How to Spend a Day in the Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains are one of the most sought after travel destinations in Australia, never mind NSW. I know this because it was on the top of my own travel list from the moment we arrived. Whether you are visiting to relax and explore or seeking some adventure, the Blue Mountains has just what you need. Hiking trails, waterfalls, canyoning, abseiling or even just to take in the vast scenery, the Blue Mountains is a must for a day trip from Sydney or even add to your road trip itinerary!

Before visiting any location I spend a lot of time researching and planning all the little details for our adventure. This is a fantastic little guide on how you can embrace your inner explorer and answer any other questions you might have!

Your 24 Hours in the Blue Mountains

Only 24 hours in this vast mountain range sounds pretty hectic doesn’t it? With so many amazing locations in Australia to visit we don’t always get the freedom to spend multiple days in every one. I promise you it is worth it and this guide will show you just how easy it is!

Quick Navigation
1. Are the Blue Mountains Actually Blue?
2. Are the Blue Mountains Worth Visiting?
3. How to get the to the Blue Mountains
4. Where to stay in the Blue Mountains
5. Catch a Sunrise
6. Take a Hike
7. Find a Waterfall
8. Wrap up: How to Spend a Day in the Blue Mountains

Looking out into a valley full of eucalyptus trees surrounded by the sandstone structures of the mountains.
A sea of green and blue.

Are the Blue Mountains Actually Blue?

This national park is full of varying shades of luscious greens for as far as the eye can see, so why is it called the Blue Mountains? It is actually because of some of these trees that the mountains get their name!

Throughout the park are hundreds, upon thousands of eucalyptus trees lining the cliffs and their valleys. The eucalyptus leaves emit oils as a fine mist. When this mist combines with water vapour and dust particulars in the atmosphere, the sunlight hits and creates the blue haze that we all see. This is caused by something called Rayleigh Scattering.

Are the Blue Mountains Worth Visiting?

Over the years there has been immense amounts of coverage in the media on the bushfires in the area. This has led a lot of individuals to wonder whether it is still worth visiting even 2 and a half years on.

A valley of green through the Blue Mountains, bright blue skies with fluffy white clouds.
Blue Mountains lookout in March 2021

We first explored the Blue Mountains back in March 2021 and even one year on the damage from the fires was extremely evident, but cast a glance on the other side of the trail and it was glowing green. Not all of the park was affected, and even the sections that were have recovered.

Many of us forget how resilient nature is and how a selection of plants thrive off fire, some even need fire in order to germinate.

Do you Have to Pay to Enter the Blue Mountains?

Out of a grand total of 889 national parks and reserves in NSW, did you know you only need to pay entry into 45 of them?!

During your visit to the Blue Mountains, there is no national park entry fee (yay!), but keep in mind that the Glenbrook area nearby will require a $8 per car fee during your visit.

The three sisters and the surrounding landscape.
Three Sisters

The national park may have no fees, but do keep in mind that you may still be required to pay for parking in the more popular spots, for instance the Three Sisters!

How to get to the Blue Mountains

By Car

To have the most freedom on your trip I would suggest travelling by car. Only a 90 minute journey along the M4 to Penrith. Once in Penrith the A32 will take you through some of the cute little towns in the Blue Mountains, Glenbrook, Springwood, Linden and Lawson. All on the way to Katoomba.

Wanting to hire a campervan for your trip? Head over to Cheapaz travel to get a great deal on multiple different vehicles, add in the code WILD for a cheeky discount too!

By Train

Don’t have your own car? Not to worry Transport NSW have plenty of train times available to get you on your way for your Blue Mountains day trip!

To arrive in the National Park from Sydney it will take around 2 hours, with plenty of stops to choose from. Check out the time table here to find out which time would best suit your plans!

By Bus

Visiting during the school holidays or on a Saturday? You are?! Make sure to check out the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus which runs every hour from Katoomba. It is an easy and care free way to explore the national park. The bus stops at 37 main locations around Katoomba and Leura, from hiking trails to waterfalls, art galleries and cafes. They have all the stops you need for your adventure in the mountains!

By Tour

The Blue Mountains has a lot of areas to see and activities to do, it can be a bit overwhelming planning a trip if you are just not sure where to start. Check out these different tour options giving you the best experience of the Blue Mountains.

Don’t forget to add the code WILD at checkout for some extra discount!

