We usually try to maintain the same presentation for each of our walk reviews to keep the consistency but due to the unique nature of this walk, we decided we needed to do a unique review. If you are considering doing the Bungonia National Park Red Track please read our ‘Things to know’ section as it provides key pieces of information you need to know to do this walk safely.
You can also listen our on podcast recorded on trail in episode 154 here
Please note that Bungonia National Park rates this walk as ‘hard’ which is an understatement. As such, the following recommendations apply:
In doing this walk, the above was certainly backed up. It was easy to see that if you aren’t paying attention, twisted or broken ankles would be a common injury particularly on the steep ascent/descent as well as when making your way through/over/around the large boulders in the middle of the track.
To further back this up, we talked to a ranger after our walk who said that 18 rescues had been undertaken in the past 12 months despite the park having been closed for 6 months – most of the rescues were on the Red Track.
In relation to general things to know on this track:
The closest town to the trailhead is Goulburn, NSW. You will also pass close to the tiny hamlet of Bungonia
This trail starts from the David Reid car park. Walk in a clockwise direction which is what the parks service recommends otherwise you will be going uphill when you reach the large boulder field
David Reid car park
Bungonia National Park is without a doubt one of those gems that is still unknown to many. Located in country NSW close to the inland city of Goulburn, 90 minutes from the outskirts of Canberra, and not much further from the southern outskirts of Sydney. This National Park focuses on the Bungonia Gorge, a large gorge that provides panoramic views and contains plenty of key walks that will suit walkers of all levels of experience. Whichever walk you do, please remember to sign the walk intention form located on the front verandah of the visitor centre.
The Red Track which takes you down into the bottom of the gorge itself is unique in that as a walk under 6 km long, and it’s also a grade 5. What this means is this walk is about as difficult as it gets. So much so the park service has issued a number of warnings about who should do this walk and the level of experience required. This walk is not for inexperienced walkers and even then you need a degree of physical fitness and nimbleness to make your way over the large boulders in the middle of the track.
Start by walking across the road from the David Reid car park following the arrows attached to the Red Track marker. At this stage you are also on the Green Track which is the option that takes you alongside the gorge. Head straight ahead following the Red Track markers and you will start descending downhill into the gorge itself. My knees aren’t a fan of steep descents so the tracking poles came out very shortly after commencing the descent.
Walking in a clockwise manner is much shorter than the uphill ascent at the end of the walk but you need to pay attention as you walk down some tight switchbacks and some steep tracks so good footwear with decent traction and ankle support is essential. There is one short section that even has a rope to hold onto so you don’t loose traction. As you make your way downhill you will pass into a lusher landscape so very different from the dry open forest that dominates the top of the gorge.
Signage on the track is mainly on the descent and ascent sections in the form of the larger trail markers as well as the little red squares. On the bottom of the gorge, the signage is non existent with the exception of a few red squares and you are left to find your way until you reach the ascent point further down the trail.
On reaching the bottom of the gorge, make your way along a relatively sandy gorge floor. Really there is only one direction to head and while you aren’t likely to get lost, you need to make decisions about which side of the gorge is best to walk along. In most circumstances if the ground is sandy, you will see the trail wear that provides an indication of where you should be. Your companion at this point are the sheer walls of the gorge that tower way above you as you walk down an area known as the slot canyon. It’s very different to other walks in this area and provides such a sense of how deep this gorge is having made your way down the steep decline.
Moving along the gorge you will come across a large boulder field with some very large white boulders. When I say large, some of these rocks are around 5m x 5m x 5m in size – it is at this stage you need to make very conscious, considered decisions. Sometimes you will need to go around, sometimes over, sometimes under. Sometimes you will need to slide down on your backside hence the importance of having some rugged pants.
As you make your way through the boulder field you really need to think a couple of steps ahead. Don’t just think about the rock in front of you, think about the next rock and the one after that otherwise you may need to backtrack. This boulder field is the main reason for doing this walk in a clockwise direction because if you go anticlockwise, you are making your way uphill through the boulder field. It’s not impossible but it looks a lot harder. Navigating this large boulder field requires a degree of confidence and nimbleness so if this isn’t you, stay away from this walk as it would be so easy to twist or break an ankle if your aren’t paying attention and taking your time.
As you leave slot canyon will notice a break in the gorge wall on the left hand side and the boulder field drops away. Once you make your way past this big boulder field, the rock size reduces dramatically and you are now walking through/along a creek bed lined by Sheoaks. At this stage you need to decide the best side of the creek to walk. We changed sides regularly and it appears that the left hand side is the way to go purely from an ease of walking. To some extent this is going to depend on the water level running through the creek. At this time there was some water present and while you could drink it if you need but we suggest filtering just in case.
One thing to keep an eye out for is the quarry warning signage that warns about possible explosions in the quarry above this gorge which happens around 3:00pm in the afternoon on weekdays. The issue here is that rocks can potentially end up in the gorge below so you definitely want to be ascending by around 2:30pm at the latest if you are doing the walk during the week. These signs also serve another purpose in that once you pass two warning signs on the left creek bank, you are very close to the end point and are now looking for the ascent path to your right.
