Explore the World Heritage Gondwana Rainforests, eucalpyt forests, sub-alpine swamps and heathlands. Scramble up granite outcrops for stunning vistas and marvel at the Demon Fault. Cool off in pools below a waterfall and be delighted by a profusion of wildflowers. All this only two hours drive from Coffs Harbour.
The Gibraltar Ranges and Washpool were severely impacted by the fires in 2019, which destroyed canopy, mid and understorey and decimated the wildlife. Old hollowed trees fell, rock lichens burnt, and the peat smouldered. But good rains followed, and on our walk in spring of 2020 we found eucalypts fuzzy with epicormic growth, the young leaves a range of vibrant colours. Everywhere the tall flowering spears of grass trees were beacons of hope.
This is Bundjalung, Gumbaynggirr and Ngoorabul country.
Day 1: Mulligans to Bellbird campsite
We left Coffs after an early breakfast, driving up the Mann River valley and the Gwydir pass to Mulligans campsite where we left our cars.
Nearby is Mulligans Hut, a simple slab building. It’s not often that someone is celebrated for something they didn’t achieve – Mulligan had a hydro electric dream that he never succeeding in funding and building. After a quick look at Bulla Narra cascades, we shouldered our packs and set off on the walk to Bellbird.
Our first detour was to the granite Needles, our second detour was to explore part of the tree fern forest. Back on track, we wandered through forest that was sometimes green, but mostly charred, with a chorus of cicadas ringing in our ears.
Tents up at Bellbird, we explored the Coombadjha nature walk, and took the opportunity to cool off in the creek. Washpool has the largest coachwood forests in the world, as well as red cedar stands that survived the logging.
Day 2: Bellbird to Boundary Falls campsite
We were up with the birds, and onto the Moogem Trail around 8am. We left the forests and entered granite country, with morning tea at O’Haras rock. We stopped again at Grassy Creek campsite where tin was mined years ago.
As it was a warm day with little shade in the burnt country, we decided not to climb Haystack Mountain. Duffers Creek falls in a series of pools before joining Boundary Creek and the Demon Fault. We particularly enjoyed our swim here!
Day 3: Boundary Falls to Mulligans
Today was a stunning day. After climbing the Tin Ore Creek Trail we entered a wonderland of wildflowers, tea trees, granite tors, swamps and sedges. We detoured to climb Dandahra Crags with extensive views to Raspberry Lookout, Chaelundi and Mt Hyland in the far distance. Our cameras were kept busy!
The final section of the walk followed Surveyors Creek and lovely Little Dandahra Creek. Not long after we had returned to our vehicles at Mulligans, a big rain storm broke – perfect timing to wash off the dust on the drive home.
There are two main advantages to walking this anti-clockwise: first you will descend (rather than ascend) the gravel road from the Gwydir Highway to Bellbird campsite which is a bit easier. And secondly, the delightful swimming holes are later in each days walk (rather than earlier in the morning) and very welcome!
It is easy to customise this walk to suit your group. You can add more side trips to make it longer and stretch it out over four or five days.
Campsites are accessible by car, so if your group has two vehicles you could arrange a car shuffle and walk with day packs. If tents aren’t your thing, you could base yourself at Gibraltar House.
You can also ride the main loop on a mountain bike, and walk the side trips.