Green Gully Track
Dramatic gorges, forested valleys and a rich pastoral history shape this spectacular four-day, hut-to-hut walk in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park.
Rugged country and a rich history shape this walk in Oxley Wild Rivers NP, NSW.
Here, in wild north-eastern New South Wales, gently undulating agricultural highland scenery transforms rapidly into a rugged landscape of sheer cliffs, rocky outcrops and fern-lined gullies. From lookouts, it appears as if acid has been poured onto the plateau’s edge, dissolving it into untamed, seemingly untouched, wilderness.
World Heritage-listed Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, about 445km drive north of Sydney and 100km by car south of Armidale, takes in roughly 1600sq.km of this terrain. Home to the huge Apsley-Macleay gorges system, the park features steep escarpments that plummet spectacularly into deep river valleys f lowing with ginclear streams and waterfalls that thunder after rain.
Oxley Wild Rivers NP forms part of the traditional lands of the Thunghutti, and Aboriginal people have roamed here for millennia. Explorer John Oxley became the f irst European to visit the region when he and his party reached the Apsley River in 1818. Soon after, cedar-getters penetrated the wilderness in search of Australian red cedar, before pioneering cattle grazers began exploring the wild gorges. They cleared river f lats and hillsides, and built fences, stockyards and huts, some of which remain throughout the Green Gully region, in the southern section of the park.
This historic grazing infrastructure forms an integral part of the 63km-long Green Gully Track (GGT). Shaped like a lasso, the track follows wooded ridges, winds through lush forests, descends into hidden ravines and climbs to offer spectacular vistas from rocky outcrops that are home to one of the largest remaining populations of endangered brush-tailed rock-wallaby.
The GGT is a challenging four-day, five-night walk that heads deep into the Apsley-Macleay gorges and immerses you in the region’s pastoral history.
Each night, walkers stay in restored stockmen’s huts equipped with stretcher beds and basic amenities – meaning there’s no need to carry tents or cooking gear. Each hut is a welcome sight after a long day covering the track’s arduous terrain.
DAY 1 Route: Cedar Creek Cottage to Birds Nest Hut
Once you step from your first night’s accommodation at Cedar Creek Cottage, you immediately hit the GGT. Through overgrown paddocks of an old cattle property, the well-maintained Kunderang Trail leads you up a gentle hill and into the forest. The f irst day on the track is def ined by forests. Especially grand are pockets of Northern Tableland Wet Sclerophyll forest, with their mighty stands of Sydney blue gum and New England blackbutt, and lush tree-fern understoreys.
About 2km into the forest, a steep, rocky drop offers glimpses into the often mist-filled valley of Kunderang Brook. The views suggest how far you’ll descend as you make your way along the GGT.
The historic Colwells Yards, 9km into the walk and a few hundred metres off the track, are a highlight that warrants a short excursion.
The New England Tableland’s eastern edge falls suddenly and unexpectedly into deep chasms and dramatic river valleys.
This f irst day on the GGT is the easiest of the four days, but rest assured it’ll still challenge you: several short but steep hills act as conversation stoppers and add grunt to the walk. For most of the day, the trail stays high on the ridge that separates the Birds Nest Creek gorge from the Kunderang Brook valley, before a steep descent drops you about 200 vertical metres down to Birds Nest Hut.
A welcome sight at the end of the day, the hut is nestled in a small clearing – roughly 300m off the track, next to bubbling Brumby Creek – and surrounded by towering messmates, ribbon gums and peppermints.
The original hut, constructed from timber and galvanised iron, was built by the O’Keefe family in 1962 and served as a shelter during their musters in this remote location. The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) purchased the hut in 2004 and, like all the other huts along the GGT, carefully restored it as part of the development of the track.
DAY 2 Route: Birds Nest Hut to Green Gully Hut
Day 2 offers the f irst real challenges of this wild walk. Once you pass a cluster of historic stockyards featuring lichen-covered timber beams, the GGT climbs sharply up to Birds Nest Trig, which, at 1202m, is the highest point along the entire track. With this climb you’ll f ind yourself in trackless country.
In the walk’s track notes, the NPWS advises that “navigation along this section is easy, as you simply have to follow the spur up the hill”. Since the GGT was opened in 2011, a faint bush track has formed, leading all the way up to the trig.
Only in small rocky sections does the track f izzle out and require you to pay some attention. This section is characterised by open forest with an understorey of knee-high grasses and rather prickly bushes. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts will serve you well.
Near the trig, there’s a good spot for morning tea where the trees are covered with lichen and old man’s beard, which indicates frequent mist and cloud cover. Past the trig, you’ll f ind yourself once again on a management trail.
It leads f irst to the Green Gully Lookout, where a short clamber up a rocky knoll reveals dramatic views. A little further along, The Rocks Lookout awaits, accessible via a short side track and another great vantage point with photo-worthy views.
