Best long distance Warrumbungle NP Walk.
If you have more than two days to spare you should definitely include Mt Exmouth in your wanderings. The views are simply magnificent and the walk covers much new ground.
4 – moderate to steep
5 – 7 hrs
Out and back
Burbie Canyon Carpark
This walk is also available as an out and back via the West Spirey Creek track for fit, experienced walkers. It is slightly shorter in distance, 16.8km, but currently not available with this track’s closure. It takes much the same time to complete.
Navigation for this route is fairly straightforward. Complete the 1.9km Burbie Canyon Track before turning right to join the Burbie Fire Trail. From here, it’s a gradual uphill climb to Danu Gap, where you join the well-signposted walking track to Mt Exmouth. Allow about two hours for the return trip to the summit.
The ascent gently switchbacks up the scree slopes on the mountain’s northern side, before crossing the nose of Exmouth to continue along its cool southern face. If you thought the grass trees were good near Bluff Mountain’s slopes, you’re in for a treat here. I couldn’t stop photographing the impressive stands of these ancient trees.
The track climbs up to the saddle in the centre of Exmouth’s summit, then turns right to make its way along the rocky summit to Wambelong Trig. Mt Wambelong, was Mt Exmouth’s former name until the Geographical Names Board officially settled a long-running dispute in 1979.
Summit vegetation is sparse, with only the hardiest plants surviving. Twisted grass trees and stunted Mallee Eucalypts thrive as do a wide variety of small heath shrubs.
The summit’s rock composition is also unique. You only find basalt, the uppermost layers of lava and breccia, on the outer slopes of a volcano. This basalt-dense summit area represents one of the few remaining pieces of the original volcanic shield.
As with Bluff Mountain (1203m), the views from Mt Exmouth (1206m) are impressive. Perhaps even better today, being 3 metres higher and blessed with a cloudless sky. We soaked up the vast views in all directions and never wanted to leave.
Reluctantly, we return to Danu Gap as more adventure awaits us.
Cathedral Rock and Arch Add-on
Out and back from Danu Gap (at base of ascent to Mt Exmouth)
Cathedral Rock and Arch are well worth the extra side trip. The track to the Arch takes you through a group of squat, strangely shaped columns. The rock, called trachyte, is riddled with fractures that divide the rock into rectangular blocks of 1 to 2 metres across. Over time, water has seeped into the joints, further weakening the rock, leaving the core of these blocks standing alone.
From Danu Gap take the Grand High Tops route. After about 600 metres, take a right-hand turn at the Cathedral and Arch junction. There are a lot of scree slopes to cross here as erosion continues. I found this section required much more concentration than Mount Exmouth’s ascent.
The track eventually descends to the Arch via a series of stepped lava flows. Above you, to your right, is Cathedral Rock.
Continue on the path till you reach the Arch, which will be very easy to recognise. A dead tree covering the path, or the sharp drop-off soon afterwards, will quickly stop you in your tracks. I ventured beneath the dead tree for my selfie moment, but it was precarious.
The photo opportunities are as good if you stand safely back from this precipice. The Arch is a tunnel formed from a thick lava flow, 50 metres or thicker, that erosion has undermined. Blocks started dropping out of the bottom of the flow to form this impressive arch. A single pale white gum flourishes on its crest.
We retrace our steps to Danu Gap. There we join the Burbie Fire Trail for the long and steep descent to the Burbie Canyon Track.
Unfortunately, no car was waiting for us at Burbie Canyon Carpark. In our enthusiasm this morning, we’d walked from Camp Blackman. A long, boring road walk followed. A detour to the Visitor Centre for ice cream made some amends. And after a refreshing shower, we soon forgot our pain. If you have the time, Mount Exmouth is definitely worth the effort.
Time to Visit
The park is exposed. On hot days, make sure you take enough water as no reliable water sources exist on the ranges. For comfort, autumn and spring are the best times to visit, with spring bringing the wildflower season.
How to get there
6hrs drive North West from Sydney or two and a half hours North East of Dubbo. The nearest township, Coonabarabran (known as the astronomy capital of Australia) is located 30 mins from the park entrance.
Where to stay?
Hotels and Motels
Several options are available in the nearest town, Coonabarabran, 30kms away.
For campsite bookings visit the National Parks Website. A car pass to enter the park is also required.
Campsites – on track
- Balor Hut (sleeps 8 in 4 bunk beds–bring bedding) or reserve Balor campsite
- Danu Gap
- Ogma Gap
Campsites – limited amenities
Campsites – full amenities
- Camp Blackman–Sites 1, 2 and 3
There’s an excellent Visitor Information Centre 2kms from Camp Blackman, open from 9am to 4pm daily. Informative displays, giftware and best of all, a selection of cold drinks and ice creams are available to enjoy after a hot day’s walk.
They’ll recommend the best walks for you based on your fitness levels and interests, weather, and current park conditions. The Centre supplies basic overview maps, like this one, courtesy of Oliver Descoeudres’ Hiking the World blog site.
Identification of key landmarks–spires, dykes, domes and peaks–and how volcanic activity formed them has come from an old NPWS brochure, also kindly sourced from Oliver’s Hiking the World blog site. Please visit his site for alternative approaches to these popular trails.
Detailed GPX files for these trails are available for download from reputable navigation apps, such as Alltrails. A map of sorts which shows some sections of our Mt Exmouth journey, together with Bluff Mountain and Grand High Tops, can be found here.
The topographic map reference for Warrumbungle National Park, downloadable to the Avenza map app, is 8635-2 TOORAWEENAH (1:50K).