Bungonia National Park is easily one of the most underrated NSW National Parks. Located in the Southern Tablelands, Bungonia isn’t anywhere near as hyped up as the nearby Southern Highlands. But it’s certainly just as amazing. Particularly, the Bungonia Slot Canyon (Red Track) is one of the best half-day hikes in the state. Throw in the fantastic Bungonia Gorge Circuit, and you’ll have a rip-snorter of a day trip to the Bungonia National Park.
It shouldn’t be too hard to persuade your speed hiking crew to follow this itinerary. After all, the Bungonia Slot Canyon on its own is an epic adventure, ascending and descending a mindblowing canyon! On top of that, are the many caves, viewpoints and even a waterfall to explore along the Bungonia Gorge Circuit.
Bungonia National Park | Day Trip Itinerary
If you intend on following our itinerary, get ready for a speed hiking extravaganza! You’ll want to do the Bungonia Slot Canyon first. It’s a bloody tough ascent at the end, plus, navigating the large sandstone boulders on the canyon floor is also exhausting. So you’ll want to hit that trail when you’re full of energy. There’s another reason you shouldn’t really do this hike in the afternoon, but we’ll talk about that later.
On top of that, the Bungonia Gorge Circuit is a combination of a bunch of different tracks – covering nearly all the colours of the rainbow – green, white, orange, yellow… Well, not quite all of them. But anyway, the amalgamation of all of these tracks accumulates in a 15km hike which is nothing to sneeze at. Plus, you’ll gain quite a lot of elevation gain throughout – almost 600 metres. So you better head out early and be prepared for a cracker of a day in Bungonia.
Other Highlights of Bungonia National Park
- The Lookdown Lookout
- Grill Cave (Orange Track)
- Jerrara Canyon Lookout (Yellow Track)
- Jerrara Lookout – views of Jerrara Falls (Green Track)
- Adam’s Lookout (Green Track)
- Mess Cave (Green Track)
The Lookdown Lookout
With a big day ahead, you may as well get an early start and get to Bungonia National Park for sunrise. Bungonia National Park has many epic lookouts and choices for sunrise. The lookouts that are easily accessible and don’t require much hiking to get to include the Lookdown Lookout, Jerrara Lookout and Adam’s Lookout. However, considering that you’ll cover the Jerrara and Adam’s Lookouts on the Bungonia Gorge Circuit, it makes sense to enjoy your sunrise at the Lookdown Lookout.
Park at the end of Bungonia Lookdown Road. From the small car park, which probably fits a dozen cars, it’s only a minute or so away. The viewpoint provides stellar views of the Bungonia Canyon. Seeing the canyon from this vantage point is a solid introduction and preview of your day ahead. It gives you an almost birds-eye view of the canyon you’ll be ascending and descending!
Truth be told, the canyon can get awfully misty in the morning. So this can make or break your sunrise experience. Despite the mist obstructing the sunrise, it actually created quite a special scene. There was an orange-tinged mist gliding through the air. So mist or no mist, the Lookdown Lookout is worth a crack for sunrise.
1. Bungonia Slot Canyon (Red Track)
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 8.4km
- Time: 3 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 450m
- Difficulty: Grade 5
- Trailhead: David Reid Car Park
After enjoying the sunrise, you can either walk to or better yet, drive to the David Reid Car Park. It’s conveniently positioned near the trailhead for the Bungonia Slot Canyon trail. We’re not overexaggerating when we say the Red Track, that goes in and out of Bungonia Canyon, is one of the most epic hikes in all of NSW. But there are a few things to be aware of, including:
- NSW National Parks estimates a 3.5km distance hike, and perhaps this is as the crow flies. But realistically, with all of the scrambling, weaving in and out of large boulders on the canyon floor and navigating the descent, you’ll be looking at around 8-8.5km. As they say, there are many ways to skin a cat, so distance will vary depending, particularly, on how you navigate the canyon floor.
- Caution must be taken on this hike. It’s rated Grade 5 for experienced bushwalkers for a reason. Recently and many times previously, emergency rescues have been carried out here. Rescue missions usually take place on the canyon floor from people injuring themselves when navigating the large boulders.
