I followed the white markers, zigzagging up the steep ashen dome as daylight abandoned the forest. Behind me soared a vast indigo sky, fading into hues of pink and tangerine above miles of woodland, mountains and strewn boulders. This, as I was discovering, is a spectacular region known as ‘granite country’ and I was glad I had disregarded the approximate walk time (three hours) and scaled the Southern Hemisphere’s largest granite rock at the day’s end.
Unlike the name suggests, Bald Rock – which lies in the New England region of Tenterfield in NSW – has tufts of trees scattered across its striped top. Navigating through these, some of which house large boulders and small, winding canyons, I arrived at the summit as the sun was an inch above the horizon. “Perfect timing” said an American hiker as I joined the horde of appreciators enjoying the 360 degree views across miles of granite country.
I spared a second’s thought (not more) for my friend back in the cold shadows of camp, who was thrown by the walk time as we had arrived late. I made the summit in about 30 minutes, although my legs are long and I was eager to explore. Fortune favours the brave. I was armed with water, camera gear and a stubby of beer, although the latter remained unopened as I was taken by the striking shapes and lines that curved and merged beneath the fading light.
Retracing my steps along the shorter and steeper of the two routes, the ‘Summit Walk’, I made my descent, entering the forest as darkness fell. My friend had made a fire and I smugly showed him pictures of my last hour and a half exploring Bald Rock. Later, however, the joke was on me as he slept in his warm van and I huddled outside in a summer sleeping bag, getting about two hours sleep before daylight began to seep into the cold New England forest.
Of course I hiked up Bald Rock with my friend in the morning and it was interesting to see it in an entirely different light. It was still wonderful, although windier and not quite as pretty. I recommend a sunset walk if you can make it.
A few bald facts (and a tip)
- The Bald Rock National Park campsite has toilets and BBQ facilities. Camping fees are $10 per adult per night and $5 for children.
- There are two ways to climb Bald Rock: the Summit Walk – which is steep, recommended for fit people/experienced walkers and is about 1.2 kilometres to the summit; and the Bungoona Walk – a gentler, 2.5 kilometres route which meanders through forest.
- Other walks in Bald Rock National Park include the Border Walk – a 12 km (5 hr) loop past creeks and swamps that leads to a lookout over Bald Rock; and the Little Bald Rock Walking Track – a 14km (5hr) trail which follows the base of the rock, eventually leading to the summit.
- Bald Rock was once an important meeting place for the Jukembal, Bundjalung and Gamilaraay Aborigines, as it was considered neutral territory for all three tribes.
- Bald Rock is the tip of an underground formation of rocks called the New England Batholith. Most of this 400 km long ‘batholith’ (meaning deep rock), which runs from Stanthorpe to Tamworth, lies beneath the ground.
- Bald Rock is 750m long, 500m wide and 260m high.
- Bring warm gear if you’re here outside of summer. The New England region can get quite nippy.