Where to stay in the Blue Mountains

We decided to stay at the Katoomba Falls Tourist Park for our trip as it is located right next to the Katoomba night lit walk. A 1.3km walk that winds around the scenery of the Katoomba falls, all lit up at dusk until 1030pm each night.

The park has cabins, camping and spaces for caravans all ready and waiting for your stay. The staff were friendly, clean amenities and a large kitchen too. If you are looking to stay for a night or two, this would be my recommendation.

Our adventures are always from our van, so my personal recommendations are normally great caravan parks, head to visit blue mountains for some great tips for other places to stay in the area.

Catch the Sunrise

Golden sunrise light shining on to the cliffs on the left side, with clouds in the valley below
Govetts Leap Sunrise

If you are arriving in the Blue Mountains the night before, you should start your 24 hours with a gorgeous sunrise. Trust me the park has plenty of spots to choose from.

We chose govetts leap to start our day, only a 20 minute drive from Katoomba Caravan park so not too far to drive in the dark. There might be quite a few people ready and waiting for the sunrise too, it won’t harm getting there a little bit earlier to secure your spot!

We arrived earlier enough to sit in the van with a cuppa tea waiting for the perfect moment to assume the position.

There are a few other lookouts that are recommended for sunrise, obviously we only had time for one but check out the list below for some other locations.

Echo Point

The Three Sisters Lookout

Sublime Point Leura

Take a hike

Where to even start, the Blue Mountains is just FULL of hikes varying in difficulty and distance.

Here is an extensive list of all the hikes you could include in your 1 day itinerary. Depending on your fitness, and the type of trip you are looking for I would recommend a minimum of 2 hikes from the below, to experience different areas of the park in all its glory!

Hanging Rock

View on Hanging rock framed by two trees
Hanging Rock

Distance: 15km round trip from train station or 10km return from car park

Time: Around 2 – 2.5 hours

Location: Blackheath

We started our day with the longest hike Hanging Rock and Baltzer Lookout, hoping to hit the trail before other hikers had even started their day. If travelling by train get off at the Blackheath railway station, walk down the Great Western Highway past the Motor Inn and turn onto the Ridgewell road and it will take you to the start of this track! If travelling by car, drive along the Ridgewell road until you reach the car park at the start of the trail.

From the train station it is about a 15km round trip, but so worth it. Walking along the fire trail surrounded by the Blue Mountain forests, you immerse yourself in the nature surrounding you. We came across a huge red kangaroo, he was so shocked he looked like he hadn’t seen a human before. Up on his hind legs he just kept growing, I won’t lie it was extremely intimidating. After standing still and watching him for 5 minutes, he lost interest and hopped on his merry way. 

Views of the green valley and brittle sandstone cliffs.
End of the fire trail

With it being a fire trail, the track was wide and well maintained. You could see the effects of the bush fires on our left and thriving bushland on our right, it was such a contrast. 

The views at the top were extroadinary, the early morning light perfectly matched the colours of the valleys up ahead. But no hanging rock? This is very clearly the end of the trail, where do we go next?

On all of our hiking trips we always use the app, it works on GPS so even in the most remote of areas, we can see where we are. They have lots of walking trails included on the app too, and of course it showed us where we needed to go. Down on our left hand side there was a pretty steep trail heading down off the cliff edge. Being me, I was extremely nervous, the idea of traversing the side of a cliff does not appeal to me at all but we had already walked all this way. 

Orange Sandstone of hanging rock in the distance with Sarah.

It wasn’t as close to the edge as expected and it took us down to a gorgeous lookout of hanging rock. A spectacular natural phenonemon.

I have seen online that some people walk all the way around and actually jump the gap to standing on the rock itself, I could not say enough that this is very dangerous and most certainly not worth it. These natural lookouts are definitely made to be enjoyed from afar. 

Three Sisters

The three sisters standing tall looking over the green Jamison valley.
The famous three sisters

Distance: 0.8km boardwalk

Time: 45 minutes

Location: Katoomba

The Three Sisters speak for themselves, the most iconic view of the Blue Mountains, known all across the world as a highlight of the trip to this region. 

The viewing platform for this tourist attraction includes a lovely board walk, only 0.8km and provides a lovely stroll looking out to the three sisters from many different lookouts. If you include time enjoying the view this little walk will take about 30-45 minutes. My advice for this is definitely pick your timing, 100% of tourists will visit this location whether that be via a coach trip or personal, it will be full of people.

