Canyoning / Kid friendly / SUBW

Hat Hill Creek: one of Blackheath’s best kept secrets

Party: Tim ‘T2’ Vollmer, Tim ‘T1’ Gastineau-Hills, Lilian Donoso, Aleisha Kahn, Bron MacRaild and Maria Vamvouklis — T2’s photos | T1’s photos

With heavy rain pounding down, temperatures barely out of the single digits and warnings of thunderstorms, we begrudgingly made the call to cancel the trip, figuring it was turning more into an epic than a simple beginner trip.

Hat Hill Creek was to be the second of my Monday canyons (thanks to a change at work I’m planning to do a bunch of shorter, easier and more popular canyons on Monday mornings over summer), which we’d been assured was a seriously underrated walk through canyon.

A check of the weather suggested things weren’t likely to improve too much, but at least the rain was due to ease off, so we rescheduled for Thursday.

The recent rain made the downclimbs seem a little more impressive

Some minor train troubles slowed a couple of us, but by 8.30am we were all in Blackheath and ready to set off.

The weather was much better than Monday, which isn’t saying much, but temps were still under 10 as we drove up, with a light shower briefly falling as we got further up the mountains.

Hat Hill Creek is remarkably close to town, just a few kilometres north with a road running close by, so you’d assume it would be popular, but despite this the very faint foot pad in proved otherwise.

While the canyon section had been found decades ago, for a long time treated sewerage had been pumped in upstream, meaning that until 2008 it was a rather unpopular place to have to wade and swim through.

Ferns cling to the canyon wall above

Since then things have changed and it has recovered marvellously. The bush is almost pristine, the creek sections beautiful, the moss thick and unworn, and canyon sections — especially the last — some of the best this far south.

We parked at the start of an old fire trail, following it to the remains of a burnt out car before following the ridge to the end, which dropped easily into a creek junction. A short walk had us at the first small canyon section, with the higher than usual water flow making the simple climb down seem a little more exciting.

The canyon starts with a short swim through a low but attractive constriction, which made me very glad I’d worn the spring suit, before some more creek walking.

Despite a fair number of recently fallen trees — probably from the wind storm earlier this year — the creek walking is easy and in places incredibly pretty.

Thick moss clung to every rock as we scrambled our way down the creek

The second section of canyon started with another climb down, with the creek at first looking like the seething mass of water was plunging into a black abyss.

Again this section is fairly short, but it was surprisingly dark and narrow.

After yet more creek walking (and a short detour up a side creek that was absolutely full of fallen timber) we came to the main canyon section.

I was completely blown away by this part of the creek. The long, deep, sustained canyon section was so lush and green, with an incredibly thick moss carpet flowing into lush ferns and coachwoods clinging to the cliffs above. Eventually the canyon ended at a pleasant beach.

The standard exit leaves just before the main canyon section, but there were no complaints about having to explore this section a second time. We paused for a quick snack before setting off, and somehow the water temperature seemed to have dropped in those few minutes.

The exit was up an easy gully, taking us onto the tops where the views over the creek, and then over the Grose Valley, made the walk out spectacular.

After clambering up the rock formation on Hat Hill we made quick time back to the cars.

A quick burger stop in Blackheath and we were on our way home. There were a few scrapes and bruises (including a spectacular lump on Aleisha’s leg), but all round it wasn’t a bad way to spend a weekday!

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