One-way trails can be awkward, as you either need two cars or be prepared to walk back the way you came unless there is a train station at either end. As luck would have it, both Cowan and Brooklyn are home to train stations, so you can opt to start this trail from either side, though you might want to begin at Cowan for reasons that will come apparent.
Situated approximately 40km north of Sydney, it takes one train and around one hour to travel to Cowan from Central Station. It is important to note that to be able to alight at Cowan you must be travelling in the rear 4 carriages (or the front 4 carriages if travelling from the north).
The 11km trail starts as soon as you exit the station, cross over the pedestrian railroad crossing and follow the signs to The Great North Walk and into Ku-ring-gai National Park. The route gets tricky fairly quickly and more so if the ground is wet, and the first 5km is slow going and tough on the legs. You will feel the burn with multiple climbs down to the water and back up again, the toughest of which is around 200m straight up a rocky path
A steep climb
The track is mostly single and uneven for the first 5km, and certainly not runnable as you will be faced with obstacles which include crossing slippery creeks, navigating tree-rooted paths and rocky inclines. Walking poles would certainly come in handy.
The trail isn't difficult to stay on, as there aren't any junctions with other tracks, so it's unlikely that you'll find yourself lost. The only problem with the first part of the trail is that due to its technical nature your eyeballs are mostly looking down, so don't forget to stop to have a look around occasionally.
Enjoy the view
Eventually, you will complete your final ascent and reach the second part of the track, the fire trail. From here on it is a fairly easy 6km down into Brooklyn, and the runners among you will be able to let rip. However the last 150m or so is a very steep descent on a concrete path.
At Brooklyn, you will find The Anglers Rest Hotel, or you can head round to the waterfront where you will find a selection of eateries to replenish your energy supplies.
Whilst you don't need great navigational skills, this trek does require you to have a reasonable level of fitness as it is very challenging and technical. But if you do manage to take it on, you will most definitely have earned yourself a beer or some fish and chips afterwards.