They say we swallow seven spiders per year in our sleep and if we adhere to the five second rule we’re safe to munch on that dropped doughnut. I’m sorry to say, these are just myths. Myths are sometimes just misplaced truths though, and a major one is that hikes are only enjoyable in summer! Winter ambles are soul warming and here are six short walks close to Sydney you can ‘brave’ this winter.
Lockleys Pylon, Blue Mountains National Park - 2 hours from Sydney
Immerse yourself in clifftop heathland on the Lockleys Pylon walking track. You’ll see hardy native flowers and dive through pockets of resilient eucalypts before nearing Lockleys Pylon itself, a small but distinctive peak overlooking Govetts Gorge.
Satisfy your curiosity with a climb to the top and enjoy mega views of the Grose Valley, multiple waterfalls (you can see as far as Govetts Leap!) and the dramatic sandstone cliffs of Mount Hay and Mount Banks. This 7km return walk takes 2 – 3 hours, but in winter can take up to 4 due to hypnotic, day-dream-inducing clouds in the valley.
The Basin and Mackerel Track, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park - 1 hour from Sydney
The luscious bushland around the Basin is an old favourite. Heading out from West Head Road, power along the Basin Track to the Mackerel track intersection and walk to the point for sweeping views of Pittwater. You can then walk down to The Basin campground to cool your feet in the bay. The walk back is steep, so you’ll have earnt yourself a BYO refreshment at the top!
Lake Toolooma Trail, Heathcote National Park - 90 mins from Sydney
Lake Toolooma trail is the perfect fit for late risers. The tough 5km trail will only take a few hours but you’ll be instantly transported to classic Australian bush. Sydney sandstone, hardened natives like the Banksia and a plethora of nectar-feeding birds will suck their worries away like a honeyeater on payday.
If you’re not into thrashing out a five hour hike, take some me-time at the little known Lake Toolooma dam. It’s about halfway along the trail and a perfect spot for a picnic. Blend in and see how many native birds you can spot. Just don’t forget your jacket!
This track is very easily accessed from Waterfall station, so save petrol and hop aboard the train you’ll be surprised how far you can travel on your opal card!
11km Walking Track, Dharug National Park - 2 hours from Sydney
What the 11km Walking Track lacks in creative naming, it more than makes up for in its challenging nature! The track’s grade five rating means “long, steep and rough” and although it’s signposted, you’ll need to be a capable navigator or with an experienced guide (bring a map and compass!).
Got what it takes? Then strap in for a full day wild walking. You’ll duck into juicy, protected gullies, be dwarfed by towering eucalyptus trees and pass beneath intriguing rocky overhangs. The track is close to the Hawkesbury River, but far from civilisation, making it a haven for wildlife spotting.
This walk is actually best undertaken in winter. Cold air on your face and the promise of a banquet back home are a knockout combo.
Thirlmere Lakes Walking Track, Thirlmere Lakes National Park - 90 mins from Sydney
Drop straight into a wetland hideaway on this 6km loop featuring the best Thirlmere Lakes National Park has to offer. The route circles three distinct lakes: Gandangara, Werri Berri and Couridjah, so you’re sure to find the perfect perch for a spot of birdwatching.
With no formal signage (we’d recommend being prepared and bringing a map) you’re sure to feel totally immersed in your vibrant freshwater surrounds. Can’t wait until you get home for a feed? Werri Berri and Couridjah picnic areas have barbecues to remedy your post-hike cravings.
Mount Kembla Ring Track, Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area - 90 mins from Sydney
Been to a rainforest in the winter? It’s creepy cool. The sheltered zone beneath the canopy exudes maximum tranquility and the moss-covered ground takes on an eerie green texture. It’s hard to believe sometimes that the Mount Kembla Ring track is only 20 minutes from Wollongong!
At just over 5kms, the track takes a solid lap around the mountain, but you can really pump those quads with a bonus push up the Summit Track. With views up and down the South Coast you’ll feel the immense power of the mountain, so give yourself a whole day to soak in the beauty and heritage of this South Coast icon.
We hope you enjoy these walks within two hours of Sydney. They’re great in Summer, but even better in winter!