EXPLORE // Mt Kembla Ridge Trail
Epic Views + Stunning Scenery
By Jenae Johnston
One of Wollongong’s most beautiful and unique walks perfect for a family outing or a challenge with friends.
Depending on the weather and season, you’ll find a plethora of fungi, an eerie walk in the clouds or simply a great bushwalk to absorb the iconic Wollongong coastline and Lake Illawarra views.
This is a great walk anytime of year, allowing you to enjoy plenty of wildlife with a short challenging walk, this will definitely get the heart rate going.
Family-Friendly :: Ideal for the whole family that has a reasonable degree of fitness. It does have cliff and steep sections, so exercise safety with children at all times.
Easily Accessible :: A pleasant drive through Mt Kembla and Windy Gully to the car park which makes the trail easy to access.
Dog-Friendly :: The trail is part of the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area so no dogs are allowed on the trail [only assistance dogs].
Stairs :: Plenty of stairs as well as a small steel ladder and natural rock stairs.
Length :: Approximately 3.5km return with a 240m elevation gain.
Time :: With sightseeing included, this is about a 1.5 hour adventure. We recommend taking your time as there is plenty to see.
Let’s get walking
The trail starts through the service gate from the car park. Follow the National Parks and Wildlife Service informational signpost into the bush.
To continue on, take the path on the left up to the summit which is clearly marked.
The trail starts quite barren of undergrowth but shortly you’ll be greeted with gorgeous ferns and forest. The track continues heading up and up, and the trail is a luscious green with blankets of moss on the rocks which seem to just glow!
The trail falls off steeply to the right down the escarpment however, take a good look to the left to see remains of the carriageway that was built at the turn of the century [looks like a driveway]. The carriageway never eventuated for tourists – lucky for us the trail remains in a lovely natural state and no cars can drive to the summit.
Have a good look around on this trail, and take your time as there are beautiful ferns, flowers, fungus, lizards and lots of bird life including the cheeky Lyrebird which has a very distinctive call – see if you can name all the birdcalls in its repertoire, we love the Eastern Whipbird!
Soon you’ll pass a beautiful big boulder that creates a little cave, a favourite for the kids and a place we’re drawn to due to its stunning beauty of vines and mosses clinging to this ancient crag. From this point you’ll start to see glimpses of the views south towards Dapto and the escarpment. Yes! Your hard yards are beginning to pay off!
A change in scenery
As you continue up and up, the bush changes to a gorgeous Casuarina forest.
The trail becomes a little harder to follow as it gets rockier, but keep your eye out for some yellow arrows on the trees that easily lead the way. This personally is my favourite section of the trail with views back towards the escarpment and wildflowers. The breeze often greets you here, really instilling that sense of height and a welcome relief from the sweat on your brow.
Enjoy the stairs which take you closer and closer to the summit. Once you reach the top of the metal staircase you can take a little breather – the hard work is now all done!
Continue along the well trodden path. In autumn, you’ll find the most amazing mushrooms on this walk – none edible. A personal favourite is the beautiful Ghost Fungus which have a natural bioluminescence – yes, they glow in the dark!
Continuing along to the summit, the view overlooks a large rock platform and you can enjoy wonderful views of Lake Illawarra and further south. Stop and enjoy, that was a good effort getting up those stairs and trail! Admire some amazing Illawarra icons and ocean views – ahhh, what a wonderful place we live in.
Once you’re ready to head back, continue on the trail and then log yourself in the guest book – be awesome and leave an inspirational message for the next walker! The book is in a metal casing and is right on the trail.
The trail loops back onto itself and continues on the same path. The downhill is a lovely walk back, as you relax into the descent, and notice many more things that you didn’t see on the way up if you were too busy puffing and panting… um, like we normally are!
The final wrap
What a treasure this track is for locals and visitors alike!
An escarpment trail that meanders through various diversity of habitats and landscapes highlighting an abundance of fungus, wildflowers and fauna and of course those views.
This track is great fun for younger and older families, all ages and anyone who has average fitness and agility.
It is steep and rocky in sections but taking your time even the unfit could take this on – there is no rush, but average fitness is highly recommended to get the most out of the walk. Take it on as a fitness challenge or enjoy the time to explore a true Illawarra natural treasure.