4 June 2023.
Bald Rock Summit is reached via a short, steep trail but offers up sublime rewards with incredible views across Bald Rock National Park and the peaks of northern NSW and southern Queensland.
Wedged right along the border between NSW and Queensland, Bald Rock rises from the vast swathe of eucalypt forests as if from nowhere.
And despite its immense size, it remains remarkably well concealed between the trees, only revealing itself when you arrive at its base, where the steep rockface rears up before you.
There are two walking routes that will guide you to the Bald Rock Summit – the steep scramble of the Rockface Walk and the more gradual Bungoona Walk which leads through forest and curious rock formations.
From up top, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views across all of Bald Rock National Park extending to the spectacular mountains that mark every horizon.
It’s one of the best things to do in Tenterfield and this short guide contains everything you need to know before hiking Bald Rock.
Bald Rock National Park lies just 30 km north of Tenterfield and is easily accessible along Mount Lindsey Road.
From the northern end of Tenterfield, turn off the New England Highway (or Rouse Street as it’s labelled in town) onto Naas Street and veer immediately left into Logan Street.
After trailing through farmlands for a short way, this will turn into Mount Lindsay Road and, soon enough, you’ll be weaving through open forest with wallabies foraging alongside the road and birds swooping overhead.
After about 30 minutes, turn left onto the Bald Rock Access Road for the final 5 km until you reach the Bald Rock picnic area where you can park.
The road is paved and is in good condition the entire way from town.
The speed limit is just 40km/h for this final section though, and you’ll quickly realise it’s for good reason – there is wildlife everywhere.
Trailhead | Bald Rock Picnic Area
Distance | 3.9km return ( 1.3km via the Rockface Walk and 2.6km via the Bungoona Walk)
Elevation Gain | 180m
Duration | 1 to 2 hours
Park Fees | $8 per vehicle per day, per day
There are two tracks that lead to the Bald Rock Summit – the Rockface Walk and Bungoona Walk.
You can easily create a circuit walk by hiking one route to the summit and taking the other trail for the return, or follow either route up and down along the same path.
Both trails are beautiful though, and quite different, so I’d definitely recommend taking both to experience the best of the area.
Personally, I’d suggest hiking the Rockface Walk to the Bald Rock Summit and returning via Bungoona Walk which is the route that I’ve outlined in this guide. Though this does mean the way up is incredibly steep, it’s also much shorter in distance.
I also find it much harder scrambling down a steep slope and often end up in a scooching along on my butt situation, so the longer, more gradual way down was certainly my preference. If you’re the opposite, you could certainly take the Bungoona Walk up and leave the steep descent for the end of your walk.
Heading out from the picnic area, the wide, paved trail weaves through the forest.
After 100m, you’ll reach the intersection between the Rockface Walk and Bungoona Walk where you’ll need to continue straight ahead.
While bracken and ferns blanket the undergrowth and fresh greenery bursts from the tree tops, as you venture further along the path, the scars of past bushfires are all too evident on the surrounding tree trunks.
Some have been reduced to scorched mounds of charcoal, while others have sloughed off the blackened bark, creating space for vibrant new shoots to emerge.
Up ahead, you’ll see the first glimpse of Bald Rock looming above the treetops.
Considering its sheer size – some 750m in length – it seems impossible that this hulking mass of granite has been able to conceal itself until you’re virtually on top of it.
After just 500m of flat, forest trail, you’ll reach a short set of rocky stairs and find yourself at the base of Bald Rock.
Pitching sharply upwards, this is where the fun really begins.
From here, you’ll need to scramble up the steepest section of the rock face, and while it’s just 320m until things level out, you’ll be climbing more than 100m in elevation.
Leaving the trail behind, the way forward is marked by a series of white dots that guide you back and forth across the rock face, streaked in burnt orange and slate grey, in a serpentine trail to the top in an attempt to minimise the punishing climb as much as possible.
There’s no way around it though, the Rockface Walk is steep.
As you approach what feels like the top with thighs burning and a sigh of relief, the reddish tinge of the granite is even more distinct and vegetation begins to sprout from every rocky crevice and sprawls across the summit.
Here, you’ll find a sign nailed into the rock indicating the next intersection with the Bungoona Walk. You’ll turn off here on the way back for the return journey to the car park.
Be sure to take a break here to catch your breath and drink in the magnificent views across the treetops towards the impressive peaks of the Scenic Rim that rise up to the north.
Though this may feel like the summit, you’re not quite there yet. Thankfully though, the way flattens out considerably from here.
For the final 500m to the real Bald Rock Summit, the trail weaves through tall trees and enormous boulders, between narrow rocky channels and over open rock face until you emerge on the far side of Bald Rock.
With the sheer rock face falling away before you and the enormous eucalypts below rolling into the distance, this is one of the best vantage points in all of Bald Rock National Park.
From here, the trail does one final detour through a rocky passage and some bush punctuated by tiny wildflowers, emerging at the giant marbles, a cluster of four large boulders lined up in perfect formation.
Skirt along the ridgeline and continue onwards to the Bald Rock trig point which marks the summit.
From here, you’ll have panoramic views across the entire region with Little Bald Rock peeking up to the south, the forests of the New England highlands extending into the distance, and the spectacular mountains of the Border Ranges and Scenic Rim punctuating the horizon.
From the trig, the trail continues in a small loop south around the summit, before rejoining the main trail on the saddle to begin the descent.
I hiked up Bald Rock for sunset and was lucky enough to have the entire place to myself as the sun sank closer to the horizon and stained the treetops in deep golden tones and transformed the clouds into wisps of candy-floss pink.
