself, he replied "Looks Fun", so I followed.

Hemi Rd is only 1.5 km long, not very steep according to the maps. We were half way along when Cris called saying that it might have been a bad idea as the track was becoming a bit muddy along a downhill section. With nowhere to turn around we had to keep going until 300 meters from the end of the track we came to a bog hole about 15 meters long with no way round & nowhere to turn around.

Brenda grabbed a stick & checked the drivers side wheel track, finding it around 12 inches deep & the passengers side about the same until she got to the middle were it was about 18 inches deep up to the hump in the middle. Not enough clearance for their Navara to make it without getting hung up & my Patrol would have struggled as well.

There was another set of wheel ruts to the side were someone had bypassed the bog hole but in the proccess had tore up the ground, not as deep but a lot more slippery. After checking out the depth this seemed the option so Cris lined it up & in the end did it pretty comfortably with me following him through soon after. We both have not had much mud experience as it is pretty hard to find a damp patch of road out where we live, let alone a decent boghole, so it was a good experience in the end.


With that little adventure out of the way it was time to head to our camp for the night alongside the Dilgry River at the Banksia Rest Area (31.889026s 151.538438e), just a few kilometers south on the Dilgry Circle.



Day 3 - Sunday

Woke up after a good night`s sleep by the gurgling Dilgry River to find the Easter Bunny had left a large purple Cadbury`s egg on my back bumper. Brenda & Cris also found eggs deposited all through their camp, in their tuckerbox, smoko bag, Brenda`s handbag & other places. After coffee & breakfast we packed up camp & headed down Dilgry Circle to Barrington Tops Forest Road & then turned south at the southern end of the Barrington Trail (31.951758s 151.437891e) for the 14 km drive down to the Junction Pools campsite in the National Park. The sugar hit from the easter eggs came in handy when we hit this track as it was tiring driving at a slow pace.


This road took just over an hour to drive, a single lane, very rough, rocky road. Brenda jumped in the drivers seat for a bit of experience at a rough, slow track. I think we passed well over 30 vehicles that were heading out, having to find a place to pull of the road for each one to pass made the trip longer. When we finally got there we found the campsite nearly full. Not very impressed with this campsite as it was not on very level ground for vehicle based camping. We were not planning on staying there so it was a quick smoko break & then back up the track, once again with a lot of vehicles heading down this time.

We decided to check out the Little Murray campsite which is about halfway along the track. A much larger & flat area with camps spread along it. We found a vacant spot at the end of the track & pulled up for a while to disscuss weather we would have a relaxing afternoon before camping there the night or move on to Timor Caves as we had planned. After a rest for an hour or so we decided to head to the caves, so we headed back to the main road.


The decent down into the Hunter Valley from the Tops is always spectacular, great views out over the ranges & the road was in pretty good condition. We turned north onto Hunter Rd & then west onto the Pages Creek Rd just before Ellerston Bridge before climbing our way over the hills to Timor Caves (31.689520s 151.125600e). These caves are formed in limestone & riddle the hills around the campsite. We had explored the area before, so we just had a relaxing afternoon around the camp. As with all of the campsites we visited this one was quiet full as well.


Day 4 - Monday

Not much to report. Pretty easy run home from there, just a couple of hours drive along the Timor to Nundle Rd, then west to Wallabadah, Quirindi & on to Cris & Brenda`s home for lunch & to exchange Dashcam & Video footage from the trip. It took me another 1 1/2 hours to get home along the highway from there. Total distance for me was 880 km.

Great weekend away as I had not done any trips for a while & great to catch up with Cris & Brenda who I had not seen since our last trip over June long weekend last year out to the Pilliga. Got to play in the mud, enjoyed a few steep hill climbs & enjoyed being out in nature for a few days & the weather was great - couldn't ask for more.


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Nice report. Love that area. Although Easter is mental it's not a bad time to go as a lot of gates start getting locked after that. From June to October the trip you just did wouldn't be possible.


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Although Easter is mental it's not a bad time to go as a lot of gates start getting locked after that
Cheers Toddyh,
Yeah pretty packed over Easter, not many out on the tracks but a lot of people just hanging around the camps. Barrington Trail down to Mt Barrington from the Junction Pools turn off is already closed due to the poor condition of the road. Glad we had a good look around this trip, sure turned up a few nice campsites to go back to when it`s a bit quieter.