This story appeared in Issue 65 of 4WD Touring Australia
While summer often means its time to camp on the coast, unfortunately it also means camping with crowds. An alternative is to escape to one of the great inland swimming holes that lie within easy reach of the big smoke. Chichester State Forest is just 3 hours north west of Sydney near the more famous Barrington Tops National Park and may just be that alternative you are seeking.
You know you are on the right path as you pass ‘Boot Hill’, an oddity of hundreds of boots, thongs, sneakers and even ski boots tied to an old fence. There are numerous campsites to be found in the State Forest accessed from either Dungog or Gresford. The eastern side follows Telegherry Creek with Currawong camping area having a small creek crossing (unless its been raining) usually enough to reduce the number of campers.
The western side follows Allyn River. With several swimming spots along the track, including Ladies Well swimming hole, there are not many better places to take a refreshing dip amongst the forest. And while the summer temperatures may rise to the point of boiling a billy, the creek seems to retain its arctic like temperature perfect to enliven the sensors as you plunge from one of the rock shelves into the black ink pools.
Luckily, unlike many National Parks where there are strict controls on fires and the collection of wood, there is plenty of timber to get the fire cracking to warm up any frost-bite from the days swim. Even better, camping is free.
But summer does not have to be restricted to swimming. Chichester is also a great starting point for exploring many of the tracks throughout the Park. While a topographic map definitely helps, you are bound to find numerous small tracks not marked on any map making Chichester a perfect spot to spend hours exploring and getting the 4WD dirty. Alternatively an easy drive up the windy track to Mount Allyn lookout provides a 360 degree panoramic view over the forest. The ideal spot to watch the last summer rays disappear over the horizon.