Nitmiluk Walk - Top Hikes in the Top End: Part 2

by Nigel & Sue Adventures

Nitmiluk Walk - Top Hikes in the Top End: Part 2

Part 2 of Top Hikes In The Top End sees our intrepid travellers Nigel and Sue venture through Nitmiluk National Park. A challenging day walk took them to the magical Butterfly Gorge, scenic Jedda's Rock, Pat's Lookout and more. Watch their video here and read on for your detailed destination guide for exploring the region below.

Location: Butterfly Gorge - Jedda's Rock - Pat's Lookout Loop Walk, Nitmiluk National Park, Northern Territory

Distance: 15km

Time: 8 hours

Grade: 5 - Difficult

Access: Nitmiluk Visitor Centre

The Run Down:

This walk departs from the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre. The first part of the walk follows the road past the campsite, on a well-formed, easy trail. After around 500 metres, the path turns left and heads up the escarpment. Although this section is steep, the trail is smooth so it's not too difficult. At the top of the hill is the first junction - follow the signs for the Yambi walk. A further 400 metres brings us to another junction where we took the middle path to the Butterfly Gorge.

This detour is 1.6km, and the trail starts off as a fairly loose, rocky, narrow trail down into the gorge. The views are pretty spectacular already. Once at the bottom of the gorge, we followed the path along the river bed, which is mostly dry, but pools begin to appear, obviously it is fed from underground.

Walking through a lush environment we began to see the butterflies. Of course, darting around, they are difficult to capture on film, but we delight in watching them anyway. As we headed further into the gorge, we saw more and more of them. Crossing the little creek (an easy step across a couple of stones) we walked along a cliff face to our left. At this point, the sun is directly overhead, so the entire gorge is well-lit (we were walking this section around 10am). As we followed the cliff further down the gorge, we saw small hollows in the rock-face, and noticed that as we walked past, we were inadvertently disturbing the butterflies in these caves and they start fluttering all around us. This is such a magical experience and we spend time just being present, standing there enjoying this wonderful display of nature.

After this joyful experience, we continued down the gorge to where it meets up with the main Katherine Gorge. This is currently the only place where swimming is permitted in the gorge, and Nigel soon jumped in. There were plenty of fish around, though the water was quite murky, so no good for underwater footage. The hike returns back up the gorge, and by this point the sun has moved over so the cliff we had walked along earlier is now in shadow. Surprisingly we see even more butterflies along the rock face, and find a spot where we can walk in a narrow cleft between a rock and the wall. I walked through first and Nigel filmed the butterflies fluttering around me. We spend quite a bit of time marvelling at the butterflies, so the 3.2km in and out takes us just over two hours. It was well worth taking the time though.

Nitmiluk Gorge
Stunning View

Nitmiluk Gorge proved the perfect spot for our snack break and a little dip (left) and the stunning view from the top (right). (Images courtesy of Nigel & Sue Adventures)

Arriving back at the top of the gorge, we turned right along the Waleka Walk to head towards Jedda's Rock. This section of the walk is a shared trail with mountain bikers, although we saw nobody riding. As mountain bikers ourselves we realised that this would be a tough, technical trail to ride - we were glad we were walking. It is quite exposed along this section, as we were walking along the top of the escarpment. Luckily for us there was a good breeze, which kept us a bit more comfortable. There is a loop trail to Jedda's Rock, which is a short detour off the main track. The views from the rock are incredible, looking up the second gorge. We sat on a couple of rocks in the shade and ate our lunch here, just soaking up the views.

Jedda's Rock
Jedda's Rock

Taking in the incredible view from Jedda's Rock. (Images courtesy of Nigel & Sue Adventures)

Continuing along the Waleka Walk we made our way to another junction with a large shelter (and a MTB tool post). From here it was a short walk to Pat's Lookout (another amazing viewpoint along the gorge). There is also the option from here to head down to the Southern Rockhole, however, at the time of our visit this was closed to swimming so we didn't bother. The next section of the walk is known as the Windolf Walk and it followed a dry creek bed along until we arrived back at the water tower junction we had visited earlier in the day. We filled up our water here, as we were starting to run low, actually Sue's bladder was already empty.

At the next junction (just 400 metres away) we had the decision to return back the way we came, or to continue along the Burewei Loop. We chose the latter, and we were initially regretting our decision as we had a steep uphill to walk and the trail wasn't very interesting. However, we could tell from the map that the last part of the trail followed the river, and the signboards explaining the habitat, animals and plants along the way broke up the monotony.

The Burewei Lookout was beautiful, another viewpoint along the gorge and river, this time with the addition of signboards with some of the aboriginal creation myths around Nitmiluk and the gorge. The steps down to the river seem to be more heavily trafficked, judging by the existence of handrails. We saw a few more people on this section of the walk. Once we reached the river, it was a relatively flat 900-metre walk back to the visitor centre and the van, although there was quite soft sand in a number of patches.

Overall we would say that this walk is great for fit, experienced walkers. You'd want to allow at least six hours to do the distance we did (the map says around 15km, although our Strava recorded closer to 20km). Allow plenty of time for the Butterfly Gorge, that was definitely the highlight for us.

Video & Photo Credits

All video and imagery supplied by Nigel & Sue Adventures




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