Top 10 best 4X4 tracks near Sydney

Want to escape the rat race for the weekend? Here are our pick of the best 10 4X4 tracks within a few hours of Sydney.

By Josh Needs
Article from Unsealed 4X4

What we’ve tried to do here is pick out 10 great locations that can be reached and driven in a weekend if you live in Sydney, or near to it. There’s more than one track at each spot, so we’ve tried to showcase the best-known track in each location; there are always side tracks and more to explore. It goes without saying that you should always go prepared with enough food and water, warm clothing (if you’re visiting in winter), recovery gear and that your vehicle is in good working order. And make sure you’ve got navigation aids and directions for the tracks you want to drive. Enjoy.

Located on the Central Coast of NSW, the Watagans National Park is an easy-ish one-and-a-half hours from the centre of Sydney (which is, fun fact, actually Parramatta and not Sydney CBD). The Watagans are a mixture of state forest and national parks areas.

Being in close proximity to the townships of Morisset or Toronto, you can easily duck into town if you get to camp and find you’ve forgotten something. But this also means a visit should be mid-week to avoid the weekend crowds, especially in warmer weather.

It sounds like a cliché, but the Watagans NP offers something for everyone with campgrounds (The Pines, Bangalow, and Gap Creek) accessible in the dry to both 4X4 and soft-roaders with some sort of all-wheel drive system. In the wet, though, you’ll need a 4X4.

With your base camp set (so you know, the camp grounds in the state forest are larger than their national park siblings) you can head off onto any one of the hundreds of tracks (some short and some longer) throughout the area to test out your skills, from rock crawling to mud holes and more, and that’s even with Daniels Point now closed. The main roads in the Watagans can be driven by a soft-road SUV but to take on the harder side tracks you’ll need a 4X4 and the skills to use it properly and safely.

Common sense applies when driving on the tracks in the Watagans, especially on the tracks in the national park. Drive to the conditions and stick to the formed tracks and do your research before picking a track…if it’s wet and you can’t make it through, then choose another track rather than risk either damaging the track or your vehicle. There are also plenty of walks and lookouts (Monkey Face) to enjoy, and Boarding House Dam offers a picnic ground and relief on a hot day.

HOW TO GET THERE
The easiest entrance into the national park is along Mount Faulk road, off Freemans drive in Cooranbong.

WHAT DO I NEED?
This depends on what you want to be doing, from setting up your camper trailer or caravan in one of the campsites, to hitting the tracks in your 4X4. That said, the mandatories you will need to bring are firewood, bug spray – good quality, and salt – the leaches love the wet. Then if you’re going to tackle the tracks a complete recovery kit, traction boards, air compressor, deflator, as well as some decent tyres. 

Newnes is one of the most popular four-wheel driving destinations in NSW, and that’s because it’s such a great base for some amazing tracks. Located within the Wolgan Valley, within the Wollemi National Park, Newnes is around three hours from Parramatta (the centre of Sydney).

The track into Newnes these days is mostly tarred with some gravel towards the end, making it accessible for soft-roaders. The campground is split by the Wolgan River and you’ll need a 4X4 to cross at the ford and camp on the other side. From the campsite, you can walk to the glow-worm tunnel (one for the kids), and also the old shale oil mine ruins (Newnes Industrial Ruins).

The Newnes campground is the perfect jump-off for some great tracks nearby. Just half an hour back up the road is Maiyingu Marragu Trail (formerly Blackfellows Hand Trail), which not only shows off some spectacular artwork but also leads up into some other great tracks such as Powerlines, The Lost City, and the main road Glow Worm Tunnel road. There are also numerous fire trails and other side-tracks to explore in your 4WD.

HOW TO GET THERE
Newnes campground is located an hour north from Lithgow at the end of Wolgan road. You turn right onto Wolgan road at the United fuel station on Castlereagh Highway. The beginning of Maiyingu Marragu Trail (formerly Blackfellows Hand Trail) is also along Wolgan Rd but only 20 minutes from Lithgow.

WHAT DO I NEED?
For the campground you need to bring in any firewood you’ll want to burn, and in winter that will be a lot. For the tracks, as long as you have a 4X4 in good working order and the skills to use it, a complete recovery kit, compressor and deflator, and maybe a mate in his/her 4X4 you should be able to tackle most tracks without too much trouble.

A little bit further away from Sydney than some of the other areas we’ve picked is Barrington Tops, which is known for its stunning scenery and challenging 4WD tracks. Approximately four hours from the centre of Sydney, Parramatta, the Barrington Tops National Park is home to a handful of campgrounds, four-wheel drive tracks and walking tracks. A number of the campgrounds are pay-to-stay at, for example, the Gloucester River campground charges $12 per-adult-per-night and $6 per-child-per-night.

Some four-wheel drivers we know call Barrington Tops the High Country of NSW and with stunning views and hills rising to 1500 metres above sea level you can understand the comparison. But that’s more or less where the comparison ends, see, if you visit from the 1 June to 1 October some of the tracks in the area are closed.

