Friday, 12 July 2019

Glow Worm Tunnel Walk Track (Wollemi National Park)

A short family friendly walking Wollemi National Park, this 2 kilometre trail leads walkers to the Glow Worm Tunnel - an old abandoned railway tunnel that is now home to glow worms. Following a railway formation through the area's signature rock pagodas and eucalypt forest, the trail passes through the dark tunnel, where stopping halfway and turning off lights will reward walkers with views of glow worms providing pin pricks of light in the darkness

Distance: 2 km (return)
Gradient: Generally easy, gentle gradients
Quality of Path: Largely on a clear and well defined path in spite of being an non-managed trail
Quality of Signage: No signage; this is not a managed trail
Experience Required: Bushwalking Experience Recommended
Time:  1 Hour
Steps: Some informal steps, including a scramble into the canyon
Best Time to Visit: All year
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: From Lithgow, take State Mine Gully Rd north. As it passes through forestry plantations, the road becomes the rough and pothole-filled Glow Worm Tunnel Rd. Keep on Glow Worm Tunnel Rd as it enters the better graded section through Gardens of Stone National Park and continue all the way to the end of the road. Trailhead is located at the start of the track

After completing the Dry Canyon, our initial plan had been to tackle the nearby River Caves Canyon given it is another canyon walk that does not require abseiling. Unfortunately, the weather had not been on our side as it was a freezing cold Winter day, and the thought of walking through thigh deep water in these temperatures didn't not seem all that appealing. Given we were in the area and having driven most of the way down Glow Worm Tunnel Rd, the logical alternative was to tackle the Glow Worm Tunnel Track since it was only a few minutes away from the Dry Canyon. Due to the darkness of the walk, Alissa donned our trusty head torch - an important piece of kit for this walk.

From the car park, the track follows an old railway formation that has been built up in the valley. In that way,  it bore a striking similarity to the railway formation that runs through John Forrest National Park back in Western Australia, which also features an unnatural ridge near an old rail tunnel.

From the rail formation, the view of the surrounding landscape is quite enjoyable, with tall, smooth-barked Eucalypts and rock pagodas providing a lot of interest on the way to the tunnel.

As the trail continues along, it leaves the high ridge behind and instead follows a cutting through the rock. The combination of raised and cut trail meant this was a very flat and easy walk as befitting a trail that is popular with families.

A dramatic point of the walk is where the track deviates from the rail formation slightly. At this point, the old railway line probably crossed a large trail bridge that has long since been dismantled, and the trail provides a pedestrian bridge over a creek instead.

After the bridge, the trail rises up through a narrow chasm between rock walls as it joined back onto the railway formation.

Back on the formation, the track once again provides nice views of pagodas and tall smooth-barked Eucalypts.

Along the way, the track passes a number of side tracks that seems to run into small caves beneath the cliffs. While the Glow Worm Tunnel is the main tourist attraction of Wollemi National Park, the park is actually a far greater wilderness that - combined with the adjacent Gardens of Stone National Park - provides a wealth of outdoor adventure opportunities, ranging from off track hiking to canyoning.

As with the start of the constrictions along the Dry Canyon, tall ferns heralded our arrival at the beginning of the entrance to the Glow Worm Tunnel.

With ferns framing the entrance to the tunnel, the Glow Worm Tunnel had an air of mystery about it that both beckoned us in while also being slightly scary due to the sense of the unknown of what lies beyond.

Information at the start of the tunnel provides some practical advice of what to do to best see the glow worms. Alissa and I visited an artificial glow worm cave on Tamborine Mountain in Queensland the previous year, so it was nice to get another chance to see these amazing creatures.

The walk into the tunnel is initially lit by the outside light, however the tunnel curves as it makes its way along. As a result it is pitch back in the middle of the tunnel. With no visible daylight, this is the point to turn of torches and wait a moment of the glow worms to appear. Given the poor lighting, I didn't attempt to take a photo on the way through, leaving an attempt for the return walk through the cave.

Continuing along, the daylight became visible at the other end of the tunnel, revealing another fern-filled area beyond.

At this point, the Glow Worm Tunnel Track finishes, however a trail does continue. While the Parks and Wildlife website is vague and provides very little indication of longer on-track walks in Wollemi National Park, walkers can continue onwards on the Wongan Valley Circuit which provides an extended exploration of the old rail formation. With Alissa not really interested in a longer walk, we decided to save this for a future visit and to instead make the return journey back through the cave.

On the way back through the tunnel, Alissa and I took our time to look at all the features along the tunnel floor. While the track have long since been removed, occasional sleepers and other remnants of the line can be seen in places.

Returning to the dark heart of the tunnel, Alissa and I turned off our torches and waited for the glow worms to turn on their lights. After a short moment, the glow worms began to illuminate the cave with small pin pricks of light. The photo above looks mostly pitch black, but if you look very carefully you can see tin specks of light which are the glow worms. As with Dry Canyon, I was kicking myself not having a tripod as it would have been great to take a photo here with a longer exposure to really capture these remarkable animals.

Exiting the tunnel for the last time, the arch shape of this entrance made for an even more dramatic view than the other end did.

From there, it was an easy walk back to the car park along the old railway formation. One cool thing we spotted on the way out was another lyrebird - our second such sighting after seeing one of the first time along the Rodriguez Pass in the Grose Valley just two days earlier.

At 2 kilometres return, the Glow Worm Tunnel Walk Track was easily the shortest walk Alissa and I did on our 2019 New South Wales trip. In spite of the short lenth, the walk itself is quite enjoyable as it is is scenic and provides a good opportunity to see glow worms in the wild. The one criticism I would make is that the road into the park was atrocious at the time of our visit. While Parks and Wildlife have done a good job of grading the road in the sections they manage, Forestry clearly had an IDGAF attitude to maintaining their stretch of the track, which you unfortunately have to head through to get to the cave. For me, the 2 kilometre walk is not worth the rough road unless combined with the nearby Dry Canyon. Together, the two make a great 2 for 1 deal that is well worth checking out.


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