- Make sure to register before this walk at the office, and remember to sign out once you’ve conquered it. This ensures everyone is accounted for in case the worst-case scenario plays out. But if you’re honest with your hiking ability and experience, and exercise patience and common sense on the canyon floor, you should be fine.
- Avoid the Bungonia Slot Canyon in the afternoon: At 3:10 pm on weekdays, the nearby quarry blasting can cause debris, loose rock and large boulders to dislodge and fall into the canyon. It sounds a bit suss to us, so you should be out of the canyon well before mid-afternoon during the week.
Descending the Bungonia Slot Canyon
After throwing down some breaky, it’s time to take on this beast of a hike. It’s best to follow clockwise as recommended by NSW National Parks. You’ll start on a flat trail covered in leaf litter and loose rocks which takes you into increasingly heavy bushland. Very soon, you’ll begin your climb down into the canyon. Given the steep descent, we didn’t speed hike this section of the trail.
There’s a fairly obvious trail to follow. Although, you’ll notice many different faint trails cutting corners and creating short cuts. Either way, you’re heading downwards! Very shortly, you’ll face the immense canyon walls. With the mist receding, the canyon floor’s visibility was quickly improving. So even early on, our views of the canyon were top-notch.
The lower you get, the steeper it gets. So take your time as it’s inevitable that you’ll lose your footing given how slippery the loose rocks are. Nearing the end of the descent can be a bit tricky to navigate as the main trail becomes less obvious. Just remember, at the end of the descent, you’ll meet with Bungonia Creek so keep an eye out for that. Expectedly, nearing the creek can get pretty damp underfoot, so again, there’s no need to rush.
Once you reach the canyon floor, you’ll turn right and begin your journey through this epic landscape!
The Canyon Floor
This is the glorious moment you’ve been waiting for. Reaching, exploring and loving the Bungonia Slot Canyon floor. Photos do absolutely no justice for the wonders of this place. Colossal canyon walls loom either side of you. It’s hard to explain the joyous feeling you’ll get when you’re down there.
Initial sections of the canyon floor are filled with sand, loose rock and trees. In this portion of the trail, the creek is dried up, and you’ll have little to no obstacles. You’ll continually be doing 360s to catch the epic scenery around you. But soon enough, you’ll reach the large boulders which require more concentration and experience to navigate safely.
SIDE NOTE: Once you reach the large boulders, there’s no specific trail to follow. You’ll need to use trial and error to find the best way through.
The boulders seem innocent enough at first. But once you’ve climbed and negotiated some of the smaller ones, they quickly become larger and more gnarly to navigate. At times, there seems to be no way through. So exercise caution, patience and diligence during this part of the trail. If you keep cool, calm and collected, there’s always a safe way through. Don’t expect it to be easy, but if you’re capable enough with scrambling and climbing rocks, you’ll be alright!
Exiting the Canyon Floor
Eventually, you’ll reach the last of the large boulders blocking the passageway of the canyon floor. By this point, you would have joined the flowing stream and miniature cascades of Bungonia Creek, rushing effortlessly by your side. From here, there are no large boulders to climb, but you’ll be creek crossing and bush bashing.
Keep an eye out for the turnoff to the right to ascend out of the canyon. There seems to be a few false turnoff trails but the actual turnoff is quite obvious when you reach it. That large yellow warning sign clearly indicates your ascent out of the canyon.
There’s not much to say about the climb out of the Bungonia Slot Canyon, other than it’s bloody gruelling. Expect an extremely steep climb to get out of the canyon. The light brown, almost, red-tinged rocks can be fairly slippery to tread on so watch your footing as you propel yourself upwards. To accentuate the workout and get a move on, feel free to speed hike. Although you’ll feel like you’re speed hiking at a snail’s pace.
WHAT IS SPEED HIKING? It’s getting your groove on and hiking at a faster than usual walking speed. Because of the steep and slippery descent as well as the difficult navigation on the canyon floor, there won’t be much speed hiking during the Bungonia Slot Canyon trail.
