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From easy day hikes to hardcore overnighters.
Pull on those Blundstones, the great outdoors are calling. Sydneysiders love a good trek and we're lucky enough to have so many great hiking tracks right in our backyard. The best among these is arguably the Blue Mountains, but with so many trails and paths to traipse, choosing is the hard part.
From easy day hikes to hardcore overnighters, the Blue Mountains have it all. We're bringing you a few of our favourite ways to break in those hiking boots.
How far: 6km/3.5 hours return
Difficulty level: Medium
What you'll see: Yellow-tailed black cockatoos and king parrots
What to bring: A packed lunch and your binoculars
The Cliff Top Walking Track starts at Govetts Leap lookout and takes you around a heart-racing, cliffside walk toward Evans Lookout. This trek offers the best views over Grose Valley and is also a birdwatcher's dream trail, so be sure to bring your binoculars along — the yellow-tailed black cockatoos and king parrots are both regularly spotted. The heath is also dotted with colourful wildflowers in spring, when you can catch the white-naped honeyeater. If you're trekking during winter, this trail is ideal to keep warm with the sun shining from the east. For waterfall chasers, stop off at Barrow Lookout, a true stunner. Don't forget to pack lunch and enjoy a picnic at Evans Lookout before retracing your steps back to the start.
How far: 6km/about two hours round trip
Difficulty level: Medium
What you'll see: A 'best of' the Blue Mountains
What to bring: Sturdy hiking boots and a camera
If you're looking for a day trip that will combine a few adventures, check out Scenic World's Great Round Walk, which includes the Scenic Skyway, Prince Henry Cliffwalk, Giant Staircase and Federal Pass. Start by picking up your Unlimited Discovery Pass and jump on the Scenic Skyway across to the East Station. Suspended 270 metres in the air across the canopies, the cable cars overlook ancient ravines, an optimal view from the glass floor. Travellers will also catch 360-degree views across Katoomba Falls, the Three Sisters, and Jamison Valley. After you've enjoyed your easy ride, strap on those hiking boots and take the walk to Echo Point where you can shout your greetings to the Three Sisters. From there, the Grand Stairway awaits you — 1000 steps of a harrowing descent to the rainforest floor. This final walk, a small portion of the Federal Pass, will take you back to the Railway platform, where you can ride the world's steepest train (backwards) right back to the top.
How far: 5.4km/3.5 hours return
Difficulty level: Hard
What you'll see: Dry eucalypt forest, Grand Stairway
What to Bring: Sturdy hiking boots and water
National Pass is perhaps the most epic of all the Blue Mountains day treks. The hike is literally built into the side of the cliff, so can be a bit harrowing at times. It also offers some of the best views of the Jamison Valley and its surrounding cliffside, which is why so many make the trek regardless. The adventure begins at Conservation Hut, which will first lead you to Queen Victoria Lookout — perched atop a roaring waterfall, it overlooks sandstone cliffs. The trek down to the Valley of the Waters will lead you to the historic Grand Stairway. Built by hand in the early 1900s, the climb up is a difficult one, so hikers should be prepared and in fairly good shape. The walk will then take you to the Wentworth Falls and Jamison Lookouts, where you can picnic or take the remainder of the loop back to Conservation Hut.
How far: 45km/three days, two nights
Difficulty level: Medium to hard
What you'll see: Jenolan Caves, Aboriginal corroboree site
What to Bring: Full camping gear
Featured as one of our five best overnight hikes, Six Foot Track goes from Katoomba to the Jenolan Caves. While experienced hikers can do the trip in two days, most travellers should stick with the recommended three-day, two-night hike. The trail begins at the iconic Explorers Tree and follows an 1884 heritage horse track, offering a varied landscapes of heath, woodlands and rainforest. Hikers have the option to camp along the track at the dedicated campgrounds — Old Ford Reserve, Cox's River, Black Range and Allum Creek — or to pitch their tents within the bushland itself. Wildlife is everywhere on this track, including kangaroos, echidnas and wombats, so be respectful and enjoy your proximity to nature.
During the trek, be sure not to miss the last recorded site of the ancient Gundungurra corroboree (Aboriginal dance ceremony) or the secluded Boonie Doon Falls. From Megalong Valley, you'll cross the harrowing Bowtells Swing Bridge, climbing the range, and finish at the majestic Jenolan Caves. One of the world's oldest cave systems, they date back at least 340 million years. Once you're done exploring, hop on the afternoon minibus that will return you to Katoomba.
How far: 1km - 4.5km return
Difficulty level: Easy to medium
What you'll see: Bridal Veil Falls, catbird, wompa pigeon
What to bring: A picnic lunch and bathers
Located at the start (or the end) of the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, Leura Cascades is a serine picnic spot surrounded by tall eucalyptus trees. Take a short walk along the rapids on Leura Falls Creek down to Bridal Veil Falls and Leura Falls, where you can bathe if the pool is full, or relax on the rocks at the bottom of the falls. Several walks can be accessed from here, so if you're looking to go for a longer track, take the Fern Bower Circuit — a 4.5km loop, this moderately challenging track takes hikers along an impressive cliff line and down to the lush Jamison Valley. The cliffs of Echo Point are also accessible from this track, as is the Leura Forest. The dense canopy is peaceful and well worth the easy trek — you may even catch a glimpse of the catbird or wompa pigeon.
Top image: Jon Ottosson.
Published on June 06, 2016 by Marissa Ciampi