GAR­DENS OF STONE NP, nsw rocky re­cov­er­ies and epic ad­ven­ture

With ma­jes­tic vieWs and loW-range ter­rain that’s fun for ev­ery­one, the gar­dens of stone na­tional park is one epic Week­ender.


It’s hard to beat a day ex­plor­ing the bush. Yep, even when it feels like ev­ery­thing’s go­ing wrong, it’s still bet­ter than the 9-5 grind, in my opin­ion. I reckon there a few key ingredients re­quired to make any of­froad out­ing an un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence. First up, it’s got to have some spec­tac­u­lar views for you to cast your gaze upon. You know, like the kind you can’t find any­where near the con­crete jungle we call a city. Then, if that’s not hard enough to find, it’ll also need some chal­leng­ing low-range ter­rain to test out both man and ma­chine. I’m not talk­ing about comp-truck ter­ri­tory, though; I’m talk­ing about ter­rain that will challenge ev­ery­body on the trip with­out tear­ing your brand new Pa­jero to shreds! Throw in a few nat­u­ral at­trac­tions and enough his­tory to keep ev­ery­one en­ter­tained and I reckon you’ve got the per­fect of­froad week­ender clearly in sight. So it goes with­out say­ing that, when the time came to show my old mate Timmo how to lock in his hubs for the first time, we tack­led one of my all-time favourite des­ti­na­tions: the Gar­dens of Stone NP!

This trip came about af­ter Timmo picked him­self up his first-ever 4WD for an ab­so­lute bar­gain, I’m talk­ing a swap for an old lap­top com­puter and a few hun­dred bucks on top – you can’t beat that! Well, as you can imag­ine, the 4WDing bug bit him harder than T-Rex would snap up a Happy Meal! A quick 10-minute yarn later and plans were made to make the two hour trek from Sydney, out past Lith­gow and into World Her­itage-listed ter­ri­tory. I’ve got to say, while this place is fast be­com­ing like a sec­ond home to me; I’m al­ways ex­cited to visit this part of the world. So with a puff of Troopy smoke and the sound of a slug­gish diesel chug­ging its way through the hills, we were head­ing west, bound for a real ad­ven­ture.

To give Timmo a proper taste of the 4WD life, we fol­lowed dirt tracks from Lids­dale to Ben Bullen via Baal Bone Gap, which of­fers spec­tac­u­lar views of the Caper­tee Val­ley. It’s about a 30 kay run, which of­fers a bit of

ev­ery­thing for the keen 4WDer. To kick things off, we chucked a left off Wolgan Road onto an un­marked dirt track, which is just a few hun­dred me­tres be­fore the Black­fel­lows Hand Trail on the op­po­site side of the road. This trail winds its way up to the plateau via a bunch of good size bog holes, which were the per­fect place to give Timmo a taste of what’s to come. Let me tell you: you just haven’t seen a happy face un­til you seen Timmo’s grin as the mighty 4Run­ner clawed its way out of trou­ble!

Now there are ac­tu­ally two en­trances or tracks you can take up to the plateau, the sec­ond be­ing the next dirt track up off Wolgan Road, di­rectly across from the Black­fel­lows Hand Trail. This track is a fair bit steeper, with two or three fairly tech­ni­cal low-range sec­tions to ne­go­ti­ate. With a trailer in tow and a good dows­ing of rain in the early morn­ing, we thought we’d save our­selves an all-out winch­ing ses­sion and steered clear. But if you are head­ing up that way, a locker will work won­ders.


One of the best high­lights on this trek is the Baal Bone Gap look­out. You’ve got the op­por­tu­nity to park up, take a few short steps out on to the sand­stone plat­form and take in one of the best views I’ve seen! This place is

the per­fect spot to just chill out, relax and take in the sights, not to men­tion the sweet seren­ity that’s up on of­fer. Look closely and you’ll spot huge ex­am­ples of rock pago­das and ab­so­lutely stun­ning sand­stone es­carp­ments that light up like the heav­enly gates at dusk and dawn. What you’re see­ing is the Caper­tee Val­ley and Pan­toneys Crown, which some peo­ple will spend a lot of money on tourist guides and in lux­ury ac­com­mo­da­tion to view. Once you’re ready to move on, it’s time to fol­low the track west deep into the bow­els of Gar­dens of Stone NP and, if you’re af­ter a

“It’s a first-gear, low-range type of rock step, so make sure you pack plenty of courage!”

heart in throat mo­ment, you’re in luck! Just a few hun­dred me­tres down from the look­out, you’re greeted with a steep rock ledge to de­scend. Now, I’ve ac­tu­ally towed a few

camper trail­ers down this sec­tion in the past with­out a prob­lem, although it’s a bit hairy at the best of times. This time, how­ever, I got my­self into all sorts of drama. It’s a first-gear, low-range type of rock step, so make sure you pack plenty of courage!


