Waterfalls & Wanderlust
The Blue Mountains, located in New South Wales, Australia, are steeped in rich history and natural beauty. Dating thousands of years back, the Gundungarra and Darug tribes were the traditional custodians of the Blue Mountains area. They hunted seasonally and took shelter in the caves and the region holds great significance for them. Their connection to the land can still be observed today in various rock art or cave shelter sites. There is also a rich history of the early settlers who were quick to explore this mountain range and set about building trains and roads all the way back in the 1800s. It's a marvel to see the mark they have left behind and how the area has progressed since.
Only a 90-minute drive from Sydney, the Blue Mountains are a popular tourist destination. However, don't be deterred, as there are over 140km of walking trails to discover for yourself. The Blue Mountains are a UNESCO world heritage site and geologically date back approximately 470 million years. That's 10 times older than the Grand Canyon! We visited in the middle of summer, however it had been a wet summer and the days leading up and during our trip were rainy. We were lucky enough to spend a few days exploring some of the waterfalls hidden amongst deep canyons and rushing over rocky plateaus to come up with a list of 7 Must See Waterfalls In The Blue Mountains.
1. Centennial Glen Waterfall
How To Get There: The closest town in the Blue Mountains is Blackheath. From there you will need to drive to the end of Burton Road and park there.
Distance & Duration: There and back distance is 3.6km along the same path or 5.2km to do the Porters Pass Loop. We did the loop and it took us around 3 hours with a few photo stops.
From Burton's Road take Porter's Pass Track. You will descend roughly 300-metres elevation and walk through rocky ledges and down into ferny forests. The track was quite wet when we walked, but not too muddy. You will cross a small creek with a metal handrail and then the track continues along Colliers Causeway.
There are occasional sign posts with direction arrows to follow along. From there follow the base of the towering red sandstone cliffs until you get to slippery dip falls. This is where the track starts to get really exciting as you climb up the stairs right alongside the cascading falls. Once you reach the top of the falls another sign will direct you left into the canyon. You will need to crouch under the overhanging canyon wall which will take you to your first breathtaking view of Centennial Glen Waterfall. The curving slot canyon makes for a spectacular sight with picturesque fallen log and ferns growing on the canyon walls.
If you're feeling brave, take a refreshing dip in the pool below the falls. When we went it was way too cold to be tempted into a swim. Be careful in the canyon as all the rocks can be quite slippery due to the constant mist and moisture down there. If doing the loop, follow Centennial Glen Track back up to Burton's Road.
The track isn't very wide or well maintained in areas and isn't paved or gravelly. It is rocky, uneven and there are tree roots and overhanging branches to navigate so make sure you're prepared with decent footwear. The experience felt beautifully untamed especially as we only passed two other people on the trail. Less than two hours from Sydney, one of Australia's most populated cities, we were pleasantly surprised to find such peace and wilderness on this trail.
Cascading falls against a red sandstone backdrop capture the imagination. (Images courtesy of All About Adventure)
2. Empress Falls
3. Sylvia Falls
How To Get There: From Wentworth Falls township, park at the Conservation Hut Day Use Area and get onto the Valley of the Waters Track.
Distance & Duration: This track is only 550m to Empress Falls and an additional 100m on to Sylvia Falls. It should take around 2 hours allowing yourself plenty of time to rest and enjoy the views of these spectacular falls. If you're in a rush though, you should be able to complete the return walk in an hour.
Park at Conservation Hut Day Use Area. This car park is quite small and can fill up quickly on weekends so we recommend getting there early in the day or mid-week. Start down the steps until you reach Queen Victoria Lookout. On a clear day you can look out into the valley below with the quintessential Blue Mountains orange sandstone plateaus rising up on either side. Continue down until you reach Empress Falls Lookout. Unfortunately, there isn't much of a view of the falls yet but you can definitely hear them thundering.
Take the steep metal staircase with handrails on either side, before passing under a waterfall and descend down the side of falls as the surrounds change from eucalypt forest to rainforest. Passing through tall trees and dark green ferns you descend one more time to a series of stepping stones that take you right to the base of the impressive Empress Falls. We were lucky to have had some rain leading up to our arrival so they were flowing very nicely. We even got to watch a group of abseilers rappelling to the bottom of the falls.
From Empress Falls, follow the Valley of the Waters Track for a further 100 metres to reach the charming Sylvia Falls, a beautiful 15-metre high cascade. The track does continue on from there to several other falls, however when we visited it was closed past Sylvia Falls due to rockslide damage. From Sylvia Falls it is just a matter of going back the way you came, though this time it will be mainly uphill!
