Multi-day trekking in Sydney’s Blue Mountains: Everything you need to know about hiking the Six Foot Track
Spanning 45km of the Blue Mountains National Park from Jenolan Caves to Katoomba, the Six Foot Track was constructed in 1884 as a horse route between the two cities; exactly 100 years later, the track was opened to hikers and is now one of Sydney’s most popular overnight hikes. Setting out for two or three days, visit underground palaces of crystalline stalactites, explore lush and vibrant Megalong Valley, look up at towering sandstone cliffs, and camp out at pristine rivers, all within a 90min drive of the city.
After wanting to walk the Six Foot Track for many years, I finally ticked it off my list this Easter Long Weekend and had an absolutely amazing 3 days on the trail with my friend Barbara. It may not have the same wow-factor as some of the single day cliff walks in the area, but this is truly the best way to explore a variety of landscapes and discover what makes the Blue Mountains so special beyond tourist hotspots like Echo Point and Wentworth Falls. This guide contains everything you need to know about walking the Six Foot Track yourself, including how to get to the trailhead, details of the route, and information about campsites and facilities along the way— basically, everything I wish I’d known before walking the track!
Getting to and from the trailhead
Getting to Explorers Tree (Katoomba)
Driving to Explorers Tree
From central Sydney, it’s a 90min drive to the trailhead at Explorers Tree. There is a carpark here, but it can get really busy on the weekends or over the holidays, so you might have to park in town (if you’re catching a shuttle with TCP tours, Nyla will pick you up from wherever you park the car!). Turns out, it might be advantageous to park in town anyway— apparently some unsavoury types have cracked on to the fact that cars are being left unattended here for 3 days at a times, which means break-ins are becoming a concern. There’s a heap of free street parking on Bathurst Road where you can safely park for several days.
Taking the train to Katoomba
Trains run directly from Central Station to Katoomba Station ($6 by Opal Card or with Paywave). The journey takes 2 hours, but at least you don’t have to worry about parking the car anywhere! From the station, it’s about 3km to the trailhead at Explorers Tree, mostly downhill.
Transport between Jenolan Caves and Katoomba
It’s possible to begin the Six Foot Track from Explorers Tree in Katoomba or from Jenolan Caves, and although there is very little reason to choose one direction over the other in terms of track difficulty or campsite locations, I think starting at Jenolan Caves ultimately makes the most sense. Travelling this direction, you can shuttle to the start of the track in Jenolan and then, over the next 3 days, walk back to Katoomba Station or to your car and be ready to hit the road. Plus, without a specific shuttle time hanging over your head, your final day on the trail is far more flexible and enjoyable!
Getting from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves
TCP Day Tours: Usually, the shuttle picks up from Katoomba Station at 9.45am (catch the 7.23am train from Central) or from Explorers Tree at 10.15am (where you can park your car at the end of the trail) for $50 cash per person. If you’re the first one booking for a given date, though, the lovely woman who operates the shuttle will let you set any pick-up time and meet you right at your car (convenient if you’ve parked in town rather than at the trailhead). We told Nyla about our 10am Orient Cave tour and she made sure to get us to Jenolan Caves with the perfect amount of time! Call Nyla on 0424 188 779 to book.
Trolley Tours: Another option listed online is Trolley Tours, which operates a shuttle departing central Katoomba at 10.35am for $50 per person. I called this company several times to enquire about availability and it took them days to get back to me, so I would recommend this as a second option only if Nyla’s shuttle (above) is fully booked. Call 1800 801 577 to book.
Katoomba Taxis: At the time of writing, I was quoted $215 for a private taxi from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves (up to 4 people). Call 02 4782 1311 to book.
Getting from Jenolan Caves to Katoomba
TCP Day Tours: Shuttle picks up from Jenolan Caves House at midday and drops passengers at the Explorers Tree carpark and Katoomba Station, $50 per person. As I mentioned above, you might be able to pick your own time if no one else has reserved a seat on the shuttle yet. Call Nyla on 0424 188 779 to book.
Trolley Tours: Shuttle departs Jenolan Caves at 3.30pm and arrives at 5pm, $50 per person. Call 1800 801 577 to book.
Katoomba Taxis: At the time of writing, I was quoted $215 for a private taxi from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves and (I assume this would be comparable for a taxi from Jenolan to Katoomba). Call 02 4782 1311 to book.
Six Foot Track itinerary
Day 1: Jenolan Caves to Black Range Camp
Trail hours: 3hrs
Highlights: incredible scenery at Jenolan Caves, including Blue Lake and Orient Cave; aerial view of Carlotta Arch; wide and uncrowded track through the gum trees
Campsite: Black Range Campground
Day 2: Black Range to Cox’s Creek
Trail time: 4.5hrs
Highlights: trail opens up to sprawling views of the surrounding valleys; Alum Creek crossing; beautiful scenery at Cox River
Campsite: Cox River Campground
Day 3: Cox’s Creek to Explorers Tree
Trail time: 4hrs
Highlights: crossing the Bowtells Swing Bridge; hiking through misty Megalong Valley; steep but beautiful stair climbing up to Explorers Tree
What to expect on the trail
There’s a fair bit of “up and down” on this trail as you descend into the Megalong Valley and back up onto the cliffs but, for the most part, the terrain is easy to handle. Much of the trail is actually wide horse trails or even dirt roads, so it would be possible to do the entire hike in sturdy runners if you were so inclined.
