Burning Mountain

Home to Australia’s only naturally burning coal seam, Burning Mountain Nature Reserve is great for school excursions and is packed with day walks, scenic views, birdwatching and picnicking opportunities.

Sometimes, the quiet corners of a state hold the biggest surprises. Burning Mountain Nature Reserve is tucked away off New England Highway, but make the stop in your car and what you’ll discover is an ancient phenomenon right beneath your feet.

To traditional Aboriginal owners, it’s the fiery tears of a woman long since turned to stone by Biami, the sky god. Early explorers assumed Burning Mountain’s billowing smoke and peak of grey, smouldering ash was an active volcano. It’s actually a combusting coal seam, that’s been smouldering under the surface of the earth for an estimated 5,500 years. The main attraction isn’t all though; it’s also the perfect place for a day walk, with scenic views across the valley.

A popular pit stop with travellers, Burning Mountain Nature Reserve is a great place to pause for a break and soak up the unusual geological conditions. In fact, there’s nothing else quite like it in Australia. Bring binoculars for birdwatching, a water bottle, and sturdy shoes for a walk into the heart of the action. There’s even an information rotunda, ensuring you get the most out of your visit to this special place.

Burning Mountain Walk

Burning Mountain Nature Reserve
Overview
Visitor info
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Burning Mountain walk Get directions
Burning Mountain walk is the best way to discover this unusual nature reserve, with information panels along an accessible 4km return track that has some steep sections.

Where
Burning Mountain Nature Reserve
Distance 4km return
Time suggested 1 – 2hrs
Grade Grade 3
Price Free
What to bring
Drinking water, hat, sunscreen
Please note
Remember to take your binoculars if you want to birdwatch

You would expect a fire sizzling below ground for 5,500 years to have some fairly dramatic effects on the vegetation, and the remarkable phenomenon of Burning Mountain is reflected in the plants and animals adapted to life around it. As you set out from the carpark on a moderate walk to the head of the coal seam, expect to pass through eucalypt groves and other types of Upper Hunter woodland. Plenty of dead trees and hollow logs provide homes for lots of wildlife.

As the fire moves one metre every year, the landscape changes: red gums grow along subsidence cracks, and later you’ll come across narrow-leaved stringy bark, tea trees, and stunted grey gums. There are loads of birds in the area, too, so bring the binoculars if birdwatching is an interest.

Anybody interested in the story of what’s going on below ground won’t be disappointed either: information panels along the track unpack the story of Burning Mountain, including its science and fascinating Aboriginal heritage. A viewing platform is located at the climax of Burning Mountain walk, providing a safe vantage point to view the exhaust vents and rocks transformed by extreme temperatures.