It’s beautifully serene up here and well worth taking the time to drink it all in before heading back the way you came via the Summit Walk until you reach the Bungoona Walk intersection at the top of the rockface climb.
While sunset is a fantastic time of day to be at the Bald Rock Summit, it did mean I had to hike much of the way down in the dark.
Veering off to the right to join the Bungoona Walk, the trail immediately guides you through a sea of lush vegetation that has filled every crevice of granite available. There’s a short stretch where you’ll need to scuttle across the rock but it’s nowhere near as steep as you’ll find on the Rockface Walk.
As you leave the main monolith behind, the trail leads back into the forest and meanders through some seriously cool rock formations.
Walk through narrow passages carved between soaring walls of granite, clamber between tight clusters of giant rocks and scuttle beneath massive whale-like boulders balanced on tiny pinnacles.
It’s one of the most intriguing sections of the hike and, despite being about double the length of the Rockface Walk, it’s well worth taking the Bungoona Walk for this section alone.
Pushing on, the trail continues its gradual downhill march into the forest, eventually becoming a wide gravel trail that weaves amongst the trees.
The route swings out into the forest in a wide arch and once you reach the furthest point, the path more or less flattens out for the final kilometre.
If you’re walking this way at dusk, keep your eyes peeled for the many wallabies that forage here in the quiet hours of the day.
If you happen to be caught out in the dark, the unmistakable rustle as they bolt off through the trees may give you a slight heart attack instead.
Just before the end of the trail, you’ll reach the final intersection where you’ll need to turn right to make your way back to the parking area.
Located just 30 minutes from Bald Rock National Park, Tenterfield is the closest town and makes an ideal base for exploring the area unless, of course, you’re camping.
Bald Rock National Park Campground | Campers need not travel far to visit Bald Rock. The national park campground lies right near the trailhead and is suitable for tents, trailers and caravans. A great option for anyone on a budget hoping to roll out of bed and hit the rock for sunrise. Check rates and availability here.
Stannum House | Dating back to 1888, this historic mansion turned B&B retains many of the original flourishes and is furnished with antiques throughout, bringing some much-needed whimsey to the typical motel scene found in virtually every small regional town. Don’t expect any modern trimmings here, but the prices are very reasonable and the large dusty pink facade is unmissable as you arrive in Tenterfield. Check rates and availability here.
Royal Motel Tenterfield | Centrally located along the Bruxner and New England Highway intersection, this motel is a decent budget choice in town and receives great reviews from guests. Check rates and reviews here.
The Commercial Boutique Hotel | Tenterfield’s most luxurious option, CBH offers beautifully restored Art Deco accommodation with modern touches throughout, right in the heart of town. The in-house restaurant and bar are also open daily. Check rates and availability here.
The Best Time to Visit Bald Rock
Surrounded by the vast evergreen forests of northern NSW, Bald Rock is beautiful to visit at any time of year.
Summer brings the comfortable warmth of the highlands and spring conjures up a colourful display of wildflowers, while autumn and winter bring crisp, clear skies and chilly temperatures.
With the panoramic views on offer from the summit, sunrise and sunset are both magnificent times to visit when golden light burns across the treetops and illuminates the distant peaks in pastel hues.
Be sure to pack a headtorch if you’re visiting at these times of day though as things are pitch black in the forest without any remnant light from the glowing skies. A warm jacket is also a good idea if you’re visiting during the colder months.
Reception is limited
Bald Rock National Park is a bit of a black hole for phone reception. While you’ll be able to get patchy signal from the Bald Rock Summit, you’ll be struggling to find any bars around the base and on the road in.
It’s a good idea to download any maps offline, as well as any other information or entertainment you may need if you’ll be camping in the area.
Be Aware Of the Time Change
Residents of the border zone between NSW and Queensland will be familiar with the infuriating timeshift between the two states, but for first-time visitors, it can throw you for a bit of a loop.
Between October and April, NSW has daylight savings time, while Queensland does not, meaning there’s a 1 hour time difference between them.
As you approach the border where reception is already patchy, such as around Bald Rock, your phone might struggle to figure out exactly what state you’re in and will switch back and forth between the time zones.
To avoid any confusion, consider switching your phone to Airplane mode. But if you’re hoping to catch some internet up top, make sure to note the time you begin your hike so that you’ll at least notice any time shift, and, more importantly, if you’re going up for sunset, keep in mind what time it will start getting dark.
Watch out for wildlife, especially if you’re driving at night
No matter the time of day, the forests around Bald Rock are simply teeming with wildlife.
As you enter the national park, you’re bound to see wallabies scampering off the road with curious joeys peeking from their mother’s pouches.
There are strict speed limits within the park for this reason, but even as you head back to the main road, it’s common for wallabies to forage right alongside the road or stop in the middle when startled by headlights.
While I would ordinarily suggest to avoid driving in the dark altogether, if you’re heading up Bald Rock for sunset or arriving early for sunrise, driving in the dark is unavoidable unless you’re camping on site. Be sure to slow down and keep an eye out just in case.
Don’t forget the park fees
Access to Bald Rock National Park does come with a day-use fee of $8 per vehicle, per day. When you reach the Bald Rock picnic area, you’ll find a large information panel with a stash of envelopes for payment in exact cash (there’s no change provided).
For those camping in the park, the day fees are in addition to any camping fees.
If you’re a keen hiker who visits numerous national parks throughout the year, the far better option is to buy an annual Multi Parks Pass online which is valid for all NSW national parks (except Kosciuszko).
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