“Does anyone know why we call these the Blue Mountains?” asks Tommy, our hiking guide.
My friends and I look at each other unsure. I feel silly I hadn’t bothered to research such an obvious question.
“They are covered in Eucalyptus Trees, which spritz Eucalyptus oil from their leaves,” Tommy explained. “In the sun, the mist creates a haze that appears blue from a distance.”
The Blue Mountains comprise a mountainous region in New South Wales, Australia, and are part of the Great Dividing Range, the third longest mountain range in the world. The Blue Mountains themselves are actually longer than the Rocky Mountains, although not as high. Dramatically cut by deep chasms, hikers have the ability to explore the trails along the mountain ridges and down into these gorges.
When To Visit
When hiking through the Blue Mountains, you’ll experience climatic shifts as you traverse through the different areas of the region. Whether it’s summer or winter, prepare for both seasons, as the weather can change rapidly. While you can visit anytime of year, Australia’s spring, which runs September to November, is when adventure sports like canyoning, rock climbing, abseiling and mountain biking begin their peak season. Additionally, you’ll also be able to experience an array of festivals in the area like the Festival of Walking, a nine-day event featuring everything from street walks to advanced treks, and The Capertee Challenge mountain biking event, where participants ride among sandstone cliffs and abundant wildlife. Other seasons also have perks, like vibrant foliage in the autumn, refreshingly crisp air in the winter and golden warmth in the summer.
There are many ways to get to the Blue Mountains from Sydney. Depending on which area of the Blue Mountains you are going to, the drive will take about 45 minutes to two hours by car. The nearest point is Glenbrook, while the farthest is Jenolan Caves/Oberon. Most visitors choose to spend their time in Leura or Katoomba, which is about 90 minutes from Sydney.
Taking the train is another option. City Rail offers trains directly from the city center or airport. This option is quicker than driving, and also includes access to the hop-on hop-off bus in the Blue Mountains, which visits more than 30 attractions. Trains run every hour, sometimes more than once.
Many travelers also opt to go by coach bus. Generally, buses leaves from Circular Quay. There are numerous companies, which you can browse by clicking here.
You don’t need to be an athlete to hike in the Blue Mountains. Trails range from easy to experienced, and some paths are even wheelchair accessible. First you should choose your home base(s), which includes Glenbrook/Warrimoo, Springwood/Faulconbridge, Lawson, Wentworth Falls, Leura, Katoomba, Blackheath, Lithgow, Megalong Valley, Mount Victoria/Mount York, Bells Line of Road, Mount Wilson or Oberon.
While most of the previously mentioned areas contain an array of trail levels, some are more proportionate to one skill level. For example, those looking for an easy, scenic stroll should head to Glenbrook/Warrimoo, Leura or Katoomba. Moreover, experienced hikers will enjoy Blackheath, Katoomba and Wentworth Falls.
During my trip, I explored a few of the areas, and have my own personal recommendations. There is a reason Katoomba is thought of as the “must see” area of the Blue Mountains, as there are many noteworthy natural sites. The hike from Echo Point to Katoomba Falls is easy/moderate and is about 2.5 miles to return. You’ll get to view the iconic Three Sisters, a unique rock formation that was created by erosion and now appears to be three distinct but concise rock towers. Orphan Rock, Jamison Valley, the ridges of Kings Tableland and Mount Solitary are other sites you’ll take in. You can easily add on to the trek to be able to see Furber Steps, the Scenic Railway and a large boulder outcrop known as the Ruined Castle.
In Katoomba, you should also visit Scenic World for a chance to experience the Scenic Skyway, Scenic Railway, Scenic Cableway, Scenic Walkway and Scenic Cinema. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Scenic Railway is said to be the steepest funicular in the world, with an incline of 52 degrees.
The Wentworth Falls area has everything from the leisurely 3-mile, round-trip “Charles Darwin Walk” to a difficult 4-mile circuit with exceptional views, waterfalls, rain forests and bird watching. On the “Charles Darwin Walk,” you’ll follow the babbling Jamison Creek and will get to sit at the top of Wentworth Falls. Other waterfalls on the trek include Queen’s Cascades and Weeping Rock. If you’d like to make your hike more difficult, start at the Wentworth Falls picnic area and make your way to the Conservation Hut. You’ll pass numerous waterfalls as you walk fenced cliff edges. Keep in mind that while scenic, much of this trail is uphill, so you’ll need to be fit.
Trekking in Blackheath will allow you to discover the top area of the Blue Mountains for all-encompassing views of the area. One simple yet historical hike I recommend is Walls Cave. You’ll start at the end of Walls Cave Road where there will be a sign guiding you down a dirt path to Greaves Creek. Crossing over a small bridge, continue downstream until there is a bend in the creek. Here you will find Walls Cave, which was once inhabited by aboriginals.
if you’ve got a few hours to spare and want something more challenging, Walls Ledge-Centennial Glen-Porter’s Pass is a worthwhile trek. The beginning of the trail can be found near
the Centennial Glen Road parking lot. Right at the beginning, you’ll traverse winding hills following the cliff line where you will be able to look out into the valley. Follow the Porter’s Pass arrows, and along the way you’ll take in Kanimbia Valley, descend into a canyon and enjoy Centennial Glen Waterfall.
What’s your favorite Blue Mountains hike?
[Images above via Shutterstock; Gallery images Jessie on a Journey, Shutterstock, nosha, Jeremy Vandel]