It’s less than an hour from the city and has waterfalls…
Justin Bieber, Channing Tatum and Kylie Jenner are just a few celebrities who have been spotted on Runyon Canyon – the famous Los Angeles walking track where celebrities exercise their dogs, take selfies, and tone up for their next big appearance. But LA city council member David Ryu had horrific news for the people of the city of angels: an ageing pipe means the Canyon will be shut between April and July for repairs. Can you hear that? It’s the sound of Angelenos freaking out.
We get it. Hiking is one of the best ways to exercise, relax, and take in a bit of nature.
For us here in Sydney, our equivalent of Runyon Canyon would be the Royal National Park, just 56 minutes south of the CBD. There might not be a Hollywood blockbuster star here (though you never know!), but there are some incredible trails that take you through some of the best of what Australia has to offer: beautiful trees, Aboriginal rock carvings, and stunning ocean views.
There are many hiking options available in the park, and the National Parks website has a list of need-to-knows for every location, including the price (which is generally free besides parking fees); the distance; the grade (easy, medium or hard); where it’s located; how long the walk will take; what to take; and the current alerts placed on that location. These details are vital in making your experience the best it can be.
Personally, I like the 5.8km, three-hour walk to Uloola Falls, which I consider my own little Runyon Canyon. The track is accessible from Waterfall train station (where the only toilets are). (The round-trip will take you six hours, plus the time you spend there. The easy day-trip version is to get a friend to pick you up at the Uloola Falls campsite.)
If you want to check out this magic spot, this is what you need to know.
When to go
This depends on the weather. You’re aiming for Goldilocks – not too hot, and not too cold. An early start (I’m talking 7am) will help you beat the heat in summer. In terms of having the place to yourself, forget weekends: Sundays are packed with families, so try mid-week instead. I went on a Wednesday and saw only a handful of people.
What to wear
You’re aiming for comfortable, not fashionable. Wear sunnies and a hat; a lot of the trails are exposed, so you’ll need them. The shoes you wear will make or break you. Three hours of walking isn’t easy, and it will be worse if you don’t wear the right shoes. Also, note that the track isn’t a loop, so unless you’re getting picked up at the Falls, you’ll have to hike back or continue on the Karloo track to Heathcote (another four hours – maybe better when an overnight camp is planned).
What to pack
You’ll need a first-aid kit for any accidents that may happen along the way. They can be pricey, but creating your own is an option. Antiseptic spray, band-aids, bandages, eye wash, and painkillers are essentials you must have in your first-aid kit. But don’t forget the bug spray – you’ll want to cover yourself in it, because spiders are everywhere. And expect snakes… I saw a 1.5 meter python sunning itself on the track. You’ll also need swimmers if you fancy a dip in the falls, which you will.
What to eat
Sure, water, hats and sunscreen are essential, but when you’re traveling with me, it’s more about the food! The three-hour track is an energy drainer, so food is essential. But don’t overpack, because three water bottles, three sandwiches, an extra large packet of chips (no, I’m not sharing!) and a bar of chocolate get very heavy. A healthy energy bar could prove handy in an emergency.
What you’ll see
You’re probably wondering what the track is like. When you first walk onto it, you’ll see that it’s covered in slicks, bark, mud and dirt. It’s not until 10 minutes in that you are confronted by an oval with two openings. One leads to the track and the other leads to a concrete road (in case you change your mind). Once you get back onto the track it’s about seven metres wide and covered in large rocks, ranging in size from golf-balls to footballs.
It does get better, though, as the trees and bushes become denser and native flowers including orchids and Gymea lilies.
The best part will be the falls. Two-and-a-half hours into the walk you’ll start to feel a difference in the air. The creatures are calmer and the atmosphere is of a completely different world. When you hear the sound of running water, you’re almost there!
The Uloola Falls pool is breathtaking. Throw yourself into the pool and hope the fish don’t bite. The surrounding trees and rock formations give you perfect shade for a picnic (and maybe a nap) before you say goodbye. – Report and photos by Rosaline Khiami