Often frequented by koalas and kangaroos, the trail to Sixth Creek begins innocently enough with a walk along an undulating but predominantly flat dirt track. Then the fun begins with a steep walk down the dirt track, which can be slippery after any rain, leading you toward an orchard of lemon trees that line the edge of the creek. In the cooler months, if you visit early in the morning, mist rises from the creek water and listening to the melodic sounds of magpies, cockatoos and kookaburras make it worth getting out of bed early.
Depending on your preference, you can turn left at the bottom of the hill to start with an easy walk along Sixth Creek or turn right to start with the challenge of the steep ascent on the other side of the creek, which for most of the year, is easily crossed using stepping stones and hiking poles.
Whichever way you choose, steep climbs and descents that will challenge your leg muscles and cardiovascular fitness are part of the deal. Your sweat and puffing will be rewarded with panoramic views across the hills and valleys as you get up close with the beauty of the Australian bushland.
Enjoy the sounds of the creek running and the birds chattering as you walk alongside Sixth Creek. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
To start with the easy stretch, turn left at the bottom of the hill, climbing over the stile towards the ford where the creek crosses towards the River Torrens, near Castambul. The creek, once famous for mining copper and a small gold find, is a haven for native flowers, bird and aquatic wildlife. Walking along this section of the trail, it is easy to forget that the main road is just over a kilometre away. With water flowing all year round, the creek meanders past an old wooden shed, in need of a little TLC and towards the end, a couple of rural properties, before meeting a gate on Valley Road. Turn right onto Valley Road, a narrow gravel road which ultimately leads to Montacute Conservation Park, look out for an old shed with an orange car wreck on the right after about half a kilometre, which will lead you to the next section of the trail.
A short walk along Valley Road near Sixth Creek. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
By now, you may be thinking that this is an easy trail, but as you pass the old car and follow the switchbacks up the hill, you'll begin to see why this trail is for experienced walkers with a good level of fitness. Shade can be difficult to find in the warmer months and you'll need to drink plenty as you follow the fire track up and up to the summit.
Reaching the summit, the trail passes through the first gateway along the ridge into a clear grassy section, with views of the cherry farms and orchards on either side. Travelling through the second gateway, the trail leads to a shady, grassy area ideal for a snack break before beginning the descent down the hill.
Alternatively, if you need more of a challenge and enjoy scrambling up and down rocks, a short walk further forward leads to a steep rocky outcrop leading to the top of the next hill, with great views worthy of the extra 15 minutes each way.
Return to the gateway, passing by the old ladder to begin the descent toward the creek. The slightly overgrown path can be slippery, even in the warmer months, with loose soil and stones likely to generate a slide down faster than anticipated, if you aren't careful with your footing. Safely crossing the creek, using the stepping stones or the ford is possible during most of the year, but it is always a good idea to check the creek levels before heading out on the walk. Once across the creek, make your way through the silver gate, past the lemon orchard and begin the last leg of the trail.
Pass the lemon orchard after crossing the creek. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
You may not have noticed the steep terrain as you walked down the hill, but it is certain that you will notice it on the way back up as you huff, puff and sweat your way back up to the trail head. To take your mind off the climb, keep an eye out for the echidna who can sometimes be seen on the path or look across the trees and valley as you make your way back to the stile.
Keep a look out for the echidna on the walk up the hill. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
It is a fairly isolated walk, despite being near Montacute Road, so it is best to walk with someone else.You'll need sunblock, good shoes and plenty of water to complete the three-hour loop trail and a good level of fitness is essential but if you love a good workout, this is a trail you'll return to more than once.