Located just 10km from the CBD, the Black Hill Conservation Park is home to a network of challenging walking trails spread over 684 hectares. Nestled between the River Torrens in the north and Morialta Conservation Park in the south, it is hard to believe that the rugged terrain lies so close to suburbia.
Containing a wide variety of native plant species ranging from giant River Red Gums to the low Sheoaks from which Black Hill Conservation Park derives its name. From the Adelaide Hills, the hill appears to be black due to the foliage of the Sheoaks maturing to a dark, almost black colour over the summer months.
As part of The Greater Mount Lofty Parklands, the park provides a conservation area critical to the survival of many threatened plant species, wildlife and ecological communities. The walking trails provide many opportunities for you to enjoy the bush with views of the city.
Remains of early European settlement. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Traditionally the land of Kaurna people, the first European settlement occurred around the 1840s following the discovery of copper and gold in the area. The mining boom brought many people to the area, including members of the Field Naturalists' Society, who, after climbing the Black Hill Summit, were instrumental in the proclamation of a four-hectare reserve in 1860. Black Hill became a source of timber for building materials in the developing areas around the River Torrens and Fifth Creek and wattle bark was collected for the supply of tannin to the leather goods industry. Black Hill is also home to the Athelstone Wildflower garden on Addison Avenue, which was established by Mr. F C Payne in the 1940s. Creating a garden on his property, he planted 250 native plants from all over Australia, which is now in the care of the Department of Environment Water and Natural Resources.
Proclaimed as a Conservation Park in 1975, the park incorporates a section of the 54 kilometre Yurrebilla Trail, as well as two of the more popular trails guaranteed to get your quad muscles complaining.
Ambers Ruin, the two roomed cottage . Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Commencing from Gate 9 on Gorge Road, the Ambers Gully Hike is a favourite among walkers with a short loop trail option or the longer 13km round trip option via Fifth Creek. The information signs near the start of the walk provide interesting information about the Yurrebilla trail which might inspire you to take the longer hike. About 200 meters further along the dirt path, the Ambers Gully Ruin sits quietly among the bush land. Walk across the wooden bridge to check out the ruin of the two-roomed cottage, all that remains of the home of local shepherds in the mid-1880s. Leaving the cottage, the trail progresses up a steep incline toward the frozen waterfall. Formed from a rare formation of tufa, a calcite deposit created many thousands of years ago; the frozen waterfall consists of a long stream of rock and small caves.
Now is the time to get those legs pumping as the trail continues over the top of the waterfall, before turning hard left on the Ambers Gully Track to complete the short loop or veering left to continue on the Yurrebilla Trail path toward Montacute Road. Passing the rugged slopes and cliff faces of the Sugar Loaves, the trail soon passes under the power lines, which are an unfortunate addition to the beautiful flora and fauna in the park. Pausing here will allow you enjoy the scenic views across Adelaide and to the Gulf of St. Vincent. The trail descends sharply, turning left at the Y junction on the way downhill to follow Montacute Road, eventually returning to the Yurrebilla Trail via Gate 21.
There are some steep sections of the trail. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
The long, steep trail climbs toward the quarry, you might want to take a break on the gigantic rocks overlooking the quarry. Quarrying was carried out in the park around the turn of the century, providing materials to build roads and also barite, a mineral used as a pigment in the production of paint.
Views of Adelaide from the trail. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Continuing along the Yurrebilla Trail, passing the Summit trail, will return you to the start point of the walk in about 4 hours from commencement.
The walking trail is not suitable for strollers or wheelchairs and dogs are not permitted in the park. Don't forget your sun protection and water; shade can be difficult to find in some areas. Toilet facilities are not available at the Ambers Gully site, although there are facilities at the Wildflower Garden on Addison Avenue.
Car parking for the Ambers Gully Hikes is available outside Gate 9 on Gorge Road. Other walking trails can be accessed from several car-parking areas including Addison Avenue, Gorge Road and Montacute Road.