Nestled below this steep outcrop is a patch of rainforest that’s one of many lush green vegetation pockets throughout the national park that earn the reserve
Only in small rocky sections does the track fizzle out and require you to pay some attention.
its protected status: Oxley Wild Rivers NP is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, which was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1986.
At The Rocks Lookout, the management trail ends, giving way to additional off-track walking. An easy-tofollow bush track that has formed over the years leads you to the narrow valley of Brumby Creek.
For some walkers, this extremely steep descent forms one of the main challenges of the GGT. Loose gravel is a problem and it is very easy to lose your footing. Walking poles would be helpful here.
To prevent erosion, the NPWS recommends walkers ignore the track, spread out and zigzag down the incline. Towards Day 2’s end, notably when your legs are already tired, this descent is hard work and needs concentration. However, magnif icent stands of grass trees offer welcome distractions.
Once you reach Brumby Creek, the rest of the day’s walk is easy. Past Brumby Pass, a particularly narrow section, the valley opens up and you step out into a cleared paddock with historic yards. Behind it is Green Gully Hut.
DAY 3 Route: Green Gully Hut to Colwells Hut
Day 3 covers the shortest distance of the four days yet takes the longest to complete – despite almost no climbs or descents to tackle! This is a slow day for good reason; it follows Green Gully Creek through a narrow, sometimes canyon-like, valley and there are creek crossings aplenty. Wet feet are a given: take an old pair of joggers for creek-walking and keep your walking shoes dry.
Bush-bash through the often dense vegetation on the river’s banks or follow the water course.
The f irst wet crossing, through Brumby Creek, is only 50m from Green Gully Hut. The second, situated not far from the f irst, is through Green Gully Creek. Walkers then follow the creek upstream, spending long sections wading through the river.
You have two options. Bush-bash through the often dense vegetation on the river’s banks or follow the water course through ankle- to thigh-deep water. Along the creek, look for an unusual and threatened plant species – the tall velvet sea-berry with its ribbed, square stem and thin, softly textured leaves.
Following the winding creek gives you very little indication of where you are or how far you’ve come… until you reach Green Gully Canyon. Here, towering cliffs rise from two sides of the creek, forming a dramatic bottleneck with a deep waterhole.
Usually the crossing adds some fun and no problems. After rain, however, be aware that you might have to swim or go around this bottleneck along a short, steep bypass. As this dramatic narrow section is almost halfway through Day 3, it’s a good spot for a rest: take a swim in the refreshing waterhole, explore the patch of dry rainforest here with its strange-looking staghorn ferns clinging to trees and rocks and look out for brush-tailed rock-wallabies. Green Gully is one of largest remaining strongholds of this endangered species.
You will have a good chance of seeing one of these elusive marsupials on Day 3, especially around Green Gully Canyon. At the end of the trackless gorge country, you reach an overgrown, and in-parts washed-away, management trail that leads you to your night’s lodgings: Colwells Hut. This is the smallest and most basic of the huts along the GGT but the NPWS has built a large open shelter next to it.
Do feel free to take a stretcher bed outside so that you can experience the night under this shelter…almost under the stars. Be prepared, however, for a bunch of cheeky possums to create a ruckus during the night.
DAY 4 Route: Colwells Hut to Cedar Creek Lodge
Day 4 includes the mother-of-all climbs: you ascend 600 vertical metres during the f irst 3km as you follow Colwells Trail, a management track so steep in sections that you have to walk on the tips of your toes. On the way there are views to patches of verdant rainforest on the opposite side of the valley. Once you reach the ridge, the gradient softens but your uphill battle continues. Here, morning mist can hang evocatively around the surrounding mountain and ridge tops. It turns the forest into a world of soft pastels and muted sounds.
The track then descends to Birds Nest Creek, a pristine water course surrounded by towering rainforest trees, and home to the endangered stuttering frog so listen for its distinctive call. Not far from the creek, Colwells Trail intersects with the Kunderang Trail. For the last 10km, you retrace your steps from Day 1 back to Cedar Creek, and the allure of Cedar Creek Lodge.
A magnificent stand of grass trees is a welcome distraction during the tough descent to Green Gully Hut at the end of Day 2 on Green Gully Track.
Eastern grey kangaroos are regular visitors to the old stockyards at Cedar Creek, once a remote cattle property and now part of Oxley Wild Rivers NP and the starting point of the Green Gully Track.
Kunderang Brook valley is part of a rugged gorge formation known as the ‘Falls Country’, in the Great Dividing Range.Access down to the brook is as difficult as it appears in this view.
A topographical map from national parks is handy along the GGT’s trackless sections, here below The Rocks Lookout.
A staghorn fern clings to a tree trunk in a dry rainforest gully above the deep waterhole at Green Gully Canyon.
Morning mist is a regular spectacle along the higher ridges in the national park.
The afternoon sun is needed to dry clothes and shoes at Colwells Hut after the wet-river section through the steep-sided Green Gully valley on Day 3.
Wet shoes and pants are a given in the Green Gully section because wading in the creek’s clear waters is sometimes easier than navigating the dense vegetation along its banks.