The Walks/Blog

12 of the Best Hikes in Sydney’s Blue Mountains

Explore some of Sydney’s most dramatic scenery on twelve of my favourite bushwalks in the spectacular Blue Mountains.

The spectacular New South Wales Blue Mountains sit on the western edge of the greater Sydney area. They are easily accessible by car or train from the neighbouring metropolis of over 5 million people. More of a plateau, they gradually rise from the Sydney basin to over 1100m of elevation. The area’s largest town of Katoomba is perched high up at 1017m.

These upper sections are justifiably famous for their deep cut valleys lined by sandstone cliffs, as well as lush forests, impressive waterfalls and windswept heathlands. Thankfully this dramatic and rugged scenery has remained largely unaffected by urban or agricultural development. And since 1959 it has been protected in the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains National Park.

Where are the walks?

The most spectacular walks are clustered around the Upper Mountains towns and villages of Blackheath, Katoomba, Leura and Wentworth Falls. They feature two very scenic valleys, the Jamison Valley and Grose Valley. But there are also worthwhile tracks in the Lower Mountains, and in the northern section off Bells Line of Road. You can check out the rest of my blog for some of those.

Following is my selection of favourite day-hikes in the area. I’ve linked titles to my original post so you can have more of a look at what’s on offer. Walks with grand views feature heavily in my selection, but there are more intimate experiences in the mix also.

First up are walks at the Grose Valley near Blackheath, but you can jump to Grose Valley walks near Leura, Jamison Valley walks at Wentworth Falls, and near Katoomba. And I’ve included one in the Lower Mountains near Winmalee.

Upper Blue Mountains: Grose Valley

Bushwalks Near Blackheath

Evans Lookout/ Pulpit Rock/ Popes Glen/ Braeside Walk

Evans Lookout/Pulpit Rock/Popes Glenn/Braeside Walk, Blue Mountains
Govetts Leap (right) and Horseshoe Falls (left).
Difficulty: hard (long but mostly flat), with shorter options

The eastern side of Blackheath is pretty spectacular, and this longish walk takes in the best of the cliff top views in the area. It includes the viewpoints of Evans Lookout, Govetts Leap, and Pulpit Rock, although there are ever changing views for as long as you are on the cliff’s edge. Turning it into a partial circuit via Popes Glenn and the Braeside Walk adds some atmospheric variety. You can shorten this walk by doing smaller circuits or ‘in and out’ walks.

Grand Canyon Circuit

Grand Canyon Circuit, Blue Mountains NSW
Narrow and lush sections of the Grand Canyon, near Blackheath.
Difficulty: moderate

The Grand Canyon Circuit offers a fairly unique Blue Mountains experience, passing through the shadowy recesses of a narrow canyon carved out by Greaves Creek. There’s lush rainforest vegetation, tall and dark cliffs, as well as more open sections with dryer vegetation. There’s also excellent views of the Grose Valley from Evans Lookout. It’s a shortish walk at 6.3 km, but can be combined with the Rodriguez Pass for a much longer circuit walk (see below).

Rodriguez Pass Circuit

Rodriguez Pass Circuit, Blue Mountains NSW
Govetts Leap (falls) on the right, and further right still, a hanging swamp.
Difficulty: hard

You can sample some of the best of the Upper Blue Mountains on this harder than average circuit walk through and then above the Grose Valley near Blackheath. You get the usual grand valley and cliff views, but also numerous waterfalls, rainforest and creek scenery. And you can combine the Rodriguez Pass with the Grand Canyon Circuit (see above) to make a full and varied day of it.

There are other good options in the Blackheath area, some of which could have made it onto this list, only I decided to stop at twelve. There’s Porters Pass on the western side, adjacent to the Megalong Valley, and also Perry’s Lookdown (which I’ve done but not posted on yet).

Asgard Swamp & Thor Head Walk

Asgard Swamp & Thor Head Track, Blue Mountains
Looking north-westish up an arm of the Grose Valley, viewed from Thor Head.
Difficulty: moderate

A bit past the village of Blackheath is the even smaller village of Mt Victoria. Nearby is a lesser known walk offering typical Upper Blue Mountains scenery with less people. The tracks visit some excellent vantage points on the edge of rather precipitous cliffs with views over the spectacular Grose Valley. There’s also a few patches of treeless grassy plains that make for a nice change of scenery. Add to this a handful of rocky outcrops, some interesting trees, and a worthy side trip to a historic mine. All this for less than 10km of flattish walking. 

