hikes in the blue mountains Sydney feat

7 best day hikes in the Blue Mountains

We explore seven of the best day hikes in the Blue Mountains, or the “Blueys” as they’re affectionately known to “Sydneysiders”.

We were ready to head to the hills. We’d had a great time exploring Sydney and climbing the Harbour Bridge, but were keen to get back into the outdoors. And so we ventured from our comfy dwellings at Mantra on Kent in Sydney for a day trip to The Blue Mountains.

A haven for stressed-out Sydneysiders, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains National Park features a dramatic plateau of sandstone cliffs, deep gorges, eucalypt forests and a profusion of rare and threatened plant and animal species. It’s a prime example of Australia’s natural beauty and biodiversity and, at 65km from Sydney, is just a short drive or train ride from Australia’s largest city.

The Blue Mountains take their name from a surreal slate-coloured haze that clings to the landscape. It’s said that the Blue Gum trees secrete a fine mist of oil that forms the blue-ish hue.

The mountains are home to a network of hiking trails that are easily accessed by car or train with multiple stations linking the park directly to downtown Sydney. We take a look at seven excellent day hikes in the Blue Mountains, all easy to explore on a day trip from Sydney by car or train – preferably on a working day to avoid the weekend crowds.

1. Round Walking Track

Distance: 1.2km
Duration: 0.5-1 hour
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Train station: Katoomba
More info: nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

Hikes in the Blue Mountains Sydney Round Walking TrackAtlas & Boots

The iconic Three Sisters rock formation

If you do only one hike in the Blue Mountains, then make it the Round Walking Track of the Katoomba escarpment. The trail is short and sweet but provides great views of the iconic Three Sisters rock formation and the Katoomba Falls. It passes through a lush rainforest gully with numerous lookout points offering panoramic views of the park.

2. Leura Cascades Fern Bower Circuit

Distance: 4.5km
Time: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Train station: Katoomba / Leura
More info: nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

The view from across the Bridal Veil Falls

The Leura Cascades Fern Bower Circuit hugs the imposing cliff line that rings the scenic Jamison Valley. The trail plunges beneath a stone arch and crosses creeks and footbridges before cresting a clifftop with a dramatic lookout positioned above the Bridal Veil Falls. From here the track descends steeply into the rainforest, then climbs back up the slopes of the valley via steep steps.

3. National Pass

Distance: 4.5km
Time: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Train station: Wentworth Falls
More info: nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

The steep Grand Stairway leads to the bottom of Wentworth Falls

Cut into the side of the cliff, the National Pass is one of the most spectacular day hikes in the Blue Mountains. The walking track offers unrivalled views of the park’s many natural wonders.

As well as boasting spectacular views of Jamison Valley from the opposite side to the Leura Cascades Fern Bower Circuit, the National Pass trail also showcases the cascading Wentworth Falls. Perhaps the most impressive feature of the trail is the vertiginous Grand Stairway, built by hand in the early 1900s, leading to the base of Wentworth Falls.

4. Grand Canyon Walk

Distance: 6.3km
Duration: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Train station: Blackheath
More info: nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

Australia’s version of the Grand Canyon

One of the more historic hikes in the Blue Mountains, the Grand Canyon Walk loop track begins at Evans Lookout near Blackheath. The half-day hike is well-shaded throughout thanks to the abundant native vegetation of ferns and golden wattles. The trail follows Greaves Creek for much of the route which means water – in the form of creeks and waterfalls – is never far away. This track can be combined with the below Cliff Top Walking Track for a full day’s hiking.

5. Cliff Top Walking Track

Distance: 6km
Time: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Train station: Blackheath
More info: nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

The view along the valley from Evans Lookout

The Cliff Top Walking Track is another excellent half-day hike. Famed for its birdwatching and wildflowers (especially in springtime), the Cliff Top Walking Track is more exposed, sunnier and warmer than the Grand Canyon Walk. Depending where you start, the track will either begin or end at Evans Lookout where you can join the Grand Canyon Walk for a full day-hike.

