Medlow Bath Meanderings

Hydro Majestic from Megalong Valley

The Hydro Majestic (right of centre) and surrounding cliffs. Photo © A. Wells

Topo Map: KATOOMBA 1:25000 Second Edition

An enjoyable day can be had exploring the lovely old walking tracks in the vicinity of the Hydro Majestic Hotel on the west side of the Great Western Highway at Medlow Bath. Most of these were professionally constructed around the beginning of the last century when Mark Foy owned the Hydro Majestic which opened on 4th July, 1904. Part of the delight of these old tracks is that they haven't suffered the desecration of safety railing overkill and ugly steel and plastic steps as have many walks within the National Park. The Grand Canyon walk at Blackheath had a similar atmosphere up until the early 1970's. This was before our current litigious society, when people assumed responsibility for their own safety. Medlow Bath was previously known as Brown's Siding or Brown's Sawmill Siding and then plain Medlow in the 1880's. The 'Bath' was added to Medlow in reference to the various bath treatments offered to the Hydro's guests.(Ref. Brian Fox and John Low)

The sketchmap below is only approximate and should only be used in conjunction with the Katoomba topographic map.

Note: This whole area has been burnt out by the fires which started in the Megalong Valley on Thursday 5th December, 2002. The area is scorched and littered with a lot of dead trees which has made it easier but somewhat riskier to walk in with dead standing timber and very loose rocks and soil on the slopes.

1. Belgravia St, Sunbath, Tucker's Lookout, Valley Farm Track, Murphy's Track, Megalong Valley Rd, Quota Picnic Ground and return. Medium. Allow 2.5-3hrs return.
Heading up the highway drive past the Hydro Majestic Hotel on your left but instead of swerving right over the railway bridge go straight ahead off the highway into Station St. Take the next turn left into Belgravia St and drive 150m to the end of the street. Park your vehicle here. At the end of Belgravia St take the track on your right hand (North) side heading steeply downhill beside a wire fence. After about MEDLOW BATH SKETCHMAP © Allan Wells
MT = Mark's Tomb, TL = Tucker's Lookout
C = Colesseum, M = Maxine's Bower, FF = Flying Fox
VF = Valley Farm Track, GR = Glen Rosa Track

170m you will come to a track on your right. Continue straight ahead (SthWest). Ignore the next track on your left and on your right. The track begins to flatten out at this point and you should continue on to the Sunbath which is an old empty concrete circular pool of about 5-6m in diameter surrounded by some old stone walling and steps. After a brief look continue on a few metres till you come to a rocky lookout with magnificent views of the Megalong Valley and beyond. On a clear day, to the distant south, you can see the Gangerang Range and Kanangra Walls. Head back the way you came for about 70m and take the next track on on your left hand side. This will bring you onto some old stone steps and down into a small saddle. Continue across the saddle and scramble up onto the high rocky outcrop which is Tucker's Lookout. Soak up the magnificent views of Megalong Valley.

Return 15m or so back into the saddle and you will see a zig-zaging track descending the gully to your right(Sth). Follow this track which will eventually bring you onto some lovely old stone steps adorned with rusty dilapidated steel posts and wire. The old name for this, according to Brian Fox, is Sentinel Pass. Take care descending the steep steps near the cliff edge as they are covered in casuarina needles. You soon go through an interesting tunnel formed by a cleft in the rocks. The old hardwood steps in here are in surprisingly good condition. The next 2.5m drop is via an old steel ladder and you are soon bridging a short gap in the stone steps via an old hardwood plank. I wasn't prepared to trust my 85kg+ weight to this plank so I hopped down beside it and walked/scrambled the gap which felt much safer. Within 20m you will come to a track junction which someone has signposted by painting on a rock. The track to your left goes to the Colosseum. Ignore this and take the Valley track to your right. The track itself is reasonably wide but overgrown in places. After about 500m it takes a hairpin bend back in a southerly direction. From the bend follow the track for about 700m, keeping your eye out for a red and white striped piece of plastic tape tied to a small tree on the right hand side of the track(K471704). Leave the track here and make your way SSW down the trackless ridge for 250m between two creeks indicated on the map keeping your eye out on your right for a rusty barbed wire fence indicting the boundary of Mr Collins "Wyoming" property. (K470702). Turn right(west) and follow the barbed wire fence, for 300m to Megalong Rd just below the Picnic Area indicated on the map. From the road head for the Quota picnic area at K466703. This is an ideal spot to have morning tea before you return. A more pleasant option would be to park a vehicle down here before the start of the walk so you can drive back up to Medlow Bath. This would cut the trip to one and a half hours, give or take fifteen minutes, and allow you to do another walk and/or explore Coachwood Glen (K468718) and Mermaid's Cave (474737).