Bushwalks Near Leura

Lockleys Pylon/ Du Faur Head Track

Lockleys Pylon / Du Faur Head, Blue Mountains
Lockleys Pylon
Difficulty: moderate

There are a number of excellent walks which start on the unsealed (and rough) Mt Hay Road, near the Blue Mountains village of Leura. They offer great views of the Grose Valley, looking over towards the cliffs near Blackheath.

The Lockleys Pylon Track is probably the most popular of these walks. It’s fairly easygoing, and the mostly heath vegetation means there are wide open views for much of the walk. Definitely a good scenery to effort ratio. It’s also possible to extend this walk by dropping down into the Grose Valley from near Du Faur Head. And see below for two more options starting on Mt Hay Road.

Fortress Ridge Track

Fortress Ridge Track, Blue Mountains
Lockleys Pylon viewed from Fortress Ridge.
Difficulty: moderate

The Fortress Ridge Track undulates through heath and occasional tree cover to a viewpoint over the Grose Valley and Lockleys Pylon. There are nice views of the surrounding heathland, and of cliffs lining the Grose Valley. There’s also a short and worthy side trip near the start, which takes you to another spectacular viewpoint.

Venus Tor via Mt Hay

Venus Tor via Mt Hay, Blue Mountains
The Grose Valley and Venus Tor (right) from Mt Hay.
Difficulty: moderate (with steep sections)

There are a couple of excellent and shortish walks starting at the end of Mt Hay Road: climbing Mt Hay itself, and also visiting Buttterbox Point. But it’s possible to continue on over Mt Hay to a rocky outcrop called Venus Tor. I only learned of this excellent walk from a couple I met on the summit of Mt Hay. It’s not an official route, and so will provide a more secluded walking experience than most in the Upper Mountains. There are excellent views over the Grose Valley for much of the way, and Venus Tor feels pleasingly remote. The drop down from Mt Hay is very steep, so you’ll need to be reasonably fit.

Upper Blue Mountains: Jamison Valley

Bushwalks Near Wentworth Falls

Wentworth Falls Circuit via Hippocrene & Vera Falls

Wentworth Falls Circuit via Hippocrene and Vera Falls, Blue Mountains NSW
Wentworth Falls amphitheatre viewed from Princes Rock Lookout. You can see that on the day I took this picture the wind was so strong that it blew Wentworth Falls upwards.
Difficulty: hard, with easy to moderate options

The village of Wenworth Falls is named after the impressive waterfall on its southern border. There are a number of great walking tracks in the area, including three circuits passing by Wentworth Falls and through the attractive Valley of the Waters. The longest of these circuits visits Hippocrene Falls and Vera Falls. There are the usual grand sandstone cliffs the region is famous for, as well as numerous waterfalls of all shapes and sizes, and lush forest down in the valley. Probably one for the more adventurous walker, as sections of this quite long walk are on less distinct tracks.

Many of the sights can also been seen on an alternative and shorter circuit via the spectacular and cliff-hugging National Pass. (Note though that as at 2019 this track is closed due to a rock fall.) The Wentworth Pass is a third option. And if you just want views of the Jamison Valley and Wentworth Falls from afar, then you can stick to the network of tracks on the cliff’s edge.

Bushwalks Near Katoomba

Mt Solitary and the Ruined Castle

Mt Solitary Track, Blue Mountains NP
Sophia and friends on the Ruined Castle, with Mt Solitary in the background.
Difficulty: hard (Ruined Castle: moderate)

When my wife Sophia and I first started regular bushwalking we did the first half of this walk as far as the Ruined Castle. This is already a classic Sydney walk, with 360 degree views from the top of this rocky outcrop. But continuing on to the summit plateau of the stately looking Mt Solitary provides more great views, with the added satisfaction of a big day’s walking in fairly isolated country. Note that the climb up to Mt Solitary is quite steep, so you’ll need reasonable fitness for this section.

