Upper Colo River Reserve: camping, swimming and picnic

Upper Colo River reserve
The Colo River is one of the last pristine rivers in NSW. Wild rivers are recognised and protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

NB Upper Colo Reserve is closed due to flooding. The beautiful wooden bridge has been washed away. Please check on the council webpage here to see if it has opened.

Situated next to the Colo River and surrounded by the Wollemi National Park, the Upper Colo Reserve covers 13.8 hectares. 

The Upper Colo Reserve ticks all the boxes for families who are willing to explore one of most scenic and untouched wilderness areas of NSW: no mobile signal, no powered sites, basic facilities and crystal clear water.

In fact, the motto for the Colo Wilderness is: Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints.

Despite the stunning location, camping at the Upper Colo Reserve might not be appealing for everyone. Don’t worry, the reserve is also open to day-trippers. While the reserve is free for day visitors, please note that there is a camping fee that needs to be paid in advance in order to secure a spot to be able to camp at the reserve.

Upper Colo Reserve + Camping Map

Upper Colo River reserve girl on swing

The Upper Colo Reserve also offers a modest sheltered picnic area with two electric barbecues and some benches and tables. As it can be busy, especially in summer, we strongly advise that you pack other foods besides meat. Got bug spray, food, drinking water, sunscreen, cozzies and hats? You shouldn’t need anything else. Simply, walk along the river, observe the rugged landscape and breath fresh air.

Upper Colo River reserve camping girls walking by river
Upper Colo Reserve is probably one of the wildest places near Sydney, being only one hour-and-a-half hours away from the CBD.

Upper Colo Reserve

Hulbert Road, Upper Colo NSW 2756

By Mireia Garriga Seguranyes

Upper Colo River camping the road to colo river

As soon as you approach the Colo area, you will realise that you are driving to a very special place. You will feel miles away from Sydney. It is the perfect picturesque countryside, lush pastures surrounded by rolling hills. Kids will enjoy seeing horses, ponies, cows on the way to the Upper Colo Reserve.

donkeys at Upper Colo River reserve

According to the Colo River website,  the name “Colo” is derived from the aboriginal word for koala. We have never seen koalas at the Upper Colo Reserve, but you may be lucky and see one. Also, you might see kangaroos, wallabies and wombats, if you are there early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Although to visit Upper Colo Reserve is like going back to the basics, there is plenty of things to do at the reserve. Grab a picnic rug or camping chairs and table, get together with some friends and have a barbecue or go on your own as a family, let the kids run around, grab a book or a magazine, take some pictures and if you have a kettle, prepare a cup of tea and enjoy every sip. Or, do nothing! Just relax.

Paddle, swim or have a splash in the river

You will find several small footpaths that will take you down to the beach from the reserve. The river is quite shallow, so it is perfect for little children. While the current is not usually strong, it still can take your child downstream so you do always need to pay attention.

rope swing at Upper Colo River reserve
One of the best things about the Colo River is playing on the rope swings. Note: We strongly advise that an adult checks the condition of the rope before using it.

Upper Colo Reserve Camping

Are you looking for an escape? When you camp at Upper Colo Reserve, you will feel miles away from civilisation. In fact, the closest town is Wilberforce, which is 30-40 minutes away.

Campsite numbers are limited, so bookings are required. You can book a spot in person at Council’s Customer Service Desk or using the online booking system

Tip: if you are planning to make a booking in person, note that weekend bookings are only available until 12 noon on a Friday.


Cash Payments

Council’s Customer Service Counter

366 George Street, Windsor

Monday to Friday – 8.30am to 5pm excluding Public Holidays.

Please, read the Conditions of Entry and Accommodation if you decide to camp at Upper Colo Reserve.

The Upper Colo Reserve page on the Hawkesbury Council website is here.

Upper Colo River reserve

Don’t forget to pack: insect repellent and drinkable water, as there is only a rainwater tank. Also, bring your own firewood, as you are not allowed to collect it from the reserve or the National Park. Have a first aid kit handy (in case of emergency, the closest hospital is at Windsor or Nepean).

An alternative accommodation -which is very popular- is the Bielany Campground Colo River. It has more facilities than the Upper Colo Reserve including a kids playground, hot showers and gas camp kitchen. The best way to get in contact with the Bielany Campground Colo River is via its Facebook page, where they also take bookings.

Upper Colo Reserve Walk + Activities

The best hike in the area is the Bob Turner’s Track. The track is 700m north from the Colo Heights Service Station. The first section is a dirt track which can be done by car. Then, you need to park the car and continue on foot. The track descends down through the magnificent Colo River Gorge with a natural pool and picnic area at the end of the track.

Another thing that you can do when you go to Colo River, it is to catch some fish. The most common is the Australian Bass, although you might also find Estuary perch, trout, mullet, eels and flathead.

If you like canoeing and kayaking, Colo River offers several opportunities. This link has lots of information about where to launch your canoe or kayak.  

Upper Colo Reserve – The Details 

upper colo river reserve wooden bridge
The Colo River which is 86 km long is located within the Hawkesbury–Nepean catchment, its valley is one of the largest sandstone canyon systems in Australia. Before arriving at the reserve, you will find this wooden bridge. And then the unsealed road becomes a bit bumpy. What an adventure!

The Reserve is open all year round with the exception of winter; call council on (02) 4560 4444 to see if it is open.

Access: sealed road and non-sealed road, narrow sections and narrow bridge, gate at entry.

Gate opens: 8am.

Gate closes: 6:00 pm during autumn / winter. 8:00 pm during day light savings.

Toilets and showers: Yes, but only cold bore-water.

Nearest takeaway coffee: No, BYO. The closest one is the Colo Riverside Café. Besides being a café it is a general and liquor store, too, where you can buy supplies and snacks.

Closest shops: At Wilberforce, 30-40 minutes away

Playground: No

Shade: There are several big trees next to the open grassy area and some sections of the river bank. However, in summer, it might not be enough. We recommend always to take hats and sunscreen.

Dogs allowed: Yes, but they must be kept on a lead.

Directions from the Hawkesbury City Council Website:

Turn right off Upper Colo Road into Colo Heights Road, cross over the wooden bridge then turn left at the Telstra Tower into Hulbert Road then veer left at the “Y” intersection to enter the Upper Colo Reserve.

If the roadway at the low-level bridge at Upper Colo is flooded there is an alternate route into the Reserve. 

Extra information:

For more information about Wild Rivers in NSW, click on here

colo river near colo river camping site
The river is clean and the shallow waters are great for children to have a splash.


Other great ideas to spend the day in the area:

There are lots of beautiful places in the Hawkesbury area. Hello Sydney Kids recommends:

Discover the singular Dangar Island. Spend the day or the weekend in this paradise. You will not believe how close is to Sydney.

Plan a day trip or weekend away at Wisemans Ferry

Explore Berowra Waters and Dusthole Bay. 

Camp at Newnes Campground

The Upper Colo Reserve is isolated and surrounded by bushland, and thus the reserve might be closed in times of extreme weather conditions or fire. If you are planning to visit the reserve in peak summer or before/after an extreme weather event, please contact Council on (02) 4560 4444 (between 8.30am and 5pm Monday to Friday), before leaving home or The Rural Fire Service on (02) 4575 1601.

Finally, if you have a toddler or young kids, be always vigilant, as the river despite being shallow can still be dangerous because of the currents.

Are you keen for a new family adventure? Don’t look further!

The Upper Colo Reserve is our favourite remote location, when we need a digital detox. It is amazing to see how kids connect with nature when leaving the devices behind.

What other places would you recommend?

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