Red Rocks, Wolgan Valley

A spectacular 2 day walk along the Wolgan Capertee Divide


Led by Ashley Burke

Navigation Training


View of part of the Red Rocks at dusk, from near our campsite


About the Red Rocks Walk

About your Guide

Day By Day Itinerary

Elevation Profile

What To Bring

Level of Difficulty

Eligibility Criteria

A Client's Perspective

Photos From The Route

Cost and Inclusions

Upcoming Trips

About the Red Rocks Walk

The Red Rocks as seen from Pantoneys Crown in the Capertee Valley

The "Red Rocks" is the name given to the long escarpment of cliffs that divide the Capertee Valley from the Wolgan Valley on the western edge of the Blue Mountains north of Lithgow, about 3 hours drive from Sydney. These two great valleys form a large part of the upper catchment of the Colo River, the main river draining the rugged wilderness of the southern and central Wollemi National Park and the Gardens of Stone. These cliffs are a rugged range of sandstone, the hinterland of which is a deeply dissected labyrinth of pagodas, ravines, heath and forest.

It is possible, if you know the way and are careful with navigation, to access the Red Rocks from Newnes, an abandoned oil shale mining site in the Wolgan Valley north of Lithgow. In the early 20th century Newnes was a thriving mining village but today it has largely been reclaimed by nature and has become a well known camping area in the Wollemi National Park, with only historic mining ruins remaining as evidence of its former mining history.

From Newnes it is possible to climb steeply into the Red Rocks and spend a weekend walking in what would have to be one of the most diverse, scenic and spectacular walks anywhere. With the spectacular Wolgan Valley to one side, and the vast Capertee Valley to the other, and features such as Pantoneys Crown, Airlie Plateau and other ranges and cliffs complementing the landscape, a walk in the Red Rocks is a feast of spectacular and expansive views.

The Red Rocks Walk is best done in late autumn, winter and early to mid spring. One of the reasons for this is that water needs to be carried as most of the hiking follows the crest of ranges and is therefore far from regular water sources, and the campsites do not have nearby water. Most walkers would commence their Red Rocks walk carrying up to 4 litres of water and would use this water sparingly throughout the 2 day hike, knowing that there are only one or two places on the walk where bottles may be refilled. Another reason for doing this walk in the cooler months is the clarity of the air, position of the sun, and the sheer beauty of the area when shone upon by a sun at a gentle angle in the sky. Sunrises and sunsets in the Red Rocks are special times, and it is in the cooler months when these sunsets and sunrises showcase the area at its best.

On MountainSphere's guided Red Rocks walk, we meet at Newnes camping area on the evening prior to the trip and camp by the cars. The following morning we have breakfast by the cars, pack up tents, fill our water bottles and set off. We climb steeply and head off trail. It is difficult and steep walking at first, but as the day goes on the walking gets easier. Our first huge views come around mid-morning and continue throughout the day. We camp in a quiet and little used patch close to the cliff tops from where we can admire a spectacular winter sunset. The following day we continue the spectacular Red Rocks traverse, then descend steeply down to Newnes. It isn't long after our lunch spot that we arrive back at our cars and that is where the trip concludes.


About your Guide


My first visit to Newnes was in 1977 on a cold and wet June long weekend as a 10 year old member of a scout group. At that time I did not know about the Red Rocks walk as that early scout trip approached Newnes from a different direction. In the mid 1980s I was introduced to the Red Rocks traverse through several trips with the Sydney University Bushwalkers.

Since that time I have done countless trips to the Red Rocks and have explored the surrounding country extensively through multiple variations of the conventional route. I have completed almost every practicable and navigable route into and surrounding the Red Rocks multiple times over the last 35 years.

I have been leading bushwalks, primarily through the Sydney University Bushwalkers, for around 30 years. In my formative years I had the privilege of being introduced to Blue Mountains bushwalking by people who inspire me, and through my guiding services I hope to awaken the same spirit in others that was awoken in me so many years ago. I do this by more than just taking people on organised bushwalks. I aim to pass on my skills and knowledge using a practical and inclusive teaching style. I teach the empowering skill of bush navigation through my regular navigation training weekends and am happy to provide follow up training on my guided bushwalks including the Red Rocks hike.

