The Great North Walk 3: Berowra Heights to Cowan

When faced with a steep hill, the designers of the Berowra sections of the Great North Walk didn’t seem to believe in switchbacks, rather they decided to simply go straight up! I’m going to call it, this trail was hard! There is nothing wheelchair accessible about this section and I understand completely how the local residents struggle to find easy bushwalking tracks for their young children. This is a somewhat technical trail, requiring the hiker to put the poles away and clamber up cliffs and boulders on all fours.

Gosh it was fun!

I headed out at dawn and noticed that the mist was filling the valley so I knew I would not take many photo’s of the views.That was ok as it meant I could focus on the trail itself. I joined the trail at Berowra Heights via Berkeley Close and would walk until I reached Cowan station.  The Thornleigh to Cowan walking notes ate available at the website here.

The first part of this walk of this walk passed from Berowra heights and headed down to Berowra Waters. The views would be lovely on a clear morning. The steepness of the trail was slowly beginning to reveal itself with the first encounter with some helpful metal rungs bolted into the rockface. Hmm. The rock faces themselves were amazingly beautiful and had a kind of spirituality to them. The colours in the rock overhangs were stunning. As it was early, I was the first hiker to pass along the trail so I was constantly “silk blazing” as the thru-hikers on the Appalachian trail call it – clearing the spider webs using my poles or by simply walking into them! At one point I felt bad about knocking so many webs down so I tried to dodge them or go under instead. I ended up ducking and swaying so hard I felt like Rocky Balboa and had to give up and just knock the blooming things aside.

When I reached Berowra Waters the mist was still thick and I hadn’t realised I was at water level until a large boat suddenly appeared through the trees. Shortly after I found myself at a very beautiful spot where the water from Washtub Gully met Berowra Creek. There were lots of rockpools, a little waterfall, a clear view of the creek and an old jetty. The walk to Berowra Waters and it car ferry was fairly flat so this could possibly be a small bushwalk that young children could do. Folks could park near the ferry, grab a coffee at the nearby coffee shop, walk along the track to Washtub Gully for a bit of exploring, then head back to the car ferry, catch it over to the other side of the creek where there is a chip shop and a good pirate ship playground. I think that would be a fun day out but parents would need to hold the child’s hand at all times, be careful themselves at the gully as there is lots of opportunity for slipping. Please leave me a comment if you have done this walk and let me know if it is doable with young kids.

The climb up from Berowra Waters was steep.There was a lovely campsite for about two tents at the top of the hill that was quite inviting as there was a view nearby and lots of rocks to climb and explore. The trail then descended to Franks Gully, which, frankly (excuse the pun) took my breath away. There was a lovely little waterfall trickling into small bluish ponds. It was very pretty and would be easily explored from the little campsite.

And that’s when the trails steepness just became ridiculous! Just like Galston Gorge there was a section that consisted of metal rungs bolted into a cliff face. Most of this part simply went straight up boulders and rock faces and squeezed through thin gaps. It was a challenge but it really was a lot of fun. Check out the photo’s below – they all show the trail as being anything other than a paved footpath. In some ways the Inca trail (see my recent posts of my trip there) was easier as it at least had a pathway! In case you are not quite getting it – the trail goes up!

I also passed a larger campsite near turner road only 1km from town and noticed the fire pits were full of broken glass and cans. Just ridiculous. There’s nothing too wrong with a bit of hooning but at least show some maturity and come back and pick up the mess. I worry that this sort of thing gets blamed on teenage kids a lot when I see plenty of adults that are capable of it. The photo’s below show a hiker register, the filthy campsite and a work of urban art near Berowra Waters trailhead.

The final section of this walk took me to Cowan station and the trail actually went down for change! It was even flat in places.The mist had started to boil away at this point so I started to see some views at last. There was one final decent down to a river where I stopped for an apple. I’m making a point of stopping at beautiful places for a rest so i can just listen and watch. I saw some finch-like birds with a red chest that I haven’t identified yet. I also realised that each valley in Berowra sounds different due to the different bird colonies in each area. That was amazing to realise and I shall be listening out on future walks in the area.

There was also an amazing set of cave formations in various places. The larger picture below was taken looking up at the cave roof. I spent a lot of time here, partly because it was on a very steep section and I needed an excuse to stop!

The approach to Cowan station took be through a recent hazard reduction burn area. It smelt heavily of charcoal but there were green shoots poking through already.

This was a very rewarding and enjoyable, yet challenging walk and I highly recommend it to those that possess a reasonable fitness and a non-whinging personality!

Next up: Cowan to Brooklyn.

Links: 1: Sydney to Thornleigh, 2: Thornleigh to Berowra Heights, 3: Berowra Heights to Cowan4: Cowan to Brooklyn5: Patonga to Wondabyne6: Wondabyne to Somersby Overnight , 7: Somersby to Yarramalong 8: Yarramalong to Basin Campsite  , 9: Basin Campsite to Flat Rock ,  10: Flat Rock to Watagan Forest HQ ,11: Watagan Forest HQ to Teralba  12: Teralba to Newcastle


17 thoughts on “The Great North Walk 3: Berowra Heights to Cowan

  1. Great description of your hike and the photos are awesome! Love the look of that tall pink/orange flower and the shots of the mist and fog in the valley are beautiful. The problem with litter and mess seems to be a world-wide problem and a fairly recent one too. I’m not sure how we can persuade people to take their rubbish home with them.


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