Valley of Dinosaurs, The Grotto and Ultimate Slot Canyon.

I explore the Genowlan mesa within the Mugii Murum-ban State Conservation Area

Valley of Dinosaurs, The Grotto and Ultimate Slot Canyon.

I’ve been wanting to visit the Valley of Dinosaurs within Genowlan Mesa for a while now. I originally found this walk in ‘Mugii Murum-ban State Conservation Area - A Bushwalking Paradise’. A book I found in a bookshop in Blackheath. I've been up on the mountain multiple times during family holidays. But we never explored the area on the mountain.

I start the day by walking up the very steep Genowlan Summit Track. This track was originally built for the diamond mine that's located up on the mesa. The diamond mine shut down decades ago but artefacts of its existence are littered throughout the conservation area.

Most bushwalkers drive to the top of the mesa to start the various walks. The track to the summit is worth walking as you get to see some views of the mesas cliff edges and pagodas. On the way up, I managed to spot a giant pagoda that had fallen down a long time ago, almost intact just upside down.

Once on top of the mesa, I head towards the TS7138 Genowlan Trig station (1038m). I stop and explore a few pagodas on the side of the trail with great views. I later came back to these pagodas for lunch. I notice a cairn and a small trail on the side of the road, I save its position as a GPS waypoint and decide to visit it later.

While walking to the trig, I spotted a male Lyrebird, only meters away from me. Its tail feathers were quite exquisite. The bird itself was silent, once we saw each other, the bird quickly walked away.

The trig is just a modern cement trig, painted white. As I study the trig, I start to hear something falling from the trees. I'll look around and see some she-oak trees and make out three Red-tailed black cockatoos. Breaking open nuts on the shortest she-oak trees I've ever seen. The birds aren't phased by me and I just enjoy their presence.

My next destination is to visit the top of the Ultimate Chute. It was near where I was going and I figured I should go and see it. unfortunately, I couldn't find the entry without climbing down some large pagodas that exceeded my apatite for danger. I did however find some amazing moss-covered pagodas.

After admiring the moss-covered pagodas, I backtracked to the trig. And headed down to the pagodas southwest of the trig station. There were many pagodas here and the views were sensational. You could see the various landmarks inside the Gardens of Stone National Park including Pantoneys Crown.

I head towards the entry to the Valley of the Dinosaurs. I start to descend into the steep narrow valley. It's very steep and requires careful walking. I finally get to a drop which requires either a rope/tape or careful legwork and a small jump. initially, I decided not to go down this drop. I did have a short hiking rope as it is suggested for this walk. in the end, I bum-shuffled down to the ledge, carefully climbed down to the drop and made the small jump to the valley floor. No turning back now. After this drop, the walk is easygoing.

Once in the valley you immediately notice the very tall rough tree ferns, Cyathea australis. These ferns are quite tall and have large round bases. With a growth rate of 25-50 millimetres a year, they may be several centuries old. These ferns are why this valley is named the Valley of the Dinosaurs as ferns existed before the dinosaurs.

I continue to walk down the valley taking in the ferns and the rock faces as I walk along. There are small little water drops that trickle down to the ground. In the sandstone cliffs are water-rounded stones. I can't fathom how long ago this was all underwater. This is truly a magical place.

Looking up the Valley of Dinosaurs

The valley opens up and I exit the valley. I do notice a few invasive species on my way out, that have most likely come from birds or walkers. Including Lantana.

Once back on the road, I decide to visit The Grotto. I have been up on this mountain multiple times and failed to find The Grotto multiple times. Today I come armed with a waypoint. And sure enough, I find The Grotto. As you walk in, you'll notice a handrail made of construction metal installed by former landowner Col Ribaux, the handrail guides the way. The grotto is a 200-metre-long canyon with a stream flowing through it. There are various thin handrails along the entire length of the canyon.

After exploring The Grotto, I head back to the pagodas I visited earlier and have lunch. I study the map to try and figure out where the cairn I found earlier heads. It looks like it heads to the top of the Ultimate Slot, which I was planning to visit today. I find the cairn and I follow the path, it looks like it heads to the very top of the slot canyon. I backtrack and use my pre-planned path to the top of Ultimate Slot. I slide down a narrow gully that puts me into the valley with the slot canyon. I walk down to the start of the slot and I’m forced to remove my bag. I work my way through and down the very narrow Ultimate Slot until a fallen rock blocks the rest of the path.

After a few pictures of the slot canyon, I head back to the road and down the mesa to my car.