This is one of my favourite walks in the Blue Mountains because it rates so highly on all the measures of what make a walk great. It’s very well maintained; there are spectacular views at the beginning, middle and end; the scenery is surprising and awe-inspiring all the way; it’s a loop track, which means you don’t have to do car shuffles; it gets your heart pumping; it’s a good distance, lasting about two-and-a-half hours (three hours or more with stops) and last but not least there’s a café (with views) at the end of the climb out that does decent food – so there’s a reward spurring you on up those final staircases.
The only drawback, if you consider it a drawback, is that it’s very popular, so be prepared to pass – or be passed by – many other hikers. One tip for avoiding a crowded track is to go early (pre-10am) before the tour buses arrive.
Where to start
The way I like to do it is to start at the Wentworth Falls picnic area. There’s plenty of parking there.
After gawking at the view from Jamison Lookout, head left towards the Falls.
If you’ve got a bit of time up your sleeve you can get to the Falls via Princes Rock Lookout, which is one of the few spots that gives you a view of the actual waterfall (there’s a signed turn-off to the right); otherwise stick to Wentworth Falls Track, which takes you directly there.
You get another opportunity to see a full frontal of the Falls at Rocket Point. This sidetrack begins just after you first cross the water for the first time and will add on about 15 minutes to the walk.
From this junction it’s a very steep descent (the tallest outdoor staircase in Australia) to the midsection of the Falls. If you’ve got bad knees, don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Across the cliff
A lovely traverse follows, where the track is literally cut into the side of the cliff, and overhead at various points it looks as if some enormous thing has taken giant bites out of the sandstone.
The National Pass was actually created between 1906 and 1907 by a group of Irishmen using picks, shovels, crowbars and dynamite. Spare those brave fellas a thought as you teeter between the rockface on one side and a sheer drop on the other.
The climb out
The climb out begins with a pretty crossing of Empress Falls. This is also the endpoint of Empress canyon, and if you’re lucky you might see some canyoners doing daredevil leaps into the waterfall pool.
The upward hike takes about half an hour and, as promised, The Conservation Hut café greets you at the top with hot chocolate or ice-cream or whatever takes your fancy. If on a budget, I’d suggest grabbing a sandwich to go and sitting at the picnic tables nearby (it’s about half the price for takeaway).
To finish it’s a 20-minute walk back to the car along Shortcut Track, the turn off for which is a little way down the track towards Empress Falls from The Conservation Hut.
And there you have it – a beautiful walk and you’ve still got most of the day left to do more exploring, or to simply put your feet up…
So, what did you think? Did you walk it and love it? Or what’s your favourite short walk in the Blue Mountains? Let me know in the comments.
- Time: 2.5–3 hours (if reasonably fit); over 3 hours if taking breaks.
- Distance: 4.6km
- Climb: 773m total uphill
- Getting there: Turn off the Great Western Highway onto Falls Road; follow Falls Road to the end, turn right onto Sir H Burrell Dr and park at Wentworth Falls picnic area.
- Style: Circuit
- Parking: Parking available.
Feature image: Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0