The Forest Path in the Royal National Park
The Forest Path is a pretty 4.5km bushwalk along the Hacking River in the Royal National Park that loops around Forest Island.
With start and finish at Sir Bertram Stevens Drive, this relatively easy walking track takes you through beautiful lush rainforest, less than one hour from the city.
– Distance: 4.5 km (almost full loop)
– Time: 1.5 – 2 hours
– Grade: easy to moderate
– Kid friendly: yes
– Dogs: not permitted
– Cycling: not allowed
Access the Royal National Park via Waterfall and keep following McKell Ave until you hit an intersection. Turn left into Sir Bertram Stevens Drive until you see two small parking areas on both sides of the road. This is where the track starts and ends. Parking in the Royal National Park is $12 for the whole day.
The Forest Path
The Forest Path first opened in 1887 to allow for easy access to the forest trees. For decades, the Forest Path was used to accommodate logging in the area. Public controversy and pressure ultimately led to the ban of logging in the 1920’s.
Logging only briefly returned during the second world war, but luckily the walking track has been used for recreational purposes only ever since.
There are two options to start the Forest Path. You can either choose the western entrance and go clock-wise, or you can choose the eastern entrance, which is actually the start of the Lady Carrington Drive Track.
These two starting points are only 50 metres apart, opposite the car parking area.
If you choose the eastern starting point, you’ll follow the Lady Carrington Drive Track for around 800 metres or so, until you get to an intersection where you can turn left into the Forest Path.
This is also where the Bola Creek Rest Area is. Don’t expect too much of it though as it’s really not much more than an uninspiring wooden table covered with moss.
After another couple of hundred metres, the path veers to the left, where the Bola Creek meets the Hacking River. From this point onward, the path keeps following the Hacking River through beautiful rainforest.
As you keep hiking, be sure to look around and enjoy the great variety of native plants and flowers such as eucalypts, casuarinas and cabbage tree palms (up to about 25m high).
If you enjoy bird watching, be sure to bring your binoculars with you as there are many different types of birds that thrive in this area.
Be mindful that after a period of heavy rain, the Hacking River easily raises to very high levels, and the path can get very muddy.
Other Tracks Nearby
There are quite a few other walking tracks nearby, although the Forest Path is the only one that is actually a loop.
The Lady Carrington Drive Track is a 10km one-way track between Sir Bertram Stevens Drive in the south and Audley in the north.
This historic track is shared between cyclists and hikers, so please be careful.
The Couranga walking track is a 5km hike between the start of the Forest Path and Waterfall further west.
This track is great if you are getting to the Royal National Park by train, so you can walk all the way from Waterfall train station to the Forest Path.
Forest Path Map
Parking is available at both sides of the road where the track starts and finishes. There’s not a lot of parking but the track is still relatively unknown so the parking areas usually don’t get too crowded.
The Forest Path, including a small stretch of the Lady Carrington Drive track, is a full loop so you have two options to start your walk.
In the below map, the stretch in blue is the Lady Carrington Drive track that connects to the Forest Path.