Northern NSW High Country – Coffs Harbour to Copeton Dam

Northern NSW High Country – Coffs Harbour to Copeton Dam


It all started with a message from Tommo and Matt on hump day saying ‘let’s head off Friday arvo to Copeton with a few detours on the way.

How could any warm-blooded person refuse such an offer? Well my kids did, so they missed out. A quick shop Friday afternoon after finishing work and swapping Utes, I headed out to meet up with Tommo before heading off for Friday night by the campfire at Cangai.

First stop – The Cangai camp spot


Getting there was a quick haul on the back road to Grafton, then a left hook onto the Gwydir out past Jackadgerry. A right hook onto the dirt, down Hanging Rock road and into Cangai.

With Matt finishing work earlier that the rest of us he had the campfire cracking when we got there and all we had to do was roll out the swag, grab a camp chair and a few frothies out of the esky. Now this is living! You can’t beat the bush telly and having a few yarns with old mates and some new ones.

Friday night by the campfire at Cangai

As Saturday dawned it was time to rustle up a bit of grub and a brew, shake off the overnight dew and get back on a mix of dirt and blacktop.

Morning mist at the Cangai camp


Back out through Hanging Rock road and then a right hook onto the Gwydir for some decent elevation change. Heading up through the Gibraltar Range Tommo had done some research on a few possible lookouts. Two out of three were awesome. You’ll never know unless you venture off the beaten track. The two sweet lookouts were both no more than a 15 min trip off the blacktop.

Four Mile Lookout

The first gem was Oaky Bluff Cliffs, with a great shear face pictured by Matt and his trusty drone, what a diamond in the rough. From here it was a short hop down the road to the next hidden gem.

Oaky Bluff Pic by Matt Austin

Four mile spectacular views


Four Mile Trig which is on Razorback Spur. The original trig was a 100mm square timber post with metal circular vanes attached over a brass plug set in the rock below and usually stabilized by a large rock cairn.

Four Mile Trig which is on Razorback Spur

The new concrete pillar trig station was established in 1979 with an elevation at 1107m AHD it’s getting up there in elevation. I love getting to see different Trig Stations, I’m a surveyor so sometimes in my job I get to go wheeling and doing GNSS (GPS) Observations at Trig (Trigonometrical) Stations.


Once leaving Four Mile it was a quick hop down the blacktop towards Celtic country at Glen Innes, past the big wind farms and onward to Inverell. Heading south from Inverell we scooted through Gilgai, hanging a right at Stanborough passing through Howell and into the Tingha Copeton Recreation Reserve. A great free camping area. With dam levels at a mere 8.9% it was a completely different view to the last trip where I stayed in the Reflections – Paid camping side. I think it was about 40% from memory.

Copeton Dam campsite at sunset

Copeton Dam construction began in 1968 and was completed 1973 with a capacity of 863,000 megalitres. In 1976 construction was completed on the nine radial gates in the spillway which increased the capacity to 1,364,000 megalitres. Within the spillway is a 21 MegaWatt hydroelectric power station. Two towns disappeared once the dam started to fill, Copeton and Dasey Town. When the water level drops to about 4% the remains of the old cemetery headstones can be seen.

Copeton Dam at sunset

Another great sunset shot at our Copeton Dam campsite


Just a stone’s throw from where we camped is the remains of the Conrad Mine at Howell. With plenty of infrastructure left on the site it’s a great look back in history. It was a silver and base metal mine that operated between 1898 and 1957 under various names and operators. Noted on the Resource and Geoscience NSW web page it is on the list of Derelict Mines Program for ongoing rehabilitation works with the last woks completed in 2017.

What was once the old Conrad Mine’s ‘explosives’ storeroom

Historical pieces of some forged iron in rock


The large timber structure is the Conrad shaft and the large Rock structure is the King Conrad Shaft. We also saw the remains of the Moore drive in a gully off the right as we entered the site. The deepest of the shafts is about 270 m below ground. During the life of the mine nearly 180,000t of ore was extracted with a yield of nearly 18,000t of concentrate consisting of silver, lead, copper and arsenic.

The large timber structure is the Conrad shaft

Sandstone plinth (rock stack) at the location of the King Conrad Shaft

Conrad Shaft and Headframe today


Once we had finished exploring it was time to hit the road, grab a quick bite in Inverell and smash the blacktop on the return trip to Coffs Harbour. A fun filled weekend away with about 800kms clocked up and well worth the effort. For me it jogged up memories of previous places I have found out this way, back in 2007 and 2013 and has geared me up to show the crew something they never knew about and one place I never got back to explore. If it is as good or better than what I’m hoping for it may just have to be kept secret…

Conrad Shaft and Headframe today

While recording for Trickydevil Offroad YouTube channel a new phrase was captioned #viewgazm after hearing Tommo’s excitement when reaching Four Mile Trig.

Written by Jereme Lindsell and all images by Trickydevil Offroad and Matt Austin


Free camp spot – Lake Copeton – 29°54’51.8″S 150°59’31.2″E

Old Town – Howell – 29°54’32.8″S 151°01’49.1″E

Oaky Bluff – 29°32’30.4″S 152°13’43.3″E

Where to find them?

Instagram: @trickydeviloffroad @coffscoast4x4andbushadventures
Youtube: Trickydevil Offroad
Facebook: Trickydevil Offroad

Thank you Jereme and the crew at Coffs Coast 4×4 for sharing your weekend adventure story with us at North Storm waterproof bags. We look forward to seeing more of your travels and reading more of your stories!
Lisa & Marc
North Storm


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