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”. After seeing the trail sign one too many times at Evan’s Lookout, I finally completed this iconic walk on a recent visit the the Blue Mountains, joined by friends Lucy, Kayla, and Tam, and it did not disappoint.
Kayla & Lucy hopping along some stone steps
Enjoying the forest tranquility
All the details: Grand Canyon Loop Walking Track
Drive to the start of the trail and park in the designated Grand Canyon Loop carpark, just a few hundred metres from the start of the walk
Neates Glen carpark
7km, with a 1km walk from the Neates Glen carpark back to the Grand Canyon Loop carpark after emerging from the valley
2hrs, including frequent photo stops
Moderate, considering the short, but somewhat steep descent into the valley and the equally steep ascent back up
Spotty mobile reception, toilets located at the carpark
Food & water
No food or water at the start or at any point along the walk, so come prepared with a full water bottle
Begin the loop at either Neates Glen or Evans Lookout
6/10 for the beautiful waterfalls and unique scenery along the trail, but there aren’t many mountain views on this walk as you’ll spend the majority of the time in the valley
From the Grand Canyon Loop carpark, it’s just a short walk to Evans Lookout and the start of the track. After admiring the sprawling Grose Valley views from this popular lookout, follow the sign marked “Grand Canyon” to begin the walk along a seemingly endless string of wooden and stone stairs that lead somewhat steeply down into the valley. The descent takes about 30 minutes in total and is punctuated by ferns and various other flora reminiscent of Jurassic Park, so you’ll likely be too busy admiring the scenery to notice any pain in your knees.
The start of the track
A reasonably steep descent on stairs
Leaving the mountain views behind
The long descent
Once at the valley floor, another 20 minutes of walking parades you by increasingly lush foliage, beautiful bridges, a collection of sunny and shady picnic spots, and even a few waterfalls. There are plenty of still pools to dip your feet into on a hot day, but the bulk of this walk is actually in shade, making for a cool hike year-round.
Although the flow coming out of the various sets of falls was lower than I was hoping for on our hike (the previous day’s pounding rain mustn’t have been enough to noticeably raise the creek beds), there was still a trickle coming down the moss-covered rocks in several spots that made for some memorable scenery. After a proper rain, I’m sure some of these falls would be absolutely stunning, so I may have to make another trip out once the wet winter weather sets in.
Creek crossing on the Grand Canyon Loop track
Mellow drizzle from the waterfall
Lucy passing under one of the falls
After a leisurely walk along picturesque stepping stones and across little wooden bridges, the climb up and out of the valley begins; and, despite what is written on the NSW Parks website, this is a fairly continuous ascent rather than a series of short, steep sections. At any rate, there are plenty of canyon views to distract from the climb, and the whole ascent shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes. For the final stretch, huffing and puffing may begin in earnest as the trail switch-backs about 15 times to reach the cliffs at Neates Glen, but it’s still a reasonably graded trail that is more of a good workout than a true torture session (as many switchbacks can be). From the top, it’s less than 10 minutes to walk from the Neates Glen carpark back to the Grand Canyon Loop carpark or just another few minutes further to reach the carpark at Evans Lookout.
Ferns, ferns, ferns
The scenery begins to change as you climb higher
Lucy passing under the rocks
Overall impressions: Grand Canyon Loop Walking Track
Despite the waterfalls being less than thundering for our walk, I still found the Grand Canyon Loop track to be a beautiful day hike, showcasing a variety of natural scenery that is somewhat different than expansive valley and mountain views usually found along clifftop walks in Blue Mountains National Park. This relatively short and not overly demanding hike is the perfect addition to a weekend away, occupying less than a 2 hour time slot, but delivering far more than 2 hours’ worth of glittering waterfalls, serene rock pools, lush vegetation, and unique canyon views. Still, with time for only one hike in the region, I’m inclined to recommend the Prince Henry Cliff Walk over this Grand Canyon Loop track. But that just means it’s best to make time for both!
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