“TO RUN IN NATURE IS TO WITNESS A THOUSAND MIRACLES” – MARY DAVIS
1. WENTWORTH FALLS (13KM-16KM LOOP)
The famous Charles Darwin walk starts from Wilson Park in Wentworth Falls village, just outside Blue Mountains National Park – around 16KM. Head through the Charles Darwin Walk arch and follow the trail along Jamison Creek. After a creek crossing, the track will continue along the back of some houses, then through a gate and down a long flight of steps to National Pass, which crosses the lower reaches of the Wentworth Falls and hugs the cliff as it heads towards the Valley of the Waters. Absolutely stunning!
The course continues up bush steps past several stunning waterfalls to a junction above Empress Falls, passing Lilians Bridge (NOT OVER IT), climbing to Edinburgh Castle Rock sign, and along more single trail and stairs to next junction, turning right onto single trail, leading to an old track which loops back to the Conservation Hut. (If you want to cut the run short by a few KM, at the junction above Empress Falls, turn right, following the stairs up to the Conservation Hut)
From the Conservation Hut, descend some more stairs, taking first left onto Shortcut Track until you reach Breakfast Point Lookout Track. Follow to the lookout then left onto Undercliff track, winding along the cliff face to Wentworth Falls and return along Darwin’s Walk.
HOW TO GET THERE:
To get there from Sydney– drive along the Great Western Highway west, towards Katoomba. At Wentworth Falls village, turn left at the traffic lights onto Falls Road, where there is signage for Wentworth Falls and the national park. Wilson Park is on your left, immediately after the lights, or follow Falls Road to Wentworth Falls picnic area.
2. NARROWNECK, KATOOMBA (14KM-20KM LOOP)
The Narrowneck track, set on a wide fire trail, rolls along with plenty of sharp ups and downs with a gradual, yet decent, 3KM ascent on the way back up from the turnaround point. It’s around 20KM out and back – giving you the option to do shorter distance runs if you prefer (turning at the fire tower makes a 14 kilometre run for example).
Narrowneck is a long, cliff-bound peninsula which divides the Jamison Valley from the Megalong Valley. As you start out, on your left is stunning bushland and on the right, more picturesque views stretching out to Jenolan and Kanangra. Once you hit the 10KM mark (turnaround point) you’ll witness Lake Burragorang and the Wild Dog Mountains arrayed below you. This track is also popular with cyclists – so look out for each other!
HOW TO GET THERE:
Drive west from Sydney on Great western Highway to Katoomba. Locate Cliff Drive near Echo Point and follow westerly to Glen Raphael Drive. Follow (unsealed) Glen Raphael Drive to locked gate (no entry fee). Park car here and off you go!
3. MT PORTAL, GLENBROOK (12KM-14KM LOOP)
The trail to Mount Portal offers some great hill climbs, open fire trail and once you reach the lookout, you are greeted with magnificent views of Glenbrook Gorge and Nepean River.
The best place to start is at the Rangers Hut just inside the Park gates. From here you’ll head down the causeway, over the creek and up the other side. You can either continue up the road which soon turns into fire trail, or you can choose to continue straight into single fire trail (you’ll notice the track as the road starts to bend around to the right after the first hill from the bottom of the causeway).
Whichever way you choose, both courses eventually meet up. The single trail offers stairs and is more technical whereas the road/trail option is not. Fire trail runners will just follow signs up to Mt Portal Lookout and single trail runners will eventually come out on a fire trail where you’ll need to turn left.
Once at the top of Mt Portal, the trail bends around to the right and finishes up at Mt Portal Lookout. Then it’s just a matter of heading back the way you came. You can choose to change it up if you like – either taking the road or single trail back depending which way you came up.
If you’re keen to explore the region further, check out the unique Aboriginal art at Red Hands Cave or stay overnight at Euroka campground – be sure to check out my other post on the Glenbrook Blue Mountains National Park.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Mount Portal lookout is in the Glenbrook precinct of Blue Mountains National Park. To get there, follow the signs from Great Western Highway. The main entrance to the park is through Glenbrook via Ross Street and then Bruce Road. You can park inside the gates for $8 per car per day. Otherwise, you can park on streets outside the park (no charge) and run in from there.
4. MT SOLITARY (45KM LOOP)
This course is spectacular, and a popular multi-day hike in the Blue Mountains, however it’s possible to do in a day – though extremely tough with fire/single trail, biting uphill sections, stairs, creek/river crossings, and rock clambering.
Easiest spot to start is at the old Queen Victoria Hospital. Head down Kedumba (through the swine gate – be sure to close it again!) turning right onto the old Maintenance Track then left turn down to Kedumba River. After crossing the river, make an arduous 3KM ascent to the eastern col of Mt. Solitary.
After reaching the col, continue to climb to the high point of Mt Solitary then traverse the top of Mt. Solitary. Descend the west side over some rocky sections before you are greeted with single trail taking you passed the Golden Stairs (don’t climb the stairs). Continue past ‘The Landslide’, hitting the bottom of the famous Scenic Railway and before continuing along Federal Pass and pass by the Giant Staircase (if you wish to check out the Three Sisters, you can climb these stairs and head back down afterwards). This section leads to Leura Forest. Head through and you’ll pick up the trail on the other side. Don’t climb the stairs at Lila Falls, instead continue straight ahead to the location of the now closed Sewerage Works.
