Tracks & Trails

Clarke Gorge
Tracks & Trails | bushwalking | hiking | national parks | Kosciuszko National Park | New South Wales

Clarke Gorge

One of the most spectacular hikes in NSW

by Susie Baber  |  17 April 2022

Kosciuszko National Park | 5km return | moderate

Kosciuszko National Park is famous for its snowy mountains and alpine hiking. Australias largest National Park though includes so much more. The northern end of the park is much lesser known but equally as spectacular. One such area is Long Plains, where there are a multitude of camping and walking options to explore, including the walks from Blue Waterholes camp area.

Clarke Gorge is one of the most spectacular walks I have done in NSW and whilst it poses some challenges with multiple creek crossings it is not a steep or technically difficult walk. I have called it moderate, and while the crossings are a bit tricky the rest of the walk is very straight forward. It will take longer than you expect a 5km hike to take, the water crossings take time, as does taking you boots on and off each time. Expect the return trip to take you 3-4 hours. We spent about 1.5 hours getting to the waterfall, and about an hour getting back with a little picnic time in between.

If you are going to attempt this walk you must be prepared to get wet.

When I first read about Clarkes Gorge people reported the number of creek crossings anywhere from five to ten times along its length. We counted it as nine times. That’s nine crossings going in and another nine coming back out. Not the rock hopping kind of crossing where you might slip and get wet – you are going in the water up to your knees, and it can be pretty cold!

We started off with hiking boots and each time we went in the water we would take the boots off and put on old sneakers that we didn’t mind getting wet. On the other side of the creek we would carefully remove our wet shoes and dry our feet before donning our hiking boots again.

Andrew tried crossing in bare feet, but the creek bottom was very rocky and painful, he ended up crossing in his thongs. Some people were just doing the whole walk wearing thongs. Many people were just ploughing through the creek crossings in their hiking boots, but I wasn’t really keen on walking in wet shoes for 5km. Each of these options certainly made for a faster trip, you choose what works best for you.

The track starts from the bottom of Blue Waterholes camp area, heading left you will find Clarke Gorge and to the right the beginning of the Nicols Gorge track. When you get down to the creek you will immediately be faced with your first crossing, once on the other side you are rewarded with the first of the ‘Blue Waterholes’. The stunning teal colour of the water against a backdrop of sheer limestone cliffs is spectacular. There is small cave in one of the cliffs with water flowing into the pool, the colour of the creek is caused high calcium carbonate content in the water, dissolved from the surrounding limestone. This is the first of several water holes that look beautiful for swimming on a hot day although the water would be very cold all year round. Fishermen can try their hand at catching trout and if you are very lucky you might see a platypus.

There are two more crossings before you get into the gorge proper, where dramatic, sheer cliffs tower above you on both sides. The track hugs the side of the narrow gorge, zig zagging across the creek between limestone cliffs formed more than 400 million years ago.

The walk is not sign posted but you really can’t go wrong, just keep following the gorge. At each crossing we got a little bit more confident with our water walking. The larger rocks are very slippery so the best bet is to place your feet in between them, anywhere that looks sandy or gravelly will give you a much better grip. The water is flowing, but not particularly fast so if you are careful, you should be fine.

At one point along the track my fellow walkers turned and instructed me to make a lot of noise as I went through that section. I knew what that meant but they assured me it was only a baby snake and it had disappeared into the long grass. When we got back to camp later, they confessed it had been the tail of a quite substantial snake that had disappeared into the grass…

The last section of walk over a rock platform takes you to the top of Caves Creek Falls where water plunges 15m into Wilkinsons Gorge. The track officially finishes here, but for the more intrepid there is a challenging scramble down to the water hole at the base of the falls. We opted to just admire from above and sat on the rock platform to have our lunch before heading back out.

On the return walk we compromised on the crossings a bit and only changed into our boots for the longer stretches of dry walking – now that we knew what to expect we left the wet shoes on for multiple close crossings, and this did make the trip out a little quicker. I have to say though, drying your feet and putting on soft warm socks with your boots feels very nice after the icy water. I think a decent pair of water shoes might be a good thing to keep stashed in the van, and I was wishing I had remembered to bring my hiking poles for a bit of extra balance.

If you have time for another walk in this area try Nicols Gorge, much drier and with some fascinating caves to explore.

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