Federal Pass & Prince Henry Cliff Walk

The Three Sisters viewed from Echo Point. The Blue Mountains’ most famous landmark. And Mt Solitary in the background.
Difficulty: hard, with easy to moderate options

This fairly long circuit takes in some of the best bits of the Blue Mountains near Katoomba, and is highly recommended. You’ll enjoy views of cliffs, waterfalls and lush forest along much of the route. And definitely visit Bridal Veil Falls and Leura Cascades on your way down to or up from the Federal Pass. 

Perhaps best done on a weekday to avoid the crowds at popular and accessible spots, such as Echo Point, where you get the classic view of the Blue Mountains’ most famous landmark, the Three Sisters. The Katoomba Landslide section of the Federal Pass is also worth a visit, and could be done as a side trip from Furber Steps, or as a separate walk. You can also shorten this walk by doing sections of it, such as returning via the Giant Stairway. And you could just stroll along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk without descending into the valley.

Devils Hole Track

Devils Hole Track, Katoomba, Blue Mountains
Walking through the Devils Hole, a break in the cliff line on the edge of the Jamison Valley at Katoomba.
Difficulty: short but steep

This short but atmospheric walk descends steeply through a narrow and deep gap in cliffs called the Devils Hole. At the bottom of Devils Hole you turn left to view a scenic waterfall. And you can continue on along the bottom of these cliffs for a while. You’ll see evidence of rock climbing here, including some rather impossible looking overhangs.

Lower Blue Mountains

Shaws Ridge-Blue Gum Swamp-Grose Mountain Circuit

Shaws Ridge - Grose Mountain Circuit, Blue Mountains NP
Blue gums in Blue Gum Swamp.
Difficulty: hard, with a moderate ‘forest only’ option

I’ve snuck in this walk as one of my favourites in the Lower Mountains. It starts near Winmalee, and summits Grose Mountain via Shaws Ridge and Blue Gum Swamp. Whilst not as spectacular as some of the Upper Mountains walks, there’s impressive forest scenery and good views over the Blue Mountains and Grose River Gorge on a worthy (and longish) side trip. The section up to Grose Mountain feels fairly remote compared to some of the more popular walks on my list.

More Information

If you’d like more information on the region then you can check out the Blue Mountains section of the National Parks & Wildlife Service website. There are are also various online and printed walking guides, a few of which I’ve listed on my track notes resources page. For more general info on the area there are tourist sites like Visit NSW, Blue Mountains Tourism, and Blue Mountains Australia. And of course you’re welcome to contact me or comment on this post.

Mt Solitary Track, Blue Mountains NP
Me on the Ruined Castle, Blue Mountains National Park.

Enjoy your walking!

Bluff Mountain & Grand High Tops, Warrumbungle National Park NSW

The must do circuit walk in the Warrumbungles, taking in famous views of the Breadknife from Grand High Tops, and a visit to Bluff Mountain (1200m) where there are more great views.

The Grand High Tops Circuit with an added side trip to Bluff Mountain (1200m) is arguably the best walk in the Warrumbungles, especially for views. From Grand High Tops there are classic views of the pleasingly named rock formation, The Breadknife, which is a tall, thin and sheer slice of rock that you pass on the way up. There are also great views of nearby Crater Bluff, and of Belougery Spire, both prominent and striking hunks of rock. Continue reading “Bluff Mountain & Grand High Tops, Warrumbungle National Park NSW”

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungle National Park NSW

A long walk with excellent views from the summit over the whole of the Warrumbungles, although you might find the highlight are the huge numbers of fabulous grass trees in the final 200 vertical metres.

Mt Exmouth (1206m) is the highest point in Warrumbungle National Park, and I’ll admit to a spot of peak bagging in doing this walk. Nevertheless, I’d read that the views from the summit were excellent, and they were, although a bit hazy on an overcast day. Unexpectedly though, another feature of this walk stole the show, and that was the preponderance of fabulous grass trees on the final ascent to the summit. I’ve never seen so many in my life, and they were fine specimens indeed. So I’d recommend this walk even just for these, but the views will be an added bonus.

