The Blue Mountains are a destination renowned for its mountain biking, bird watching and hiking. The latter is what pulled me to the area. Stunning views, multiple waterfalls, and plenty of opportunities to get in some cardio made the Blue Mountains impossible to pass up as a fitness travel option.
But the mountains are vast. Even with several days available, I couldn’t cover it all. So we began with Wentworth Falls, a 3-tiered, 614 ft waterfall. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site that is just 59 miles from Sydney.
Y’all. It’s worth the drive.
To access Wentworth Falls, we began at the Undercliff Track trailhead. The trail itself is impressive. It begins on a descent towards Wentworth Falls, weaving through the canopy of eucalyptus trees. The rich, dark soil soon gives way to rock. The trail takes you through one of the creeks that will ultimately create the waterfall. (During wet season, prepare to get reeeally wet!)
I made my way gingerly across the creek. The wind was so strong that it pushed spray back up the waterfall, creating beautiful rainbows just along the rim. But at the top, you can’t see the waterfall itself. So keep going!
The trail takes you down the side of a cliff face. This is one of the few areas with guardrails, and for good reason. A notable portion of the trail is carved into the cliffside.
How? Fun story: when the nearby coal mines became unprofitable, unemployed Irish miners sought work with the park service (which was just getting started). They were joined by prisoners from England and put to work carving out the trails. The design was created by a crazy Frenchman (can’t find his name for the life of me) who descended the cliff faces using ropes and a saddle. While dangling from the cliffs, he made the sketches that– quite miraculously– would become the blueprint for the miners. The miners and prisoners then chiseled walkways out of 50 million-year-old sedimentary rock.
A walk through the woods at the Blue Mountains is nice. A walk along the cliffs is magnificent!
During my hike, the winds were “wild” as the locals say. The wind was so strong that it pushed the entire waterfall back up the cliff! The water looked like ribbons of silver swirling up the side of the mountain. I was not disappointed at all by the lack of water “falling.” It was unique and I was happy to witness an upside down waterfall for the first time.
The track descends so that we could pass under the waterfall. But since no water was falling, I didn’t realize that we were under the falls at first. It just looked like one of the many wind-blown caves in the cliffs.
In several places along the trail, it’s easy to see the clay pigments that Aboriginal artists used in their paintings and rituals. With a bit of water or animal fat, these pigments can stick to and even penetrate cave walls.
Opposite the falls, we encountered the micro-climates. These nooks of rain forest-like foliage rest in the erosion channels that run vertically along the mountains. Inside these damp havens, the birdsong increased as the winged jewels darted around in the canopy. It felt like a entirely different park.
Depending on the time that you have available, you can hike for days in the Blue Mountains. For a sweet day hike full of views, I recommend The Undercliff Track. It’s an easy 2.2mi hike that can be extended to a moderate 3.1 miles with the Wentworth Pass Loop.
THREE SISTERS IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS, MINUS THE WAITING LINE
The Three Sisters is a natural monument that is popular with tourist. The stone pinnacles overlook the beautiful Jamison Valley. The story associated with them is disputed, but it’s claimed to be of Aboriginal origins. Summary: Creepy guy from opposing clan wants to marry one of the leader’s three daughters. Leader refuses. Creepy guy promises to wage war. Leader goes to spiritual guide, pleading to protect his daughters and avoid war. Spiritual guide says he can’t stop the war but he will turn the daughters to stone so that they’re safe until the war is over. Spiritual guide turns the women into stones– but then he is killed in the war. There is no one to release the girls from the spell.
While you can hike to the Three Sisters, there are also two great options for when you are short on time (or on your way somewhere else, which was the case with us). If you go through most tour groups, they will take you to the main outlook. It’s packed. There is always a line for a few seconds at the lookout to take your picture and move on.
Instead, we went took Cliff Drive to see the Three Sister from Hawk Lookout. I enjoyed it because there are also expansive views of Mt. Solitary rising up in the center of Jamison Valley. There were a few people at the lookout but no line and a much more chill atmosphere.
Wind Eroded Cave + Anvil Rock Lookout
For our second hike of the afternoon, we headed north to Anvil Rock outlook. Very few tourists make their way to Anvil Rock and the surrounding park. That’s precisely why we went. And I’m quite glad that we did.
After rambling over a dirt road for 2k, we arrived to an uneventful parking lot. We were met with two trail heads. One leads 400 meters towards Wind Eroded Cave, a massive scoop cut out of rock that towers about 300ft overhead.There are great views of Mount Bank and the Grose Gorge.
Its banded layers of sandstone, iron, and sediment illustrate the location’s complex geographical history.
Wind Eroded Cave is massive. It’s impossible to capture the entire thing in one shot from the ground simply because the trail is too close to the base of the cave. Any farther out and, well, you fall off of a cliff and into the bush. But this is the best I could capture. It’s huuuuge.
After returning to the parking lot, we took the opposite trail head to Anvil Rock. The main trail meanders 4.9 miles through the Blue Mountains, offering marvelous glimpse of Grose Gorge throughout. Finally, we arrived.
From this trail, views of the rock aren’t impressive. Recent bloggers have said it was named anvil after the anvil that was place there in the 1940s. Peter, who showed me the rock from a distance at another location (picture below with the anvil on the right), points out that there is an anvil-shaped rock in the area.
I figured out why many travelers avoid this area unless they’re with a guide. There are gaping holes in the rock that plummet hundreds of feet to the valley below. Cool to look through from a distance but parts of the rock can be unstable so don’t get too close, of course.
In any case, the rock is hardly the attraction. Climb to the top.
A series of stone steps give way to metal stairs. The climb ends on a flat platform surrounded by guardrails. But in spite of the unnatural accents, the view is breathtaking. Grose Gorge plummets beneath your feet for miles, winding in every direction. Sydney rises in the distance, a hazy blue stack of columns that’s lovely even from afar.
Though its off the beaten path near Blackheath, the views at Anvil Rock can’t be beat (especially on a clear day with good visibility). I recommend taking the time to check it out.
Get the Local Perspective
There are miles of trails that will take you through the Blue Mountains. But the hike is so much cooler with an insider’s perspective on scenic spots, local flora, fauna, and history. Even if you don’t normally do that sort of thing, I recommend it. Contact Peter via Airbnb. He grew up on the area and offers tours to help travelers get to know the land like a local.
During Peter’s tour, we hike about 7 miles on easy to moderate terrain. It was definitely worth it to see the awesome features of Australia’s Blue Mountains.