The Bridle Track
Explore | 4WD | camping | history | Central West | New South Wales

The Bridle Track

4WD adventure

by Susie Baber  |  22 July 2023

52km | 4WD easy | 2hrs

In the 1850’s gold was found in them there hills! As gold fever struck in the Turon Valley, the little settlement of Hill End grew from almost nothing to a bustling town of over 7000. Getting to Hill End however was no easy task, the terrain is steep, rocky and unforgiving.

From the early days a narrow trail, only suitable for horseback riders and pedestrians, wove its way through steep cuttings and over hills, hugging the side of the cliffs between Bathurst and Hill End. The Bridle track earned its name from the narrowest sections where hopeful gold miners and settlers had to lead their horses by the bridle. The track is narrow and rugged to this day following the Macquarie River as it meanders out west.

Head north from Bathurst along Duraman Road, as it turns into Turondale Road the Bridle track is on the left. This first section of the 52km track is unassuming bitumen, running through rolling hills and grazing land. Sealed road soon gives way to dirt and the hills get a bit steeper until we find ourselves at Bruinbun Reserve alongside the Macquarie River, one of the larger camping reserves.

There are plenty of opportunities for camping, fishing and exploration with eight camping areas dotted along the meandering river, some sites even include drop toilets but most will require you to be self-contained. Legend has it that one of the first to strike gold in the area did so while driving a tent peg into the ground, if that doesn’t work for you maybe try your luck with gold panning in the river.

If camping is not on your agenda, driving the Bridle Track is an easy day trip from either end. Two hours of 4WD fun plus time for lunch and an hour to get back to your starting point via more conventional roads.

In wet weather the road will become slippery rather than boggy, requiring careful driving, even in a 4WD.  There are also some steeper sections to contend with and for the most part no guard rails along those sharp drops. In 4WD terms the track is graded ‘easy’ although there are a few opportunities for the more adventurous 4WDers to get off the main track and test their skills. There are water crossing which were quite tame when we did the drive but can quickly deepen in wet weather. The road is not suitable for caravans or camper trailers, with long narrow sections where meeting oncoming traffic could require backing up several hundred metres.

Hill End today is a quiet but well-preserved piece of Australian history worth spending some time exploring. Whether it is at the beginning or the end of your drive, history buffs will enjoy the museum and Heritage Centre or maybe a tour of a goldmine. There is a general store if you need supplies, and the Royal Hotel offers classic pub hospitality.

In 2010 there was a major landslip at Monaghans Bluff cutting the track in two, and for over a decade a 2km bypass has been needed to complete your trip. Some very impressive roadworks have been done to reopen this section of road, in February 2023, relinking the track and giving us the opportunity to explore this piece of history from end to end.

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