It’s quite a relief to reach the top. On your way up, you’ll continue to have those stellar canyon wall views. Of which, there’ll be plenty more on the next hike. Yes, after all that effort, there’s still one more hike to go!
2. Bungonia Gorge Circuit
- Type: Loop with Out & Backs
- Distance: 15km
- Time: 4.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 574m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: David Reid Car Park
Travel Made Me Do It have personally rated this trail
At the end of the Bungonia Slot Canyon Red Track, the trail loops back to the David Reid Car Park via the White Track. If you need a toilet stop or just want to simply complete the loop, turn right at the White Track. The car park is only a few hundred metres away. Otherwise, feel free to crack on with the Bungonia Gorge Circuit by turning left onto the White Track. This will have you heading in the opposite direction of the car park – towards Mount Ayre.
If you do complete the loop and intend on hiking the Bungonia Gorge Circuit, simply re-join the White Track and head back towards Mount Ayre. For clarification, the main circuit around Bungonia National Park is known as the Green Track. It’s just this initial section from the David Reid Car Park that’s known as the White Track, if you follow the circuit in a clockwise direction, towards Mount Ayre.
The White Track is an initially flat trail with small loose rocks and thin bushland either side of you. To your left is the gorgeous Bungonia Canyon you have just hiked! Soon enough, the surrounding bushland thickens and the trail suddenly ascends. Your views of the gorge become impeded but you’ll be distracted by yet another upward climb. After ascending the Bungonia Slot Canyon, don’t be surprised if your muscles are already a bit achy.
Thankfully, it’s a fairly short climb atop Mount Ayre. You’ll reach a flattened area with a wooden picnic bench overlooking the Shoalhaven River. Your views will be nicely framed by eucalyptus trees, whilst you have a new perspective of Bungonia National Park to enjoy. From this point, the White Track actually continues all the way down to the river! But that’s for another day.
Heading back down Mount Ayre will have you arriving at the turnoff for the Green Track very shortly. At this point, you’ll turn left to officially join the Green Track to continue the Bungonia Gorge Circuit. Admittedly, this portion of the Green Track is pretty uneventful as you meander through the Bungonian bushland. You’ll soon arrive at the turnoff for the Orange Track, where you’ll turn left.
The flat orange track heads further into the bushland and feels a bit more remote. Expect quite a few cobbies to the face if you’re doing this fairly early in the day. The trail subtly meanders its way through the bush, gently undulating as you near the edge of the tablelands.
The Orange Track, 1.2km in distance, will lead you to an unfenced viewpoint, overlooking the surrounding green-capped tablelands. Admittedly, this isn’t the best of the Bungonia National Park lookouts as your views will be impeded by the dense bushland. But there are some lovely wildflowers to admire around the lookout. Plus, the Orange Track actually has another attraction – the Grill Cave!
For no particular reason, we visited Grill Cave, on the way back from the lookout. Did you know that the Bungonia National Park has over 200 caves? No wonder it’s nicknamed the adventure capital of the Southern Tablelands. However, for the purpose of this hike, you’ll see just two caves – this one and Mess Cave. There are certainly others about, but these are the most well recognised, easily accessible and best caves along the Bungonia Gorge Circuit.
Upon entering Grill Cave, we noticed a rusted gate open at its entrance. To be expected, it’s fairly narrow but very easy to wander down and get inside the cave. You may even see or hear a few bats flying around the cave – we saw 3! Exploring inside Grill Cave was a fun experience. Obviously, it’s pretty dark and gloomy down there, so bring a headlamp.
Given the lack of daylight, it was hard to make out the interior of the cave. That’s why Mess Cave – a cave you’ll see later on in the hike, is even better as it lets in quite a lot of light which reveals it’s sensational interior walls. But before this, you have the Yellow Track to conquer!
Once you’ve re-joined the Green Track, you’ll continue in a clockwise direction, briefly making your way past the Bungonia Campground. By following the inner dirt trail, there’s no need to walk through or into the campground. So you should be able to pass by fairly easily and quickly. Not far after passing the campground, is the entrance to the Yellow Track.
