13 August 2023.
Nestled along the eastern ridgeline of the wild and remote Morton National Park, Mount Bushwalker offers up sublime views across the spectacular Clyde Gorge, with exposed ochre cliffs and endless eucalypt forests marking the landscapes for as far as the eye can see.
While the rewards for this walk are wildly impressive, it’s also surprisingly easy to get here with just a 30-minute drive from the highway up a winding road and a flat 45-minute walk across the escarpment to reach these stunning vistas.
The Mount Bushwalker hike is a great half-day outing for anyone spending a weekend in the Shoalhaven or makes a perfect stop to stretch your legs as you drive along the NSW south coast.
For those planning to visit, here’s everything you need to know before visiting Mount Bushwalker.
Located along the eastern fringe of Morton National Park and the Budawangs Wilderness Area, Mount Bushwalker is best accessed from the Princes Highway between Conjola and Milton on the south coast of NSW.
Turn onto Porters Creek Road from where it’s about 14 kilometres or a 25-minute drive to reach the Mount Bushwalker car park. This turns into Pointer Gap Road and winds through open countryside and tall eucalyptus forests, and beneath some incredible rock formations that tower over the road until you reach the mountain escarpment.
After about 10km, you’ll leave the paved road behind and arrive at an intersection where you’ll need to turn right onto Mount Bushwalker Road. Continue along for the final 3.7km until you arrive at the large Mount Bushwalker car park.
If you’ve read any online reviews of Mount Bushwalker, you’ve likely seen mention of the terrible roads on the way in, but don’t let that put you off. It’s still perfectly manageable in a 2WD, though having a bit of clearance will be helpful.
The narrow road is paved for most of the way, though incidentally, this is where you’ll find the most and biggest potholes, some of which take up the better part of the road.
Go slow and you shouldn’t have any issues navigating through or around them. Once you hit the gravel, the rest of the way is mostly in good condition with just a few small potholes.
The car park itself is newly established with several large parking bays, good signage and a drop toilet.
Thankfully, the road to the trailhead has done almost all the hard work bringing you up to the mountain plateau and the edge of the escarpment. From start to finish, the entire route makes for a relatively flat and easy stroll that guides you towards an epic viewpoint on the edge of the ridgeline.
Heading out of the car park, the Mount Bushwalker track begins along a white gravel fire trail that weaves through the forest for the first few hundred metres.
If you’ve spent any time hiking about on this side of Morton National Park, you’ll quickly notice the tree trunks streaked in charcoal and the fresh layers of undergrowth that carpet the forest floor.
After the devastating Black Summer bushfires that swept through much of the NSW south coast in 2019, this entire trail was rebuilt with freshly laid track and a raised boardwalk that meanders through the vibrant new vegetation for much of the way.
After about 10 minutes, you’ll trade the fire trail for the boardwalk and continue on across the mountain plateau.
On a beautiful late afternoon in mid-winter, honey-scented wildflowers peppered the bushes alongside the trail and golden light melted across the landscapes.
Pushing on, you’ll pass above two small streams which forge their path into the valley and feed into Claydons Creek down below.
Some sections will cast you back onto the rock platform with small circular arrow signs bolted onto the rock to guide the way.
After about 3km, you’ll arrive at the edge of the escarpment and be welcomed by your first glimpse of the spectacular mountains that carve up this section of the Budawangs Wilderness.
Though already an impressive sight, things only get better from here.
Continue along the boardwalk for the final 500m of the trail and you’ll arrive at the raised viewing platform that stands atop the edge of the escarpment, staring straight down the magnificent Clyde Gorge flanked by mountains as far as the eye can see.
The conical summit of Pigeon House Mountain, another popular hike in the area, peaks over the ridgeline that leads the way towards Talaterang Mountain, while the impressive plateau of The Castle rises up in the distance surrounded by a dense pocket of mountains that puncture this wild area of the Budawangs.
Rugged, remote and ridiculously scenic, this is about as good as it gets.
If the viewing platform is occupied, there are a few large rocks along the cliff line that would make a great spot for a picnic lunch or afternoon snack before heading back to the car.