6. Ruined Castle Walk

Distance: 6.6km (return)
Duration: 4-5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Train station: Katoomba
More info: nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

There is a steep scramble up to Ruined Castle

Escape the crowds on one of the quietest hikes in the Blue Mountains. Very few day trippers make it out to the Ruined Castle Walk. The trail begins at the Golden Stairs, some distance from the train station so a car is the best way to access the trailhead. The historic mining route is harder than the previous hikes on this list and includes a steep scramble with some rock-hopping past large boulders on its final approach to the impressive Ruined Castle.

7. Federal Pass

Distance: 13km
Duration: 5-6 hours
Difficulty: Hard
Train station: Katoomba
More info: nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

Hikes in the Blue Mountains Sydney Round Federal PassAtlas & Boots

Federal Pass offers alternative views of the Three Sisters

The historic Federal Pass is the most challenging day hike on this list but deeply rewarding. The track follows the base of the cliffs from Leura all the way to Ruined Castle showcasing an excellent cross-section of Blue Mountains National Park: forests, waterfalls, gullies and the iconic rock formations of the Three Sisters and Ruined Castle.

At 13km one way, the track is strenuous in both length and terrain. Hikers can either complete a 26km round trip or cut the hike short by returning to the Golden Stairs at the beginning of the Ruined Castle Walk.

hikes in the Blue Mountains map

Use the map below to plan your day hikes in the Blue Mountains.

Hikes in the Blue Mountains: The essentials

What: Day hikes in the Blue Mountains from Sydney, Australia.

Where: We split our time in Sydney between Mantra 2 Bond Street and Mantra on Kent, both of which offer apartment-style accommodation in excellent locations.

Mantra 2 Bond Street is in Sydney’s CBD (Central Business District) and walking distance to the city’s major sights. The Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge are a 15-minute walk away while Circular Quay and The Rocks can be reached in a mere 10 minutes. Wynyard train station is two minutes away, making this an excellent base from which to explore Sydney’s sights.

The apartments themselves are stylish and supremely comfortable. The executive studio apartments are split-level and open plan with a sunken lounge, marble bathroom and fully equipped kitchen – if you’re inclined to cook that is! A rooftop pool and spa and lobby cafe and bar complete the hotel’s excellent set of facilities.

Mantra on Kent is less opulent but just as comfortable. Our modern one-bedroom apartment offered expansive views across the city and easy access to Darling Harbour five minutes away, as well as Chinatown 10 minutes away. The stylish hotel has an onsite restaurant, business meeting rooms and 24 hour reception. All apartments offer wifi as well as kitchen and laundry facilities. With Town Hall station 100 metres away and Wilson parking available (at a fee), Mantra on Kent is a convenient and comfortable way to explore Sydney and beyond.

Mantra Hotels offer accommodation across the entire country – a safe bet for comfortable lodgings in excellent locations.

Atlas & Boots

When: The best time to visit Sydney and the surrounding area is Sep-Nov and Mar-May. This avoids the peak season of Dec-Feb and offers comfortable temperatures with manageable crowds.

How: The easiest way to reach the Blue Mountains from Sydney is by car (we recommend Hertz Australia). The national park is a 90-minute drive from Sydney and parking is available in several locations. There is a fee of $8 AUD ($6 USD) per vehicle per day in the Glenbrook area.

To reach the Blue Mountains from Sydney by rail, take a train from Central Station in Sydney to Katoomba (2 hours on the Blue Mountains Line) or the stations specified under each hike above. Check timetables on the Transport for NSW website. Foot passengers can enter the park for free.

More information can be found on the official parks website.

Book domestic or international flights to Sydney via Skyscanner for the best prices.


Australia is a huge country. If you prefer to pass on the planning, we recommend G Adventures and their small group Australia tours.

Lonely Planet Australia is a comprehensive guide to the country, ideal for those who want to both explore the top sights and take the road less travelled.

Lead image: Dreamstime

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