The Blue Mountains region tends to be considerably hotter than Sydney in the summer and considerably colder in the winter, so the best time to do this walk, both in terms of weather and crowds, is during spring or autumn. It’s very possible that you’ll be caught in a torrential downpour, so I recommend watching the weather and aiming for a dry several days to at least minimise the chance of flooding on the trail or complete saturation of your tent (which happened to us, even though it wasn’t meant to rain). The best advice is just to plan for good weather, but prepare for awful weather.
Even when the weather is warm in the day during spring or autumn, be warned that the temperatures can dip dramatically at night. We were sweating on the trail and shivering at camp most nights. Bring plenty of layers and a warm sleeping bag.
All of the campsites have large rainwater tanks for you to fill up at— NSW Parks recommends filtering this water, but I didn’t have any issue drinking it straight from the tap. If it hasn’t rained in a long time, these tanks might be low or even empty, though, so it’s always smart to pack a filter in case you need to fill up from one of the many rivers or creeks instead.
Camping & facilities
There are 3 campsites immediately along the track (Black Range, Alum Creek, Cox River) and 2 situated just slightly off the track (Jenolan Caves, Megalong Cemetery). I can only speak for the 3 main campgrounds, but these all have large grassy fields to set up your tent, a map of the track, drop toilets (BYO toilet paper and hand sanitiser), and rainwater tanks. All of the sites are accessible by vehicle, which makes it easy to tackle the walk in sections if you don’t have a tent or want to carry a full pack. There is also a total fire ban, so you need to bring a camp stove to prepare your dinner.
Within 500m of Cox River campground, there is the Six Foot Track Eco Lodge where you can get a comfy dorm bed for $45 or even just pop in for a wine or beer ($5-7). We ended up staying here due to torrential rains on the second night of our walk, so I can highly recommend the lovely facilities and the amazing home cooking (we had kangaroo goulash and several glasses of shiraz).
Although this track at times feels to be a secluded walk, every single campsite along the trail has vehicle access, so you are never far from civilisation should you need help. There is pretty limited mobile reception along the track, but given the reasonable number of hikers passing through each day, I didn’t feel like we needed to carry any GPS or PLB for safety. Pack appropriate clothing for the weather, bring reliable hiking gear, and you should be totally fine.
Packing list for the Six Foot Track
Check out this post for all the best gear recommendations: BUILDING THE ULTIMATE OUTDOOR ADVENTURE KIT: THE BEST HIKING & BACKPACKING GEAR FOR WOMEN
- Hat + sunnies
- 2x short-sleeve hiking shirts
- Fleece— good for cold mornings and evenings
- Down jacket
- Rain jacket
- 1x hiking shorts or pants (whichever you prefer)
- Tights/polar fleece/trackies— for sleeping or lounging around camp
- 2x pairs hiking sock liners
- 2x pairs wool hiking socks (wear the first pair on day 1 & 2 and sleep in the second pair, and then wear the second pair on day 3)
- Sturdy hiking boots
- Gaiters— protect against mud/water in your boots
- Toothbrush + toothpaste
- Face/body wipes— mountain shower!
- Hand sanitiser
- Toilet paper— the campsites have drop toilets, but no paper
- First aid kit: anti-inflammatories, pain killers, antihistamines, antidiarrhoeals, bandaids, medical tape, elastic bandages, alcohol wipes, antiseptic, scissors, tweezers, needle, and anything else you usually bring
- Camera + extra batteries + power bank
- 50L hiking backpack
- Backpack rain cover
- 2-3L bladder
- Trekking poles— the trail can be really steep, so poles are a lifesaver
- Tent with rain fly
- Sleeping bag— recommended rating -5C or below, it can get really cold in the evenings
- Sleeping pad
- Camping pillow
- Camp stove
- 1 gas canister
- Cookwear: bowls, cups, cutlery, long spoon for cooking
- Food for 2 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners, and plenty of snacks (like nut bars, crackers, salami, cheese, beef jerky, tuna, hot chocolate, lollies, etc). For dehydrated dinners, try: Packit Gourmet or Backcountry Cuisine
- Water filter
- Check out this post for all the best gear recommendations: BUILDING THE ULTIMATE OUTDOOR ADVENTURE KIT: THE BEST HIKING & BACKPACKING GEAR FOR WOMEN
Other things to do in the Blue Mountains
Jenolan Caves tour
The perfect way to start (or finish) the Six Foot Track is by exploring some of the many caves in Jenolan and discovering the immense underground beauty of the Blue Mountains! There are dozens of show caves here, each with unique features; join a tour to check out some of the most popular caves like Lucas, Chifley, and Orient where you can walk (or, on the adventure tours, crawl) through intriguing formations and sparkling crystals. We visited the incredible Orient Cave on a 90min tour right before our hike and were totally stunned by its beauty! Although it’s the only tour I’ve done in Jenolan Caves, heaps of locals have said that it’s the most spectacular— grab a spot online for $47.
If you find yourself with some extra time in Katoomba, be sure to check out the exciting, if extremely touristy, Scenic World. Cruise down into the forest on the world’s steepest railway, wander through the ferns on a series of wooden walkways, return to the cliffs via the cableway, and then travel over towards Echo Point on the clear-bottomed skyway. Tickets are a bit pricey at around $40 for unlimited access, but it’s a great introduction to the Blue Mountains.
Viewpoints & lookouts
If you haven’t seen enough of the Blue Mountain’s iconic sandstone cliffs and abundant eucalypts, check out a few of the seemingly infinite scenic lookouts scattered throughout the region. Almost all tourists will stop at Echo Point in Katoomba for views of the Three Sisters, which I would definitely recommend, but some of my very favourite places to enjoy other (less crowded) views of the mountains are: Lincoln’s Rock (Wentworth Falls), Sublime Point (Leura), and Pulpit Rock (Blackheath).