If you’re after some serious off-roading, then ditch the forest roads in favour of the side tracks worming their way through the park such as Tugalow Trail, which is full of water crossings, bog holes, and muddy ruts, perfect for a 4WDer wanting a testing time on the tracks.

HOW TO GET THERE
The main entrance into the national park is via Gloucester Tops Rd in the suburb of Invergordon. The nearest large town is Gloucester, which is approximately an hour away.

WHAT DO I NEED?
If you stay on the main forest roads, then an AWD vehicle will be able to handle most of what the roads offer, unless the weather turns nasty in which case a 4X4 is a must. Venturing off the main roads and onto side-tracks should be reserved for 4WD vehicles only and you’ll need a complete recovery kit, tyre deflators, air compressor and a mate to help get you out when you overestimate your ability.

Not all good tracks are to the north of the Big Smoke with Yalwal being home to some of the most challenging tracks in NSW, such as Monkey Gum. Located approximately three hours south of Sydney, Yalwal used to be a gold mining town but these days has become a mecca for 4X4 owners.

One of the main campgrounds that are used in the area is Yalwal Campground. This is a free camp; however, being based in a national park means you’ll need to bring in your own firewood. There are basic facilities, such as toilets and barbeques, with park rangers known to patrol the area.

One of the best-known tracks is Monkey Gum which isn’t for the faint-hearted. Your vehicle will need a substantial lift, good tyres, and good 4WDing knowledge.

HOW TO GET THERE
Yalwal Campground is located off Yalwal Rd, Yalwal, on the banks of Danjera Dam. There are several entrances you can choose from to get onto Monkey Gum, but the most common one is a right turn off Braidwood road, Tianjara.

WHAT DO I NEED?
To tackle Monkey Gum, you’ll need decent clearance, good tyres, a complete recovery kit, and some traction boards, along with a mate to help you out. Also don’t be surprised if you come away with your vehicle bearing battle scars; Monkey Gum is infamous as a track that damages…

Beach driving can be a lot of fun which is why Blacksmiths Beach makes this list. A little less than two hours north of Sydney, Blacksmiths is regarded as offering one of the toughest and best beach drives left in NSW.

Blacksmiths Beach is not only great driving, but you can also camp on it, with fires and dogs allowed as well as some good fishing to be done. There is also Blacksmiths Beachside Holiday Park and others in the area if you want a few more facilities. You do, however, need to be cautious of where you are, as to the north and south there is restricted access, only for pedestrians.

HOW TO GET THERE
Blacksmiths Beach has three access points, one of which is along Ocean Park Road in Belmont.

WHAT DO I NEED?
Blacksmiths beach now requires each vehicle to have a permit to drive onto the beach. You can choose either a seven-day permit for $33, one month for $44, or a full year for $88. You’ll also need to carry an air compressor, tyre deflators, a recovery kit, and traction boards.

Only an hour and a half north-west of Sydney is the Colo River. Regarded as the last ‘pristine river’ in NSW, there is plenty of camping to be done in the area as well as some great 4X4 tracks to drive. One of the better campgrounds in the area is the Upper Colo Reserve. However, you’ll need to book a spot beforehand, costs are $12 for adults and $10 for children, and if you arrive without a booking, you’ll need to pay more, $18 per adult and $13 per child. The Upper Colo Reserve is also closed from 10 June – 1 September.

Other spots to stay in the area include Wheeny Creek campground, or the privately-owned Bielany camp. For four-wheel drivers, the area plenty of tracks to explore throughout the Colo area with the Gees Arm South Trail one of the best-known tracks. This is a technical track with rock steps where you’ll likely need to track build winch; this wouldn’t be one for the those with standard vehicles.

HOW TO GET THERE
To get to the Upper Colo Reserve campground, you follow Hulbert Road Upper Colo where you’ll turn see the turn off down a short track to the campground. To get to the Gees Arm South Trail, follow Comleroy Road, Upper Colo, to a fork in the road where you’ll see the trail lead off on the right-hand side.

WHAT DO I NEED?
Depending on how serious the tracks are you want to tackle, a 4X4 with a complete recovery kit and a decent set of tyres should get you most places. Make sure that if you want to stay at either Bielany camp or the Upper Colo Reserve, you book in advance, and/or bring payment.

Roughly three and a half hours west of Sydney is the Abercrombie River National Park, home to some of the most diverse campgrounds and best 4X4 tracks in NSW. The Abercrombie River NP has four main campgrounds in the area, Bummaroo Ford, Silent Creek, The Sink, and The Beach. In our opinion, The Beach is the pick of the bunch. It’s located down a steep trail keeping 2WD and AWDs away along with some water crossings that can get deep after rain. It gets its name by being next to a sandy stretch by the water. Further up-stream from the campground, there’s a waterhole ideal for swimming in. There are many tracks throughout the national park to go exploring in, but one of the best in terms of the challenge is Bald Hill Trail, one of the steepest tracks in the area.

