Six Foot Track (day 3): Cox River to Explorers Tree
The third and final day of our Six Foot Track adventures takes us through misty Megalong Valley and the lush rainforests leading up to Explorers Tree in Katoomba, where we have only a short journey back to the car and then onwards to Sydney for much-needed showers. Even without the dramatic sandstone cliffs and sprawling valley views that you’ll find on most other walks in the Blue Mountains, this trail has proven to be scenic in its own way and full of unexpected adventures. An Easter Long Weekend to remember!
Trail stats: Cox River to Explorers Tree
Distance: 17.5km (including yet another wrong turn)
Trail time: 4.5hrs
Highlights: crossing the Bowtells Swing Bridge (again); hiking through misty Megalong Valley; steep but beautiful stair climbing up to Explorers Tree
After a positively blissful sleep at the Six Foot Track Eco Lodge, we are feeling energised and ready to hit the trail for our final climb out of the valley. Sadly, every article of clothing I was wearing yesterday, as well as my hiking boots, are still sopping from the rainstorm, so I get dressed rather reluctantly. We profusely thank Pavel, the owner of the Lodge, for his incredible hospitality last night and set off around 830 towards the Bowtells Swing Bridge (which we are crossing for the second time in two days, due to our poor navigation last night). Thankfully, we now know to take a right at the fork immediately after the bridge, so there shouldn’t be a third crossing in the near future..
Once on the opposite side of Cox River, the morning is a mix of up and down along a narrow trail all the way to Megalong Valley Cemetery, whose nearby campground we had intended to stay at last night (despite the weather having different plans for us). It’s fairly cool this morning and the whole valley is covered in a thick fog, which lends the walk some mysterious vibes and also a very pleasant temperature.
Much of this section crosses through private land and farms, so we open and close gates or walk up stairs that sit over the fences every few minutes, all the while avoiding the sheep poo that sits in large piles near the path. Naturally, we manage to take a wrong turn at another unmarked fork and find ourselves on a private farm that is actually nothing to do with the Six Foot Track, setting ourselves back yet again. Surely it wouldn’t take much effort to just put a few more signs along the trail, I can’t imagine this is the first, or last, time some hikers have found themselves opening a gate onto a private farm thinking it’s part of the route..
Luckily, the elderly woman who hobbles out to see if we are lost is incredibly helpful in pointing us back on track, and her young grandson even rides alongside us on his kiddie motorbike to make sure we get to the track. Frustrated by wasting time walking in circles again (but more frustrated with the lack of signage), we are relieved to finally arrive at the campground in Megalong. We don’t hang around at all, but at least we know it’s only a further 8km to go!
The next few kilometres are beautifully sunlit and pleasantly level, which prepares us nicely for the final uphill climb to Explorers Tree. In no time, our leisurely walk is over and we arrive at the start of the stairs to begin our ascent, loudly praising our trekking poles (without which I’m not really sure how we’d get up some of the larger steps, apparently built for giants). The entirety of this climb is through vibrant green rainforest and past little waterfalls, providing a wonderful distraction as we huff and puff all the way to the end. Even as my calves feel like they’re on fire, though, I kind of enjoy this final physical push.
Within 1km of the end of our walk, we make a slight detour to the right to visit a lookout over the cliffs that neither one of us would have even noticed if not for the recommendation of a fellow hiker. It is a great view with which to celebrate the end of our 50km walk through the Blue Mountains. From the trailhead, we can’t find a route to get back to our car without walking on the shoulder of a busy highway, so we end up, somewhat shamefully, taking an Uber 2km down the road. As good as it felt to haul myself and my heavy pack up all those stairs, it also feels pretty amazing to take my still-saturated boots off and let my pruny toes start to dry out. My toes are basically one enormous blister, I smell very questionable, but I’m radiating the kind of happiness that only comes from the trail. Next stop, post-hike burritos!