The Cascades Walking Trail in New England National Park, NSW has to be one of the most beautiful walks you’ll ever do.
Starting at the Thungutti Campground, this 6.3km return walk leads you down into a most unlikely rainforest paradise.
For those of you unfamiliar with the region, the New England region of New South Wales gets very cold in winter. Light snowfalls are not unheard of. Yet there’s rainforest here!
We’ll get to this in a minute. But first, some information…
Thungutti Campground is just 71km south-east of Dorrigo and 81km east of Armidale, off the Waterfall Way in NSW. Turn onto Point Lookout Road and follow the signs. The road’s dirt once you turn off the Waterfall Way, so avoid it after rain.
The Styx River begins here, just up from the campground near Point Lookout. In fact, not too far downstream you’ll find Wattle Flat Campground. This is one of our favourite camping spots in this region, right on the banks of the river.
Camping and Facilities
The sites at Thungutti are large and well-spaced. Some are tent-only, so check the site map when you book online.
There’s drop toilets, gas BBQs in a large undercover area and even a cold shower. National Parks provide some firewood for the fire pits at most campsites.
Choose Your Walk
The Cascades Walking Track leaves the campground and follows an old fire trail. It’s well sign-posted from the campground onwards, so you’ll have no trouble finding it.
You gradually descend through typical bush country of this region… large gum trees and scrubby undergrowth. As the track descends, you’ll start to see a few ferns on the more protected parts of the track.
By the way, this track also leads to Wrights Lookout and the Lyrebird Walking Track.
In fact, if you’re really keen (or completely insane) you can follow this track all the way to the headwaters of the Bellinger River. This is called the New England Wilderness Walk, takes 2 to 3 days, covers 33km and is Grade 5.
After a few kilometres, you’ll come to a point where the Lyrebird Walking Track branches off to the left, the New England Wilderness Walk goes straight ahead, and both the Wrights Lookout and Cascades Walking Tracks head off to the right.
So you have plenty of options for great walks in this area!
Once on the Cascades Walking Track, you drop down the western side of a steep, forested slope. Walk the track clockwise, as the clockwise descent is steep and quite long. It’s much easier to walk down than up.
This is a Grade 4 track, with steep grades and lots of scrambling over rocks. So, you’ll need to be fit.
A World of Ferns and Moss
As you descend towards Five Day Creek, you’ll start to see beautiful glades of ferns with moss-covered rocks. It’s totally unexpected in this region… more like something you’d see in tropical Queensland, than in the cold country of the New England.
It really is another world, completely different to the surrounding landscape.
After a while, you reach Five Day Creek. This is like walking into a lost world. Thick ferns, a flowing stream meandering through moss-covered rocks and fallen trees.
It’s so incredibly beautiful and looks almost unreal.
The track follows the creek upstream for quite a few kilometres. It variously follows the creek bed, up and over large rocks and clings to the side of the very steep creek bank in places.
In some spots, one wrong step and you’ll slip down near-vertical banks into the creek. You have to be sure-footed and confident of your climbing abilities!
Really, it’s difficult to describe the creek adequately. Imagine a crystal-clear flowing stream cutting through a steep-sided gully, in thick bush. The entire creek is a sea of moss-covered beauty, with moss covering rocks, trees and anything that doesn’t move.
And it’s studded with the most beautiful ferns, adding to the overall impression you’ve stumbled upon an incredible rainforest stream… which you have!
Take the time to just sit and take it all in. This is easily the most beautiful walk we’ve done in New South Wales. It’s a hidden gem, tucked away in the most unlikely of places.
The Long Slog Out
All too soon, the Cascades Walking Track swings away from the creek and heads back up the steep western slope.
Keep an eye out for skinks darting about underfoot. These little fellas looked very content, with plenty of food available for them.
As you climb, the temperature rises and you’re back in the drier bush country typical of this region. The climb out from the creek back up to the main walking trail is steep, but thankfully fairly short.
Then once back on the main fire trail, it’s an almost continuous climb upwards… hard on the calf muscles and a great workout! The rain started on our walk back, bringing those magical smells of the Aussie bush and bracingly fresh air.
The Cascades Walking Track is simply incredible. This magnificent landscape is totally unexpected in such cold country. Who’d have thought there’d be a rainforest paradise in the cold country of the New England!
We’ll be back to explore the other walking tracks… and most likely do the Cascades Walking Track again!
This area of the New England National Park is in Dunghutti, Anaiwan and Gumbaynggirr Country.
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