Piles Creek loop

Brisbane Water National Park

Affected by closures, check current alerts 

Overview

This short but challenging walk threads through dry eucalypt forest along Piles Creek, passing waterfalls and crossing a suspension bridge.

Where
Brisbane Water National Park
Distance
4km loop
Time suggested
2hrs 30min - 3hrs
Grade
Grade 5
Trip Intention Form

It's a good idea to let someone know where you're going. Fill in a trip intention form to send important details about your trip to your emergency contact.

Entry fees
Park entry fees apply
Opening times

The carpark at Girrakool picnic area is open daily from 7am to 8pm during daylight savings, and 7am to 6pm at other times. The carpark is locked at closing time and reopens at 7am daily.

What to
bring
Hat, sunscreen, drinking water, sturdy shoes, binoculars

If you’re looking for a hike with a chance to unwind afterwards, head to Girrakool for Piles Creek loop. Wandering through dry eucalypt forest, this day walk follows the deep gorge of Piles Creek past waterfalls and scenic clearings, so make sure you bring your camera. It even crosses a suspension bridge and reaches the Illoura lookout, with stellar views over the forest canopy, which offers a good opportunity for birdwatching.

At Illoura, the trail also crosses the Girrakool loop for a longer walk that takes in a fascinating Aboriginal site with carvings in Hawkesbury sandstone. Eventually, all roads lead back to the large grassy Girrakool picnic area, where you might like to fire up the free gas barbecues for a lazy afternoon in the shade of eucalypts.

For directions, safety and practical information, see visitor info

Also see

  • Girrakool picnic area, Brisbane Water National Park. Photo: John Yurasek

    Girrakool picnic area

    A great spot for a family picnic, Girrakool picnic area has barbecues, lots of green space to run around and a scenic walking track that features Aboriginal engravings.

  • Girrakool loop track, Brisbane Water National Park. Photo: John Yurasek

    Girrakool loop track

    A lovely way to finish a barbecue, the Girrakool loop track is a short and easy walk through bushland, featuring an Aboriginal rock engraving site and scenic waterfalls.

  • Mooney Mooney nature walk, Brisbane Water National Park. Photo: John Spencer

    Mooney Mooney nature walk

    Enjoy a hiking adventure along Mooney Mooney nature walk, on the NSW Central Coast. Crossing Piles Creek, this walking track offers lots of lookouts and birdwatching opportunities.

  • Great North walk, Brisbane Water National Park. Photo: John Yurasek

    Great North walk - Brisbane Water National Park

    You’ll find the Wondabyne to Patonga and Patonga to Pearl Beach parts of the iconic Great North walk in Brisbane Water National Park. Take a short walk or overnight hike.

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/piles-creek-loop/local-alerts

General enquiries

Park info

  • in Brisbane Water National Park in the Sydney and surrounds region
  • Two picnic areas in Brisbane Water National Park close in the evening:

    • Girrakool picnic area is open 7am to 8pm during daylight savings and is open 7am to 6pm at other times
    • Somersby Falls picnic area is open 8am to 8pm during daylight savings and is open 8am to 5pm at other times

    Other areas of Brisbane Water National Park will be open at all times, however may have to close at times due to poor weather or fire danger.

     

     

  • Park entry fees:

    $8 per vehicle per day applies at Girrakool and Somersby Falls picnic areas. The park has coin-operated pay and display machines - please bring correct coins.

    Other fees:

    You will need a permit to hold a wedding or undertake commercial photography within the park.

    Buy annual pass (//pass.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/).
See more visitor info

Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about Piles Creek loop.

Track grading

Grade 5

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

    2hrs 30min - 3hrs

  • Quality of markings

    Limited signage

  • Gradient

    Very steep and difficult

  • Distance

    4km loop

  • Steps

    Many steps

  • Quality of path

    Rough track, many obstacles

  • Experience required

    Very experienced bushwalkers

Getting there and parking

Piles Creek loop is located in the northern section of Brisbane Water National Park.