HOW TO GET THERE
To get to The Beach campground you turn off the Abercrombie Firetrail down Beach road, Golspie, where you’ll see the campsite along the river. To get to Bald Hill Trail from The Beach campground, you follow the Abercrombie Firetrail south before turning onto Middle Trail, which will eventually lead you through the centre of the national park to Bald Hill Trail.

WHAT DO I NEED?
Due to the steepness of some of the tracks, a 4X4 with low-range or good hill descent control is a must. An air compressor and tyre deflator, to go with a decent set of all-terrains or mud-terrain rubber to make sure you stay out of trouble. For camping, you need to bring all your own supplies, including firewood.

While we classify it as Rydal that isn’t really fair because the whole area around Rydal offers some fantastic camping and tracks. A touch over two hours west of Sydney, Rydal is a base point for some of the most challenging tracks in NSW. In terms of camping, there are several options in the area, such as on the banks of Lake Lyell, over by Lake Wallace, or even in Lidsdale or Marrangaroo National Park. With countless tracks in the area to put you and your machinery to the test, there are a couple that stand out, including Mount Walker and Unimog Hill, named because of the story that the Australian Army used it to train its drivers and test out their Unimogs.

HOW TO GET THERE
The township of Rydal is easy to get to, but Mount Walker is less so. To get there from Rydal, you jump back on the Great Western Highway towards Wallerawang and then turn right, into what becomes Sugarmans road, which you follow along until you reach the T-intersection of Mount Walker road.

WHAT DO I NEED?
To conquer either Mount Walker or Unimog Hill, you’ll need a big lift, large aggressive tyres, lockers, and the all-important recovery kit, as well as a few mates, to help along the way with either spotting or track building. If you visit in the winter then dress warm, it’s not uncommon for it to snow out the back of Rydal.

Turon National Park provides an excellent base for many tracks in the area, such as Sunny Corner just south with its Pinnacle Firetrail, and Ben Bullen to the east. Turon National Park has two main campsites both located on the river, the Woolshed Flat and The Diggings are known for trout fishing. Both campgrounds are ordinarily accessible with AWD vehicles however after rain it can get boggy and the river crossings a too deep for anything other than 4X4s.

Turon National Park is approximately two and a half hours north-west of Sydney, which isn’t the closest on this list; however, it offers some spectacular scenery. Ben Bullen trail is known for its steep climbs and rocky sections so best advised to have a bit of extra ground clearance and some decent tyres before trying to tackle it. And then there’s Sunny Corner to Capertee although it should be noted that only the last part of this 45km drive is through the Turon NP… and after rain it would be advisable to give this track a miss as there are a lot of water crossings on it.

HOW TO GET THERE
To get to Turon National Park you follow Castlereagh Highway north through Capertee where you turn left onto Upper Turon Road, and immediately turn down Lochaber road, then onto Lochaber Link road, which will lead you into the middle of the park. To get to Ben Bullen trail (which leads into Gardens of Stone National Park) from Turon National Park, you go back out the way you came in turn south down Castlereagh highway and take a sharp left onto Hutchinson road which will lead you up to Moffit Trail which is the beginning of the Ben Bullen trail.

WHAT DO I NEED?
As mentioned before, Ben Bullen trail is quite steep and rocky, which can prove to be slippery when the weather’s wrong. Therefore, some good rubber on your vehicle are a must – no soft-roaders need apply on these tracks. Of course, take a complete recovery kit and also take some traction boards if you’re travelling alone.

A little more than two hours north of Sydney is Yengo National Park, home to great campsites and enjoyable 4X4 tracks. The two main campsites in the national park are Blue Gums and Mountain Arm; neither are free and cost approximately $17 a night per adult and $8.50 a night per child, with booking required.

Howes Trail is one of the 4X4 tracks in the area, and is also one of the entrances into the national park, the track in the dry isn’t too difficult and while some AWD soft-roaders with good clearance (think Subaru Forester) you’ll be much better with a 4X4, especially in the wet.

Big Yango loop trail is the other main track in the area, and this is only accessible to those that pay and stay at one of the campgrounds, due to its locked gate access. It is slightly more challenging with some washed out sections of track to negotiate, however, it’s not regarded as overly difficult.

HOW TO GET THERE
To get to Yengo National park there are multiple different entrances. One is off the Great North Road, where you turn left onto Yango Creek road, before following the track to Upper Yango Creek Road, which turns right onto Finchley track, which you follow till you reach Yango track that leads you into the centre of the National Park. The other is along Howes Trail, which you turn right onto from Putty road.

WHAT DO I NEED?
Neither of the tracks should be too testing for your or your 4X4 as long as the weather is good. There are some washed out sections, so be careful and carry a complete recovery kit. A good set of all-terrains tyres wouldn’t go astray either. You will need a booking at either Blue Gums Campground or Mountain Arm if you wish to drive the Big Yango loop.

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