5 Best Walks in the Blue Mountains
So you know you want to get out and walk in nature. You want the experience to be supportive in that you don’t have to sacrifice any of your creature comforts, but it needs to be challenging and engaging enough that it takes you out of your comfort zone. With the proviso that at the end of the day you can safely say you’re feeling better for it. If that’s you then read on.
First of all, what’s different about the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains is its diversity. We all know about the vast and spectacular vistas, the iconic 3 Sisters and the numerous lookouts that give you a widescreen view over waterfalls and valleys stretching out to the horizon. But it’s the lesser-known canyons and valleys, with masses of trees and other flora, which if you take the time and effort to explore on foot provide you with the greatest benefit.
Interestingly we know that walking in nature has been scientifically proven to make you healthier physically, but there’s now evidence it improves psychological outcomes dramatically. Walking in nature changes your brain for the better, improving not only cognition but also mood.
The blue haze emanating from the vast eucalyptus forests provides the inspiration for the name of these mountains. The tiny droplets of oil that the trees give off are inter-dispersed with moisture that splits the light and makes the mountains look blue.
The only way to breath in the ‘Blue Haze’ (that’s not purple Hendrix fans) and to maximise the benefit of walking in the Blue Mountains, is to get right up and close to the forest, namely by walking in it. It’s literally like immersing yourself in a bath, but in this case, it’s in nature. So why not give it a try. The Japanese have even given this a name, Shinrin-yoku, which when translated literally means ‘Forest Bathing’.
5 Best Blue Mountains Walks
1. RUINED CASTLE
One of the easiest walks to access is the trek out to Ruined Castle from the bottom of Scenic world. The train ride down is unique, to say the least. The trail will have you tramping across the bottom of the cliff face from which you came, then on through pristine forest that has remained untouched since the dawn of time. This is an out and back walks in the blue mountains so you can manage fairly easily how far you want to walk.
2. GRAND CANYON
The Grand Canyon, not to be confused with its namesake in the US, is fascinating and perhaps one of the most surreal landscapes within in Australia. The walk takes you down into the valley once again crossing creeks amongst massive tree ferns (Polypodiopsida Cyatheales). Strolling through the canyon is one of the highlights of the region. The walk can start in Blackheath or Neats Glen and if you’re willing you can traverse the entire loop back to your starting point over about 6 hours.
3. JENOLAN CAVES
A tour of Jenolan Caves, particularly if you hit rain in the mountains, is another way to walk but stay dry. This spectacular cave system is one of the best in the world, and is one of the most ancient known open caves in the world. With no less than 11 show caves, its’ pure underground rivers and incredibly beautiful limestone formations; it is no wonder this is one of the most visited cave systems in Australia. The cave system is so large, with more than 40 kms of caves that are still undergoing exploration to this day.
4. SIX FOOT TRACK
The Six Foot track is getting ample publicity and for a good reason. The track itself has a long history; it follows a heritage horse track from 1884. It starts from Katoomba and travels to Jenolan Caves. The first day’s walk from Katoomba to Cox’s Creek is a beauty with a pickup point in the Megalong Valley, on Megalong Road just before Cox’s creek. Immerse yourself in a mixture of forest, with the ever-present massive escarpments, native fauna and running water, what better way to spend a few hours.
5. THE NATIONAL PASS WALK
Then there is the National Pass Walk, possibly the most popular of all the walks in the blue mountains in this region. If you’re up for it and want a more demanding walk, then try the Undercliff Overcliff Walk or Wentworth Pass which are simply epic. All of the routes have magnificent views, and if you take the later it includes a stroll alongside the massive trees that inhabit the Jamison Valley. Waterfalls cascade from steep, vertical cliffs, culminating at the beautiful Wentworth Falls. If you want something simpler take the Prince Henry Walk and witness soaring escarpments from Katoomba’s Echo Point lookout plus all the other marvellous vantage points along the way.
The walks are not difficult and can all be completed in 6 hours which is taking into account many stoppages along the way. With one million hectares of pristine, protected bushland, this wilderness has an amazing choice of walks on offer. Hanging Rock at Blackheath is another one and then there’s all of the Southern end of the Mountains if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, the list is endless. The best time to go is now, but if you are particular then April, May, September and October are the best months. However, if you want to avoid the rain then winter is the best time to visit.
Of course, a visit to the Blue Mountains doesn’t need to be only about the walking, there are the wineries in the Mudgee Valley, just east of the ranges, that are worth a visit. This region has become a mini-Mecca for fine food and produce so check it out if you have the time. If you’re not up for that much driving then there are ample fine dining establishments in the Mountains, Lilianfels, or Echoes, the Hydro Majestic and Cinnabar Kitchen to name but a few. Of course, the townships of Leura and Wentworth are well worth a wander and are a great way to round out a day in the Mountains after a good walk.
If you really want to get out and extend your walking but you don’t want to rough it, and like the idea of carrying only a day pack (sometimes referred to as pack free, meaning you will be unburdened by all your other luggage), having a glass of wine and a comfortable bed at the end of the day, why not go with any number of tour companies (like us) that operate in the Mountains. Your experience will be further enhanced by the expertise of local guides who know all the best walks and you’ll get to experience a whole lot more than you could have on your own. If you’re not a tour type of person then a self-guided walk might be the answer. Everything is still organised for you, including transfers along the track which leaves you with a stress and pack free walking holiday through one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world in comfort.
THE ESSENTIALS FOR BLUE MOUNTAIN HIKING
Getting there: The Blue Mountains are a 2-hour train ride from Sydney’s Central train station. Conversely, hire a car and take the M4 motorway to be there in an hour or less depending on the traffic out of Sydney.
The walking: The tracks are all well maintained and the walks are mostly moderate. If you walk down in the Jamison Valley expect an arduous but extremely rewarding walk back up the cliff face.
What you need to take: You will need rain protection no matter what time of the year, plus warm clothes. Check the weather as it can get quite cold and then warm, all on the same day. Good quality walking shoes are recommended as are gaiters particularly after it has been raining.
More info: Learn about the region and the tracks at www.visitnsw.com/destinations/blue-mountains/bushwalking or at Auswalk.
We offer the following Best Blue Mountains Walks:
Blue Mountains Walks – 3 Day Group Guided Blue Mountains Hiking Tour
Blue Mountains Walks – 3 Day Self Guided Blue Mountains Walking Tour
Blue Mountains Traverse Walks – 5 or 7 Day Self Guided Blue Mountains Walks