The Cathedral Range is a spectacular seven kilometre ridge of sharply upturned sedimentary rock. A variety of walking tracks ranging in difficulty from easy to challenging offer the opportunity to explore the park’s main features and climb the peaks to enjoy views of the forests and farmland in the valley below.
This hike explores the entire length of the range taking in Wells Cave (option), Sugarloaf Peak, The Farmyard, Cathedral, Little Cathedral and Neds Gully.
Commencing at Cooks Mill make your way in a southerly direction along the well formed Tweed Spur Road. After about a kilometre of easy walking you will reach the recently opened (2012) Messmate Track to your right.
The Messmate Track winds it way across several wooded gullies connecting the Sugarloaf Saddle visitor area with Cooks Mill Heritage Site and camping area. It is quite a pleasant section of the hike and along its 3km length you will experience a gradual ascent until you reach Sugarloaf Saddle.
From the car park you have two options in order to gain Sugarloaf Peak. You can continue along the main track through attractive open forest to the start of a rocky ridge. The trail climbs the very crest of this ridge to Sugarloaf Peak. The alternative is to take the lesser traveled Wells Cave track. This is recommended for experienced hikers only as it is steep in places, requires a lot of rock scrambling and unassisted climbing and traverses some exposed ledges en-route. While this track can be challenging in places you will be rewarded with a real sense of adventure and in my opinion is well worth the effort provided you have a head for heights.
On reaching Sugarloaf Peak you will be rewarded with amazing 360 degree views of the valley and ranges below.
From Sugarloaf Peak, the trail continues north across the buttresses, gradually ascending along the rocky and narrow ‘Razorback’. There is a lot of rock hoping, scrambling and abrupt drops along the way. The going is fairly straight forward and the trail easy to follow (just stick to the ridge). Make sure you take the time to stop and appreciate the views as they truly are spectacular. After approximately 2.5km the trail becomes easier and the rocky ridge is replaced by open woodland. Soon after this a junction is reached as you arrive at the open grassy flat called The Farmyard. This is a great spot to stop for lunch or for an overnight camp. It is quite sheltered and protected.
From the Farmyard there is 15 minute side trail which takes you to South Jawbone Peak and another opportunity to take in the rewarding views.
Follow the trail a short distance east until you reach Jawbone Creek track on your left. This track will take you past the North Jawbone Peak trail and follows the ridge line all the way to The Cathedral Summit. Continue to follow the ridge line onto Cathedral North then Little Cathedral which marks the end of the range.
From the summit of Cathedral Range retrace your steps until you reach a sign post identifying the Little Cathedral Track. Follow this track down into Neds Gully and towards the Neds Gully camping area. Before reaching the camping area you will find Little River track on your right. From this point is is approximately one hours walk through forest back to Cooks Mill and the start of your hike.
Only attempt the gain Sugarloaf Peak or descent via the actual rocky ridge if you have a head for heights and don’t mind exposed ledges and rock scrambling. Poles may be useful in sections. Many of the trails are steep and rocky and can become slippery following rain or misty weather. Orange trail markers have been provided in places. Generally rugged terrain will result in slower progress times. Allow 1.5-2km per hour in places.
Max elevation: 903 m
Min elevation: 326 m
Total climbing: 1011 m
Total descent: -1010 m