My aim is not to simply take you on a bushwalk or to perpetuate your dependency on having a guide. Rather, by offering trips like the Red Rocks walk, I hope to provide you the security of knowing you are safely led by an experienced guide, whilst at the same time passing on to you the skills that will enable you to gain the confidence to become independent and self reliant in the future. I want to provide you a pathway that will help you regard the bush as your home, the place you go for solace, to get away from it all, to build friendships old and new, and to learn self reliance and confidence. You will do this in a friendly environment, in the company of like-minded people who are here for all the same reasons you are, in a spirit of mutual respect and friendship.

Ashley Burke



Day By Day Itinerary

The Red Rocks trip is a 2 day hike, with one night spent camped en route high on the Wolgan-Capertee divide. The night prior to the hike is spent camped at the Newnes campground after driving independently to Newnes sometime during the day or evening.

Most of the walking is off-trail, with only faint pads or tracks and good navigation and prior knowledge of the area is required to follow the correct route through the complex country.

Here is a day-by-day itinerary for the guided hike:

Day Total Distance Total Ascent Total Descent Itinerary Campsite
Day Before Departure (usually a Friday)      

Clients travel by their own arrangements to the Newnes campground in the Wolgan Valley. Newnes is located in the Wolgan Valley to the north of the town of Lithgow, about 46km or 55 minutes by road from Lithgow. The last 9km is on gravel road.

From Sydney the drive is about 180km or 2.5 to 3 hours depending on what part of Sydney you are leaving from.

I will meet you when you arrive at Newnes and we will camp together in the Newnes Campground or nearby.

Newnes Campground
Day 1 11km 751m 324m

The first day is the most difficult of the two days but the hiking gets gentler, easier and more scenic as the day progresses. To earn these scenic views you first need to climb steeply out of the Wolgan Valley. The route departs Newnes on a gentle 4WD trail but soon we turn off this trail and climb steeply through dense bush with no trail. This climb is the most difficult part of the entire walk but after some strenous climbing we are rewarded with our first of many spectacular views from atop cliffs that our route miraculously avoided. Time for a quick rest here. From here the walking is not as steep but we still climb gradually and we are still not following any marked trail. We pass through some complex country, and we need to negotiate some interesting rocky sections and careful navigation and route finding is needed. Prior knowledge of the area is needed to select the correct route. We have lunch somewhere along here and eventually emerge onto a broad ridge and pass more delicate rock formations. Our objective for the day will be to reach the summit of Mt Dawson where we will enjoy 360 degree panoramic views of the surrounding area. The final part of the climb of Mt Dawson can be done without packs.

From Mt Dawson we begin following the escarpment of the Red Rocks, traversing up and down through complex pagoda country where careful navigation and route finding is essential. We camp in one of two possible locations depending on the weather, speed of the group, time of day etc. We enjoy spectacular views and watch the sunset from our camp or from a location nearby.

Wild camp high in the Red Rocks
Day 2 9km 231m 606m

Today we return to Newnes via a different route. We continue along the escarpment of the Red Rocks, enjoying spectacular scenery the whole way. We take our time, lingering at vantage points to take photos and absorb the sweeping vistas of the vast Capertee Valley. Practise your navigation skills here. We reach a magical set of natural rock formations called "The Room", and we stop here for a mid morning break. There is no rush today.

We backtrack a short distance and then begin our descent back to Newnes. Whilst it is not as steep as the ascent of the previous day, it is nonetheless a little steep in places and care must be taken. We follow a gully downstream until it opens out to some pleasant and peaceful grassy clearings. We have a relaxing lunch here before walking the final gentle 2km back to Newnes.

The trip concludes here at Newnes and you are free to drive home at your leisure or if you wish you may remain at Newnes for another night under your own arrangements.

Return home
Total 20km 982m 930m

Sunset over the Capertee Valley from near our campsite


Elevation Profile

This elevation chart below gives you a good idea of the amount of climbing and descending day by day on this walk. Note the steep climb on the first day!


What To Bring

Being a self-supported bushwalk, the idea is that everyone brings their own gear and food for the weekend. Click the button below to review the gear list for this trip.

If you don’t have some of the items on this list, some items such as tent and pack can be borrowed from MountainSphere Adventures. There may be a small fee for borrowing some items, such as the tent. Alternatively, some items such as tents and cooking equipment can be shared. There is no charge if sharing a tent space with someone else.

Level of Difficulty

At the start of the Red Rocks walk you may wonder what you have let yourself in for, as it begins with a steep and arduous climb through the bush where there is no track or trail, and where you will be carrying a pack laden with full water bottles. But by mid-morning this climb is over and the walk becomes easier and gentler for the rest of the weekend. You earn your panoramic views and high ridges by paying for it early in the hike!