An item of interest is the site of the old coal mine about 400metres up Megalong road from the Picnic area. Keith Duncan, a long time resident of Megalong Valley, recalled to Brian Fox and myself that this mine operated for a short time during the 1930's and that the trucks transporting the coal up to Blackheath had solid rubber tyres. It would have been a rugged old trip. Lew Hodgkinson said the mine was owned by a Mr. Gee, who had numerous business interests in the area including a wooden peg factory (sited where the Ivanhoe hotel now stands)and a butcher shop in Blackheath.

2. Belgravia St, Wonderland Track, Mark's Tomb, un-named track, Wonderland Track, Station St, old stone gatehouse, Belgravia St. Easy
Follow the directions for the above walk but take the first proper track on your right which marks the beginning of the Wonderland track. After about 27metres you'll see a minor track on your left-ignore this. Continue for another 130metres or so on the Wonderland track till you see another track to your left with an old metal sign nailed to a tree saying "Mark's Tomb". Follow this down the slope for about 250m till you come to a large interesting cave (again on the left) with holes in the roof. This is Mark's Tomb. Return the same way to the Wonderland track and turn left continuing in a general northerly direction for another 800m or so to the track's end which brings you onto the dirt road (Station St). Once you're on the dirt road head South to return to Belgravia St and the car. From Mark's Tomb there is an overgrown track which takes you down into a nearby gully and shallow stream. If you go downstream a very short way (10metres or so) you will see on your right hand (Nth) side a short ramp-like slope which enables you to climb up to the next ridge, on top of which is an overgrown track leading back up to the Wonderland track. It makes a nice alternative to returning the same way.

3. Belgravia St, Sunbath, Tucker's Lookout, Valley Farm Track, Colosseum and return. Easy.
Follow the directions as for Walk 1 above but when you get to the painted sign on the rock at the bottom of cliffs take the left turn which immediately descends a narrow 'tunnel' via stone steps-lovely! Just follow the track which is a bit overgrown in places but very pleasant. There has been a recent rockfall in one spot which has knocked down a couple of trees which in turn are covering the track. It's no big problem to sidle these or carefully step through them. The Colosseum itself is a delightful spot with a spraying waterfall dropping out beyond where you rest on a built up section of dry stone walling, steps and a small stone table with the rainforest immediately below you. You can descend to creek level via a set of steps set into the wall but I recommend you only go a short way. The steps originally enabled guests of the Hydro to descend beside the creek all the way down to the lower big bend of the Valley Farm (Murphy's) track (K473703) crossing over to the west side of the creek about half way down. I did this section on 20/4/02 and the lower part of the track is almost non-existent. If you're not confident walking off-track don't attempt it but it's not physically difficult to do. Keep an eye out for red and white tape markers on trees and be prepared to pick up a few leeches if you decide to give it a go. Tropical strength Aerogard or Rid on the feet up to mid calf level seems to keep the little bloodsuckers at bay.

Lovely old stone steps at the beginning of the
Colosseum Track. Photo © A. Wells

Note: The situation has now changed since the above mentioned fires. On Monday 23/12/02 I relocated the whole of the old track and marked it out. Some sections are eroded but still negotiable. A large Sydney Peppermint tree has fallen across the old steps in the upper section not far below the Collosseum but can easily be negotiated by detouring around the higher side of the tree.

4. Belgravia St, Wonderland Track, Cave Track, Cave and return. Easy.
From the end of Belgravia St take the track going downhill on the right hand (Nth) side of the road. Take the Wonderland Track on your right hand (Nth) side after about three hundred or so metres. It's usually marked with a pile or 'cairn' of rocks. Twenty-five metres along the Wonderland track you'll come to a side track on your left. Follow the side track which takes you down the hill and into a narrow slot gully. You are soon walking under a huge rock overhang or 'cave' with the creek a fair drop below. You can continue past the cave and out onto a rocky point near the cliff edge for northerly views up Blackheath Glen and the nearby cliffs. The stand of tall glossy trees part way up the glen mark out Coachwood Glen. As you climb out of the gully on your return you will notice a wide rock ledge to your right. With care (and no young children) you can walk out along this to the end under a small cave shelter. It has even better views than lower down.

