The Great North Walk – Day 3 – Hornsby to Calna Creek North

Welcome back to the Great North Walk (GNW) Mach II.

It has taken a while to get back out onto the trail, but it has been worth the wait. It delivers equal parts physical challenge and outstanding beauty. It is also a bit unique for me in that I haven’t been able to walk the whole thing in one go – an approach that always appeals to my linear brain.

The wet weather on New South Wales’ East coast has meant damage to the trail continues to occur and parts are opened and closed with regular monotony. Maybe all these stops and starts are teaching me to be supremely flexible!

Fill up your water bottle, we are off on Day 3 of the Great North Walk, slowly working/walking our way from Sydney to Newcastle.

Map of Day 3 on the Great North Walk
It looks so short and easy on a map!

Logistics:

Day: 3

Date: Sunday 7 August 2022

From: Hornsby Train Station          

To: Calna Creek North

Map #:  Part 7, part 8

Official Distance: 15.7km              Actual Distance: 18.2km

Total: 63.6/277km

Time: 6h4m incl. rests, chats etc

Ascent: 338m                                  Descent: 539m

Weather: Sunny and warm (where’s Winter?) and a few light sprinkles of rain to finish.

Stayed At: Calna Creek North Campground

The start of the Great North Walk from Clarinda Street in Hornsby
An unassuming start…

Getting to the Start: I started from Hornsby Train Station and walked up Peat’s Ferry Road which turns into Galston Road. Yes, if I was a Purist I would have plunged down the hill from the station and picked up the trail in the bush. I figured I would have enough bush over the next couple of days and was happy to skip 1-2km of rough stuff. I easily picked up the trail again on Clarinda Street with the first marker posts telling me where this next part of the adventure would head. Regular train services connect Hornsby to the North towards Newcastle or South to Strathfield, or south-east to Sydney CBD. An Opal Card is handy for use on all public transport in Sydney and surrounds.

Finishing This Stage: I joined a couple of stages together, however you could finish this stage by continuing to walk past the Calna Creek North Campground to arrive at Mt Kuring-gai for train and bus services.

General Comments:

  • I was lulled into a wonderful false sense of security with trail starting out as a wide management road. Reality hit though when the finger post said ‘go left’ and left I went plunging down my first of many steep, rocky and slippery ravines. At times it wasn’t really even walking as such, more like rock hopping, and rock hopping is not easy when you have a fully loaded backpack on your back. Anyway, the steep descent was rewarded with a gurgling waterfall and lovely rockpool at the very bottom of the gully. Now to get back up the other side…
  • Being early on a Sunday morning, when saner people are still in bed or at least enjoying a restorative coffee and a slow read of the newspaper, I had the path pretty much to myself. As the hour crept towards a more sensible time a tsunami of mountain bikers and trail runners swept over me. By that stage the path had changed from endless uneven rocks back to the wide management trail again and they all raced past me with a cheery ‘Good morning’ and a bit of banter. No doubt they were thankful to be running just with a water bottle, but we all had to tackle the same ascents and descents, and they were doing it at speed.
  • It is so much easier to admire the landscape when the path in front of you is fairly even and clear, rather than having to watch every step. I paused to admire some black cockatoos enjoying a noisy breakfast in the trees and a trail runner paused to watch as well. We are so blessed with birdlife in Australia. I keep telling myself to stop and take the time to enjoy these little sights rather than continually pushing on to my day’s endpoint.
  • More friendly chats with runners, including one lady who shared her own experience of completing the GNW last year as a series of day walks. Yes, she is one smart lady.
  • It was back down the steep gorges again as I got close to Galston Gorge. The legs were getting a bit tired and the tummy was calling for an energy hit. Imagine my surprise as I stepped around a boulder to see a series of metal rungs drilled into a sheer rock wall. Yep, I was to head down those very, very carefully. To top it off, this was followed by a series of concrete plinths lined up in a creek bed. They were really testing my balancing skills today!
  • This walk has an unusual feel. You feel like you are walking remotely through thick scrub and then a jumbo jet flies over and you hear the growl of Sunday motorbike riders weaving around the sharp corners of the main road nearby. Not quite the serenity I was expecting, but then everyone has the right to enjoy their Sunday in whatever way floats their boat.
  • By mid-morning the walking clientele had changed to more serious bushwalkers, complete with walking poles and day packs. I certainly did not have to worry about getting lonely as everyone was happy to chat.
  • The main source of all the people was from Crosslands Reserve. It is a lovely shady spot with well-manicured lawns, toilets, BBQs and lots of happy campers. It would have been nice to call it a day at this point, but I had planned to push on for another couple of kilometres.

