Tahmoor, NSW 2573
Approx. 10 km
Approx. 275 m
Early July (Winter)
|Best season to go:
Minimum 5 hours
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…
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
Note: The map was actually drawn upside down, this is actually the way to view it when navigating — North pointing