Mermaid Pools and Tahmoor Gorge

Location:
Tahmoor, NSW 2573
Trail length:
Approx. 10 km
Trail style:
Circuit
Inclination:
Approx. 275 m
Season completed:
Early July (Winter)
Best season to go:
All
Time:
Minimum 5 hours
Permits required?
No
Grade:
Hard

The hike to Mermaid Pools and through Tahmoor Gorge is one of Sydney’s hidden gems. Situated approximately 75 minutes south-west of Sydney, the land is owned by the Crown – which is why there is little known about the trail outside of the local community. So to get some insider knowledge, we first checked in to the Wollondilly Shire Council for some maps, direction and insider information. Another local also informed us that Mermaid Pools is sacred land for women in Aboriginal culture – a place for women to conduct their business (bathing, giving birth, and so on) and is forbidden by men. But the site is now open to bushwalkers, fisherman and local youths who use the pool to cool down during summer.

For this hike, we had a group of about 10 walkers, but we would recommend having a smaller group for safety and time precautions. Sydney.com does not recommend this hike for the elderly and children due to the steep cliffs and hazards – and after this hike, we agree! Read on…

Getting there

Turning right off Rockford Road on to Charlie’s Point Road, immediately to your right you will see a dirt road for parking with a sign prohibiting the duping of trash in the area.

Walking the trail

As previously mentioned, the land is owned by the Crown, which means that there is absolutely no signage, whatsoever – or clearly marked trails. Avid local hikers have made makeshift signals to let you know you’re on the right path – a mixture of fluoro yellow reflector tape and yellow/orange ribbons tied to tree branches.

After parking, follow the dirt road by the car park towards and under Pheasants Nests Ford Crossing bridge and continue on the path until you come to a creek crossing. We were told that the depth will vary depending on recent weather – from 30 cm deep up to a metre deep (in which case, you would definitely not continue). Despite earlier rain during the week, the creek was only a few centimetres deep and a breeze to walk across.

Here the track (known as the Matilda Track) will split for approximately 200 metres – you can take either path as they will rejoin again. We decided to take the top path as it was easier to traverse.

You will then come across a path on the left which will take you down to the See-Through Pools, which is mistakenly marked as Mermaid Pools on Google Maps. This is a nice short detour, and you will have to return back to the Matilda track to continue the trail.

Once you have returned to Matilda Track, continue until you descend down a rocky path to the Mermaid Pools. Summer is a perfect time to swim here but be warned – the only way into the pools is a cliff jump and the only way out is via a makeshift rope.

Looking back up the creek when you're approaching Mermaid Pools

Looking back up the creek when you’re approaching Mermaid Pools

Looking out towards the top of Mermaid Pools

Looking out towards the top of Mermaid Pools

Looking through a hole in the rock formation down into Mermaid Pools

Looking through a hole in the rock formation down into Mermaid Pools

Warning notices at Mermaid Pools: No safe entry or exit from pool

Warning notices at Mermaid Pools: No safe entry or exit from pool

To reach Mermaid Pools from the start of the track, it probably took us a little over an hour. It’s the perfect place for a snack, drink and light lunch. After taking many snaps, we continued on the trail which was littered with lookouts with stunning views of Mermaid Pools from across the gorge:

View of Mermaid Pools

As you continue on the track, it will eventually split again  for the Tahmoor Gorge loop track. We decided to take the eastern track (choose the right path) to visit three other lookouts with some great views of Tahmoor and Pheasants Nest. The western track will lead you down via Jacks Pass. Either way, as it is a loop track, you’ll end up returning via the other path.

After sometime, the loop track descends towards Tahmoor Gorge via Sugar Loaf Pass. Here you will find lots of great flora and fauna and small waterfalls alongside the Bargo river.

Off-trail pool in Tahmoor Gorge

Off-trail pool in Tahmoor Gorge

Waterfall in Tahmoor Gorge

Waterfall in Tahmoor Gorge

A nice off-trail view of Tahmoor Gorge

A nice off-trail view of Tahmoor Gorge

Funghi on the trail

Funghi on the trail

Skull found in Tahmoor Canyon

Skull found in Tahmoor Canyon

We traversed large areas of rocks and eventually crossed the Bargo River for the first time. The terrain in Tahmor Gorge can also be very slippery due to heavy foliage covering the trail, and moss covering the rocks and boulders.