It’s a far more challenging trail compared to the Orange Track and White Track to Mount Ayre. Well, it’s got nothing on the Bungonia Slot Canyon. But after all of the hiking you’ve done already, this track takes a bit of effort! It’s a less frequented 5km return hike through steeply undulating terrain. You’d better be wearing hiking trousers or long socks to avoid all the prickles and scratches of the wildly overgrown trail.
Jerrara Canyon Lookout
Initially, the Yellow Track steadily descends to another section of Bungonia Creek. Once you’ve crossed the creek, you’ll start to sporadically ascend and weave your way through dense pockets of bushland. Not only does the elevation gain slow down your speed hiking, but the overgrown bushes and plants will sometimes have you stopped at a halt. You’ll be pulling branches out of your way and lifting your knees high to avoid the shin-high shrubs.
By being distracted by the overgrown trail, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you’ve gained elevation. At times, you’ll near close to the edge of the tableland ridge. Thankfully, the trail isn’t entirely overgrown. Given there is an official trail that’s fairly obvious, this isn’t classified as a bush bash. But it certainly feels like one at times.
All of the effort is worth it as you get to Jerrara Canyon Lookout. In what seems like the middle of nowhere, is a fenced lookout, albeit a fairly old one. It provides stellar views of Paddy’s Castle – an impressive landform consisting of a large rocky outcrop. Viewing the canyon floor, from virtually the opposite side of the canyon, provides fresh insight into its wonders.
We’re fairly certain we could just see the top of Jerrara Falls. But your views of this waterfall will be much better from the Jerrara Lookout on the Green Track – which is coming up shortly!
Once you’ve smashed out the return section, it’s time to once again re-join the Green Track. This is, more or less, the home stretch with some of the best attractions and lookouts waiting for you!
Up until this point, most of the Green Track has been quite flat. So it’s a bit of a surprise when this trail begins to undulate on rocky terrain. You’ll be hiking fairly close to the edge of the canyon cliff wall. You won’t see much of it with the surrounding bush, but there are gaps in the trees, revealing views of the stunning canyon walls.
Before long, you’ll arrive at the Jerrara Lookout. Admittedly, there are a few false side-trails and lookouts immediately preceding this official lookout. These other lookouts do provide nice views of the canyon but they don’t lead very far. So you’ll be too far away from the waterfall to appreciate it. In contrast, the Jerrara Lookout has a steep decline to its lookout. So you’ll feel properly immersed and almost within the canyon. Better yet, you’ll be closer to Jerrara Falls which faces opposite you.
To our surprise was a fairly decent waterfall. We hadn’t heard much about Jerrara Falls, so we were certainly impressed. With a bit more rain, we’re sure Jerrara Falls could look even more spectacular. There’s an old rusted fence here for your safety which also acts as a makeshift tripod. But make sure to have the wrist strap on, just in case, otherwise, it’s bye-bye to your camera!
After enjoying this waterfall, the best lookout, of them all, is just around the corner.
After climbing out of Jerrara Lookout, you’ll soon reach what seems like the end of the trail as you arrive at the end of a road. There are toilets here for your convenience and also some picnic tables. If you’re keen to crack on, make sure to turn left immediately. You’ll join a concrete path, that leads you left again towards Adam’s Lookout. It was here that we saw a HUGE goanna!
Compared to some of the other remote lookouts on the Bungonia Gorge Circuit, this one seemed considerably more modern. Similar to the Lookdown Lookout, it’s one of the more visited lookouts, considering roads lead directly to them. The concrete path leads you right to the edge of the canyon and then onto a large wooden platform. It extends an impressive distance into the canyon so you’ll feel truly immersed in your surroundings, even more so than the Jerrara Lookout. It’s definitely a case of – the best views are ’til last.
The epic feeling you get from being on the canyon floor is hard to beat. But the views from Adam’s Lookout are that good, that you’ll at least get another rush of endorphins! This lookout has a phenomenal design, as you feel like your floating high above the canyon floor itself. After a long day of hiking, enjoy the serenity and the wonderfulness that is the Bungonia Slot Canyon.
