Forest Path is one of the oldest walking trails in Royal National Park and one of the prettiest. It follows the Hacking River as it winds its way through the lush temperate rainforest – one of the rarest habitat types in Royal National Park. The path is an easy walk in a magical landscape that takes you around Forest Island – a hill in the forest that is encircled by Bola Creek and Forest Island.
The trail at a glance
- Distance – 4.4 km loop
- Time – 1-1.5 hr
- Grade – Easy
- Starting Point: Forest Path car park
The good news is – Forest Path car park is marked on Google maps. It’s located on both sides of Sir Bertram Stevens Drive, 4.7 km from the Waterfall entrance to the park on McKell Avenue, or 19 km from Audley.
And if you travel to the park by Park Connections shuttle from Sutherland train station, it stops at the Forest Path car park as well.
Start the walk on Lady Carrington Drive
There are two starting points for the Forest Path, located less than 100 meters apart. The more atmospheric way to start the walk is via the stone gate at the start of Lady Carrington Drive. This southern section of Lady Carrington Drive is home to the same lush rainforest that you find on Forest Path.
As soon as you walk through the gate you find yourself in the world of dim light, thick vegetation and moss-covered tree stumps. A plethora of lianas and epiphytes hang from the tree branches fighting for their spot in the sun.
After about 800m you come to the ‘Forest Path’ turn off on your left that leads into the rainforest. It is a narrower trail and even less light filters through the rainforest canopy here. The vegetation is a thick blanket of towering eucalypts and dense patches of cabbage palms and the forest floor is covered by a soft carpet of ferns.
For the first few hundred meters, the trail closely follows Bola Creek and you can easily walk down to the bank of the creek which is very picturesque.
In true rainforest style, the surrounding vegetation is calming every inch of available space. There are birds-nest ferns the size of satellite dishes fluffing up the canopy and even clumps of ferns clinging to the rough surface of the boulders lying on the banks of the creek. The dappled sunshine creates an unexpected patchwork of bright colours on the surface of water that shines in stark contrast with the dark forest. ‘Magical’ is the only word that comes to mind to describe this area.
The trail through this wonderland is mostly flat with occasional wooden steps for short stretches. After about 200 meters, the trail meets the Hacking River and from this point keeps following the river. This is a good place to see some rainforest birds in Royal, like the lyrebirds and black-faced monarchs.
About 3.3 kilometres from the start of the trail you will hear the sound of the rushing water as if there is a waterfall nearby. It’s not quite a waterfall, but some beautiful cascades on the river. Keep an eye out for an unmarked path leading from the trail towards the river.
There are at least two different paths a few meters apart. It’s only a short walk down to the riverbank and it brings you to the most idyllic spot. Here, the river winds through the thick forest and cascades down two sets of rocky shelves. Its crystal-clear water flows around moss-covered boulders and submerged logs.
There is not a soul around (even when the trail is busy) and the boulders on the riverbank are the perfect perches to sit on with your feet dangling in the refreshingly cool water. The sound of the cascades blots out any sounds from the trail above and the thick vegetation hides the rest of the world out of view.
If you brought some lunch, this is the perfect place to have it. Or you could spend some time wading in the river. Or just relax and enjoy the tranquillity of this spot.
Back on the trail, after a few hundred meters, you come to a signposted intersection with Couranga trail that takes 3.5 km to reach Waterfall. If you came to Forest Path on the Park Connections shuttle, this trail is a good alternative – it ends at the Waterfall train station.
If you plan to return to the car park, follow the Forest Path trail for another 700 meters. The trail emerges on Sir Bertram Stevens Drive about 50 meters from the stone gate on Lady Carrington drive where you started the walk.
As beautiful as Forest Path is, it’s not a very long walk. It takes just over an hour to complete. So if you are keen to do more exploring in this stunning rainforest, you could walk some of the Lady Carrington Drive trail. This guide to Lady Carrington Drive walk covers 4.3km of this trail from the stone gate to Calata clearing.
Alternatively, you could do Palona cave walk that takes you to a large sandstone overhang and Palona Brook falls. This trail starts at the 1.8 km mark on Lady Carrington Drive, signposted as “Limestone Cave”. The signpost is a rustic piece of wood that’s quite easy to miss, so keep an eye out for it on the right side of the Lady Carrington Drive trail.
Another option is to visit National Falls on McKell Avenue 2.2 km from Forest Path car park. This waterfall is at its best after a few days of rain.
How to get to Forest Path car park
The most direct way to access Forest Path is by driving. The entrance to Royal National Park costs $12 per vehicle per day.
The quickest way to reach Forest Path is to enter the park through the Waterfall entry point via McKell Avenue (4.7km). The more scenic way is to enter the park through Loftus entry point via Farnell avenue and take the winding Sir Bertram Stevens Drive through the park (20km). This is a good option if you are already in the park and want to travel to Forest Path.
Train and Shuttle
If you don’t want to drive, you can reach Forest Path by public transport, but it will take quite a bit of time.
Take the T4 train to Sutherland (check schedule here) and then take the Park Connections shuttle to Lady Carrington South (check schedule here). Make sure to pre-book your shuttle tickets in advance via the website. Also, make sure not to miss the afternoon shuttle back around 4 pm.
More Walks in Royal National Park
- Royal National Park: Walks, Beaches, Waterfalls and Swimming Holes
- Things to See and Do on Marley Beach, Including a Visit to Little Marley
- Winifred Falls Trail – A Short Trail to a Pretty Waterfall
- Wattamolla to Little Marley Beach walk in Royal National Park
- Wattamolla to Curracurrong Falls Walk, Including a Tranquil Hidden Gem
- Garawarra Farm Carpark to Burning Palms Beach Track
- Otford to Burning Palms Beach: Palm Jungle Loop Track
- Bulgo Beach – a unique fishing shack village in Sydney
- Forest Path in Royal National Park – a Tranquil Rainforest Track
- Hidden gems on Bundeena to Marley Beach walk