The trail eventually links up with the old Maintenance Track that takes you across Jamison Valley and down to Jamison Creek. Once you hit the valley floor, you’ll head back up Kedumba and will arrive at the old Queen Victoria Hospital where you started.
**It is possible to start on the western side of Mt. Solitary (starting at the Golden stairs) if you want to shorten the distance and do an out and back rather than the full loop.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Drive west from Sydney on Great Western Highway heading towards Wentworth Falls. Turn left off Great Western Highway onto Tableland Road until you reach the old Queen Victoria Hospital. You can either park here or continue along the gravel road until you reach a locked gate – you can park here as well (no entry fee).
5. LEURA TO KATOOMBA (6KM-10KM LOOP)
If you’re new to the area, and have yet to see the famous lookouts and landmarks of the Blue Mountains National Park, this is a great loop to do.
Depending which way you want to do run the course, you can start from either Leura Cascades or Scenic Railway. If starting from Scenic Railway, head down Furber Steps and make a left at the bottom heading along the trail past Katoomba Falls. If you’re up for a stair climb, and want to see the Three Sisters from Echo Point, follow the signs up the Giant Staircase. You can either head back down the Giant Staircase or take one of the other tracks heading to Leura Cascades.
If you decide to head back down the Giant Staircase, continue along the trail where you’ll eventually enter Leura Forest. Head through the picnic area and hook back up with the trail that bends around to the left and up another impressive set of stairs beside Lila Falls. Follow the trail and signs to Leura Cascades where you can have a drink and quick break before heading back to The Scenic Railway and Katoomba (and back up the impressive Furber Steps).
If starting at the Leura Cascades picnic area, the concrete path commences near an information board and descends beside Leura Cascades towards Bridal Veil lookout. This track continues alongside Prince Henry Drive, until it reaches Tarpeian Rock Lookout, offering clear views of Mt Solitary. From here, the track climbs uphill with steps towards Olympian Rock and across a high concrete bridge to Elysian Rock. The cliff line follows all the way to Millamurra and Tallawarra Lookouts, with the last part of the climb reaching Echo Point and The Three Sisters.
HOW TO GET THERE
Leura Cascades: Leura Cascades picnic area is in the Leura area of Blue Mountains National Park. To get there, turn off Great Western Highway at Leura and then turn off to Cliff Drive.
Scenic Railway: Turn off Great Western Highway at Katoomba, head down Katoomba Street and then left onto Cliff Drive. Scenic Railway will be on the left and parking is free all day.
6. SIX FOOT TRACK, KATOOMBA (44KM ONE WAY)
The dynamic Six Foot track packs is another popular multi-day hike in the Blue Mountains, but is possible to do in a day, or in parts. The track varies from narrow, rocky track near the start in Nellies Glen, to meadows, sandy gravel track, and dirt fire-trail road – with a number of hills and rivers in between!
Best place to start (and park) is Explorers Tree in Katoomba. From here you head down to the bottom of Nellies Glen, to the cattle grid at Megalong Valley Rd, passing the Swing Bridge (can be crossed, but not part of this track, so cross back after). Head down to Coxs River before climbing back up to the top of Mini Mini Saddle.
Enjoy a creek crossing at the bottom of the Pluviometer hill before ascending to the Pluviometer. Head along Black Range road where you’ll eventually finish up right near Jenolan Caves. You’ll need to have someone waiting for you at the end or organise to have transportation take you back to your car if you park at Explorers Tree.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Drive west from Sydney on Great Western Highway towards Katoomba. Not far passed Katoomba turn left and park on Pulpit Hill Road at Explorers Tree. Alternatively, drive to Jenolan Caves and do the course in reverse, finishing up at Explorers Tree.
7. GOVETTS LEAP, BLACKHEATH (6KM-8KM LOOP)
If you’re after a scenic run taking in the natural beauty of Blue Mountains National Park, this track will certainly tick all the boxes. Cliff Top walking track follows the cliff edge from Govetts Leap lookout to Evans lookout. Located near Blackheath, you’ll be treated to views over the Grose Valley.
The track is well signed, passing Barrow Lookout and Hayward Gully before finishing at Evans Lookout. If you want to add a bit more of a challenge, you can do Govetts Leap descent to add another 2KM or so to your run.
Govetts Leap descent (as it’s known) is a challenging track from Govetts Leap lookout and is great for hikers and runners alike who enjoy a harder circuit. Offering scenic waterfall views across Grose Valley in Blue Mountains National Park, this is definitely worth checking out if you’re up for the challenge.
Blackheath has many trails and running tracks on offer, so if you’re looking for a greater distance, you can keep following signs out to Pulpit Rock and beyond. Great thing about Blackheath is it is not nearly as busy as Katoomba and Leura, so you’ll find you may get to enjoy more of the trails to yourself.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Drive west from Sydney on Great Western Highway towards Blackheath and follow signs to Govetts Leap. Free parking at the lookout all day.
Know of any other scenic trail runs in The Blue Mountains? Share your favourite spots below!
Be sure to follow my adventures on Instagram!!