Track notes at the end. And if you haven’t already you should consider doing the park’s classic walk, the Bluff Mountain and Grand High Tops Circuit

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon: The Scenery

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
Burbie Canyon

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
Not as many wildflowers out as I’d expected, but these ones were quite nice.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
Burbie Canyon

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
Burbie Canyon

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
Much of the walk was along Burbie Fire Trail so I thought I would take a picture of this just so you know what you are up for. Not so exciting but then the lower section of the alternative West Spirey Creek Track were not all that exciting either. It made for fast walking at least.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
One of three new wildflowers I saw on the walk, (as in, new to me).

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
An interesting aesthetic walking through native pine trees of some sort. Not many of these further east.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
A prickly pear cactus. These have become a serious weed in Australia in the past. Not sure about nowadays. We saw just this one.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
Wildflowers I’ve not seen before.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
The first of many grass trees on the final ascent to the summit.

Prepare for an overwhelming number of grass tree photos…

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
Nice shades of green here.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
Lots of grass trees.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
So many grass trees!

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
And still more grass trees.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
I particularly liked this grass tree, which looks like it is wearing a fur coat.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
One of my favourite grass tree shots with Sophia demonstrating scale, and hence the advanced age of these wonderful plants.

Up onto the summit area here…

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
I liked this long line of grass trees as we approached the summit.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
A very bushy grass tree.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
Note sure what what that distant mountain is, but it looked a little volcanic, and could have been in this area given that it was moulder by volcanic forces many centuries ago.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
Approaching the summit.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
A panorama from the summit.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
Grass tree ‘spears’ on the summit.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
Possibly my favourite shot from the summit of Mt Exmouth (1206m), combining the views with many grass trees in flower, the signature characteristics of this walk, at least in 2019.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
A noisy friarbird.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
A noisy friarbird.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
A noisy friarbird on grass tree flower spears.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
Lots of grass trees at the summit.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
I may have darkened this photo a bit too much, but a number of my shots turned out very hazy so I’ve tried to adjust for that. Split Rock to the left.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
View from the summit.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
The view from the summit of Mt Exmouth (1206m). Bluff Mountain in the centre, which we climbed the next day.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
Sophia sometimes needs to lie down to let the blood back to her head. Of course, this doesn’t explain why she does so much lying down at home also. Pictured here on the summit of Mt Exmouth (1206m).

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
Not sure what these flowers are, but I liked the aesthetic.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
This is Belougery Split Rock, which is actually not on the walk, but you can start from this car park along Burbie Fire Trail, missing out Burbie Canyon. Not recommended, but I just wanted to include this picture. There’s a walk around the base of this small mountain and you can visit the summit also. One for next time.


Track Notes

We started the walk at Burbie Canyon, which is a nice 1km section of the ephemeral Burbie Creek, although we then had a long slog up Burbie Fire Trail to where the track begins the final ascent to the summit. NPWS info on the walk actuals refers to a start at Split Rock Car Park, but you’re better off walking through the canyon as it’s (probably) more scenic than the start of Burbie Fire Trail, and also 1km shorter each way.

An alternative is to leave from Pincham Car Park, also the start of the Grand High Tops Circuit, which we did the following day. You walk up a section of West Spirey Creek, and there are eventually views of the big cliff face on Bluff Mountain. (We descended down this track, and I think descending is better for the Grand High Tops Circuit). There’s then a link track to join the Mt Exmouth route at (kind of) the end of Burbie Fire Trail.  I can’t tell you what this section is like.

Here are some maps and basic info on the walking options in the park. Ignore the ‘you are here’ marker on the map, as we took this photo at the Split Rock Car Park. 

Map of walks in Warrumbungle National Park
The sign at Split Rock car park, which is not where we started from.

Walks in Warrumbungle National Park

Ferntree Gully Circuit, near Rylstone NSW

The circuit walk through Ferntree Gully Reserve passes through a scenic gully containing interesting rainforest vegetation. This includes various types of ferns as the name suggests, as well as vines and trailing roots reaching down over rocks to find the ground below. There are also good views from above the gully. It’s a short but rewarding walk that I recommend if you are in the region around Rylstone. Continue reading “Ferntree Gully Circuit, near Rylstone NSW”

Pagoda Lookout Track, Dunns Swamp, Wollemi National Park NSW

An excellent short walk on the Pagoda Lookout Track in Wollemi National Park, where there are views of rock pagodas & over the picturesque Cudgegong River.

