This is the ninth post in the Aussie Hiking Bloggers guest post series for Bushwalking Blog. A couple of years back, I started asking all of the other Aussie hiking bloggers to tell us about a favourite home turf day-walk.
Amanda King from Walk and Wine is here to share a favourite hike she did with her family, at Bald Rock National Park.
Do you have a special place where no matter how many times you visit, it always reveals something new about itself? For me that place is Bald Rock, in Bald Rock National Park on the border of Queensland and New South Wales. This giant water streaked granite monolith has the honour of being titled Australia’s second largest rock after Uluru, and the largest granite rock in the Southern Hemisphere. But it is so much more than just a big rock.
I first walked to the top of Bald Rock when I was about 10, on a camping trip with my family. I remember leading the way, following the white dots marking the safest route to traverse the giant rock. I felt like I was on a treasure hunt. And I was. The treasure being the 360 degree view of the surrounding New England Tablelands, views over to Girraween and the Pyramids, and on a clear day almost out to the ocean in the east.
I have walked this rock as a child, as a teenager, as a single young woman, as a girlfriend, as a wife and most recently as a mother. Over the 25 years from my first walk to most recent, Bald Rock hasn’t really changed. But I have. Each time I have visited here I notice something I didn’t last time. Not because a new boulder has suddenly appeared, which obviously is physically impossible, but because at each stage of my life I seem to focus on a different aspect of the walk. My most recent ascent of Bald Rock was at Easter last year. Harry had recently turned two and it was such a wonderful experience to see this walk through the eyes of my son.
The best way to reach the summit of Bald Rock is to take the longer route up the eastern side of the rock. The day is overcast, and I am hoping it doesn’t rain as the granite becomes very slippery and treacherous in the wet. We begin the 3 km walk to the summit with Harry in the backpack. This part of the walk has a gentle incline, meandering through grassy woodland and dry eucalypt forest. Interpretive signs along the way explain the natural, botanical and geological features of the park. The area has an interesting aboriginal history – once an important trade route for the Jukambal, Bundgalung, and Kamilleroithree people, considered neutral territory to these Aboriginal nations. We reach some boulders creating an archway, where we stop to have a drink and let Harry down. From here he is off, joyously running ahead of us.
The giant granite boulders are everywhere. Some are lying about haphazardly, others like they have been purposefully placed by a giant hand, creating shelters for us to rest under. It is impossible to do this walk and not have your inner child come out to play. The urge to explore, hide and clamber around these rock formations is irresistible.
We emerge from the eucalypt forest onto the saddle of Bald Rock, and the surrounding tablelands become visible below. Harry stops in his tracks and just plonks himself down on the rock. He sits there for a good 5 minutes just looking at the view. I am having a mummy moment. I look at my boy and feel pride that he is tackling such a walk without complaint, and joy that he really seems to be enjoying it and taking it all in. This time spent in nature as a family really is invaluable.
The walk across the saddle detours in through some more forest, and there are a few parts here that are a little bit of a scramble but nothing difficult. I seem to have forgotten about this part and don’t remember there being this much vegetation this close to the summit. I find it amazing that in these poor granite soils trees can grow to such a large size. The vegetation of Australia really are masters at survival. Velvety green moss and lichen adorn the grey and brown streaked boulders creating nature’s own rock garden.
The vegetation thins as we cross the saddle and the summit comes into view. I am always awestruck coming up here and seeing this magic panorama spread out before me. Harry seems equally awestruck and points and says “Big rock!” He finds some smaller balancing rocks that he has fun trying to push. As we continue our walk Harry stops and starts to cry. Really cry. I think he must have been bitten by something. “Harry what’s wrong, use your words and tell me what’s wrong?” He continues to wail and we cannot understand him. By this stage I am carefully examining him for signs of a spider or ant bite. He finally manages to splutter out “I WANT MORE ROCKS!” and sobs some more. Really? More rocks. Apparently the second biggest rock in Australia isn’t enough for this 2 year old.
We follow the white dots traversing the last part of the walk, taking care to avoid the slippery patches. At 1,277 meters above sea level and 260 meters above the surrounding countryside it would be a long way to fall. Just as we reach the summit, the clouds part as if in welcome and the sun comes out. The colour of the granite changes in front of our eyes, from grey to a pinkish-orange, as the quartz reflects the sunlight.
We find a spot to sit down and eat our lunch. I feel like I don’t have a care in the world, sitting here gazing down on the country below. We take our time and, after an hour or so, make our way back down. Returning by the summit track is a steep descent which pretty much goes straight down the rock. It can be hard going on the knees, so if they give you trouble I recommend going back down the way we came up. Harry gets about half way down before he complains his legs are sore, so I hoist him into the back pack for the remainder of the descent.
As we reach the bottom and look back up to where we have been I feel like I am seeing Bald Rock anew. It has been such a different experience walking this with my son and seeing his sheer delight from discovering the smallest flower through to giant boulders. We sit and rest awhile in the day use area and I reflect on times when I camped here with my parents and grandparents. Four generations of my family have enjoyed the beauty and tranquillity of this place. If you live in South East Qld or Northern NSW I highly recommend visiting here, either as a day trip or to camp. I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed.
Need to Know
Length (km): 6.2 km return (via the Bungoona Walk up the eastern side and then descending via the summit track)
Time (hrs/min): approx. 3 hrs
Maps: A rough map is available on the NSW NPWS website. Taking along a higher quality map is recommended.
Return / Circuit / One-Way / Partial Circuit: Circuit (It’s also possible to do a return trip on the summit walk, but this is tougher and less scenic).
State: New South Wales / Queensland
Park: Bald Rock National Park
Closest Town: Tenterfield
Car Access: 30km from Tenterfield on the Mount Lindesay Road (or 37 km from Stanthorpe).
Have you visited Bald Rock? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.