In an effort to protect pretty much everything we own and obviously my sanity, during coronavirus I spent every day for weeks adventuring with my two little guys Byron aged 4.5 years and Fox aged 3.
We explored creeks, walked on bush tracks, hiked to waterfalls, found thousands of worms, skipped rocks, hit everything imaginable with sticks and experienced all the other not so fun stuff – grazed knees from rock hopping, bites from ‘little critters’, bush poops, and stinging nettle injuries from aforementioned bush poops.
And boy was it worth it! We discovered so many amazing spots around Orange that aren’t very well known or crazily underrated for outdoor adventuring with kiddos. There are two main areas we explored – the tracks and trails around Mullion Creek and Ophir Reserve, and the hiking trails on Mount Canobolas as well as a few more spots close by.
Here are some of the places that you may know and some you may never have heard of that we discovered and return to as much as we can. I hope you find some adventure from this list – and whatever you do make sure you pack baby wipes and stingose when you go!
For a place that seems a world away from Orange, these spots in Mullion Creek and Ophir Reserve are only 12-30 minutes out of town. Phone reception is patchy beyond Clifton Grove and there isn’t anywhere to fill up water bottles or buy food, so make sure you are self-sufficient so you can spend half or whole day adventuring in these awesome little spots.
Mullion Creek Waterfall – The Falls
The Falls is a walking track and waterfall that not many people know about – but is so awesome it’s hard to understand why. Yes, it’s not very easy to find but it is honestly a hidden gem that is well worth the effort to work out how to get there.
How to find The Falls: As you drive out of Orange on Ophir Road past the Resource Recovery Centre, each time you cross a creek there will be a sign saying First, Second, Third and Fourth Crossing. Between Third and Fourth Crossing on Ophir Road, keep an eye out for the green national parks signs saying ‘Mullion Range State Conservation Area’ on the left hand side of the road. At the first sign there is a little car park bay with another sign saying the ‘Central Mines Trail’. There are two entrances – another sign is about 500m up the road – and both lead to the waterfall. But the first one is a bit easier to park with kiddos in the car park bay as the second is just a pullover bay on the side of the road. If you reach Fourth Crossing you know you’ve gone too far. Turnaround and drive back until you find it or hit Third Crossing – hopefully the former! It’s only hard to find because the signs are green on a bush backdrop, and the road winds a bit where the signs are – so you tend to look at the road rather than the sign.
After you park – follow the fire trail to the track that leads down to the river. You’ll be able to see The Falls easily from the end of the fire trail. On the left hand side of the river is a bush track that you can follow up to the main waterfall area. There is a little shady grassy spot with tree stumps at the base of the main waterfall that is great for a picnic lunch.
Explore the edge of the river – look for yabbies and water skippers, let the kids scramble over trees or up the subsidiary creek beds, or chase grasshoppers and butterflies in the grass. This is one of my favourite spots in Orange to take the kids on a real bush experience and to get in some exercise for me. Easily a half day outing – obviously watch out that they don’t fall in the river and for snakes in summer on the track, but I highly recommend making the effort to get out here! It’s crazy pretty.
Some people also walk kilometres up the river to go fishing or to go for a longer hike, but for us the waterfall is always the end point.
There are two great walks here – one to a waterfall on the eastern side of the road called Cascades Track, and a loop track on the western side called Historic Water Race Walking Track.
Cascades is a 900 metre single track to another great waterfall that is somehow another little known awesome spot near Orange! Cross the road from the main car park and toilet block at Fourth Crossing. There is a green National Parks sign that says Cascades Walking Track and points to the trail head. Follow on the track and parallel the creek until you reach the falls or do what we do a lot – just bush bash up the creek until you reach the top of the falls.
My kids absolutely love exploring here. There are ‘little critters’ everywhere and so many rocks to throw into the water. You can easily spend half a day here – take snacks, sunscreen, hats, water, the whole shebang so you don’t have to go home because someone is tired/wet/cold/hungry. Cascades doesn’t have an official listing on the National Parks website but is very easy to find from Fourth Crossing. Kids will need supervision at the waterfall itself – there are a few drop offs, but lots of safe spots for them to explore too closeby.
Historic Water Race Walking Track is a 2.6km loop that can take 1-1.5 hours if you do the full loop. The Historic Water Race Walking Track starts just near the toilet block at Fourth Crossing and is a loop track past old gold mining areas. National Parks grades the track as Grade 4 or medium-difficult, but you can easily do part of the track near the river with young kids and stop whenever you need to. We haven’t done it – but if you continue walking up the river you’ll eventually reach The Falls waterfall I mentioned above.
Our favourite thing to do is at Ophir Reserve is bring camping chairs and drink wine while the kids throw rocks in the river and we cook sausages on the firepit. You can definitely walk too before opening the wine.
Ophir Reserve is a 25-30 minute drive from Orange CBD and is again well worth the effort to get there! There is patchy phone reception from Clifton Grove and no reception at all in the valley where the Ophir Reserve Campground is located. Ophir was the first site where gold was mined in Australia from the 1850’s. There are interesting relics of the areas gold mining past including old tunnels and fenced in mine shafts. The river is beautiful and surrounded by she oaks and there are picnic and BBQ facilities on site.
Fires are allowed unless there is a fire ban and you will see stone ringed fire pits scattered along the river bank. There are a number of walks of differing difficulty in the area and the old visitor info sign outlines the tracks available. Some traverse the hillside where you can see old gold mining sites and where the early miners diverted the waterways – these areas have some drop offs to watch out for.
