Great Walks Near Berrima: No.2 The Box Vale Walking Track
Updated: Dec 19, 2021
Track: Easy bush track, gentle inclines, some rough sections
Time: Allow 3 hours
One of the most fascinating walks in the Southern Highlands is just a ten minute drive from Oldbury Cottage in Berrima. If you have a lazy three hours as well as an appetite for great scenery and a bit of adventure, then this mostly-level walk, which follows the route of a long abandoned rail line through cuttings, an 84 metre tunnel to a cliff-hanging lookout, might pique your interest.
You'll pass through a kaleidoscope of scenes - a picturesque reservoir, 1890s railway cuttings, hidden rainforests, Eucalyptus glades, and the pièce de résistance - an 84 metre hand-hewn sandstone tunnel - before arriving at a lookout perched on the edge of the Nattai Gorge.
In the silent distance, the Blue Mountains peaks of Guouogang (1,289 m) and Cloudmaker (1,163 m) can be seen on the north-western horizon. It's a superb spot for a picnic breakfast or brunch; there are two quite decent picnic tables.
Why not arrange a picnic basket to take with you through Berrima's Posh Picnic Co?
Q. How fit do you need to be?
A. The Box Vale Track really is a very easy walk for people of average fitness.
Q. What is the track like?
A. The track was designed and built by the Nowra Lands Office in the 1980s and is signposted with information along the way. It is mostly level, with a gently sloping grade, but there are a few deviations through small ravines and areas where sleepers have been lifted, leaving the track uneven, so a little care is needed to avoid trips.
Q. How long does it take?
A. Anyone of average fitness can comfortably complete the track in under 3 hours.
History Of The Box Vale Walking Track
The track was once a railway, which operated between 1888 and 1896 for the purposes of a coal mine in the Nattai Gorge. When the mine closed, the railway track and sleepers were torn up. Two timber trestle bridges that spanned small creeks survived for many more decades, before finally being destroyed in the 1939 bushfires.The route includes a tunnel followed by a loading area which is situated at the top of a steep incline (coal was hauled up in skips from the gorge below) and a beautiful lookout with picnic tables.
Where The Walk Starts
The track begins about 250 metres off the Old Hume Highway in Welby (Mittagong). Turn onto Box Vale Road and then immediately turn left onto the dirt track. You'll find a parking area where the track head is located.
The track leaves the car park and winds its way over a small rivulet before passing a beautiful reservoir, supplying drinking water to the residents of Mittagong.
From here onwards, the track follows the original route of the rail line.
Some of the cuttings that the track passes through have been dramatically re-shaped by the passage of time and nature. Then there are sections where you'll walk along raised embankments, with views over beautiful Eucalyptus forests, before points where the track deviates due to the loss of its two timber trestle bridges in 1939.
When you come to the sandstone tunnel, you won't need any more than the torch in your smartphone, or just allow a a few moments to let your eyes adjust. The removal of the sleepers has left a regularly rutted pathway, but it isn't difficult to negotiate with a bit of care.
When you emerge from the tunnel, there's just a little further to walk to reach the lookout. You will pass the top of the incline, where coal was hauled up from the valley below powered by steam, and then it's just another 5 minute walk down to the lookout and picnic area. Keep going! Don't turn back or you'll miss the best part.
The track then bears to the right and down a mild incline towards the edge of the Nattai Gorge, where you will find the picnic area. You can see the Blue Mountains peaks of Guouogang (1,289 m) and Cloudmaker (1,163 m) toward the north-western horizon.
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