THIS relatively new national park in the NSW central tablelands was gazetted in 1995 and features some of the steepest 4x4 tracks in the state, three rivers (keep an eye out for platypus), a mix of mountain gum forests and more open timber, gold rush relics, and fantastic camping options.
The park is about 40km southwest of Oberon, itself around 2.5 hours from Sydney, and the steep tracks and more remote (and scenic) attractions are only accessible via 4x4 vehicles with low-range gearing. The park’s renowned steep tracks can be a bit confronting for some, so if you’re keen to ease your way into it then the western access point on Arkstone Road gives access to the lower sections of the park.
If you want to get straight into it, the eastern entry via Felled Timber Road is the go.
We’d opt for the easier loop, which starts low in altitude and, over the course of two days, finishes at the highest point of the park at more than 1000 metres. Not only does it give you a chance to ease into it, but you get to spend the first night at what we reckon is the park’s best campsite: The Beach.
Yep, as the name suggests, you can camp right near the Abercrombie River on a cleared sandy section that’s reached after a steep descent from the Abercrombie Fire Trail.
There are five unmarked sites at the nice, compact campground, and it provides a perfect introduction to the park’s attractions. The campground is basic with drop toilets and fire rings, and you must bring your own water or boil any taken from the river.
However, it’s also comfortable and shady, with plenty to keep you occupied. The water below the campground is usually shallow, but if you walk upstream for 10 minutes you’ll find a deeper waterhole for swimming or fishing, with trout found in this waterway. Exploring the waterway for elusive specks of gold is another way to keep the young’uns busy.
The next day is a big one in regards to the mountainous landscape and the steep tracks you’ll traverse as you loop around the park’s southern border and then start driving north. Rejoining Abercrombie Fire Trail, your first stop is Silent Creek Campground.
With eight sites and with its larger expanse of grassy flat areas and plenty of shade-giving trees, it’s the better option for those travelling in a multi-vehicle group. It’s also ideal for tourers with camper trailers.
Silent Creek Campground is the perfect place to be based for the two days in the park. Leave the trailer behind to explore some of the steeper sections of the park and, after a big day out and about, the only thing you have to worry about when you return to your already-set-up camp that evening is whether to have a beer first or start cooking dinner. Tough choices, we know.
From Silent Creek, follow Silent Creek Fire Trail. This track is steep, however, and don’t get too distracted by the blue views as your 4x4 aims skyward; if you’re lucky, you may spot some of the park’s resident emus who often use the fire trails to get around the park.
Another reason to keep an eye out is so you don’t miss a great side-trip that follows Middle Fire Trail and then Licking Hole Fire Trail. The oddly named Licking Hole is a flat creek area that contains an old goldminer’s hut and other mining detritus, so it offers a great excuse to get the family out of the 4x4 for a bit of exploring on foot (or for a nice lunch stop).
From this site you can continue north and rejoin Silent Creek Fire Trail, before arriving at the junction of this fire trail and the park’s eastern access point on Felled Timber Road.
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If you’re up for more of a challenge, backtrack to Middle Fire Trail and then loop northeast to Bald Hill Trail on your right. From here, drive south to the Little Bald Hill Trail turnoff. This fire trail is one of the steepest in the park and, combined with the open mountain gum forests up high, allows for some amazing views over the surrounding landscape, as well as providing access to Little Bald Hill.
It’s high in these sections of the park where you get a true picture of how rugged this country is and gain a new appreciation of the fortune-focused prospectors who lived and dug for the precious yellow metal here.
Continuing north on Little Bald Hill Fire Trail, turn northwest (left) onto another steep track – Brass Walls Fire Trail – and follow this north as it winds in and out of the national park before joining Felled Timber Road near the park’s eastern entrance.
With its mix of pretty riverside campgrounds, incredibly steep tracks, remote location and the fact it’s close to Sydney (and Oberon, a major centre), Abercrombie NP is a near-perfect two-day getaway from the bright lights of the NSW capital.
Add in the gold-rush history and the chance to spot some of the less common Aussie fauna, such as emus and platypus, and it’s easy to see why this national park is on the bucket list of many NSW off-roaders.
ABERCROMBIE RIVER NP
Best time of year: Spring and autumn. Summer can be very hot and winter very cold.
More info: All campgrounds in the national park are free. For the latest on park notices and track conditions, including which tracks don’t allow camper trailers, see: www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/abercrombie-river-national-park