Illawarra Escarpment Trail

The second gate on the Illawarra Escarpment Trail, near Bulli Pass hairpin

I had eagerly awaited for the shipping container with my Cannondale F400 to arrive, wanting to ride the trail from Corrimal to Bulli along the Illawarra Escarpment. I had packed it up with a few other items (Bob Ibex, camping gear and a few boxes of books) for the boat ride back from Canada. After getting a service and putting on some new dirt tires it was time to explore.

I road from Wollongong to the trail head located west of Corrimal (Hawthorn Street, Tarrawanna). The last section of public road provided an indication of the incline to come. On passing the gate the first stretch of the trail is a disused unsealed road up to the former Corrimal Colliery site. It was nice to be on a shady road surrounded by trees, and free from cars. The old road had a relatively steady grade, before reaching the pit front where it leveled out. Aside from remnant concrete slabs and rail tracks — and the closed entrance to the pit itself — all buildings and other infrastructure was long gone.

South of the mine entrance, a gate signaled the start of the escarpment trail proper. As the painted text on the gate highlighted, part of the trail was on public land (Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area) and part on areas excised in the past for mining (and other?) activities. After recent rains, I was prepared for the trail to be quite damp and slippery. The climb out from the first gate was no exception. I found myself, with the new low-bite dirt tires, to be lacking purchase on some of the steeper sections — and lead to a good fall or two. The first section out from the gate turned 180 degrees and headed back to the north.

The southern sections of the trail, on privately managed land, presented more challenging conditions. Ranging from rutted out sections a metre or more wide, to single track, to potholed sections filled with water, there were plenty of testing conditions to be had. As I continued north, the occasional break in the trees provided some stunning views east to the Pacific Ocean. The trail continued to undulate, with slippery climbs. I came across another (yellow) gate as the trail widened with a gravel surface. Soon after, mine-related infrastructure came into view followed by a large dam as I approached the west of Bulli. I am not sure of the exact location, though I know nearby was the entrance to the old Bulli mine, where 81 men and boys died in 1887 following an explosion in the pit.

The trail conditions changed north of the dam, as a prelude to another gate signaling the boundary of the National Parks managed section of the trail. This short section is much wider, largely devoid of invasive species and much more picturesque (less impacted by humans). I passed other cyclists enjoying the trail — it appeared they started at the gate halfway up Bulli Pass, where a few cars were parked.

I doubled back on the trail, intent on descending along the route of the old tramway down to Sandon Point. Unfortunately a wrong turn led me out to Hospital road. I cruised along the (coastal) cycleway back to Wollongong.

The road into the old Corrimal Colliery site.
Blocked-off tunnel enstrance to the old Corrimal Colliery.
First gate
The climb up form the old Corrimal Colliery site (above the tunnel entry)
Plenty of water on the trail
A view of some sheer rockface of the Illawarra Escaprment
Some of the tighter single track sections on the Illawarra Escaprment Trail.
The view east, towards Bellambi Point
Dam, west of Bulli