The Blue Mountains region of New South Wales is packed with 'ooh' and 'aah' sights, and many of them can only be accessed on foot. Set your skill level and head off on one (or more!) of these ten amazing bushwalks.
Just two hours’ drive west of Sydney, the Blue Mountains offers a huge variety of landscapes for walkers to explore — from canyons and waterfalls, to rainforest, deep valleys, remote peaks and sheer sandstone cliffs.
The whole area covers about a million hectares, much of it national park. If that sounds a little daunting, don’t worry. Break it down into bite size pieces with this selection of the best Blue Mountains bushwalks. They’re ranked from relatively easy to super tough!
1. Three Sisters Walk
This gradually sloping path won’t make any demands on your fitness, but it will take you to the best vantage points for seeing the Blue Mountains’ most iconic landmark — the Three Sisters. Weather-carved over millions of years, the dramatic sandstone turrets take their name from an Indigenous legend. The 0.8-kilometre return walk begins and ends at the Echo Point Visitor Centre at Katoomba and is wheelchair-accessible as far as the main lookout. There are steep steps at the end enabling an even closer view of the famous rock formation.
One of the most spectacular walks in the Blue Mountains is also one of the easiest. The 3.6-kilometre return Grade 1, wheelchair-accessible Fairfax Heritage Track runs from the Blue Mountains Heritage Centre in Blackheath to Govetts Leap Lookout — a great place to take in classic views of deeply incised valleys laid out beneath blue-tinged hilltops and sun-soaked golden cliffs. The lookout is named for the vertical waterfall that plunges 180 metres from the adjacent sandstone escarpment. But this walk isn’t just about the endpoint; the path offers plenty to see with scribbly gums, grass trees and vibrant spring wildflowers.
This moderately easy two-kilometre return walk is the counterpart to the previous one, offering views back across the mighty Grose Valley to the Blackheath Walls directly opposite. The awe-inspiring panorama gives a sense of the sheer scale of the Blue Mountains’ network of gorges, peaks and plateaus. The walk begins at the parking area on Pierces Pass Road, just off Bells Line of Road, about 12 kilometres past the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden (which is well worth a visit). The lookouts are unfenced, so take extreme care and think twice about coming here with children.
The Cathedral of Ferns Walk at Mount Wilson is a short, sweet stroll into an ancient cool-climate rainforest. It reveals another side of the Blue Mountains and offers glimpses of the outstanding biodiversity that has gained the area UNESCO World Heritage status. The ‘cathedral’ is a stand of giant tree ferns that suggest a vanished Jurassic world, hiding just ten minutes’ walk from the Cathedral Reserve Camping Ground. The ground can be wet, so wear proper footwear — and watch out for leeches!
A moderate walk with some steep sections and many steps, the Katoomba Falls 2.5-kilometre circuit from the Scenic World carpark packs major value in terms of scenery and birdlife. Highlights include the excellent view of the Three Sisters from Vaniman’s Lookout and the weird rock ‘face’ at Witches Leap. Look out for the small staircase leading to Juliet’s Balcony, from where you can see all the stages of Katoomba Falls — not the highest waterfall in the Blue Mountains, but one of the most picturesque due to its terrace-like segmented structure.
The six-kilometre-return, medium-graded Cliff Top Walking Track is a perennial favourite with visitors to the Blue Mountains, as it connects two major lookouts — Govetts Leap and Evans Lookout. You can start at either point, and finding them couldn’t be easier. At Blackheath, simply turn off the Great Western Highway into either Govetts Leap Road or Evans Lookout Road, then proceed to the signposted parking area. The track name says it all: you’ll be walking along the top of the escarpment edge, looking over at precipitous rock faces adorned with waterfalls and hanging swamps, and gazing down into the mysterious, rarely penetrated Grose Valley floor.
If you’re up for a challenge, this moderately hard 6.5-kilometre loop includes the full gamut of Blue Mountains landscapes. From dry sclerophyll forest at the upper level, the track descends into lush rainforest threaded with creeks and waterfalls. Along the way, you’ll see sheer sandstone cliffs and pass under rugged rock overhangs. Birdlife is abundant, and if you’re lucky you may spot a wedge-tailed eagle soaring above the canyon. Begin at Evans Lookout parking area near Blackheath, and be prepared for steep descents via stairways and zig-zag paths.
A five-kilometre circuit that begins and ends at the Wentworth Falls Picnic Area, the Wentworth Pass Loop is rated hard because of its many creek crossings, stairs (including metal ladders), slippery rocks and steep sections. The rewards? Awe-inspiring panoramas, brilliant views of both Empress and Wentworth Falls, the multisensory rainforest environment of the Valley of the Waters, and the chance to stop for refreshments along the way at the Conservation Hut café. What more could you ask for?
This historic 13-kilometre track runs all the way from the Leura Cascades Picnic Area to the Ruined Castle rock formation on the floor of the Jamison Valley, providing a bottom-up perspective on the geography of the Blue Mountains. It takes about 12 hours to complete the entire return journey, but the path can be accessed at various points to create shorter walks. Use the Furber Steps near Scenic World on Cliff Drive to descend the cliff face and join Federal Pass. You can turn left to walk towards Leura along the base of the cliffs, or right to strike out into the valley towards the Ruined Castle. Either way, and however far you choose to go, remember to leave sufficient time, energy and water for the cardio-challenging re-ascent at the Furber Steps when you return.
This is the big one — a 45-kilometre (one-way) walk from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves through the Megalong Valley, along the route of a nineteenth-century horse track (which itself followed an ancient Indigenous pathway) The Six Foot Track is the ultimate Blue Mountains adventure for fit, experienced and well-prepared hikers. Usually completed over three days, the track traverses heathland, farmland, forests and rivers, and passes two wineries and numerous heritage sites. There are four campgrounds along the way, or you can spend your first night in cabin accommodation at the Six Foot Track Eco Lodge.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best Blue Mountains bushwalks? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Roslyn Jolly is a freelance travel writer whose work has appeared in Luxury Travel, Get Up & Go, The Sunday Telegraph and The Australian. In her former career as an English Literature academic, she studied and taught the work of great travel writers, such as Henry James, Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson, and became fascinated by the history of travel and tourism. Two years at school in Wales and three years at university in England allowed Roslyn to travel extensively in Europe and North America, which she continues to do.