Although just 90 minutes from central Sydney, the Blue Mountains couldn’t be farther from the buzz of city life, making this region one of the most popular weekend destinations for Sydneysiders and tourists alike. And with the stunning mountain views, vibrant forests, thundering waterfalls, and seemingly infinite walking trails, it’s no surprise that most people opt for an extended getaway rather than just a day-trip— even with a long weekend, you won’t spend a single second bored, which is probably why I just keep coming back for more. In this guide, I’ll share practical information about the region, my favourite lookouts and hikes, the best campgrounds, and everything you need to know to plan an amazing trip to the incomparable Blue Mountains.
About the Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains is actually an expansive region that encompasses more than 10,000 square kilometres, 40 different towns, and a one million hectare national park with 200+ km of trails and an estimated 1,000 plant species! Given both its sprawl and unique beauty, it would be impossible to explore the entirety of this diverse World Heritage Site in a single visit, so I think it’s best to focus on a more narrow area, especially for a first trip.
I’d recommend spending time in Wentworth Falls, Katoomba, Leura, and Blackheath, as these towns are rich with scenic mountain lookouts, short but rewarding hikes, waterfalls views, and even some in-town activities. On another trip, venture a bit father into the Blue Mountains to explore Jenolan Caves, Lithgow, Newnes Plateau, and Mount Victoria for even more impressive scenery.
Getting here & around
Driving to the Blue Mountains
The easiest way to get to the Blue Mountains and make the most of your time is definitely by driving. Katoomba, one of the main towns in the region and home to many of the biggest tourist attractions, is only 90 minutes from the Sydney CBD, 2 hours from Wollongong, and 3.5 hours from Canberra. The M4 can certainly get congested over long weekends, but it’s usually a rather painless drive and I have never struggled to find parking in town (with the exception of Echo Point).
Taking public transport to the Blue Mountains
If you don’t have access to a car (and don’t feel comfortable hiring one), the other option is to catch a train from Sydney’s Central Station to Katoomba, which takes under 2 hours and costs only $8.50 each way. There are several stations around the Blue Mountains that will get you within a few kilometres of interesting walks and lookouts (such as Wentworth Falls Station), but you can also splurge on a $50 hop-on/hop-off pass for the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus, which will stop at more than 30 attractions, including Scenic World, Echo Point, Leura Cascades, several lookouts and hikes, and a number of restaurants (see the full list here). These tend to be major tourist attractions rather than secret gems, but Mum explored the Blue Mountains this way on her recent visit and said she’d still recommend it as a stress-free alternative to driving.
Active adventures in the Blue Mountains
Scenic lookouts & viewpoints
Discover the Blue Mountains’ iconic sandstone cliffs and abundant eucalypt valleys from any of several hundred different scenic lookouts scattered throughout the region. Almost all tourists will stop at Echo Point for views of the Three Sisters, which I would definitely recommend, but some of my very favourite places to enjoy other (less crowded) views of the mountains are:
Area: Wentworth Falls
Getting there: Just navigate straight to Lincolns Rock on Google Maps, there’s a little area to park right next to the lookout
Walking required: About 10m from your car
Best for: Dangling your feet over the beautiful Blue Mountains
Top tip: Check out the cave below the rock for more amazing photo opportunities! Just walk over to the far left of the lookout and follow the tiny path down and around to the cave.
Sublime Point Lookout
Getting there: Navigate to Sublime Point Lookout and park in the carpark at the start of the short trail
Walking required: About 80m down a dirt path
Best for: Panoramic views of the Jamison Valley, Kings Tableland & Mount Solitary
Top tip: Take photos on the flat rock to the left of the trail just before you reach the lookout. It offers amazing views without all the people, and certainly adds something unique to your pictures!
Getting there: Park on Pulpit Rock Road and walk down to the lookouts
Walking required: As much or as little as you want along the many ladders and paths leading to other viewing platforms
Best for: Views of Grose Valley and the Blue Gum Forest
Top tip: Allow some time at Pulpit Rock to explore the extensive network of ladders and lookouts for views in every single direction
Read more about the best lookouts to visit: 12 INCREDIBLE LOOKOUTS IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS
Hiking in the Blue Mountains
With several hundred kilometres of trail in the Blue Mountains, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of phenomenal hikes to enjoy. Dozens of half-day or overnight hikes follow the clifftops, descend into the lush valleys, or even take you across the National Park; a few of my favourites are:
Prince Henry Cliff Walk
A pleasant stroll along the cliffs that includes nearly all of the Blue Mountain’s major tourist spots—Scenic World, Katoomba Falls, Echo Point & the Three Sisters, Leura Cascades, and Bridal Veil Falls—the Prince Henry Cliff Walk is inarguably one of the best day hikes this region has to offer in every regard. Not only is it very accessible and riddled with detours, side-trips, and stop-overs, it’s also chocked full of panoramic mountain views, rich foliage, and sparkling waterfalls.
Starting point: Scenic World
Distance & time: 6.5km, 2.5hrs with frequent photo stops and side trips
Best for: Sweeping landscape views of the cliffs and valleys, incorporates some of the region’s best viewpoints (including Echo Point) and falls (Leura Cascades, Katoomba Falls)
Grand Canyon Loop Track
One of the most popular hikes in the Blue Mountains National Park, the Grand Canyon Loop walking track is a short (but very sweet) hike through some of the region’s best scenery. From ferns and eucalypts, to waterfalls and creeks, this walk is a great way to get up close and personal with the landscape visible from all those clifftop lookouts, as well as see the unique rock formations comprising NSW’s own “Grand Canyon”.