After Adam’s Lookout, make your way back onto the Green Track, for one final push! Not far away is Mess Cave which is definitely one of the coolest caves in Bungonia National Park. The concrete path just outside of Adam’s Lookout quickly transitions into that all too familiar loose rock terrain. You’ll start to gently descend before you find an obvious short side-trail that leads you to Mess Cave. Compared to Grill Cave, the opening is larger and the passageway much wider.
Still, the entrance is pretty steep so take care when descending into the cave. Within the cave is a natural window which lets an abundance of light into its depths. So as the entrance passage briefly darkens in the mid-section, you’ll have sufficient lighting, once again, nearing the ground-floor of the cave. Off to the left is an amazing array of stalactites, hanging from the ceiling of the cave. They form incredible shapes throughout the cave, which immediately dazzles your senses!
It’s surprisingly roomy down there and there’s a lot to marvel at. Although, there is an old rusty fence blocking further exploration deep into the cave. Of course, there are caving tours available if you wish to explore further. But even so, if you’re just visiting via the Bungonia Gorge Circuit, you’ll have your caving fix, just by exploring the main section. Thankfully, the car park and finish line is only an uphill climb away from Mess Cave!
Bungonia Slot Canyon and Gorge Circuit Recap
A visit to Bungonia National Park is one of the most epic day trips you can do in NSW. The Bungonia Slot Canyon in its own right deserves your time and effort. It’s a trail reserved for the more experienced hikers, but if you’re able to do it, we guarantee it’ll be one of your favourite half day hikes of all time. On top of that, the Bungonia Gorge Circuit has many great attractions also and helps fill out your day trip itinerary.
For more information on nearby accommodation, hiking gear essentials and instructions on how to get there, continue below.
Getting to Sydney
Flights: Of course, you’ll need to fly to Sydney to do this trip from abroad. If you’re travelling to Sydney from overseas, use Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flights. When flying abroad, we always get the ball rolling with a Skyscanner search.
Also, if you’re based in the UK or US, you should sign up to Jack’s Flight Club for the best flight deal alert service. By simply subscribing to the free weekly newsletter or buying premium membership, you could save lots of money on international travel. If you’re interstate, subscribe to I Want That Flight for the best flight deal alerts to and from other states. You can usually find cheap flights with Jetstar or Tiger Airways.
Getting to Bungonia National Park
Located just outside of Goulburn, Bungonia National Park is a decent 2-3 hours away from Sydney. For Canberrans, it’s a bit closer with a 1.5-2 hour drive. In terms of directions, simply follow ”Bungonia State Recreation Area” in Google Maps, and that’ll take you where you need to go. After you pass by the town of Bungonia and are heading into the national park, keep an eye out, as there are plenty of kangaroos around!
Don’t forget, you’ll need to register at the office initially. Regardless of what activity you’re planning there, make sure to fill in the trip intention form. You’ll need to fill in details such as what hikes you plan on doing, what time you plan on starting and finishing, as well as your contact details. Just past the office, if you continue on Bungonia Lookdown Road, you’ll be led to the David Reid Car Park. It’s the ideal place to leave your car for both the Bungonia Slot Canyon hike and Bungonia Gorge Circuit.
There aren’t any public transport options. So if you need a car to visit Bungonia National Park, use RentalCars.com. It’s a fantastic search engine for finding the cheapest car hire. It’s what we use to hire cars in Australia.
If you’re keen on camping, look no further than the Bungonia Campground in the national park itself. It has fantastic facilities including hot showers, gas cooktops, BBQs, picnic tables and drinking water. Accommodating around 200 people, the campground is huge! But sites are unmarked, so get in early for your ideal spot. Also, just so you know, the sites are unpowered.
The campground accepts tents, trailers, caravan and campervans, whilst you’re looking at $24.60AUD/night ($19USD). Keep in mind that you’ll need to book in advance.
If you’re looking to get away for the weekend but aren’t keen on camping, you should think about staying in Goulburn. Bungonia National Park is only half an hour away so it’s the perfect base. Plus, it’s easy to find well-valued accommodation in Goulburn so you won’t blow your budget. Using Booking.com, we stayed at the Astor Hotel Motel. It’s smack bang in the middle of town, so the associated pub can get a bit loud and rowdy on the weekends. But it’s by far the most budget-friendly stay in Goulburn.