The beauty of Empress Falls and Sylvia Falls. (Images courtesy of All About Adventure)
4. Asmodeus Pool
5. Flora's Bath
How To Get There: The closest town is Wentworth Falls. From there you can park on Bate Street at the trailhead. Follow the Nature Track.
Distance & Duration: The track to Flora's Bath is 2km return. Both Asmodeus Pool and Flora's Bath are 50m off the main Nature Track and nearly visible from the path. The walk should be easily completed in 1 1/2 hrs return though can be much longer if like us you like to stop and take photos of the awe-inspiring scenery.
From Bate Street, the Nature Track begins its descent down a gravel path and stairs. You will come to a small metal bridge over a creek and then it continues to a lookout point at Edinburgh Castle Rock. Make your way towards the valley as the surrounds become denser and lusher. Continue descending until you reach some stepping stones over a beautiful clear creek. Cross the creek and you will see a small wooden sign saying Lillian's Glen. Behind this sign you will see a small worn trail. Follow this for 30 metres and then you climb over a boulder onto the sandy beach of Asmodeus Pool. Nestled within an ancient canyon with mossy walls, this charming waterfall feels like something out of a fairy tale.
After returning to the main path continue along the trail for another 60 metres and as you go to cross the creek again head up to your left and you will see Flora's Bath, a small cascading waterfall framed by dense ferns. From here ascend along Nature's Trail the way you came to get back to Bate Street.
Jamie. (Images courtesy of All About Adventure)
Fern-framed pools are the stuff of fairy tales. (Images courtesy of All About Adventure)
6. Minnehaha Falls
How To Get There: The closest town is Wentworth Falls. From there we parked on Minnehaha Reserve car park. Follow the Minnehaha Track from the car park.
Distance & Duration: This was a fairly easy path with a few steep and uneven sections at the end. The walk was 2.4km return and took us about an hour return at a leisurely pace.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
From the car park there is a gravel path making its way slowly downwards. When we were there in summer and just after some rain there was plenty of flowers along the side of the track and we saw a few small dragons and skinks as well. After about 15 minutes walking you come to a great lookout over Minnehaha Falls and then descend a few steep staircases. Continuing on you skirt the edge of a cliff and then make the final descent to the pool at the bottom of the falls. We went in the middle of the day on a Saturday which is obviously the busiest time to go and it was quite crowded.
On a warm day the plunge pool at the base of the two-tiered falls makes for a great spot for a swim and a scenic spot for a picnic lunch. On a quieter day than we experienced, Eastern water dragons have also been spotted sunning themselves on the rocks. The return walk just follows the way you came in and is an ascent the whole way.
Minnehaha Falls. (Images courtesy of All About Adventure)
7. Middle Wentworth Falls
How To Get There: The closest town in the Blue Mountains is Wentworth Falls township. From there you will need to drive to Wentworth Falls carpark off Falls Road.
Distance & Duration: To complete the return trip to Middle Wentworth Falls is 2.6km and takes about 11/2 hours return. It is a short but very steep hike.
The track from the car park firstly passes two lookouts, Jamison's Lookout and Wentworth Falls Lookout. We had been having some very misty weather which luckily cleared up to blue skies and sunshine the day we did this hike. The views from the two lookouts reach to Wentworth Falls on the left and down through the grandiose valley below. Passing the lookouts a short walk takes you to Upper Wentworth Falls and you cross Jamison Creek next to Queens Cascade which feeds Wentworth Falls itself. Taking the National Pass Track you will reach the start of the Grand Stairway. This incredibly steep staircase zigzags its way down the sheer edge of the cliff leading down to the base of the waterfall. This stairway is said to be the tallest outdoor staircase in Australia. It was carved out by hand over 100 years ago in the early 1900s with picks and shovels and the help of some dynamite.
With your legs burning you arrive to the gorgeous view point of Middle Wentworth Falls. The water hurtles over the edge of the cliff in an impressive display as you enjoy the misting spray from the pool below. The track does continue on the National Pass Trail down the Slacks Stairs to reach the very bottom of Wentworth Falls, however it was also closed when we visited due to landslides caused by wet weather and flooding. After enjoying the waterfall views and a snack we made our way back up the vertical staircase to the carpark. We would highly recommend visiting these falls early morning and mid-week to enjoy it with less crowds. It is a very popular tourist site and deservedly so as it features an imposing waterfall and the Grand Stairway itself is a spectacular feat of craftsmanship.
The gorgeousness of Middle Wentworth Falls. (Images courtesy of All About Adventure)
For More Wanderlust
We hope you enjoyed our recommendations for the Blue Mountains and that you find it useful in planning your next trip out there! For more adventures around Australia follow us on Instagram @all.about.adventure
All images supplied by All About Adventure