The key difficulties of this walk, therefore, are in the steep climbing early on the first day and in the off-trail wilderness nature of the hiking. Very little of the walk is on a marked path or trail. There are faint pads or tracks left by past groups but most of the walking is through untracked bush in complex rocky landscapes where careful route finding is needed.

The total distance of the walk is a little over 20km, with around 980m of total ascent and descent over the 2 day duration of the hike. You will walk approximately 11km on the first day and around 9km on the second day. You'll note that the distances covered are fairly modest, but the complexity of the terrain makes the going much slower than walking along a path or trail. The first day's walking takes a full day and is rather tiring, though it eases off after that first tough climb in the morning. Once the first day's walking is completed, the pace eases off considerably and there is plenty of time to rest, relax at camp, enjoy the sunset, and get ready at an unhurried pace the following morning. The second day is much more laid back. You will gorge yourself on views and your camera will be clicking and you will want to stop frequently at the many vantage points along the route. The walking is still complex, with lots of small ups and downs and some challenging rocky sections. You'll descent chutes, clamber through defiles, climb up and over complex rock outcrops, and you'll push past occasional patches of scrub. In a few places you may need to remove your pack and where we work together to pass packs over some tricky sections. But the pace through this complex country will be relaxed. There are a few sections of steep and exposed ground, and if you don't have a head for heights, you may prefer to take a less exposed route through some sections. By lunch time on the second day we have descended off the Red Rocks and have reached open river flats surrounded by cliffs. We'll have lunch here before a short and easy afternoon stroll back to Newnes.

In conclusion, you need to consider the following when assessing in your own mind the level of difficulty of the walk:

There is no requirement to use or attach to ropes, although a safety hand line will be carried by the leader as a group safety item.

Please check the photos of the route and the detailed distance and elevation charts provided to you in your information pack when deciding if this trip is suitable for you.

Eligibility Criteria

This 2 day hike is open to anyone that has completed a previous MountainSphere trip such as the navigation training weekend and who did not find that trip too arduous. It is recommended that you come on a navigation weekend first so that you gain the background navigational skills which you can then apply and practise on this trip. If you have not yet participated on a navigation training weekend or other MountainSphere trip then you have the following options:

Because this walk is slightly more difficult and is in a more remote and more inaccessible location, the entry criteria are a little more stringent than on the navigation weekend. Please don't hesitate to contact me to discuss.

A Client's Perspective

Take a look at the below detailed trip report written by valued client Katrina Hemingway, who attended the Red Rocks trip on 4-6 June 2021. This trip report provides an insight into the trip from the perspective of a client visiting this area for the first time, stepping a little outside her comfort zone to take on the challenge, and reaping the rewards and achievements of her off-trail wilderness adventure.


Photos from the Route

Here are a few photos of sections of the walk. These have been selected to promote the spectacular natural beauty of the trip as well as to highlight the challenges you may encounter on the way.

After reaching camp there should be time to head out to a vantage point and admore the views as the sun goes low.
Gindantherie Pinnacle in the heart of the Red Rocks traverse.
Sunset views to Pantoneys Crown from the Red Rocks.
The Red Rocks and Mt Dawson.
A nice vantage point.
Early morning views over the upper Capertee Valley.
Pantoneys Crown at sunrise.

On the first day we pass by this delicate arch. No climbing!

Views from Mt Dawson.
Some walking on rock ledges is required.
Here is one of the steepest and most exposed sections. It can be avoided by walking around the base here.
In a few places the walking is like this.


Cost and Inclusions

The size of the group will be capped at 8 clients, and the trip will not proceed unless a minimum number of 6 clients sign up.


The cost includes:

The cost does not include:

When I receive your application, I will review it and then contact you. I will send you bank account details, you can make a deposit, and then your place on the trip is confirmed. You will then receive a full information pack containing everything you need to know to prepare for and attend the trip.

Upcoming Trips

Red Rocks hikes are currently scheduled for:

4-6 June 2021 COMPLETED. See the photos!
10-12 September 2021 Some places available. Click here to apply.



Web page created 09 Nov 2019, last updated 11 Jun 2021.

All content copyright © Ashley Burke 2018. Not to be copied, duplicated or used for any purpose without permission.

Navigation Training