5. Belgravia St, Sunbath, Glen Rosa track, Maxines Bower, old pool, Flying Fox, return via Hydro Majestic. Easy.
A delightful walk. Follow the directions as for Walk 1 above until you come to the Sunbath. From here continue straight ahead for a few metres until you see an overgrown track to your left (Sth). Follow this track as per the sketch map above. It is also shown on the topographic map but only as far as the large gully creek when in fact it goes well beyond this point (come on Foxy -this is a good excuse for a bit of field work/walk). The rainforest gully/canyon section at K476705 is particularly beautiful. There are a number of excellent lookout points along the track but due care needs to be exercised near the cliff edge. Maxines Bower is a huge overhang cave with steps cut into the rock face leading up high into the cave itself-worth a look. The Flying Fox, which was used to bring up produce from the Hydro's farm in the Megalong Valley (I think this is now Mr Collins' "Wyoming" property), hasn't been operational for many years and all that remains is some wooden framework with a few cast iron pulley wheels. From the flat sandy old pool site climb the easterly high track back up to the back of the Hydro, past the old tennis courts etc and through the large vacant block of ground next to the Mazda car dealership. You can get an ice-cream or drink at the little milk bar before making your way back to the car in Belgravia St.

6. Belgravia St, Tuckers Lookout, Valley Farm track, Gully Pass, Cave Track, Wonderland track, Belgravia St.
Follow the directions for Walk 1 as far as the painted rock junction of the Colosseum/Valley tracks. Take the Valley track to your right. Going down the track for 150m or so keep an eye out to your right for two narrow gullies within 25m of each other. The second or most northerly gully is indicated by a narrow, washed out dip in the track and is the "PASS" marked on the sketchmap. Scramble up this gully and once you are on the top sidle to your right around the low cliff wall and back to your left to get on top of the wall. From here scrub bash in an easterly direction until you pick up the Cave Track. You can either follow this down to the cave or head back up the hill and on to the Wonderland track. Make your way back to the car or do another walk.

7. Old Coach Road, original Point Pilcher, Grand Canyon, firetrail, Old Coach Road. Easy/Medium
This walk is on the east side of Medlow Bath so when proceeding along the highway go up on to the bridge but turn immediately right into Railway Parade (K477706). Continue along Railway Parade for about 800m and turn left into Rutland Road which becomes Grand Canyon Road. After about 3km the road forks at the Katoomba Airfield, which is just a dirt air strip. Take left fork for the next 800m and turn left onto a dirt powerline service track (K557715). The Old Coach Track is the first turn on your right (unmarked on the topo map for some strange reason), beginning as a dirt road but turning into a foot track which eventually leads you all the way into the Grand Canyon. It is a wonderful walk and it's contruction was financed by Mark Foy in the early part of the last century to take guests of the Hydro Majestic to the wonderful views afforded by Point Pilcher of Govett Gorge, Mount Banks, Pulpit Rock etc. Most people today drive the 500m to the end of the power line service track , park the car and walk directly under the power lines and head down a foot track which takes you down the hill and onto the Old Coach Road foot track. This is marked on the topo map. The track itself is in amazingly good condition with stone steps and dry stone walling and very little, if any, erosion. They really knew how to build tracks back then. Commonsense and a little care is needed just before you drop into the Grand Canyon as the ledge is rather narrow in one spot.
View from original Point Pilcher towards Mt Banks.
Photo © A. Wells

Once in the canyon you will come to a track junction after crossing a small creek to your left which enters Greaves Creek to your right. From here you have three options:
a) follow Greaves Ck upstream for 20 minutes or so into the canyon proper until you come to the first big swim then return. This is well worth doing. If you have a wetsuit or wool jumper, are wearing Dunlop Volleys and are a confident swimmer you can go all the way up the canyon proper till you reach the waterfall, then return. This saves the hassle of carrying a rope to do the abseil.
b) have a look downstream for a while and then return.
c) for confident off-track walkers only : take the main track to your left which climbs beside the small side creek gully and takes you up the cliff face high above the creek and above the track junction you just left (K518726). At the top of this ascent you should be at a clear rocky spot with safety railing damaged by a dead fallen tree and a large dead tree to sit on. At this point you leave the track and scramble up the slope behind you, finding your way through the rocks/low cliffs by sidling round to your right and aiming to get up the slope and onto the ridge where you will come upon a dirt vehicle track (unmarked on the map) at approximately K516722. This involves some easy rock scrambling but no climbing as such. Under no circumstances should you be attempting to climb any cliff section(if you cannot locate the easy scramble then return the way you came). Once on top follow the clear ridge vehicle track back to Grand Canyon Road and turn left to walk the short distance back to the Old Coach Road and the car. Pilcher or Jugglers Canyon, at the end of the large creek running just to the east of the Old Coach Road has become quite popular in recent years with the canyoning fraternity.
While you are in this area it is worthwhile driving out to the 'new' Point Pilcher at the end of Grand Canyon Road. It has a good lookout spot and picnic facilities/toilets etc.