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Published May 16th 2015
Hidden Gorge is the Hidden Gem of the Flinders
Hidden Gorge is one of the most accessible day hikes in the Flinders. Only 3 hours from Adelaide, it is achievable to do in a day for the dedicated, or even better by making a weekend of it. Follow along Mambray Creek, hop and scramble over rocks, discover towering landforms overhead and incredible views at the peak which stands at around 750m. This 18km hike may sound long, but is on flat ground for the majority of the way and only has a gradual incline to the peak. Views of Spencer Gulf on one side and the Mt Remarkable summit on the other make for a very rewarding hike. Port Germein and Melrose are nice attractions close by and perfect for a post-hike meal. You can camp at the Mambray Creek Grounds, or park for the day for just $10 per car.
The view from the top of the Hidden Gorge along the Battery Ranges.
The trail head begins at Mambray Creek camping grounds, just off the main highway after Port Germein. Note that you must purchase a parking permit online as cash is no longer accepted at the entrance. We recommend you do this before you arrive as mobile coverage may be limited depending on your service provider. Continue on to the parking lot which is located just past the camping grounds. Lookout for emus and lizards as they often hang along this stretch of road. The parking area has plenty of space with public toilets and barbeques if you just want to go for a family fun day out and perhaps a shorter walk for the littlies. There is a map at the trail head so you can plot your route - in this case you'll want to look out for Hidden Gorge Hike.
Look for the remanents of a bushfire that swept through the area years ago and you'll find many trees burnt from the inside out that you can explore - watch out for spiders though.
We recommend doing this hike counter-clockwise as it is easier to navigate and you'll be able to keep cool in the gorge during the hottest part of the day, while enjoying the sun setting in the ocean along Battery Ridge in the afternoon. In terms of incline, the first half of the trail is flat aside from a few hops over the creek, third quarter is a slow incline to the ridge where it flattens out again along the top before hitting a steady decline back towards the carpark with a few flat patches along the way.
There'll be a skippy or two along your way, as well as kookaburras, emus and other native fauna.
Perfect time to hike is July through to September. The creek is more likely to be flowing from winter rain, the scenery is greener and more vibrant as well as less chance to run into snakes. A temperature of around 14-16 degrees is perfect for this length of hike as less water is needed and you can complete the hike faster without having to make as many stops to cool off.
Early morning is a good time to hike through the gorge.
Gear shouldn't weigh you down on this trip. While we do recommend hiking shoes, runners are also fine as the trail is not overly rugged. A simple backpack with ample water, protein bars/nuts/fruit and a picnic lunch are all you need. If you don't have a camelback for water, just grab a box of water from the supermarket like we did. As for lunch, we find finger food works the best - cold meat, cheeses, biscuits, cherry tomatoes and fresh baguettes are winners in our books.
We wouldn't be the Wandercooks with a proper hiker's picnic. Also...that silver bag is 2L of fresh water and not wine!
Hidden Gorge itself starts right at the bottom of the gorge and follows the creek along most of the way. The path starts on a firetrack where most of the trail heads start. Once you reach a small shelter and a large log you can go straight or left. Straight leads to Alligator Gorge which is an overnight trek, or you can take a detour and check out Sugar Plum Lookout. This detour would take at least another hour or hour and a half and is a very steep hike to the top. There is a house ruin on the way though if that is something you are interested in.
A colourful palette - blues, reds and greens line the trail.
For Hidden Gorge, take a left at the shelter where you will begin to follow Mambray Creek. You'll have the chance to cross the river many many times, which is a fun challenge when the creek is full and you don't want to get wet. The path is well signed; you will be on the lookout for small blue arrows along the way that are nailed onto rocks and trees - so keep your eyes peeled. There are also metal poles at roughly 500m intervals that state the remaining distance on the hike.
Interesting rock formations become your path, so keep an eye on the markers.
The little obstacles and challenges along the way made for a very varied and exciting hike. Our favourite section in particular was discovering fallen rock over the path where we had to try and work out the best way over it. Hint: Left hand side.
One of the larger rock formations.
We also recommend a walking stick to help you across the creek or during a few particular tricky spots along the way. Walking sticks also help to take some weight off the feet to ensure you don't use up too much energy during the hike.
Take a walking stick or tree branch to help you up, down and over the tricky parts.
Careful calculations can help you cross the creek easily, otherwise if you don't care about getting wet you can stride on through as there aren't any deep sections. Alternatively, you might find the creek completely dried up, which is sure to shave off a few extra minutes spent pondering the next rock hop.
In some parts it's a hop, skip and a jump to the other side.
After you finish the hike, we recommend heading to Port Germein on the way home and stopping by the local pub for their very tasty schnitzels. Afterwards, you can check out the longest jetty in the Southern hemisphere - the Port Germein jetty currently stands at 1.7km long if you feel like trying to make your hike into 20km for the day.
Whatever way you do it, Hidden Gorge Loop Hike should be placed on your next weekend to-do list. Active families would love this one through to avid hikers in search of the next best discovery.