Starting point: Evans Lookout
Distance & time: 7km, 2hrs with photo stops
Best for: Lush forest scenery, including abundant plant-life, waterfalls, and creeks
Six Foot Track
Spanning 45km of the Blue Mountains National Park from Jenolan Caves to Katoomba, the Six Foot Track was constructed in 1884 as a horse route between the two cities; exactly 100 years later, the track was opened to hikers and is now one of Sydney’s most popular overnight hikes. Setting out for two or three days, visit underground palaces of crystalline stalactites, explore lush and vibrant Megalong Valley, look up at towering sandstone cliffs, and camp out at pristine rivers, all within a 90min drive of the city.
Area: Jenolan Caves to Katoomba via the Megalong Valley (basically all the areas)
Starting point: Jenolan Caves
Distance & time: 45-50km, 2-3 days
Best for: Uninterrupted time in nature and discovering the amazing natural diversity of the Blue Mountains
Other things to do in the Blue Mountains
If you’re willing to brave the crowds of tourists, Katoomba’s Scenic World is actually a really fun place to spend an afternoon. Cruise down into the forest on the world’s steepest railway, wander through the ferns on a series of wooden walkways, return to the cliffs via the cableway, and then travel over towards Echo Point on the clear-bottomed skyway. Tickets are a bit pricey at around $40 for unlimited access, but it’s definitely fun.
Sculpture at Scenic World
For several weeks in April and May each year, you’ll also find a large outdoor art exhibition taking place at Scenic World that is well worth a visit. Dozens of artists install colourful pieces along the forest floor every autumn, so spend a few hours strolling along the wooden walkway, appreciating the beautiful and thought-provoking pieces. Entry to Sculpture at Scenic World is included in the price of your Scenic World ticket.
There are dozens of show caves to explore in impressive Jenolan, each with unique features; join a tour to check out some of the most popular caves like Lucas, Chifley, and Orient where you can walk (or, on the adventure tours, crawl) through intriguing formations and sparkling crystals. I highly recommend Orient Cave, which is a sparkling underground palace of crystals and ancient stalactites— book a 90min tour online for $47.
Katoomba’s Street Art Walk
Enjoy more than just natural scenery in the Blue Mountains with the Street Art Walk running along Beverly Place in downtown Katoomba. For the last 5 years, artists have been contributing large pieces of intriguing art to this little laneway, making it an explosion of colour and a hotspot for creativity in the region. On a grey day or just on your way through town, be sure to stop and explore this surprising collection of beautiful art.
Leura’s Sunday Markets
Stop in at the Sunday Markets in Leura from 9am- 2pm on the first Sunday of every month to wander through the stalls of art, collectibles, gifts, crafts, and nibbles. Find the markets at Leura Public School on the Greater Western Highway.
Where to stay in the Blue Mountains
Camping in the Blue Mountains
The absolute best way to enjoy the Blue Mountains, in my opinion, is to stay right in the middle of the bush at one of the many free campsites throughout the region. Many of these sites position you next to awesome hikes or scenic lookouts, and they are a great way to maximise your time outdoors. Here are my favourite camp sites:
This is the best campground in terms of view (several lookouts right at the site) and convenience (close to town and near a number of other lookouts/hikes in the Blackheath area). If your camping gear allows, take the Blue Gum Walking Track to Acacia Flat Campground, another free and far more remote, walk-in only site in the valley
Facilities: Bathrooms (clean enough and with TP); passable mobile reception; fires not currently permitted
Blackheath Glen Reserve
Although there’s nothing special about this site, it’s still one of my top choices for camping, as it’s a beautiful location in the Megalong Valley, but still reasonably close to town. It’s usually considerably colder in the Valley than it is up in Katoomba, so pack more warm clothes than you think you’ll need— because you will need them.
Area: Megalong Valley
Facilities: Bathrooms (although they are far enough away that I usually opt for a bush, so I can’t comment on the cleanliness); campfires permitted, but be sure to keep them contained and put out with water before you leave; almost non-existent mobile reception, so do your planning before you arrive at camp
Old Ford Reserve
This is a lovely campground by the river, but it’s quite a drive into the Megalong Valley (8km past Blackheath Glen along the same road), so check that campground first to see if there is a closer option before you descend all the way into the Valley. This campground also joins up with the Six Foot Track, a great 50km hike in the region, so there are plenty of trails leaving directly from the site if you’re looking to explore more.
Area: Megalong Valley
Facilities: Toilets; fires permitted, many pits spread around the campground; right next to the lovely Megalong Creek; walk in via the Six Foot Track or drive in via Megalong Road
Other accomodation in the Blue Mountains
If you aren’t keen on camping, here are some other picks for other amazing places to stay in the Blue Mountains:
- Turon Gates Eco-Retreats: Glamping near Lithgow that is reportedly out-of-this-world beautiful ($200-300/night)
- Bubbletent Australia: Glamping-style transparent tents offer an insane view of the stars, totally unspoilt by city light polution ($300-600/night)
- Jenolan Caves Cottages: About 5kms from Jenolan Caves along the Six Foot Track, charming accommodation surrounded by nature ($100-500)
- Hydro Majestic: Prominent hotel with sprawling valley views, just out of Katoomba (Medlow Bath; $200-500)