When winter arrives, instead of staying indoors, why not venture out into some of the beautiful forests in the Mt Lofty Ranges. South Australia has nature's playground just waiting to be explored, only an hour away from the city. Whether you enjoy walking, cycling or horse riding, the shared use trails provide hours of free activity for all the family.
Situated in the northern Mt. Lofty Ranges, Mount Crawford Forest is located about seven kilometres from Williamstown. Purchased in 1909, the forest was one of the first of many areas allocated to provide timber to South Australia. Charles Sturt named the forest after a stockman, James Coutts Crawford.
Managing and maintaining the plantation is a high priority in the Mount Crawford Forest. Walking and riding on the permitted trails and keeping your dog on a lead in the plantation forest areas is vital to allow the forest to continue to thrive. While dogs are welcome in the plantation areas, they are not permitted in the Native Forest Reserves.
Tall pines form a canopy in the forest. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Four multi use loop trails and three walking trails travel through the pine and eucalypt plantations which stretch over 12000 hectares. The impressive towering pine species provide an air of tranquillity which is reflected in the frequent encounters with wild life. Kangaroos, deer and a diverse array of birdlife are often seen on the trails. Although sections of the forest have been closed following the Sampson Flat fire in 2015, there are plenty of areas and trails to explore. The Heysen, Kidman and Mawson Trails pass through the Mount Crawford forest, as well as shorter trails for a variety of fitness levels.
Starting from Mount Road, the Jenkins Nature Walk is a short serene walk through the Little Mount Crawford Native Forest Reserve. The 1.6km trail will keep walkers busy for about an hour, passing the old mine site of the Gumeracha diggings. ForestrySA controls fossicking in the forest, so if you are tempted to search for gold, remember that permits are required. Dogs are not permitted on this trail.
If hiking to the 525 metres to Mount Crawford Summit is your kind of challenge, the 4.4km return trail will take about 90 minutes from the Centennial Drive Campground on Mount Road. The old trigonometrical station sits at the summit, a common item found at the summit of many hills. You might find this an ideal spot for a quick snack before returning down the trail.
Winding through the Warren Conservation Park and Mount Crawford Forest, the Warren Tower hike can be accessed from the entrance to the Fire Gate CP17 off Tower Road or from the entrance to the Warren Conservation Park on Watts Gully Road. From the boardwalk to the tower, this trail passes through scrubland and gullies, and in the late winter months orchids and lillies.
Three 20km multi-use trails originally designed for horse endurance events, have been undergoing upgrades, so look out for the signs for any reroutes. Walkers, cyclists and horse riders can enjoy a choice of the three different circuits. Starting from the Cromer Picnic area on Cricks Mill Road, the trails options are 4.5km, 7km and 11km loops.
If walking the trail has built up an appetite, the picnic sites located throughout the forest provide an ideal place to enjoy a snack or lunch. Located about 3km from the Information Centre, Sailors Gully Picnic Area is situated among the eucalypts, alongside a small creek, with a picnic table and fire pit. Heysen Trail and Warren Tower Hike walkers pass through this area, which is a also popular place for people flying drones in the open spaces. No toilet facilities are available at this site.
With no vehicle access, the picnic tables at the Tower Picnic area can provide walkers with a scenic lunch or rest spot. Heysen Trail and Warren Tower Hike walkers pass the 525-metre tower used as a lookout for fires.
Mount Crawford Headquarters. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Located 7km from the Information Centre, the Cromer Picnic Area can be accessed from Fire Gate CR3 on Cricks Mill Road. Popular with those on the Mount Pleasant Summit Trail, the picnic tables sit among a variety of shady trees.
Picnic, toilet and camping facilities are available at the Chalks Campground and Rocky Paddock Campground. Named after one of the original foresters, the Chalks campground has 25 sites for those with a camping permit and a desire to sleep among the red gums. Using the rainwater from the tank requires water treatment. Accessed from the Chalks Road entrance, the picnic tables and shelter provide a place for a winter picnic. Rocky Paddock Campground, accessed through the Tower Road entrance and the Sailors Gully Picnic Area, has picnic tables, a pit toilet and 30 bush campsites; set among huge boulders and surrounded on three sides by the forest.
The Old School House is an ideal venue for an overnight stay. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Other camping facilities nearby include the Old School House, accessed from Springton Road, the Youth Hostel on Mount Road, Centennial Drive camping area, Fromms Farm, a converted dairy and Cromer Shed on Cricks Mill Road. Bookings for these facilities can be made online or through the Mount Crawford Forest Information Centre.
The winter months can be long and uninteresting, especially for children who want to get outdoors. Rug up in your warmest winter woolies, dig out your hiking boots and head up Mount Crawford forest for some free family fun.
Well Hazel you have done it again...provided us with great photos and lots of useful information.I have climbed Mt.Crawford and hiked in the area a long time ago.It is a fabulous area.As I live on the Southern Side of the city and getting older,I no longer visit this area...perhaps I will make the effort to go their again.Sailors Gully has a nice ring to it!