Cooks Nose walking track

Barren Grounds Nature Reserve

Open, check current alerts 

Overview

Stroll through the park's rich heathlands on Cooks Nose walking track and you’ll be rewarded with striking scenic views from the escarpment overlooking Kangaroo Valley.

Where
Barren Grounds Nature Reserve
Distance
8km return
Time suggested
2hrs 30min - 3hrs 30min
Grade
Grade 3
What to
bring
Drinking water, hat, sunscreen
Please note
  • Remember to take your binoculars if you want to birdwatch
  • The weather in this area can be extreme and unpredictable, so please ensure you’re well-prepared for your visit.
  • There is limited/no mobile reception in this park

The walking track out to Cooks Nose is well-marked and steep in places, but the views at the end are simply spectacular. The track wanders through open expanses of heathland, which burst with colour in spring when the wildflowers are out. The brightly coloured red and yellow Christmas bells are a special treat on this walk.

There are also plenty of birdwatching opportunities. You might see eagles riding the thermal air currents above Kangaroo Valley or a group of black cockatoos. But keep a special eye out for threatened heathland birds like the striated fieldwren, eastern bristlebird and ground parrot.

Relax for a while, take in the views looking out from the top of the escarpment, or head back to Barren Grounds picnic area or nearby Robertson for a warm lunch.

For directions, safety and practical information, see visitor info

Map


Map legend

Map legend

Current alerts in this area

There are no current alerts in this area.

Local alerts

For the latest updates on fires, closures and other alerts in this area, see https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/cooks-nose-walking-track/local-alerts

General enquiries

Park info

See more visitor info

Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about Cooks Nose walking track.

Track grading

Grade 3

Learn more about the grading system Features of this track
  • Time

    2hrs 30min - 3hrs 30min

  • Quality of markings

    Sign posted

  • Gradient

    Short steep hills

  • Distance

    8km return

  • Steps

    Occasional steps

  • Quality of path

    Formed track, some obstacles

  • Experience required

    Some bushwalking experience recommended

Getting there and parking

Cooks Nose walking track is at the northern end of Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. To get there:

  • Continue on the road from the reserve entrance for approximately 1km
  • Cooks Nose walking track starts from Barren Grounds picnic area

Parking

Parking is available at Barren Grounds picnic area

Best times to visit

There are lots of great things waiting for you in Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. Here are some of the highlights.

Autumn

Enjoy spectacular views on a clear autumn day of the coastline and surrounds from Illawarra lookout.

Spring

Enjoy the colourful wildflower display in the reserve's upland heaths.

Summer

Escape the crowds on the coast for a peaceful picnic among nature.

Winter

Warm up with a brisk walk in the misty highlands and admire the flowering banksias.

Weather, temperature and rainfall

Summer temperature

Average

16°C and 5°C

Highest recorded

42.4°C

Winter temperature

Average

8°C and 18°C

Lowest recorded

2.3°C

Rainfall

Wettest month

March

Driest month

September

The area’s highest recorded rainfall in one day

728.4mm

Maps and downloads

Safety messages

Bushwalking safety

If you're keen to head out on a longer walk or a backpack camp, always be prepared. Read these bushwalking safety tips before you set off on a walking adventure in national parks.

Mobile safety

Dial Triple Zero (000) in an emergency. Download the Emergency Plus app before you visit, it helps emergency services locate you using your smartphone's GPS. Please note there is limited mobile phone reception in this park and you’ll need mobile reception to call Triple Zero (000).

Prohibited

Pets

Pets and domestic animals (other than certified assistance animals) are not permitted. Find out which regional parks allow dogs and see the pets in parks policy for more information.

Smoking

NSW national parks are no smoking areas.

Visitor centre

Learn more

Cooks Nose walking track is in Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. Here are just some of the reasons why this park is special:

Go wild for flowers

Flowers in bloom, Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. Photo: John Spencer

Barren Grounds Nature Reserve is famous for its heath wildflowers in spring and summer and flowering banksias in winter. The heathland is also one of only 4 large areas of heath on the NSW South Coast, making it an important habitat for many species of plants and animals. A large number of threatened or regionally rare ferns and other species also occur in wet sheltered sites below the escarpment, including several species of filmy fern. Around 180 bird species can also be found here, including honeyeaters, southern emu wrens, lyrebirds, crimson rosellas, cockatoos and grey currawongs. If you're really lucky, you might even spot the bright green ground parrot or an eastern bristlebird. In fact, it was to protect these two threatened heathland birds that Barren Grounds Nature Reserve was set up in 1956.

  • 6-day birding and natural history tours Explore the beauty and diversity of Australian wildlife at Sydney’s doorstep on this 6-day tour with the knowledgeable guides of Inala Nature Tours. Visiting parklands, you'll see amazing birds, mammals and reptiles in their natural habitat.
  • Cooks Nose walking track Stroll through the park's rich heathlands on Cooks Nose walking track and you’ll be rewarded with striking scenic views from the escarpment overlooking Kangaroo Valley.
  • Junior ranger: Barren Grounds detective Become a detective these school holidays on a tour of Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. You’ll explore the park and go on a hunt to find evidence of the creatures that call this area home.

Historic heritage

Illawarra lookout walking track, Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. Photo: John Spencer

Barren Grounds Nature Reserve holds a very special place in the history of conservation in NSW, as it was the third faunal reserve to be gazetted under the Fauna Protection Act. Led by early conservation leaders like Myles Dunphy, Paddy Pallin and Allen Strom, it was protected in 1956. Since then, it has been an important place for researchers and students alike to record and learn about the incredible biodiversity of this area. The stone building at Barren Grounds picnic area - once known as The Lodge - was used for accommodation by researchers and honorary rangers.

Education resources (1)