Broken Hill, NSW
At the northern of the Homestead Creek Campground. If you are just visiting for the day then you can start this walk in the ‘day use’ car park.
Homestead Creek Campground, Mutawintji National Park
Mutawintji National Park, in many respects is unique. The park has three seperate walking ‘zones’ which includes the standalone Western Ridge Walking Track and the Mutawintji Gorge Walking Track. However the main walking area is the large loop located immediately adjacent to the day use area and a short walk from the campground. This loop contains a series of standalone walks that be be done separately or combined in a way that provides a choose your own adventure option. What’s unique about Mutawintji is that each of these seperate walks isn’t just a repeat of another nearby one as is the case in many parks we have visited but has its own special character.
The Rockholes Loop Walking Track is often done as a standalone walk by many hikers and while it can be started from the day use area for many people you are staying at the nearby campground and while it adds about 1km to the walk in total this is where we started which meant we didn’t have to move the car. The trailhead is at the northern end of the campground and as you enter the facility turn left and following the loop road about 120metres till is starts looping around and the signage is visible just off to the left.
This first section of the walk parallels the adjacent river bed which is often dry and once you reach the day use carpark turn to the right and follow the signage past the picnic area. From here you are walking into the gorge system and the environment changes form this dry arid landscape to something that is far more lush and temperate. At this stage you are on a well formed dirt track that is suitable for wheelchairs but keep in mind it is still a dirt surface.
Apart from the trailhead signs there are small interpretive signs every so often that highlights the rural past of this area and talks about the local landscape including different tree types. the signage while interesting is getting a bit warn and as you will see in the images below can be. bit hard to read.
Your first stop is an Aboriginal rock art gallery that has a metal viewing platform and interpretation signage explaining what’s there. This platform is as far as wheelchairs have access to. From this platform head down into the creek bed level following the trail markers and at this stage you are spending your time walking along the natural gorge, crossing over the creek and back as the environment dictates. As you make your way down the creek you will come across the occasional very small water body but given the condition that they were in when we passed I would definitely filter so come prepared if that’s your water plan.
Your turnoff point is on the left hand side of the gorge and is marked by a small rock art gallery behind a waist high metal frame. The turning point you want is actually the second such small rock art gallery which is not far from the first and when you reach this point and have looked at rock engravings continue on up the rock slope up a very narrow set of stairs and the signage will reappear again. You will reach a high ledge and from here you will see a couple of rock pools down below in the gully which is where this walk gets its name. In all honesty the rock pools are nice to see but even though this is whatvthe walk is named after it’s not the highlight of the walk.
From here continue up this side gully, past a small artificial dam, and follow the signage that turns right and takes you over the gully and then up the the solid rock slope to top of the rock summit which is your destination. Getting to the summit isn’t difficult but it does require some rock scrambling.
It’s at this stage you will get some spectacular views across the gorge down the various rock outcrops. You can even climb the small rocky peak to get even higher views. The stone bluffs in this location are a deep dark almost black red colour and you can almost feel the texture in them. This gorge is best enjoyed early in the day to avoid the heat and we started just after 7:00pm which meant as we walked up the gorge it was a cool, partially shady experience, which differed from some of the more open areas of the park. This early start meant that as the sun wasn’t far over the horizon and this helped to cast shadows across the rock faces that gave them that extra depth and texture. If you look at the images and the video below they just don’t do justice to the way that this gorge looked and felt on the day. At this point you also get views down the gorge which you came up.
Once you’ve had your fill of the scenery start heading back down which will require you to come within about 1metre from the edge of a sheer drop off *(for just a short section) so pay attention to where you are walking. A word of warning if you don’t have a head for heights then this may not be the walk for you.
The decent down is pretty much along gradually sloping rock and providing you take it slow its not a difficult descent. Once you reach the creek level you come across a bit of a hub that either directs you back to the start or onto the next set of destinations. If doing this walk as a standalone then you will head back along the creek the way you came to the start of the walk. All up this walk takes around 3-3.5 hours to complete; not so much because of the length but more for having to pick your way through the riverbed, across sand, and around tree roots.
This is one of those rare walks where we are happy to just sit and take in the scenery which is not something that we typically don’t do. As mentioned the images don’t do the scenery justice and in addition doesn’t give you a feel for this wonderful location. In fact we enjoyed this walk so much that its made its way into out top 10 list.
The trailhead is through the fence at the northern end of the car park
Directional marker near the trail start
Flood damage to the day use parking area
Start of the trail from the day use picnic area
Large remnant Eucalyptus near just near the trail head
Interpretation signage along the way talking about vegetation and farming practices
Shade along the gullies is very different to the sparse sunny plains
Approaching the rock art gallery
Rock art gallery
Rock art example at the gallery
A marker as opposed to rock art at the rock art gallery
Heading off the rock art gallery platform
Down from the art gallery and follow along the creek bed
Dry river bed
Eucalyputs flowers forming
Signage option with the directional arrows sometimes at ground level
First rock art gallery, look for the metal frame at ground level on the right of the image. Your turn point in the next rock frame not much further along the creek bed
Turnoff point for the loop
And up the stairs just past the rock art protection frame
Through the gap
One of the rockholes
Small dam at the top of rockholes
Heading up to the top, follow the directional arrows
Rockholes Loop Walking Track
Looking down from the high rock ledge into th gorge below
360 degree view form the high point on the trail
Up and over and then down
Making our way down from the high point
Down the rock slope. This slope is steepish but the footing is very grippy and stable so if you take it slow you wont have any problem
Looking back at the descent
Return arrow at the bottom of the descent
Heading back along the creek bed
back to the rock art gallery
Back to the day use picnic area
Oh so pretty
Heading back to the trail head with dry river on the left
Trail finish inside the campground
This short video contains photos and video from our walk to show you the walk from start to finish including videos at the lookout platform on this walk
Google map from Broken Hill. The trip from Broken Hill is 130 km, much of it on dirt road
Entering Mutawintji National Park
Information Centre. This kiosk is un-personed
Information centre view
Barbecue at the information centre
Toilet and shower facilities at Homestead Creek Campground
Homestead Creek Campground information kiosk
This walk was undertaken by the team from Australian Hiker