During our time there COVID restrictions were just starting to ease, and to my surprise it wasn’t that busy!

If you want to do a little bit more exploring around this area there are a few other walks you can take. 

The Giant Stairway

Distance: 998 stairs!

Time: Around 1.5 hours to the Scenic Railway depending on fitness.

Location: Katoomba

As you pass Echo Point lookout of the three sisters you can continue walking to the start of the Giant Stairway. This is a track that takes you down 998 stairs to the base of Scenic Rail with Honeymoon bridge along the way. Honeymoon bridge will take you onto the first of the three sisters.

The stairs are down the side of the cliff which can feel very daunting at first but once you get going the views are fantastic.

We only took the stairs down to Honeymoon bridge as we didn’t have enough time to keep going, and after a long walk already in the morning we weren’t sure our legs could take it!

Always make sure to check the local alerts to see what tracks are open/closed within the area.

Dardanelles Pass Loop Walking Track

Distance: 5.3km loop hike

Time: 3 hours

Location: Katoomba

Want to walk even more? The bottom of the Giant Stairway will take you to the start of Dardanelles pass, this is definitely for the more adventurous among us. A 5.5km loop walk at the bottom of 998 steps, this track will take you through the Leura forest, with gorgeous scenery and wildlife to spot.

We didn’t do this extra hike as we didn’t have time, but when planning your trip it can always be an extra add on!

If taking this hike in the wetter months be aware that there are leeches found in this area, make sure you keep your legs covered. Salt is a great tool for repelling these pesky leeches.

Lincolns Rock

Sarah standing on the white lincolns rock looking into the green jamison valley in the distance
Lincolns Rock

Distance: 25 metres from car park, if that!

Time: 15 – 30 minutes, depending on how long you enjoy the scenery

Location: Wentworth

I would say this is more of a lookout rather than a hike, but it is spectacular. Lincolns rock is a short meander over a glorious white rock over looking the never ending valleys below. This was one of my favourite spots, I can’t quite pinpoint the reason why. Maybe it was the fact no-one else was there, or the valleys that felt like they went on forever. I highly recommend this spot.

Please be cautious when walking around this rock, there has been fatalities over recent years due to slipping and losing footings near the edge. The view is just as good from 1metre back!

Wentworth Falls

A beautiful little township location within the Blue Mountains National Park, it is a spectacular location for hiking in the area with so many different trails to choose from. You can have spend an entire day just in this one area of the park.

Wentworth Falls Track

Cascading water flowing over two different edges into a pool.

Distance: 1.5km return

Time: 45 minutes

Location: Wentworth

You can’t go to Wentworth Falls without hiking down to the falls themselves! On the way down from the car park there are several lookouts on the way, including fletchers lookout which give stunning views of the valley beyond. Once passed this lookout you will descend a bit further to get to the top of the falls, with cascading water on your left, and the dramatic drop of the falls themselves on your right.

Water flowing over the edge of the cliff into the pool below
Wentworth falls

If you continue a bit further along you will reach the start of the National Pass walk which gives you incredible views of the waterfall itself!

National Pass

Sarah getting a photo on a trail created within the cliff, holding on to the rail with the valley in the distance.
National Pass

Distance: When open it is a 4.5km Loop, if only the top section I would say 1km return

Time: 3 hour return for the loop, around 30 minutes for the upper section.

Location: Wentworth

Normally this is a 4.5km loop walk however when we did the walk only the upper section was closed due to rock fall, make sure to always check any updates on local alerts to see which tracks are open/closed.

The section we could walk along has actually been built into the side of the cliff which gives you epic views sweeping over Jamison valley. Out of this world!

Overcliff Undercliff Track

Distance: 3.5km loop, can be extended with parts of the den fenella and the nature trails

Time: 1.5 hours, if adding on extra trails can be around 3 hours.

Location: Wentworth

I really loved this hike, a more rugged feel and at one with nature. Everything you expect from the Blue Mountains can be found along this trail, immerse yourself in the rainforest and enjoy the scenic views and birdlife you can find along the way.

Valley of the Waters Track

Flowing soft water all the way down the image across several different rock edges.
Sylvia Falls

Distance: 3.4km return

Time: 1 hour

Location: Wentworth

This trail starts at the conservation hut and takes you on a waterfall adventure, always make sure to check the local alerts to see which parts of the trail are open/closed.

