Start: Jellybean Pool Car Park
End: Jellybean Pool Car Park
Time taken: 2-3 hours
USP: Aboriginal artwork. Wild swimming in summer
Distance: 8km loop
Glenbrook is one of our favourite places to go when time is tight, but the mind and soul is in need of some trail time. It’s just over an hour from Central Station in Sydney, and the train drops you at Glenbrook Station, just a short walk to the visitor centre and some amazing walks into the gorge.
On this trip we didn’t leave home with a plan. We packed some snacks and enough water for a few hours and figured we’d check the map at the visitor centre and work something out… very unlike us!
Jumping off the train, we headed straight to The Church cafe on Ross Street for lunch. A great spot for a full meal, snack or just a coffee. From there it’s a pleasant walk along Bruce Road, admiring the Autumn colours and beautiful timber homes, typical of the Blue Mountains area.
Arriving at the visitor centre around 2pm we checked the information board. Numerous options sprawled across the creases and folds of valleys and ridges. Being Winter we knew we were going to be up against the setting sun and chose a medium distance loop that would lead us out to an Aboriginal site called, Red Hands Cave. We topped up water bottles and set off, conscious the light in the gorge would only last a few more hours.
A theme for this route is the amazing names given to the features and landmarks. The area around Glenbrook and Springwood is called the Blue Labrynth. An area of rough, craggy sandstone dissected by deep gorges that flow into the Glenbrook and Erskine creek systems. The walk starts by dropping down to the brilliantly named Jellybean Pool, where slow moving water lazily winds around a natural sand bar and lumps of sandstone, long fallen from the gorge wall above, provide stepping stones across the creek.
Heading west from Jellybean Pool we soon crossed the Glenbrook Causeway and swung left onto the romantically named, Camp Fire Creek. From here the Red Hands Cave Walking Track follows the creek all the way to the Red Hands Cave itself.
We arrived at the cave as the last of the sunlight moved out of the gorge and the temperature took a marked nose dive. The few people we’d passed on the track were long gone and even the birds had gone silent. We suddenly felt very alone. Peering into the gloomy cave, there was an eerie feeling as our eyes adjusted and the outlines of hands, thought to be between 500 – 1,600 years old, came into focus.
The stencils and hand prints belong to the Oryang people who lived in the area long before the invasion of Europeans. They believed that by adding their mark to this sacred site, their spirit would find it’s way back after death and once skybound, their ancestors would be able to find them.
After reading the information signs and chatting about the artwork the light was really starting to go. We needed to pick up our pace and continued along the track to the Red Hands Cave car park, where we turned left again to re-enter the forest along the Link Walking Track. It’s worth keeping an eye out on your left as you follow the trail back to Glenbrook for a break in the undergrowth and an obvious, smooth, sandstone platform. Here you can see groove marks in the rock, created by years of tool sharpening by the same Oryang people who’d decorated the cave. More evidence of the communities that lived and thrived in this area.
Under an ever darkening sky we put our heads down and marched out the final few kilometres. The sky above us filled with the dusk chorus of Currawong heading to roost and a distant Tawny Frogmouth serenaded us out of the forest. We stepped from the loamy soil onto the paved Glenbrook Causeway just in time to see an orange sunset skimming the top of the highest clouds. We followed the Oaks Trail road in near darkness back to the visitor centre and then on to the brightly lit train station.