The Magical Blue Mountains 6 Foot Walking Track
It may not have the most romantic or compelling name, but the Blue Mountains’ 6 Foot Track is one of the most magical walking trails you’ll find anywhere in the world. Just 26 miles long, it is short enough to traverse in an Australian “long weekend” (3 days), but beautiful enough to linger for a week or more while you explore the cliffs, trails and water courses around the many established campgrounds along the way.
The 6 Foot Track was originally built in the late 19th century as an alternate route from Katoomba to the Jenolan Caves. At the time, it was a bridal trail and was simply called the 6 Foot Track because that was how wide it was. After cars and buses came into common usage in the 1930s, the track fell into disrepair and became unsuitable for horses. In the early 1980s, enterprising Blue Mountains officials decided that it was time to resurrect the track for hikers and in 1984, it was reopened to the public. To celebrate and publicize its reopening, the inaugural Six Foot Track Marathon was launched that year, too. Today, it is regarded as one of Australia’s top 5 marathons and is the only one that is run entirely offroad.
The track begins with a descent first down a fire trail and then down a series of steps at the Nellies Glen staircase. The wooden and carved rock steps are usually a little slippery here because water is always running down the cliff face at the side. Just take it easy here and remind yourself that marathon runners often have their race cut short when they try to descend the staircase too quickly.
Once you reach the bottom of the staircase, it’s relatively easy going and you can relax and enjoy the view of the sandstone cliff faces of the Narrowneck plateau. As is true throughout the Blue Mountains, these cliffs are popular with rock climbers from around the world.
You’ll pass through verdant farmland, stretches of untouched bush and stands of trees as you walk parallel to Megalong Creek. The going is pretty easy here until you pass the old Megalong cemetery and head steeply up to Pinnacle Hill. For many, this is where the real magic of the 6 Foot Track begins. From here, you will be undertaking steep climbs and tricky descents down into valleys and, depending on the rains, ford ankle deep to waist deep creeks and streams.
When you finally arrive at Jenolan Caves House, you will have a chance to rest up, but don’t miss the opportunity to take the short but spectacular Carlotas Arch Track. It’s a steep trail, but at the top you’re rewarded with sweeping views of the Jenolan Valley.
Because 3 days just isn’t enough for everyone, many hikers prefer to turn around and return to Katoomba along the 6 Foot Track. If you choose to do this, it’s probably best to book your Blue Mountains accommodation first, so you are sure to have a comfortable place to stay upon your return. As one of Sydney’s most popular weekend getaway spots, accommodations can fill up fast, especially in summer, when Sydneysiders go to the Blue Mountains to escape the summer heat.
Rob enjoys getting away to the Blue Mountains and other national parks around Australia.