Not having done the walk previously we thought we must have gone too far but as you go past the second sign you will see the creek make an almost 90° turn to the right and there is sheer rock face in front of you. At this stage, you want to be on the right hand side of the creek and you will see another large warning sign, or at the least the back of it. This is where the ascent starts and contains trail markers. If you are on the left hand side of the creek you physically cannot go any further due the the sheer rock face. We reached the ascent around midday so we chose to have lunch before our ascent and spent about 4o minutes before heading uphill.
If you didn’t feel the effects of the walk before this, then you will on the ascent as it is approximately twice as long as the downhill leg. The slope for much of the ascent is around 1:5 or worse and in all honesty as hard as it was, I wouldn’t like to head downhill on this track. As you make your way to the top of the plateau, you will link into the trail that forms part of the White Track and the Green Track – at this stage the trail tread is widish, fairly flat and easygoing. After only around 600 metres you’ll arrive at the car park where you started the walk and your day is done.
The vegetation is definitely more lush on this walk and as you would expect the birdlife is pretty good – we were accompanied by birdsong most of the way. In fact when we stopped at the bottom of the gully for a short rest we had a black male Lyrebird come wandering past, totally ignoring us as it looked for food. I’m used to Lyrebirds shooting off as soon as they see people but this one just didn’t care we were there. Apart from the the birdlife we didn’t see other animal life but that may vary in different parts of the year.
As tough as it was, and we expected that (I’ve done 4o km walks with a full pack that have been easier) we both really enjoyed this walk and will do a revisit at some future stage. Just remember this walk isn’t for everyone so if you aren’t a fit experienced bushwalker, leave it until you’ve built up experience and use it as a goal.
Listen to our on-trail Australian Hiker podcast episode (154) here
Getting to Bungonia National Park takes a bit of weaving but the signage is reasonably good. Your best bet is to enter ‘David Reid Access’ into Google Maps and this will direct you very well to the start point
Follow the road signs to Bungonia National Park
The signage is very obvious – this intersection is just before Bungonia village
Entering Bungonia National Park
Visitor centre car park
Park entry fee machine
Water tap at the visitor centre. There is another one at the campground. The water tanks at the car parks contain unfiltered water
Close up of trail register – make sure you sign in and out. There are copies of the paper trail maps just to the side of this register
Bungonia Gorge trail map. This image was current as at 4 July 2020. Use this as a guide but you are best picking up a hard copy at the visitor centre just in case there have been changes
Bungonia Gorge signage. These information kiosks are spread around the park, including at the trailheads and contain detailed information on the walks
Close up of map showing David Reid car park. This car park is only a few minutes drive from the visitor centre
There is a road that accesses all the main car parks and runs a short distance through the park. It can be a bit narrow at times so pay attention to the traffic
Turnoff to Adams Lookout. You will drive past this sign on the way to the David Reid car park
Entry signage to the David Reid car park
You can do the Red Track walk in a clockwise or anticlockwise direction. The Park recommendation is for a clockwise walk which will provide an easier traverse of the large boulder section
Walk start point across the road from the David Reid car park
The Red Track starts at the same trailhead as the Green Track trailhead. The Red Track is for fit, experienced walkers only
Red Track option – head straight ahead and it takes you down into the gorge. If you go left at this point you are on the Green Track
And down we go. Use your hiking poles if you have them
The slope is pretty shallow at this point
Grass trees. There was one section on the descent where they just ran down the gulley
Section of scree slope
Now it’s getting steep
Holding on to a rope. Its only one small section but the ground was slightly wet so the rope was needed for stability
Oh look another trail marker
At the bottom of the gorge
Trail marker at the bottom of the gorge
A good spot for a break
A Black Lyrebird who just didn’t care that we were there
A view at the bottom of the gorge
This image provide a sense of the size of the gorge. The walls just kept on going up
Walking along the bottom of the gorge
And the boulder field starts
Gill making her way over some of the smaller boulders. They only got bigger from here
And down we slide. Sometimes that was the best option to get off the top of a boulder
Wood rot fungus on a fallen log within the gorge
Pool of water just past the large white boulders
First warning sign. This sign is a bit hidden behind some trees branches on the left hand side of the gorge
Along the creek bed
The ascent point
When the creek turns 90° to the right you know you’ve reached the ascent
Sitting just near the ascent point having lunch before we head back up a very steep trail
The first steps are steep
Looking back up the gorge on the ascent
Scree slope across the valley below the quarry
Large grass tree on the ascent
View across the valley
The last of the really steep bits
Approaching the top of the plateau
Wattle in flower
Making our way back to the car park. This last section of the trail combines the Green, Red and White Tracks
Back to the car park
Don’t forget to sign out when you finish
This Youtube video of the walk takes you from start to finish with more images and videos than are included in this written write up.
Car park signage at the entrance to the car park
This car park will comfortably fit around 20+ cars if people park correctly
David Reid car park toilets
A sign of the times – toilet paper theft!
Toilet view – basic but functional
Elevation profile for the Bungonia National Park Red Track. This track is grade 5 has a steep descent and a steep ascent. You will definitely earn this walk from a physical sense
This walk was undertaken by the team from Australian Hiker