Less than a 90-minute drive from Sydney you'll find a spectacular carpet of forest that reaches to the horizon below a 656-foot (200-meter) escarpment in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains. A frequent entry on Australia’s top-attraction lists, the Blue Mountains is a bushwalker’s paradise, with dozens of walks (the Aussie term for hikes) threading through the wilderness.
However, the landscape took a hit in the terrible summer of 2019, when the enormous Gospers Mountain Fire engulfed an area seven times the size of Singapore. After the fire, floods caused damaging landslides, and the outdoor activity came to a grinding halt. All this destruction has closed many trails, but fortunately for keen bushwalkers emerging from lockdown, there are still plenty of amazing chances to get out into the Blue Mountains wilderness.
Prince Henry Clifftop Walk
4.3 miles (7 kilometers) One-way | 3.5 Hours | Moderate
Step off the suburban streets of Katoomba and straight into the wilderness as you thread your way along this stunning sandstone escarpment walk. The trail starts at world-famous Echo Point, where the Three Sisters rock formation watches over the vast valley covered in native forest. You’ll pass 20 lookouts and three waterfalls on your way to Leura, including the amazing Bridal Veil Falls. Don’t miss the unsigned turnoff to the right above the falls for a photogenic view from the cliff spur opposite.
Giant Stairway to a Scenic World
2.9 miles (4.7 kilometers) One-way | 2.5 Hours | Hard
Another trail peeling off from Echo Point, the Giant Stairway takes you down 998 steps to the valley floor, with views of the Three Sisters from the bottom looking up. You may have to walk back out if the trail is closed, but if not follow the stairway to Scenic World—where passengers can take an 1880s coal train, the steepest train in the world, back to the top of the cliff on an exhilarating 52-degree angle.
Grand Canyon Track
3.9-mile (6.3-kilometer) Loop | 3.5 Hours | Moderate
This charming loop walk from Evans Lookout near Blackheath is one of the most beloved Blue Mountains trails. It weaves between moss-covered cliffs, through ferny grottos, behind sun-dappled waterfalls, and over creeks on stepping stones. Parts of this trail were affected by the bushfires, but the blackened sections have an evocative atmosphere of their own and offer the chance to witness the amazing powers of the Australian bush to regenerate as bright green growth emerges from blackened stumps.
Fairfax Heritage Walking Track
1.1 miles (1.8 kilometers) One-way | 40 Minutes | Easy
Also near Blackheath, this wheelchair and pram-friendly trail forms a lovely loop through the bush past scribbly gums, peppermint forest, and spectacular crimson waratah flowers (the floral emblem of New South Wales). Nearby is the Blue Mountains Heritage Centre, with an art gallery and virtual reality experience, as well as Govetts Leap lookout over the spectacular Grose Valley and Jungle Falls.
Hanging Rock Trail
5-mile (8-kilometer) Return | 3.5 Hours | Moderate
A walking and cycling trail near Blackheath that takes you to the epic Baltzer viewpoint. This narrow slice of rock is detached from the escarpment and hangs dramatically above the Grose Valley—don’t forget your camera! This trail is not for kids, as the 328-foot (100-meter) cliff drops are not fenced.
Wentworth Pass Loop
3.1-mile (5-kilometer) Loop | 4.5 Hours | Hard
This tough track begins with incredible views over Mount Solitary, standing in the middle of the vast Jamison Valley. It then heads to the stunning Wentworth Falls, which lend the nearby town its name, and the dense rainforest of the Valley of the Waters. The trail takes in part of the famous National Pass trail which is currently closed due to rockfalls. Call in at the lovely mudbrick Conservation Hut at the end of the trail for a hot cuppa or a meal.
Red Hands Cave Walking Track
5-mile (8-kilometer) Loop | 2 Hours | Moderate
Accessed from Glenbrook in the lower mountains, this track on the traditional land of the Darug people takes you to a rock-art stencil gallery, one of the most impressive in the Sydney basin. The stencils in red, yellow, and white were created by artists blowing ochre and water over their hands as they rested them on the cave wall; they’re believed to be up to 1,600 years old. Axe-grinding grooves, where Darug people sharpened their weapons, can also be seen in the sandstone near the river along this track.
1.9-mile (3-kilometer) Loop | 1.5 Hours | Moderate
Take in four different waterfalls (Adelina Falls, Federal Falls, Cataract Falls, and Junction Falls) and loads of birdlife along this local favorite through ferny grottos and thick bush. The largest waterfall, Federal Falls, has a sandy beach area at the base, one of many great picnic spots along the route. Go after rain for the most impressive cascades.
Martins Lookout to Lost World
3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) Return | 3.5 Hours | Hard
With two steep descents and ascents, this is a great workout for experienced hikers who also have some navigation skills and a map (Lost World is well named!). At the start of the climb at Martin’s Lookout, near Springwood, you’ll see a plaque commemorating Reverend G Raymer, a local bushwalker who died in 1953. On the other side of the valley, you’ll glimpse your destination, marked by another memorial to Reverend Raymer in the form of a small white cross.
Six Foot Track
28.6 miles (46 kilometers) One-way | 3 Days | Hard
One for true adventurers, this three-day hike takes you from Katoomba to the Jenolan Caves. The historic trail follows an 1885 horse track past waterfalls and woodland, pastureland and heath, and over a lovely swing bridge. You can camp along the way, though you must first register online at the Six Foot Track website.