The trail can easily be completed in about 45 minutes each way, including stops to look at the spectacular views and pretty flowers alongside the trail.
You’ll want to spend a bit of time at the lookout enjoying the scenery too so be sure to factor this into your hiking time.
One of my favourite things about this area of the south coast is that there are plenty of charming small towns nearby to choose as a base, whether you’re after more of a countryside escape or a beach getaway.
I stayed in lovely little Milton which sits just 30 minutes from the Mount Bushwalker Carpark, but if you’re after more of a beach vibe, Mollymook is another great option just 10 minutes further away.
125 Milton | This cosy two-bedroom apartment on the edge of town is a lovely spot if you’re visiting with a group or staying for a longer period. You’ll find a fully-equipped kitchen and spacious lounge and tv area for relaxing with a cup of tea after your hike. Check rates and availability here.
The Rooms Milton | Set in the heart of Milton above the local pub, The Rooms offers a selection of newly renovated and budget-friendly rooms with local Aussie-made touches throughout and a contactless check-in system which means you can arrive anytime. The bigger en suite rooms are definitely the better option over their smaller rooms if you have the choice. Check rates and availability here.
Motel Molly | This boutique hotel located just a stone’s throw from Mollymook Beach offers up beautifully renovated rooms with quirky pops of colour and an outdoor pool and patio area with Mediterranean-style touches throughout. Check rates and availability here.
Bannisters Mollymook | For a luxe stay by the sea after a day in the mountains, Bannisters has two Mollymook properties, one of which is perched on the headland that juts out between Mollymook and Narrawallee, and the other located a short stroll from Mollymook Beach. You’ll find a beautiful selection of rooms alongside ocean views, a spa, infinity pool and restaurant, depending on which location you choose. Check rates and availability for Bannisters by the Sea or Bannisters Pavilion.
Stick to the Mount Bushwalker trail
It may come as a surprise to learn that this remote section of Morton National Park and the Budawang Wilderness Area is considered to have a high concentration of unexploded ordnances or UXO.
Basically, this could cover anything from grenades to live rounds.
In the midst of WWll, a section of this wilderness area was leased to the Department of Defence and designated as the Tianjara Military Training Area until the early 1980s when it was reclaimed to be included in the vast Morton National Park.
After 40 years of use as a military training arena, it boggles the mind that there may be countless live military artillery strewn across these beautiful landscapes, with no account of exactly how many or where they are located.
Though Mount Bushwalker was previously considered to be a low-risk area, after a survey by the NPWS in 2015, the area was redesignated and added to the high-risk zone.
While the track itself is largely on raised platforms or across bare rock and has been walked many thousands of times so as not to be considered a risk, it is not recommended to go wandering off the trail while in the area.
Sunset is a beautiful time to visit
Though the views from Mount Bushwalker will be fantastic at any time of day, the walk is relatively short and easy making sunset an excellent time of day to visit when soft golden light streams through the valley and illuminates the plateau in vibrant orange hues.
Given the mountains also block the entire western horizon, you’ll still have a decent amount of light to get back to the car before darkness begins to fall, though I’d certainly recommend bringing a head torch if you’re planning on staying out any later.
It’s a Great Beginner Trail
Unlike many of the walking trails in Morton National Park or the Budawangs which require travelling along 4WD-only access roads, involve tackling some kind of rope or ladder system to complete the trail or are remote enough that you’d really want to be confident navigating the Aussie wilderness, the Mount Bushwalker trail is flat, easy and relatively short, making it a great trail for any beginner hikers who want to experience the immense beauty of the region without too much difficulty.
You won’t need any special gear, just some water, snacks and some comfortable shoes should do the trick.
Don’t forget sun protection and warm weather gear
Up in the mountains, you’ll quickly find yourself meandering through the low-lying vegetation that sprawls across much of the plateau. Though beautiful, it offers very little in the way of sun or wind protection.
Be sure to wear sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses to ward off the strong Aussie sun.
In winter, it can also get bitterly cold up here if there’s a strong breeze whipping up the valley or as the sun begins to sink towards the horizon. A warm jumper and windbreaker are a good idea if you’re visiting during the colder months.
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