Yurrebilla Trail – 3 Days in the Adelaide Hills

The Yurrebilla Trail meanders its way through the Adelaide Hills and connects several different parks along it’s length. The 54 km walk crosses each of the parks and walks along the roads or properties that connect them. The hike can be completed in 5 days, but I decided to walk it in three, aiming to put in the biggest slog on day two as I wished to be back in Adelaide early on Saturday for my birthday dinner with my friends.

Day 1 – Bel Air National Park – Cleland Conservation Park

I parked The Pointy Brick (my van) at the end of the trail and walked 10 minutes to the nearest bus stop. After 25 minutes into Adelaide CBD, I walked to the train station and caught the train to Bel Air. 20 minutes later I walked into the Bel Air National park, the beginning of the Yurrebilla Trail.

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As I left the train, I was not the only one donning a hiking pack. It looked like a class of schools girls and their class leader was also walking some of the trail. From experience, school girl groups tend to make a lot of noise, so I was determined to put some distance between us. The Bel Air National Park is a maze of tracks, and while the Yurrebilla Trail is pretty well marked,

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there are a lot of tracks and it was confusing at some intersections. I soon came to Playford Lake and skirted around the edge, following the trail.

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I continued up a creek trail which turned from stones to dirt. The trail led to echo tunnel, a water flow tunnel that was too short for me to stand to my full 189cm and with a pack on my back, it was even hard to stoop to get through. I had to walk stooped along the water channel – which was dry – to get to the other end.

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Out of the tunnel, the real trail began and so did the climbing. I made my way up the trail past the occasional wild flower to the Lower Waterfall Lookout. The waterfall would have been lovely, no doubt if there had been water to actually fall from it.

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The track split and I followed pressed on along the Yurrebilla. I was a short distance along it when I saw the girls head the other way. Silence! I continued up the hill and could begin to see Adelaide below me through the trees. I left the Bel Air National Park and headed along the road at the top of the ridge with the inkling of a view almost to the sea.

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The trail began to descend slowly until we came to a steep embankment, where it wound back and forth 27 times before reaching the road at the bottom.

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The road led around through The Brownhill Creek Recreation Park for a couple of kilometres, the flowers along the sides bright and colourful.

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I split away from the park and headed up a steep path alongside a fairly new driveway. As I arrived near the top, I looked back at the full view of Adelaide spread out below me to the sea.

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I disappeared back into the trees and descended before climbing another taller hill giving views to the north. I crossed a large conservation area and then a series of private paddocks, where the cows glared at me menacing before I arrived at a highway.

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The trail followed the road for 2km, on a steady climb, until I reached the Cleland Conservation Park. While I was not allowed to camp in this park, I located a fairly hidden spot and erected my pirate camp. The hiking motto: Take only photos, leave only footprints. Tomorrow when I break camp no-one will know I was here.

As the night fell, I cooked dinner and as the wind picked up, watched the lights of Adelaide begin to shine.

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Day 2 – Cleland Conservation Park – Morialta Conservation Park

I was up early intent on packing before I was discovered. I’d heard an Asian man’s voice during the night, but when I went up to investigate, there was no-one there. And in the dark, the tent was not easily seen from anywhere near the road. After a quick breakfast, I headed off along the path.

It had rained briefly overnight and the wind had been rather intense. It was chilly walking through the park until the sun finally came over the hill. The trail was initially classic dirt/rocky trail but quickly joined another sealed path. The sealed path went for almost 2km and was where the majority of ‘wildlife’ could be seen, most of them jogging by in their tight leggings and tops. The trail split away from the sealed path and I left behind the ‘wildlife’ and anything else any interest. Beyond trees, the Cleland Conservation Park honestly didn’t have a lot going for it. There is a Wildlife Park in the middle, but I was intent on walking, so did not stop.

The Heysen Trail merged with the Yurrebilla Trail towards the end of the conservation park. The Heysen Trail is South Australia’s longest trail, running 1500km from Cape Jervis – where I’m catching the ferry to Kangaroo Island in a couple of days – right up towards Central Australia.

I left The Cleland Conservation Park late morning, and headed along a major road making my way past some nice properties with great views. The trail led me up past one of them to the top of a ridge and a fantastic view right across Adelaide with the sea beyond.

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I continued along the road and came to the top of the Horsnell Gully Conservation Park. I stopped for lunch before heading down the gully It reminded me of the Larapinta Trail on the thin rocky path, the hot air and the dry trees. Great! Near the bottom wildflowers were everywhere.