To get there from the F3 Highway:

  • Exit Central Coast Highway towards Gosford
  • Take the first left onto Wisemans Ferry Road
  • Take the first left onto Old Pacific Highway
  • Take the first left onto Quarry Road
  • The picnic area, where the trail begins, is through the tunnel and straight ahead.

Parking

Parking is available at Girrakool picnic area, including several designated disabled spots. Please be aware of the carpark opening hours; gates are locked at closing.

Best times to visit

There are lots of great things waiting for you in Brisbane Water National Park. Here are some of the highlights.

Autumn

The cooler weather makes it a perfect time to find a waterfall walking track, and keep an eye out for ancient Aboriginal engravings along the way.

Spring

Pack a picnic lunch and soak up the delightful sights and sounds of spring. Relax among the wildflowers and wildlife as the Hawkesbury River flows by.

Summer

Take advantage of the warmer summer weather and paddle down Patonga Creek or Mooney Mooney Creek in a canoe.

Weather, temperature and rainfall

Summer temperature

Average

15°C and 27°C

Highest recorded

43.8°C

Winter temperature

Average

5°C and 19°C

Lowest recorded

-4.2°C

Rainfall

Wettest month

March

Driest month

September

The area’s highest recorded rainfall in one day

218.4mm

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.

Learn more

Piles Creek loop is in Brisbane Water National Park. Here are just some of the reasons why this park is special:

A haven for wildlife

Powerful owl. Photo: Rosie Nicolai/OEH

Brisbane Water National Park is home to an incredible 270 native animal species. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife and bird life such as the threatened spotted tailed quoll, the rare glossy black cockatoo and powerful owl. You might be lucky enough to share a picnic at Girrakool picnic area with a few wallabies who love this peaceful place.

  • Girrakool loop track A lovely way to finish a barbecue, the Girrakool loop track is a short and easy walk through bushland, featuring an Aboriginal rock engraving site and scenic waterfalls.
  • Great North walk stage 8: Waratah spectacular Climb to the top of Mount Wondabyne in Brisbane Water National Park for a lunch with spectacular panoramic views to the sea. This is a challenging 9hr, 20km walk.
  • Great North walk stage 9: Rainforest walk Enjoy the spectacular views and scenic landscape on this challenging Great North walk. In stage 9, you’ll walk 16km through temperate rainforest within Brisbane Water National Park, near Gosford.
  • Tommos loop and Rocky Ponds cycling loop Mountain biking enthusiasts will enjoy the challenging Tommos loop and Rocky Ponds cycling loop, a 20km bushland ride taking in scenic Central Coast views.

A wonderland of wildflowers

Red spider flower in Brisbane Water National Park. Photo: Rosie Nicolai/OEH

Located 12km from Gosford, the park covers 12,000ha of rugged sandstone country, and boarders the Hawkesbury river, which feeds cascading waterfalls. The landscape is gorgeous all year round, especially from late winter to early spring when it comes alive with colourful wildflowers.

  • Central Coast nature walks for women Enjoy fresh air, beautiful scenery and the company of other adventurous women on these guided treks by Heart Hum and their Central Coast Women’s Hiking Circle.
  • Great North walk stage 8: Waratah spectacular Climb to the top of Mount Wondabyne in Brisbane Water National Park for a lunch with spectacular panoramic views to the sea. This is a challenging 9hr, 20km walk.
  • Great North walk stage 9: Rainforest walk Enjoy the spectacular views and scenic landscape on this challenging Great North walk. In stage 9, you’ll walk 16km through temperate rainforest within Brisbane Water National Park, near Gosford.
  • Somersby Falls picnic area A great place to picnic on the Central Coast, Somersby Falls offers barbecues and picnic tables in a lush rainforest complete with waterfalls and a walking track.
  • Warrah lookout Warrah lookout, offering scenic views of Broken Bay and the Hawkesbury River, is just a short walk from the carpark. It’s a great place to see Waratahs in season.

