Guide To The Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains is one of the most popular day trips from Sydney. It’s made up of 7 separate national parks, covering 10,000 square kms and it’s recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The vistas on display in this area are simply breathtaking. You have soaring mountain tops standing over deep valleys, incredible rock formations, lots of hiking trails, ornate gardens and idyllic local villages. You can’t come to Sydney and not visit the Blue Mountains.

 

How To Get There

Driving: If you’ve rented a car, it’s a 122 km (90 minute drive) from Sydney to Katoomba where most people start their tour of the Blue Mountains.

Train: The best public transport option to the mountains is by train. They generally run every hour and even more frequently during peak commuter times. Tickets from Sydney to Katoomba cost 8.30 AUD one way for an adult (16.60 AUD roundtrip). It should take about 2 hours by train to reach the Katoomba. You can check the schedule here.

Tour: There are lots of day trip tours that run from Sydney to the mountains. They generally cost from 70 AUD to around 130 AUD (keep in mind these tours might have add-on fees for certain activities).

 

Top Attractions

  • The Three Sisters – These spectacular rock formations have come to symbolize the Blue Mountains. They’re a major attraction visited by millions of people each year. According to Aboriginal legend, three sisters who lived in the Jamison Valley fell in love with three brothers from another tribe. Unfortunately, tribal law forbade them to marry. So the brothers started a war to try capture the sisters. A witchdoctor took it upon himself to turn the three sisters into stone, to protect them from any harm. The witchdoctor was killed in the war and the sisters were forever entomed in stone.
  • Bush Walking: The other main attraction in the Blue Mountains are the amazing bush walks that it offers. They range from easy grade trails that everyone in the family can do, to challenging multi day treks that only experienced hikers should attempt. To get a list of all hiking trails and levels check out the following link.
  • Adventure Activities: The Blue Mountains terrain make it a natural place to offer many adventure activities, there are tours offering: abseiling, rock climbing, mountain biking and 4WD driving.

Aborigines named this rock formation the "Three Sisters" believing they were three siblings turned to rock by a witch doctor.
Aborigines believe these rocks were 3 sisters turned to stone by a witchdoctor. So they named it the “Three Sisters”.

Plan a DIY Day Trip To the Blue Mountains

Travel long enough and the odds are you’ll get tired of doing tours. While they provide the convenience of a prepackaged itinerary with transportation, over time they become abhorrently expensive. Even more troubling, these tours have a rushed factory line approach to sightseeing. You’re constantly getting on and off a bus to spend 15 -20 minutes in front of an attraction, take a few pictures and then rush off to the next destination. There’s no spontaneity in this mode of travel, you won’t have a chance to go off the well trodden tourist track and you’re robbed of the opportunity to appreciate the experience

So why not take a DIY approach to the Blue Mountains? This is the perfect place to do it.

 

Sample Itinerary:

  • Make sure to leave early in the morning. You’ll want to beat the crowds and the mid day heat while hiking.
  • After arriving into Katoomba (either by driving or taking the Blue Mountain Train Line) make a bee line to the Visitor’s Center for all local information. Then spend a little time walking the town, maybe grab some brekkie before you head out on your hikes.
  • Start by viewing the biggest attraction first, the Three Sisters. It’s only a 30 minute walk from the visitors center on a well marked path that’s mostly downhill.
  • The next step is to choose a walking trail from the area that you’re in. Make sure you pick a hike that suits your fitness level. Below is list of hikes available from Katoomba ( sourced from blue mountains website ).
Katoomba
Name of Walk / LocationTime
(hrs)
GradeApprox. DistanceOK When MistyPicnic NearbyToilets NearbyCamp- Site
Nearby
ViewsWater-fallsRain-forestBird- Life
Three Sisters Walk0.5Easy1km Return
Echo Point/Prince Henry Cliff Walk/Katoomba Falls1.5Easy4km Return
Katoomba Falls /Cliff View Lookout0.5Easy
0.5km
Return
Boars Head Rock / Cahills Lookout0.5Easy0.5km Return
Echo Point/Prince Henry Cliff Walk/Gordon Falls2.5Med.5km
One Way
Katoomba Falls / Furber Steps / Scenic Railway1.5Med.2km Circuit
Katoomba Falls Round Walk1Med.1km
Circuit
Minnehaha Falls1.5Med.2km Return
Giant Stairway / Dardanelles Pass / Leura Forest/Federal Pass/Giant Stairway4.5Hard6km Circuit
Giant Stairway / Federal Pass / Scenic Railway/Prince Henry Cliff Walk2.5Exp7km Circuit
Furber Steps / Ruined Castle / Golden Stairs8Exp14km Return
Scenic Railway / Ruined Castle7Exp12km Return
Golden Stairs / Ruined Castle5Exp8km Return
Explorers Tree/Old Reserve via Six Foot Track4.5Exp7.5km One Way
Six Foot Track/Katoomba to Jenolan Caves3
days
Exp42km One Way

If you want to expedite your access to hiking trails you could consider doing a Hop-On / Hop-Off bus pass (40AUD) that runs every 30 minutes.

 

Safety Tips For Bush Walking In Australia

Odds are you’ll be doing easy or medium grade hikes that are well marked and well traveled by other tourists. So it won’t be hard or dangerous. In the spirit of safety, I thought I’d share some tips you should keep in mind when you’re bush walking in Australia.

  • Always bring appropriate amount of food and water. Also you’ll probably want a hat, sunscreen and insect repellent.
  • Don’t overestimate your abilities. Pick a walk that suits your skills and conditioning. I’ve been guilty of doing this in the past and it’s a great way to get yourself into trouble.
  • Check weather forecasts and park conditions and be aware that weather conditions can change.
  • It’s not a good idea to go walking alone, in case you get injured. Ideally it’s best to be a group of 3 or more, in case of an emergency and someone needs to stay with the injured party.
  • You should tell friends or family of your plans, the route your taking, when to expect you back and make sure you check in. Remember you might not have phone reception out in the mountains, and might not be able to contact anyone in case you need help. That’s why it’s important to share your hiking plans with others.