Early morning on the deck of a ship off the NSW South Coast, some 10 years ago, I imagined how James Cook felt in 1770 when he first spied Pigeon House Mountain from the HMS Endeavour. Unlike Cook, I had an opportunity to stand on the Pigeon House Mt summit and look back out to the ships at sea. How can you not admire and climb a hill that stands out clear against the sky, alternatively looking like a dove house to a European (Cook) or a women’s breast to the local Aborigines?
Pigeon House Mountain is 30km inland from Milton on clearly signposted roads. It is also a short drive from Long Gully campsite, where we camped overnight after our attempt on The Castle. There are toilets and picnic tables at Pigeon House Mountain parking area, but take your own drinking water.
The way up Pigeon House Mountain
The route is a 6km return climb in Morton National Park with 460m ascent and descent. The track is well formed, with many wooden steps and steel staircases at the summit cliff line. Fit walkers can easily complete it in a morning or afternoon, to enjoy the great 360 degree of the rugged sandstone cliffs of the Budawang ranges and the green valleys and gorges of the Clyde River system. We enjoyed looking out towards the Byangee Walls and The Castle where we’d been the previous day.
The climb starts as soon as you leave the carpark, up through the forest with no warm up! After reaching the top of the first cliff line, there is a lovely rocky outcrop with good views (be still my beating heart) followed by a nice flattish recovery section through heathland. As you near the peak, the path starts climbing steeply towards the final cliff line where a series of staircases take you up the sandstone cliffs. There is a trig station on the summit (720m high) and some protective railings. The walk is not recommended in wet weather, as the staircases will be slippery and dangerous, the access roads will be muddy, and the views will be washed out.
Nowadays there is mobile coverage on the summit, so it’s a good spot for a peak bagging social media update. But before tweets and instagrams, there was a bus-stop on the top of Pigeon House Mountain.
After our two planned Budawangs walks (The Castle and Pigeon House Mountain), we enjoyed a leisurely lunch stop in Milton. Milton was established 1860 not long after surveyor and artist Robert Hoddle painted this 1830 idyllic pastoral scene of Pigeon House Mountain.
Despite the fact that the Prince’s Highway bisects Milton, it is a charming country town registered with the National Trust. There is no shortage of delightful places to eat in Milton – we tried Pilgrims Vegetarian Café, The Heritage Bakery, and Coffee Guild. Try not to get distracted too much by the boutique shops, art galleries and real estate windows in Milton – there is a long drive home to Sydney.
If you stay on the well marked path, a map isn’t essential, but you might still enjoy looking at the beautiful hand drawn sketch map of the Northern Budawang Range and upper Clyde Valley, originally published by The Budawang Committee in 1960. Further information on walk is available on the NSW National Parks website