Sandstone Caves
Experience | bushwalking | cave | Pilliga | Central West | New South Wales

Sandstone Caves

In the heart of the Pillaga

by Susie Baber  |  31 December 2021

The drive from Narrabri to Coonabarabran, along the Newell Highway, will take you through the largest continuous forest in NSW. The Pilliga forest is 5,000 square km of semi-arid woodland covering the Great Western Plains, in the central north of the state. 

Hidden away in the Pilliga Nature Reserve are some remarkable sandstone caves. They are just a short distance off the Newell Highway and are well worth a short detour for anyone travelling through the area.

The Sandstone Caves are a special place for the Gamilaroi people, so do the right thing if you visit, be respectful and don’t touching the rock art and engravings. At the request of the Aboriginal Elders, Sandstone Caves are not sign posted from the Highway. You will find them 85km from Narrabri or 35km from Coonabarabran, turn off the Newell Highway onto a dirt road marked Yaminba Trail and 1km down you will find a car park. A great way to experience this unique place is a guided tour with an Aboriginal Discovery Ranger, these can be booked at the Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre in Baradine. It is also a good idea to check road conditions before setting out.

If a guided tour isn’t your thing, you can visit the caves independently. Next to the car park you will find an interpretive board with some cultural and nature information, the walk begins just to the right of here. It is an easy walk through the scenic forest to the base of a large sandstone outcrop, the walk circles the base of the outcrop and then returns to the carpark.

The towering sandstone outcrop was formed on the bottom of a Jurassic lake about 150 million years ago. Skeletons of aquatic critters sank to the bottom of the lake creating layers of sediment. Then more recently, only 17 and 13 million years ago, the Warrumbungle and Nandewar volcanos re-arranged the local geology to create the impressive outcrop you see today. Since then wind and rain has been eroding the rock face creating a series of caves, some of which are several meters high and others joined together by passages in the common walls. It isn’t hard to imagine that these caves would have made a perfect home for Indigenous people in the past.

The series of caves and overhangs spreads over several hundred meters around the outcrop, some containing ancient Aboriginal grinding grooves and rock art. There are some lovely views from the raised outcrop out over the Pilliga Forest and the colours and shapes of the weathered sandstone are quite beautiful. Take some time to read the interpretive signage for a better understanding of this special place.

Cages protect the artworks
Grinding grooves in the rock

Sandstone Caves walking track is a 1.7km, well formed track, there are a few stairs but generally pretty easy walk. The suggested time for this walk is 1.5hrs, which we thought was fairly generous. We did however spend more than an hour exploring and admiring the caves, I don’t think you would be getting the most our of this fascinating walk if you did it any faster.

Map from AllTrails.com: https://www.alltrails.com/explore/recording/sandstone-caves-circuit-walk-ba825ea
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