Moss-covered trail

Moss-covered terrain

Our group became disoriented several times and missed a small crossing back to the other side of the Bargo river. We hit a dead-end and had to backtrack around 50 meters or so. Unfortunately the map we had was outdated and did not show that we could cross the river earlier than marked (see our updated map markings here).

waterfall-deadend

Waterfall dead-end (on the right), backtrack

More pools at the bottom of Tahmoor Canyon

More pools at the bottom of Tahmoor Canyon

We then slowly ascended into Tahmoor Canyon facing more heavier and rockier terrain along the way. We came across a further two creek crossings before making the final ascent back up to the main track via Jacks Pass. I estimate we spent about 4 – 4.5 hours trekking through the gorge.

Once we made it back to the start of the Tahmoor Gorge loop track, we high-tailed it back on the Matilda Track back to our cars – you do NOT want to lose any daylight on this hike as it is VERY dangerous at night with the steep cliffs (see why here: Woman, 38, dies after cliff fall at Mermaid Pools). Caution should also be taken when swimming in the pools, recently a man drowned while swimming with friends.

Recommendations

  • Wear hiking shoes/boots
  • Do not in any circumstances drink the water in or around the pools as it was contaminated by a nearby coal mine
  • This is not a signed trail. Follow the yellow markings nailed to trees and/or orange/pink ribbons to navigate your way along the trail
  • All hikers in a group should print out a of the trail (or equip themselves with a GPS) – see helpful resources below
  • Check the weather forecast before you head-off, heavy rain may prevent you from crossing the creek to get to the Mermaid Pools. We were also told that during heavy rainfall there may be dead trees under the surface of the pools so proceed with caution
  • Visit the Wollondilly Visitor Information Centre – a 10 minute drive away from the trail and speak to the staff since they can provide invaluable information about traversing the trail
  • As stated on the Wollondilly Shire Council website: Care should be taken with small children as the walk has many cliffs and water hazards along the way.  Visitors should take their own water and food as no facilities are available in the area.

Helpful resources:

http://www.wollondilly.nsw.gov.au/about-the-shire-wollondilly/tourism-wollondilly/498411-where-is-mermaids-pools-and-tahmoor-gorg – Official information from Wollondilly Shire Council

Map provided by Wollondilly Shire Council – Download

Note: The map was actually drawn upside down, this is actually the way to view it when navigating — North pointing

8 Comments on “Mermaid Pools and Tahmoor Gorge

  1. Walked this track on 8/5/2016 (Mothersday) with my wife Ingrid, daughter Lexi and husband Aaron and Grandson Aidan plus Leica our little dog. Taki g our time we completed the track in less than 4hrs. There are some difficult rock climbs plus very slippery conditions on the rock floor of the river. We also noted a very recent rockfall at the canyon over the track, this could have been a very dangerous situation if in the vicinity at the time. Our ages are between 73 to 12 years, with my daughter being over 6 month pregnant. This walk should not be underestimated as it is not signposted and also very isolated.

    • Hi Wilhem,

      I am planning to go here next Sunday. Is this quite okay for 4 years old? He is familiar with long walk to glow worm tunnel from newnes (around 11km return) but I consider the walk to tunnel was quite easy.

  2. Thanks for the trail info. We are trying it this weekend.

  3. Its safe as! As mentioned above its a female Aboriginal place these gals got around in bare feet. My dog and i overtook alot of these sydney hikers on the way around the loop and helped get the friendly black snacks off the track. I completed the loop (not from the bridge just the loop) in 2 hrs barefoot. It only takes about 20-25 min to get to the big water hole from the bridge, and you should pass “little mermaids” along the way (its great for kids)
    Greatly appreciated if you could take your rubbish out with you.

  4. Sorry, not your map as you note. But upside down helps navigating? Every map I have seen uses convention, north up therefore upside down can only be considered confusing, therefore a topo map would easier to navigate from and maybe this as an aid. As an old artillery surveyor I would redraw this, if it was given to a gun sergeant this way he would point the guns back at you.
    On the plus side some good photos.

    • Thanks for the feedback David! Yes I’d definitely use the map as a guide along with a topo map and I can see how this could very confusing upside down.

  5. I drew this map with it being north aligned, it appears that the council has orientated upside down.

    I walk the tracks each year to remove fallen trees ever since I laid out the track and gave it the names found on the maps early 2000s. will be 81 next time I walk it.

    I first walked it with my wife early 1990’s when there was no track and was unable to find any person who had walked through the Canyon.

    I have not been able to find a GPS that will be accurate in the Canyon.

  6. I am just reading the comments and just want to double check if i can bring my dog along!?

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