The cheapest option – a twin room with a shared bathroom and kitchen is $65AUD/night ($50USD). These budget rooms are actually located in a bit of a run-down building across the road from the pub. If you go with this option – don’t expect luxury! By upgrading, you can stay in a nicer room upstairs from the pub, but with that in mind, noise might be more of an issue.
To get the most out of your day, bring a packed breakfast and lunch plus plenty of water and snacks. If you’re low on supplies, you can always stock up in the morning in Goulburn. Although this would add on extra driving time if you’re coming from Sydney. In comparison, for Canberrans, you’ll pass Goulburn on the way to Bungonia. Our go-to grocery stores when travelling in Australia are Aldi and Woolworths. They’ll cover everything you need.
- Accommodation (Goulburn): $65AUD/night ($50USD)
- Petrol: $20AUD/person ($15USD)
- Food: $20AUD/person ($15USD)
= $72.50AUD/person ($56USD)
If you can day trip from Sydney or Canberra, or elsewhere, then never mind the accommodation costs. Alternatively, staying at the Bunognia Campground will not only be a cheaper but a more adventurous stay.
Either way, you’ll need to pay park entry fees if you don’t have an NSW National Parks Annual Pass. You’ll definitely make your money back from a one or two year pass if you explore NSW national parks regularly. So make sure to organise one before you start national park hopping!
Five Hiking Gear Essentials for Bungonia National Park
For a more detailed rundown on hiking gear, please check out 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Otherwise, these five essentials will get you by at Bungonia National Park.
- PETZL Headlamp Flashlight – you’ll want a decent headlamp for the caves.
- Merrell Moab 2 Mid Goretex hiking boots – a great all-round hiking boot that suits most Aussie national park bush terrain.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack – this backpack is so comfortable on your shoulders and back.
- Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Trousers – you’ll want to cover your legs for the overgrown Orange Track on the Bungonia Gorge Circuit.
- GoPro HERO 9 – the Bungonia Slot Canyon is one of the most epic adventures around. Use the best action camera on the market to capture your day… if that’s your thing.
Five Camping Gear Essentials for Bungonia National Park
Camping gear can really make or break your trip. Without the right gear, your experience may not be as enjoyable. So check out these five camping gear essentials.
- Vango Alpha 400 4 person tent – Vango isn’t a well-known brand in Australia, but they make a huge variety of high quality, affordable and robust tents.
- Sea to Summit Aeros Premium inflatable pillow – a very compact and useful blow-up pillow.
- HIKENTURE inflatable sleeping mat – after a long day of hiking the Bungonia Slot Canyon and Bungonia Gorge Circuit, you’ll want a comfortable night’s sleep.
- Portable mini gas stove – a hot breaky is the best way to start the day camping.
- AeroPress Coffee Maker – an absolute game-changer. Pack some Vittoria ground coffee and you’re all set for a phenomenal brew.
Trail navigation is very challenging on the floor of the Bungonia Slot Canyon. Admittedly, GPS guided directions can’t help you negotiate the chaotic large boulder mid-section. You’ll have to rely on your judgement and instinct. However, GPS can be helpful to give you a rough idea of where you are in the canyon, particularly to help you find the exit trail.
For the Bungonia Gorge Circuit – the Green, White and Orange Tracks are very straightforward. However, the Yellow Track can be challenging to navigate at times, so use our Wikiloc for peace of mind.
- Make it a weekend trip: if you day trip from Sydney, you’re looking at a total of 4-6 hours of driving. So why not make a weekend out of it? There’s much to explore in the neighbouring Southern Highlands as well.
- Change your plans if there’s adverse weather: do not attempt the Bungonia Slot Canyon if it’s raining. Not only will the descents be too slippery and dangerous, but flash flooding can occur quickly on the canyon floor.
- Give yourself plenty of time for the Bungonia Slot Canyon: hiking in and out of that canyon is difficult and tiring. So give yourself not just a half-day, but a full day, if it’s your first time attempting. If you start early enough though, realistically, you should finish with plenty of time to spare, to then tackle the Bungonia Gorge Circuit.
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