The easiest track for really little people is to explore around the river where you can follow the river on the track and then just backtrack when you need to. There are so many things to explore here, so many rocks to turnover with bugs underneath, natural sandpits for digging, she oaks roots for fairies and plenty of rocks to throw in the river. Ophir Reserve is one of our favourite places to go in the Orange area. Take everything you need, there’s no drinking water at Ophir – so bring a few litres as well as food and anything you need for a fire pit or BBQ. Camping is permitted with a permit here too.
The weather on Mount Canobolas is very variable so have a look at the forecast before you go and pack some warm clothes if it’s not the peak of summer! Toilet and picnic facilities on Mount Canobolas are in the main car park at the top of the summit and in the Federal Falls carpark. Bring plenty of drinking water and food.
This walk is a great introduction to hiking on Mount Canobolas with kids and great for your own fitness too! You don’t have to be uber fit – but definitely be prepared for some good ol’ fashion bushwalking – little bit of uphill, little bit of downhill and plenty of things to see and smell. You can start and finish at the Walls Lookout carpark. There is a cliff edge but it is about 200 metres from the carpark area so watch kids running off towards the viewpoint – but otherwise it is one of the safest and gentlest walks along with the Summit Track – which joins the Nature Loop from the summit of Mount Canobolas. There are a few steep parts of the trail but the majority of the track is gentle walking through the bush through different landscapes – gullies, rocky outcrops, dense eucalypts and wider grasslands. Lots of signposts on the junctions and lots of places to stop and eat snacks.
Starting from the Federal Falls car park – cross the road and hike upwards towards the summit – there is a big green sign with ‘Snow Gums Track’ pointing to the trail head. Although much steeper than the Nature Loop the walk is shorter and still achievable for little people – my three year old hiked it quite easily. Walk to the top of Mount Canobolas where the car park is at the top, eat some snacks then walk back down. The track parallels the road for some sections but still feels very remote. Federal Falls has BBQ facilities and picnic tables for lunch which is really fun if you’re organised and put an esky in the back of the car with all of your BBQ stuff. You can camp with a permit here too.
A great hike to start from the top of Mount Canobolas joining two of the park’s summits, Mount Canobolas (also known as Old Man Canobolas) and Young Man Canobolas, the Summit Track traverses a saddle between the two mountains. The Nature Loop and Snowgums Track also join up with the Summit Track which allows you to extend your hike if you’re feeling like a half day or full day hike. Lots of spots to stop for snacks and breaks – especially at the peak of Young Man Canobolas where there is a viewpoint and big boulders to sit on.
This walk is the most challenging of the Mount Canobolas Walks primarily because of the steep descent from the main track down to the bottom of the falls. You don’t have to take the track down to the falls if you have younger kids with you – but it is definitely a highlight of the hike if you can make it! The National Parks website grades this the same as the Nature Loop and Summit Track but it is much longer and more difficult.
You’ll need a medium level of fitness and kids under 5 may have a hard time with the length of the hike. Saying that we love this walk! It’s a great workout for me, and tires the big kids out easily. It is a really pretty hike – often there are kangaroos just off the track and parrots nesting above. Lots of biodiversity and different types of scrub and bush. Stop for a break at the top of the falls – obviously watch the dropoff with kids, or hike to the bottom and enjoy a break and snacks before slogging it back up. Highly recommend this hike with older kids.
Pinnacle is a good short workout and manageable for little ones on their own. It’s only a 15 minute walk uphill and the views at the top are worth a bit of huffing and puffing. You can rock scramble around the bottom of the main lookout point and go for an adventure – there is some glass around where people have thrown bottles off the top off the path, but it’s still a fun little side adventure off the main track.
Right at the top is a fenced lookout point that makes a great picnic spot – but there are gaps in the fence so be wary with the under 5’s.
Located at Lake Burrendong next to the Reflections Holiday Park, Mookerawa is a place rather than a walking track. Wide open spaces with views across the lake, this spot is great for a gentle meander and picnic somewhere really different. About 50 minutes from Orange this is a great half day adventure. Take food and water and explore the water edge and rolling hills around the lake.
This is a great short walk for kids of all ages. Graded medium because there are some stairs on the trail and some climbing in the actual cave, this walk is actually very easy. The cave is really fun for kids to explore and there is a fabulous grass flat next to the carpark which is perfect for picnics and BBQ’s. A good outing that can easily turn into a half day adventure. Take a torch for some extra fun or to go on a bear hunt!
An easy stroll through the wetlands that harness stormwater for Orange city, this short walk is great for kids of all ages. Located right in town near Wentworth Golf Course this is a great outing if you are looking for something that won’t take too much time or that is too difficult. There is only a few hundred metres of walking tracks but lots for little people to explore and look at. If you park on Stirling Avenue – at the intersection with Isaac Drive there is a playground on the corner that is great for kids under 12 as well. Between the playground and wetlands walk you can spend a nice hour or two entertaining the kids outdoors with not too much effort.
An easy 10 minutes from town past the Orange Base Hospital, Gosling Creek Reserve has kilometres of walking, riding and running tracks. The two parks are side by side one is dog friendly and a great option if you want to walk the dogs and kids at the same time, the other is humans only and has BBQ and toilet facilities and a playground. The looping tracks around both parks at Gosling Creek are perfect for walking and riding bikes and are well used by the Orange Runner’s and Triathlon Clubs on Saturday mornings – a good time to avoid if you’d prefer having a bit more space to yourself. We really love riding our bikes or walking on the tracks, stopping for a play at the playground and then setting up for a picnic lunch on one of the picnic platforms near the water’s edge. It’s a great day out and relatively easy with kids of all ages.
This list is by no means exhaustive. There are so many more walks that are more well known and are great for families in the Orange area like Moulder Park, Cook Park and Lake Canobolas that I didn’t cover in this article. Google them and check them out for yourself if you haven’t experienced them already!