Top Tips for this Section:

  • Rating: Today is rated Medium/Hard. When the map/guidebook rates a stage as Medium/Hard, they are not kidding. Frankly, I would rate the next few stages as ‘#@!$ Hard’, but I guess that is not a technical hiking term.
  • Water: the path takes you across a number of water sources. I would not recommend drinking this water unless you really had to and you treated it first. While you are walking through the bush, that bush is surrounded by old industrial settings, military installations and firing ranges. You just don’t know where the water run-off is coming from. Fill up with clean water at Crosslands – there are taps at the toilets and located throughout the green space.
  • Camp: If I was planning this stage again, I would definitely camp at Crosslands Reserve. Fees apply, but it would be worth it for the luxury of running water and toilets. Calna Creek North campground was fine, but there is nothing there other than a very persistent, hungry brush turkey.
  • Poles: Walking poles are a must on this stage to act as a brake and stabiliser on the endless downs. They are handy on the ups too.
  • Signage: GNW signage is good-to-excellent. Where there was no sign, logic took over and within a few hundred metres signage appeared again.
Waterviews on the Great North Walk
Berowra Creek
  • Distances: Like other walks I have done, the distances marked on the signs are conservative to say the least. They certainly didn’t match the predicted distances in the guidebook or what appeared on my Garmin watch at the end of the day.
  • Heights: If you are afraid of heights, this walk may not be for you. The path is very high and steep in places, and certain sections go close to unfenced cliff areas. I am not saying this to frighten you – just a friendly heads-up.
  • Slippery Terrain: This path would be even more challenging if you were walking after periods of rain. The rocks would become very slippery and the watercourses you have to cross would rise. I recommend you check the Alerts section of National Parks and Wildlife before setting out.

Roll on Day 4.

Resources:

  • The Great North Walk – Learn more – HERE
  • NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service – Berowra Valley National Park – HERE
  • NSW Train & Buses – Plan your trip – HERE

#travelinspo #greatnorthwalk #crosslandsreserve #adventurebeforedementia #longdistancewalks #australianbush #sydney #bushwalks #greatoutdoors #hornsby #birdlife #rockclimbing #galstongorge #nationalparks #berowravalleynationalpark

27 thoughts on “The Great North Walk – Day 3 – Hornsby to Calna Creek North

  1. restlessjo August 17, 2022 / 4:49 pm

    I’d probably have to plodge through the water, Mel. Easier than falling off one of those posts 🤣💕 Exhausting fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Master of Something Yet August 17, 2022 / 9:18 pm

    I can’t express just how grateful I am for these reports. They are so super useful. Calna Creek North Camp now amended to Crosslands. Thanks!

    I must say that I feel more positive about climbing down steel rungs than up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure August 19, 2022 / 8:51 am

      My pleasure. I will be following your progress with interest! The rungs do look freaky, but I found that if I went slow, they were doable….the crawling on hands and knees thing was another story altogether!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. wetanddustyroads August 17, 2022 / 11:35 pm

    Oh, those trails that goes down all the way … only to go UP again! And rock hopping with a heavy backpack – not easy. But oh my, this looks like quite a challenging stage – going up and down rocks (those metal rungs 👀) … definitely keeps you on your toes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure August 19, 2022 / 8:52 am

      Whatever goes up, must come down again! Sometimes I wonder why we do this to ourselves, but the views always make it better.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Heyjude August 18, 2022 / 12:06 am

    Oh, goodness! I would have had to turn back at those rungs in the rocks, never mind the stepping stones. I used to have fairly good balance, but now heights and stepping stones make me freeze. I shall happily accompany you on the rest of the hike, just looking over your shoulder. (Sorry about the extra weight…🤣)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure August 19, 2022 / 8:54 am

      🙂 – you are one smart lady leaving all the hard work to me!! Of course I am more than happy to have you along for the ride. The thing is about walks like this is that you get so far into these paths that turning around and going back is just as hard as going forward! So, forward it is!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Monkey's Tale August 18, 2022 / 12:29 am

    Well this one certainly tested your abilities didn’t it?! And you passed 😊 Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure August 19, 2022 / 8:55 am

      AND there was even more testing to come! This trail probably sounds like a doddle to you, but I had to dig deep! x

      Like

  6. Diana August 18, 2022 / 12:33 am

    Some of that terrain looks ridiculously steep for a hike. I can see why they put metal rungs in the rocks. And that creek crossing with the concrete posts… no thank you. Seems like a good way to break an ankle. Glad to hear you navigated it all successfully!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. travelling_han August 18, 2022 / 1:47 am

    Part 3 looks challenging – some really steep and slippy bits. I would have fallen off the stepping stones and broken my neck so I’m pleased you are in one piece 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure August 19, 2022 / 8:57 am

      It certainly is a full body, and brain, workout. It makes stopping at the end of the day even more enjoyable. 🙂

      Like

  8. Ruth September 24, 2022 / 3:40 am

    Those metal rungs look awesome

    Like

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