Picnic at Cathedral Rock

Cathedral Rock National Park boasts some of the more spectacular bushwalks in NSW. Dominated by tall, striking granite tors - many of which I found to be somewhat reminiscent of…

By Tara Moss

Apr 25, 2014

Cathedral Rock National Park boasts some of the more spectacular bushwalks in NSW, and perhaps Australia. Dominated by tall, striking granite tors – many of which I found to be somewhat reminiscent of the mysterious moai of Easter Island – rising out of a scenic forest of eucalypts, Cathedral Rock Track is something every avid hiker should experience.

Getting there: Follow road signs to Cathedral Rock National Park, roughly 8kms west of Waterfall Way in New South Wales, Australia, 70 kms east of Armidale, and head down Round Mountain Road to Barokee Rest Area, where the track begins.

The track: The Cathedral Rock Track circuit is a pleasant 5.8km through bushland dotted with beautiful granite rock formations. Allow 2 or more hours for the circuit, or 3 hrs or more in total for both the circuit and rock climb up Cathedral Rock. For the circuit, begin at Barokee Rest Area and follow the sign for ‘Cathedral Rocks 2.5km’ pointing to the left, cross the mud flats and head into the bush up one of the two signed trails (either trail brings you through the circuit and leaves you at the same point). The trail up to Cathedral Rock splits off about halfway through the circuit, and is clearly signed. If your fitness level will accommodate the adventure, the view from the top of Cathedral Rock is more than reward enough for the walk and final climb, which involves rock hopping, a few tight squeezes between boulders, some steep rock ascents and small section of chain climbing (shown below). Be sure to wear hiking shoes with a good grip, and pack a snack or picnic lunch, lots of water and a camera for that memorable view (above).

Warning: I recommend that all but the very most experienced hikers avoid doing the final rock climb section solo, as it can be treacherous in places, with a potentially deadly drop. The images do not quite capture the steep incline at the top, nor the tight squeezes through one final section of the climb, where the hiker is required to fit between boulders to continue the journey. Wet weather would also make some of the rock climbing in the final ascent dangerous, as there are few holds in some sections. Having a friend with you will ensure that if you take a tumble, help can be reached. (There was some phone reception near Cathedral Rock.)

Image above: Enjoying the view at the top of Cathedral Rock. Images below: The mud flats, early uphill walk towards Cathedral Rock, and one of the sections of trail through boulders on the ascent.








Images above: Rock formations and view heading up Cathedral Rock, pausing for the view part way through one of the two short sections of steep chain climbing, resting out of the wind at the top, and Berndt in the clouds, carrying our daughter and enjoying the view at the highest peak of Cathedral Rock.

While you are in the area, check out nearby Ebor Falls:


Gear: (Geeky details for hikers.)

I wore my trusty Scarpa hiking boots, which held well on the large sections of steep (but dry) rock, and my Osprey women’s hiking pack. As usual, I prefer hiking skirts worn with wool layers and canvas gaiters, and though it was warm and I took my other upper layers off, I regret it, as I took off some shoulder coming through the tight, rough rock squeezes (a mere flesh wound) in the final metres. I also brought my Canadian-made Tilley T4 hat, which is durable, machine washable and comes with chin straps for windy days. (Also, there’s a kind of fascinating and gross story about one of these nearly-indestructible hats being eaten by an elephant THREE TIMES. And surviving. Did I mention it was machine washable?) Ideally for this walk, I recommend fingerless hiking gloves to comfortably grip the rock or cold chains, particularly in cooler weather.

Our 3 year old daughter, Sapphira, was carried by Berndt in her Deuter Kids Comfort III backpack, which she has already travelled through Spain, Canada and New Zealand in. I highly recommended structured carries like this one for children aged 1 to 3. They are excellent for long day walks, though it made the squeeze through the boulders at the top somewhat difficult, and now that she is 3, Sapphira enjoyed taking some of the trails on by foot.

Happy hiking.

PS I have listed my gear because I find similar information helpful on other blogs. This post is not sponsored.

Click here for more of my favourite walks.

* Photographs copyright of Tara Moss & Berndt Sellheim, 2014.

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  1. Chris Towers

    Hi Tara
    I decided to check out your web site after seeing you on Q&A last Monday, being very impressed by your intelligent and well-thought responses, (I only tune in to Q&A when there are no politicians on the panel), and lo and behold I discover that you like to bushwalk too. I really like this item on Cathedral Rock, a walk that I have done a couple of times.

    I also stumbled across your extensive posts on the planned introduction of recreational shooting in NSW national parks and am only sorry that I didn’t see them at the time. Fortunately sense prevailed, thanks in no small part perhaps to the antics of some senior people involved in the shooting/hunting lobby. If this proposal had eventuated it is likely to have been replicated across Australia, compounding the impact on other Park users.

    Chris Towers
    Bushwalking Australia
    Bushwalking Victoria

  2. Matthildur Björnsdóttir

    Hi Tara, I saw you on QA and knew I had to read your book. I am born 1947 and of the womens liberation generation. I am born in Iceland but have lived here in Australia almost 27 years. Your book shows so many apsects of the immaturity in so many and resistance to the female wisdom. Just like the man sitting next you to at QA. Fourty years ago this year just about all women in Iceland rallied and went on a one day strike for womens right and to show in going away for a day what our contribution was is. It was a fantastic day. Your book as far as I have read is amazing proof of and reminder of how slowly the dream we this generation had in the wolrd becoming a better world. To see how many women are not there yet either is also so sad and that people are on about your looks in relation to your writing shows how much pain they are really in on the inside but they do not realise it. I have been writing all my life even if I have not yet had my material out in published form but I have had many articles published some years ago. I really look forward to reading more of the book and will contact you again when I have done so, I was so moved by what I have read about the chauvinism in both males and females that I had to see if I could write to you. Thanks Matthildur

  3. TOMMY

    G day Tara
    Hey have you been to the N.T ?
    If not, go see Katherine gorge National Park,
    its tops , has 13 steep gorges ,with deep fresh water.
    Can canoe or take a tour by boat .
    Regards Tom


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