Mt Exmouth is the best long day walk in the Warrumbungles!
Grade: 4–moderate to steep
Distance: 17.3km return
Type: Out and back
Start Location: 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 switch backs up the scree slopes on the mountain’s northern side, before crossing the nose of Mt 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, being 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, the views from Mt Exmouth (1206m) are impressive. Perhaps even better today, being 3 metres taller and blessed with a cloudless sky. We soaked up the vast views in all directions and never wanted to leave.
Reluctantly, we returned to Danu Gap as more adventure awaits us.
Cathedral Rock and Arch Add-on
Distance: 2km return
Type: 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 which divide the rock into rectangular blocks of 1 to 2 metres across. Over time, water has seeped into the joints, further weakened 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 Mt 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 more thick, 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.
After feasting on this natural wonder, we return to one of the lava flows to feast on lunch and more magnificent views.
We retrace our steps to Danu Gap where 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.
Best 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 campsites 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 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 with very helpful staff just 2kms from Camp Blackman, opened from 9am to 4pm daily. Informative displays, giftware and best of all, a selection of cold drinks and ice creams 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.
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. The topographic map reference for Warrumbungle National Park, downloadable to the Avenza map app, is 8635-2 TOORAWEENAH (1:50K).