The Blue Mountains, New South Wales
See forests filled with towering eucalypts and pretty fern gullies and then descend to experience majestic underground caves, on this historical track from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves.
By Ellie Schneider
WHAT TO EXPECT
- See one of the largest underground cave systems in the world
- Experience untouched ancient rainforests
- Walk the original 1884 horse track
- Time: 3 days
- Distance: 45 kilometres (28 miles)
- Transport: On foot
- Nearest City: Sydney
- Price: $
DAY 1: KATOOMBA TO MEGALONG VALLEY
Start the walk at the heritage-listed Explorer’s Tree where Gregory Blaxland, William Charles Wentworth and William Lawson, the first settlers to cross the Blue Mountains, carved their initials in 1813. The track meanders for 1.2 kilometres (0.7 miles) past peppermint and grand mountain ash trees before dropping sharply through the steep cliff walls of Nellie's Glen. This cool rainforest is home to coachwood, black wattle, cedar wattle, king fern and many rare shrubs and ferns. For a different view, take a one kilometre (0.6 mile) side-trek to Norths Lookout to see the Glen in all its glory, or go to the lookouts above Devils Hole, where you can see the sunset through Narrow Neck. Walk past Bonnie Doon Falls, as it cascades down the cliff face, and through the rainforest and Sydney blue gums of magical Megalong – an Aboriginal name thought to mean "valley beneath the cliffs". The indigenous Gundungurra people, traditional custodians of the Blue Mountains and surrounding areas, moved between Megalong and other valleys along Dreaming pathways. See the site of the last recorded Gundungurra corroboree and a cricket ground where Aboriginal teams played the Megalong settlers in the 1890s. A sign marks the abandoned shale mining village where up to 40 settler families lived between 1885 and 1904. Camp overnight at Old Ford Reserve – 8.3 kilometres (5.2 miles) along Six Foot Track – a picturesque camping ground nestled beside Megalong Creek.
DAY 2: MEGALONG VALLY TO COXS RIVER
From Old Ford Reserve, continue across the rolling green hills of Megalong Valley, taking in the historic Megalong Cemetery, with its old headstones hidden among the trees. Walk on past stands of scribbly gum. The strange markings on the trunks are caused by insect larvae feeding under the bark. The track winds along the steep-sided sandy banks of Coxs River which is a great place to refresh yourself on a warm day. Afterwards, you can picnic in the shade of river oak and forest red gums, listening to the warble of bellbirds, cockatoos and lyrebirds. To cross Coxs River many walkers choose to take Bowtells Swing Bridge. Built by army engineers in 1992, it can be crossed by only one person at a time. If the bridge is too daunting, there is a river crossing. On the other side, you can rest in Coxs River campsite or Six Foot Track Lodge, two cabins with bunk-style accommodation.
DAY 3: COXS RIVER TO JENOLAN CAVES
The final day on Six Foot Track is the hardest, so prepare for a challenging climb over the Mini Mini Saddle to the track’s highest point on the Black Range. Grab your breath and some gorgeous views before the level walk along the ridge line. You’ll pass Little River, a tributary of Coxs River, and then the Alum Creek campsite. Wind your way along beside Jenolan Road, past trees of grey gum, stringybark and the blackwood after which the Black Range was likely named. See the timber cottages of Jenolan Caves perched on the hill, before you begin your final descent into the labyrinth-like Jenolan Caves, one of the largest underground cave systems in the world. Visit nine different caves with guided multilingual tours available. See the Lucas and Imperial caves and marvel at the delicate crystalline decorations of Orient cave. Step over underground rivers and past prehistoric formations. Join a ghost tour to learn about indigenous legends about the caves, or enjoy a monthly cave concert in the Cathedral Chamber, with natural acoustics and fairytale ambience. After two nights sleeping rough, you can reward yourself with a night in a grand hotel or comfortable bed and breakfast, such as the 100-year-old Jenolan Caves House.
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