While this ob­sta­cle is pretty damn steep, the real prob­lem for me was the an­gle the camper trailer ended up on. It pushed the camper’s roof-top tent and frame hard against the tree,

which meant I couldn’t go for­ward, yet I had bug­ger-all chance of go­ing back­wards, ei­ther! If Timmo ever was to get a crash course in 4WD re­cov­er­ies it was now! First, we tried re­mov­ing the roof-top tent in

the hopes of gain­ing just enough clear­ance to sneak un­der the tree. Nope, that didn’t work. We even dropped a few pounds of pres­sure out of the tyres. Luck­ily, a few fel­low 4WDers were all too happy to help winch the trailer into a bet­ter po­si­tion via a snatch block; the idea be­ing to pull the trailer side­ways. It’s worth not­ing in this sort of sit­u­a­tion, its best to at­tach the winch to the low­est pos­si­ble point on the trailer to en­sure it slides side­way rather than tip the whole thing over.


An hour or so later and we were back on track with an­other re­cov­ery story to tell and a slight dent in my pride. But I’ll tell you what, while I made it look pretty damn hard, Timmo and his solid as a rock 4Run­ner glided down that step like it was on rails – awe­some job champ, but it’s not over just yet! There were a few more ob­sta­cles to come but, luck­ily for us, there wasn’t enough rain to turn the bot­tom of the val­ley into a mud pit like it has done

in the past. The phrase ‘look at that’ will be used more of­ten than you can imag­ine around th­ese parts, with ev­ery­thing from vi­brant green veg­e­ta­tion, tow­er­ing sand stone cliffs and tree trucks wider than the Troopy there to wow you the whole way.


You could quiet eas­ily do this track in a day, in fact, it’s re­al­is­ti­cally only a few hours from start to fin­ish. But, while there aren’t any des­ig­nated camp­sites along the way, there are a few clear­ings that make per­fect bush camps. In fact, just a few hun­dred me­tres down from the steeper sec­tion of the track that had me in a pickle a lit­tle ear­lier is the per­fect lit­tle overnighter. It’s ob­vi­ously a 4WD-only spot to get to, but it’s a nice and flat spot that’s nes­tled dis­cretely among the trees. Like I said, it’s a full bush camp so there’s noth­ing more than a few old fire pits ly­ing around, which is just per­fect to chill out and relax.


Well, what can I say? That was one hell of an ad­ven­ture, es­pe­cially for old Timmo – noth­ing like get­ting chucked in the deep end, hey bud? If you’re af­ter an epic day trip or overnighter, you’d be mad if you didn’t put this one on your list. In fact, I guar­an­tee this lit­tle trek is up there with the best of them any­where in NSW! Plus, if you’ve got a few ex­tra days spare, why not tie in a few other crack­ing des­ti­na­tions like Turon River and Lith­gow’s Lake Lyell into your ad­ven­ture while you’re out there, too?

CloCk­wIse From top leFt: Borgy wets the boots fol­low­ing a dous­ing of rain; This is the life; There’s a lot of ‘wow’ mo­ments out here; Timmo’s first-ever 4WD got a bap­tism by fire.

CloCk­wise from top left: The camper is wedged be­tween a rock face and a tree. No go­ing back­wards from here. Check out the wheel on the right-hand side; Thanks mate! You’re a bloody leg­end; Scal­ing the in­cline in prepa­ra­tion for the re­cov­ery; A snatch block helps steer the camper into a bet­ter po­si­tion; Borgy ap­plies a re­cov­ery blan­ket to ab­sorb the en­ergy of the winch rope, should it break.

top: Bush camps marked only by fire pits and clear­ings. No bal­lot re­quired. above: Weav­ing through sand­stone cliffs and tow­er­ing trees.

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