Ancient landscapes

Aboriginal rock carving, Girrakool Loop track, Brisbane Water National Park. Photo: John Yurasek

Aboriginal people in the area have a long association with the landscape of Brisbane Water National Park and much evidence of this remains today in the form of rock engravings, foreshore middens and rock paintings. The flat, exposed areas of Hawkesbury sandstone within the park provide an ideal 'canvas' for Aboriginal artists, and there are hundreds of rock engraving sites throughout the park. Aboriginal sites on Hawkesbury sandstone have a distinctive style of engraving which is unique in Australia. The Bulgandry Aboriginal engraving site at Kariong is an excellent example of rock art within the park and is easily accessible.

  • Bulgandry Art Site Aboriginal Place tours Discover the ancient wisdom behind the rock engravings at the Bulgandry Art Site Aboriginal Place on a tour with Darkinjung Tours. You’ll hear Dreaming Stories and learn about Aboriginal culture in Brisbane Water National Park.
  • Girrakool loop track A lovely way to finish a barbecue, the Girrakool loop track is a short and easy walk through bushland, featuring an Aboriginal rock engraving site and scenic waterfalls.

Stretch your legs

Warrah lookout, Brisbane Water National Park. Photo: John Yurasek

Brisbane Water National Park offers great ways to get amongst nature. Why not hop on your mountain bike and get your adrenalin pumping along the Tommos loop and Rocky Ponds cycling route? Or you can wear out your walking shoes along the Girrakool loop walking track. For the more energetic, the park is a hikers delight. Longer treks range from an hour or two to overnight on sections of the Great North walk, which passes through the park on its way from Sydney to Newcastle.

  • Girrakool picnic area A great spot for a family picnic, Girrakool picnic area has barbecues, lots of green space to run around and a scenic walking track that features Aboriginal engravings.
  • Great North walk - Brisbane Water National Park You’ll find the Wondabyne to Patonga and Patonga to Pearl Beach parts of the iconic Great North walk in Brisbane Water National Park. Take a short walk or overnight hike.

Plants and animals you may see

Animals

  • Australian pelican. Photo: Rob Cleary

    Australian pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus)

    The curious pelican is Australia’s largest flying bird and has the longest bill of any bird in the world. These Australian birds are found throughout Australian waterways and the pelican uses its throat pouch to trawl for fish. Pelicans breed all year round, congregating in large colonies on secluded beaches and islands.

  • Koala. Photo: Lucy Morrell

    Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

    One of the most renowned Australian animals, the tree-dwelling marsupial koala can be found in gum tree forests and woodlands across eastern NSW, Victoria and Queensland, as well as in isolated regions in South Australia. With a vice-like grip, this perhaps most iconic but endangered Australian animal lives in tall eucalypts within a home range of several hectares.

  • A juvenile platypus saved by National Parks and Wildlife staff. Photo: M Bannerman/OEH

    Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus)

    One of the most fascinating and unusual Australian animals, the duck-billed platypus, along with the echidna, are the only known monotremes, or egg-laying mammals, in existence. The platypus is generally found in permanent river systems and lakes in southern and eastern NSW and east and west of the Great Dividing Range.

Plants

  • A red triangle slug on the trunk of a scribbly gum tree in Blue Mountains National Park. Photo: Elinor Sheargold/OEH

    Scribbly gum (Eucalyptus haemastoma)

    Easily identifiable Australian native plants, scribbly gum trees are found throughout NSW coastal plains and hills in the Sydney region. The most distinctive features of this eucalypt are the ‘scribbles’ made by moth larva as it tunnels between the layers of bark.

  • Close up photo of a waratah flower, Blue Mountains National Park. Photo: Simone Cottrell/OEH.

    Waratah (Telopea speciosissima)

    The beautiful waratah is not only the NSW floral emblem, it's also one of the best-known Australian native plants. This iconic Australian bush flower can be found on sandstone ridges around Sydney, in nearby mountain ranges and on the NSW South Coast. The waratah has a vibrant crimson flowerhead, measuring up to 15cm across, and blossoms in spring.

Environments in this park

Education resources (1)