The Dunns Swamp area is very picturesque, and a shortish drive from the also picturesque village of Rylstone, in NSW’s Mid-Western region. The short walk on the Pagoda Lookout Track passes along the foreshore of the dammed but still very attractive Cudgegong River, and takes you to the base of impressive rock pagodas. From there it’s a short but steep climb to the top of the rocks themselves. There are great views of the rocks and over the surrounding area. Definitely worth spending half an hour or so exploring the area around the lookout, and obsessively taking pictures (obviously). Continue reading “Pagoda Lookout Track, Dunns Swamp, Wollemi National Park NSW”

Martins Lookout to Lost World Lookout, Springwood, Blue Mountains NSW

A walk near Springwood in the Lower Blue Mountains taking in three lookouts above Glenbrook Creek, and involving a couple of steep climbs.

A short walk with lots of climbing, starting up high at Martins Lookout, dropping down steeply to Glenbrook Creek, and ending up high again at Bunya Lookout and later Lost World Lookout. The views are good if not mega, and there’s a few interesting rocks and plants along the way. A good option in the lower mountains for half a day’s walking with some decent climbing (about 500m of ascent/descent all up). Continue reading “Martins Lookout to Lost World Lookout, Springwood, Blue Mountains NSW”

Wentworth Falls Circuit via Hippocrene & Vera Falls, Blue Mountains NSW

An excellent circuit at Wentworth Falls that takes in numerous waterfalls of all shapes and sizes, including the lesser visited Hippocrene Falls and Vera Falls.

An excellent circuit walk taking in a less travelled section of the Jamison Valley at Wentworth Falls. There are the usual grand sandstone cliffs the region is famous for, as well as numerous waterfalls of all shapes and sizes. Continue reading “Wentworth Falls Circuit via Hippocrene & Vera Falls, Blue Mountains NSW”

Bundanoon Gorge Lookouts, Southern Highlands NSW

This easygoing walk along forestry management roads takes in three viewpoints over Bundanoon Gorge and nearby valleys. 

The main highlights of this walk are the views over Bundanoon Gorge and adjacent valleys from three viewpoints, all accessed on the first half of the walk. The route is mostly flat along forestry management roads, and passes through eucalypt forest and pine plantations.  This kind of walking isn’t the most interesting, but I think I was just happy to be outside after time off in part due to a leg injury, so I enjoyed it nevertheless. The views from the lookouts are good, and there were sections of many wattle trees, so early spring is a good time for this walk. Continue reading “Bundanoon Gorge Lookouts, Southern Highlands NSW”

Mermaids Pool & Tahmoor Canyon, Southern Highlands NSW

An excellent walk that passes through the atmospheric Tahmoor Canyon, and also visits the particularly scenic Mermaids Pool.

After 13 years of bushwalking around Sydney we are still doing new walks that exceed expectations. The Southern Highlands circuit visiting Mermaids Pool and passing through Tahmoor Canyon was one such walk. I hadn’t heard of it before, but it was fairly popular so it’s evidently not a secret. Mermaids Pool is probably the most scenic pool I’ve seen in NSW, and Tahmoor Canyon was deep and very atmospheric in places. Definitely recommended. Continue reading “Mermaids Pool & Tahmoor Canyon, Southern Highlands NSW”

Cathedral Rock & Woolpack Rocks, Cathedral Rock National Park NSW

Lots of impressive boulders on this walk through Cathedral Rock National Park, and expansive views over the New England High Country.

This route climbs Cathedral Rock, the (almost) high point of the New England Tablelands at about 1580m, and goes on to visit the attractive Woolpack Rocks. There are various interesting boulder formations throughout the walk, and expansive views from on top of the two main rock formations. You start above 1300m, so only moderate effort required on an undulating track to visit these destination points. Continue reading “Cathedral Rock & Woolpack Rocks, Cathedral Rock National Park NSW”