At the time of writing unfortunately the track is closed passed Sylvia falls but there are still two incredible waterfalls to see.

It is a relatively small hike that starts from the conservation hut, however it can be very steep in sections so make sure you wear sturdy footwear.

First up is Empress Falls, a popular canyoning spot in the area. It is amazing watching the adrenaline junkies traverse down through the flowing water from the falls.

Down some more steps you will meet Sylvia Falls, our favourite waterfall by far. The flowing water, sunshine coming through the trees above and a very well placed log at the bottom made for a picturesque photo.

Once the track re-opens you will also be able to reach Lodore Falls and Flat Rock Falls.

Nature Track

Distance: 3km loop

Time: 2 hours

Location: Wentworth

This trail also leaves from the conservation hut and takes you on another sweeping adventure of the surrounding rainforest. Waterfalls, pools, ferns and fabulous scenery make for an ideal walk for photographers. Along the trail keep an eye out for the elusive Superb Lyrebird.

The Blue Mountains are known to be one of the best places in the world to find this well trained mimic. They have been known to copy the sound of car alarms, chain saws and camera shutters to name a few. If you are on this trail and hear a car alarm, it will most likely be this bird!

We were lucky to catch a glimpse of a male walk across the trail in front of us, showing off his glamorous tail.

Den Fenella Track

Distance: 1km return

Time: 45 minutes

Location: Wentworth

Short on time but want to experience the luscious rainforest surrounding Wentworth falls? Then this hike is for you, descending into the valley you will find waterfalls, wildlife and heaps of greenery waiting for you to explore.

Don’t forget this can be added on to you Overcliff hike and also the Nature trail!

Katoomba Night Lit Walk

Katoomba Night Lit Walk

Distance: 1.3km

Time: 45 minutes return

Location: Katoomba

If you decide to stay at the Katoomba Falls Tourist Park you are a stones throw away from this 1.3km walk. You can still walk it in the day, but if you want to fit in as much as you can like we do, I recommend saving it for the night time. 

They have installed huge flood lights that light up the different attractions along the walk. We really enjoyed it. The walk does extend all the way to the three sisters but unfortunately it isn’t lit up the entire way.

Find a Waterfall

My top 5 waterfalls can all be found along some of the walking trails mentioned above!

Empress Falls

This is definitely one of the most beautiful falls in the park, in my opinion of course. In the deep rainforest of the park, you can feel the mist in the air from the water crashing down. Frequently visited by avid canyoners from near and far, it is a great activity to even watch from below.

You can then follow the water as it flows through the rocks and rivers below which will lead you to the equally as serene Sylvia Falls.

Sylvia Falls

If you make it to Empress Falls, don’t stop there! There is more waiting for you a few steps below and trust me you won’t be disappointed. Sylvia Falls is awe inspiring, the sheer size of it will surprise you considering you descend down the path next to it and stand right underneath it!

Flowing soft water all the way down the image across several different rock edges.

Truly incredible spot.

Katoomba Falls

This is a gorgeous waterfall that sometimes gets overlooked by visitors to the area. There is a stunning walk that follows the cliff above from Echo Point at the Three Sisters all the way to Scenic World, showing off Katoomba falls along the way.

This can also be viewed in the shadow of darkness under a flood light in the evenings, which is a really enjoyable way to experience the falls.

Wentworth Falls

One of the most popular spots within the park is Wentworth falls, this is a great spot to walk over and around this grandiose waterfall through the numerous different hikes in the area.

Bridal Veil Falls

On your trip to Govetts Leap you will not only be greeted with stunning landscapes and views that span for miles, but a single drop waterfall that descends 20metres to bull creek laying in the valley below.

It is a lookout not to be missed.

Wrap up: How to Spend a Day in the Blue Mountains

To wrap up, there are so many different options of things to do on your visit to the blue mountains. I don’t believe that it is a one itinerary suits all, it should be a design yourself trip based on your interests, but I do know a lot of you like to know how we did it and I have added a summary of our 24 hours in the Blue Mountains Below

Sunrise at Govetts Leap
Hanging Rock hike
Three Sisters lookout
The Giant stairway and Honeymoon Bridge onto the first sister
Katoomba Night lit walk

I hope this has given you all the details you need for your day trip to the Blue Mountains! Do you have any tips yourself? Any locations you wouldn’t miss that you have found on your own planning journey? Let me know in the comments below, I would love to hear from you.

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