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The trail bottomed out at a dirt road which turned east past the ruins of the house belonging to the regions first settler. The road steadily climbed the hill and I pushed on section by section towards the summit. Just before the top, the trail left the road and walked briefly through the forest before arriving at a busy road. I crossed and dropped down to another slightly less busy road and it until I arrived at the township of Norton Summit. This was originally to have been my stopping place, but it was only early afternoon, and in South Australia, the sun doesn’t go down until after 8pm, later than the 5.30pm I’m used to from Queensland. I decided to stop for a rest at the Norton Summit Hotel. There should be a pub mid way in every multi-day hike!

After a plate of wedges and a beer or three I continued on. With 4 hours to sun down I headed down the road and past some old barns from the 1850s. I had a brief chat with a Kangaroo on the side of the road before finally arriving at the Morialta Conservation Park. I headed in and along a dirt road. I caught up to a Koala walking along the trail before the trail dropped into a gorge near a waterfall where the Heysen trail split off.

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I continued along the gorge near plentiful wild flowers and followed the path up the side of a hill, climbing to the viewpoint of a second waterfall.
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I continued on until I reached the Deep View Lookout, which gave views along the gorge to Adelaide and back almost to the waterfall.

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After a 23km slog I was growing weary and set about locating a suitable site for my camp. I continued along the trail for another kilometre before seeing an open area of grass below. I went bush to discover the grassy area was fenced off. I found a spot just outside the fence and set up camp.

The wind was gusting very strongly, so I had to tie the tent off well. As darkness fell I watched the lights of Adelaide below light up. It’s funny how digital cameras make the lights of a city at night look like it’s on fire. As winds continued to buffet the tent, I went down to sleep.

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Day 3 – Morialta Conservation Park to Ambers Gully

Happy Birthday to me!

I awoke early, had breakfast and began breaking camp. My intention was to finish the final 13.3km of the trail by lunchtime so I could do a few things before dinner.

As I was climbing back to the trail, I saw a group go past. I followed and they were an older group training for a walk in Tasmania. After a chat, I headed off, wanting to put some distance between us – they were very chatty, and I wanted to get back to the serenity of nature. The rocky trail met a wide dirt road and I motored along it in the sun. The trail dipped and turned back on itself on a grassy open area which would have been good for camping if I had continued walking…

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I walked past the Fox Dam…

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…and up the Fox Hill Track to the summit and then back down again to a major road. The Trail led me along the road for a couple of kilometres, with racing cyclists going past regularly. With the jagged sides of the Black Hill Conservation Park left to go, I prepared myself for a rather hard climb. I was not let down, I started easily at a quarry and worked my way up a gentle slope that turned steeper. A kilometre in, I met a guy coming down, who told me he was going to be coming back up as soon as he got to the bottom.

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The road grew even steeper as I went, and in the morning heat, I pushed on. It was one of those mountains, just when you get to what looks like the top, it keeps going up. I came to a point where a wire grate had been laid to help vehicles up the steep climb and again,

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when I got to the top I was expecting the summit, but it pushed on further at the same steepness. I was close to the summit when the guy who I’d passed going the other way caught me. He too was training for Tasmania and walked this same walk every Saturday and Sunday morning. We walked the last 3km together, most of it downhill along the road and then down Ambers Gully along a dirt track and finally past Ambers Ruins – another old house left from over 150 years before. We passed a waterfall that my companion had never seen with water on it.
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It was not long before we arrived at the car park where The Pointy Brick had been waiting patiently for me.

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Overall, the Yurrebilla Trail is a great hike with excellent view across Adelaide and plentiful wildflowers. It’s clever how it connects the several parks together, although it did feel like I was walking along main roads a little too often. A hike I would recommend to anyone.

Tomorrow, I set off to Kangaroo Island…

The Lone Trail Wanderer.

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4 thoughts on “Yurrebilla Trail – 3 Days in the Adelaide Hills”

  1. Thanks for the detailed post. I’m leaving to solo hike the Yurrebilla next week and there’s not a lot of information about thru hike/camping it so this really helped. However hearing the Asian mans voice in the middle of the night (while you were so close to China Man’s Hut) …..has successfully freaked me out!

    1. Hey Megg, I knew nothing about China Man’s hut until I read your comment. After doing a bit of reading I can understand, but I’m sure there is nothing to be worried about. This was a fun hike, my first for what I referred to then as pirate camping. Let me know if you also hear anything during the hike or if you avoided that section entirely.

      Cheers
      AJ

      1. haha thanks AJ 😉 i’l let you know if I hear anything spooky during my stealth camp next week!

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