How to see the Blue Mountains without a tour

If you’re spending some time in Sydney, the Blue Mountains is a day trip that you shouldn’t miss. Getting out of the city to hike in the fresh mountain air and explore the Australian wilderness is a great experience. You can make this trip a simple sight seeing venture, or go all in and traverse a four hour hike up and down the mountains like we did. Everything you need to know about a day trip to the Blue Mountains can be found here.

BlueMountainPic2You’ll want to leave early from Sydney, as it takes about two hours to get there on the train. You should bring shoes, but intense hiking boots aren’t necessary. The train leaves from Central Station and you can use your Opal Card to pay for it. It will only cost you $15 AUS (or your daily cap), whereas buying a regular ticket will cost you $16.60 AUS. Get off at Katoomba Station and you’ll find yourself in a small town. At this point you can wait for a bus (which in the long run will be free as you’re going to hit the cap on the Opal Card), or just walk south down the Katoomba Road for about 15 mins to Echo Point. We walked and poked our heads into the cute shops along the way.

No matter how you get there, you’ll end up at the Blue Mountains Tour Center. Inside is a gift shop, and some restaurants and fast food places. We grabbed some falafel wraps to bring with us on our hike and headed down to Echo Point. From there you get a pretty good view of the rock formation that draws most of the crowds, the Three Sisters. There’s also an Echo Point Information Center where you can get maps or buy souvenirs if you want. However MapsMe has the trails and you can also find them on Google Maps. We’ve included a screenshot of Google Maps below of our route. Make sure to bring lunch and snacks for your hike as the whole walk took us about 4 hours.

BlueMountainMap

We started at Echo Point (labelled Three Sisters on the map, then headed around the back of the Echo Point Information Center where you’ll find a sign pointing towards The Giant Stairway. It’s a pretty steep and narrow stairway built into the rock, but as long as you take it slow you’ll be fine. It took us about 30 mins including a snack break. The stairs take you right up underneath one of the Three Sister rock formations and provides some great views of the valley below, without all those annoying tourists getting in the way. Once we made it to the bottom we turned right and took the Federal Pass towards Scenic World and the Furber Steps. It takes about 1.5 hours to get to the other steps, but it’s all flat and under dense forest cover resulting in a nice hike. We were surprised by a massive goanna lizard scrambling up a tree at one point, and also spotted some big SydneyPic3yellow-tailed black cockatoo birds in the trees. You eventually end up beside a river, which is the end of Katoomba Falls that you’ll see later.

Once we reached Scenic World, we had the option to take the railway up or to walk up the Furber Steps. The railway costs money so we decided to walk up and we didn’t regret it. The draw of the railway is that it’s the steepest of its kind in the world which is pretty cool, and it offers some great views. However, if you take the railway you miss being able to walk right up underneath Katoomba Falls. The climb isn’t as steep as The Giant Stairway, and the views from the cliff halfway up Katoomba Falls are amazing. There will be a sign signalling a side path that leads to the falls, and you can just hop over the wooden fence to get onto the cliff (everyone does it). The Furber Steps offer great views of the Three Sisters from afar, in our opinion even better views than from Echo Viewpoint. The climb took about 45 mins, but we took another 45 mins taking pictures and enjoying the waterfall.

Once you’re at the top of the steps, turn right and head along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk back towards the Three Sisters. The walk is flat again, and offers awesome views of the valley. It takes about 30 mins. We ended our trip back at Echo Point, grabbed some souvenirs and caught a bus back to the train station as we were a little tired of walking.

The whole hike took about 4 hours including stops, and was an awesome (and cheap) way to spend a day. Definitely go do this hike if you make a stop in Sydney!

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