One of the things I like the most about living in Sydney is that you’re able to exit this bustling metropolis of 5 million people and, within the space of 2 hours, immerse yourself within a pristine wilderness, such as that of Blue Gum Forest, in Blue Mountains National Park.
Overworked? Dispirited? Frenetic pace of Sydney-life getting you down?
Then a 2-day hike in the Blue Mountains wilderness area is exactly what you need to get you back to your fighting best.
Day One: Evan’s Lookout
The hike starts at Evan’s Lookout, approx 6km outside of Blackheath. After taking in the spectacular view over the Grose Valley you commence your descent.
And it’s a pretty quick descent.
Say good-bye to your mobile phone reception; you won’t be able to text anyone or check social media until you climb out of the valley tomorrow afternoon – it’s a hike and digital detox rolled into one. 😀
The path quickly drops into a moist gully filled with tree ferns, lichens, and mosses.
The profusion of tree ferns in this gully (see photo below) is the effect King Ferdinand II was trying to reproduce in his Fern Garden at Palácio da Pena in Sintra, Portugal. I’m not entirely sure that King Ferdinand II achieved this feat, but after coming here you’ll understand why he was desirous to do so.
This part of the track is used by hikers completing the popular Grand Canyon walk; you’ll notice the quality of the Blue Gum Forest track degrades significantly as soon as you leave the Grand Canyon walk.
The sign posts on the Blue Gum Forest trail can be a bit cryptic at times; at the first intersection you come to you’ll want to follow the arrow pointing in the direction of Rodrigues Pass.
If you’re ever unsure which way to go, just remember that throughout Day One of this hike you should be following the creek downstream.
If you notice that you’re going against the flow of the stream; then you’re heading the wrong way.
The first time I undertook the hike to Blue Gum Forest it hadn’t rained in a while and this little waterfall was almost dry.
It rained heavily the night before Kirbs and I commenced this hike in January 2019, and the Falls – approx. 10m in height – were looking quite healthy.
After Beauchamp Falls the track becomes less of a track and more of a boulder field to be scrambled over. Slippery boulders too.
And all the time you are climbing down.
Do your best not to think about the climb out tomorrow.
The valley eventually flattens out – actually you’re still descending, just not as steeply – and the creek widens into a charming, tea-tree-stained brook.
The sandstone cliffs you were standing atop not all that long ago now tower overhead.
At Junction Rock you’ll encounter a series of rocky cascades accompanied with plenty of decent swimming holes.
The good news is: you’ve already completed the bulk of the day’s hiking (only about 1hr 15min to go to Blue Gum Forest), so relax and enjoy yourself.
The following section of the hike is probably the least interesting of all as you are pushing through thick scrub for the most part.
You are still treated to the occasional glimpse of the sandstone escarpment above though. 🙂
Acacia Flats Camping Site
You made it!
Remove your hiking boots, whack up your tent, and cool off in the creek.
There are lots of friendly eels in the water (all harmless). Some of the eels are so friendly they’ll happily swim alongside you.
Blue Gum Forest
Just beyond the Acacia Flats camp site is Blue Gum Forest.
Young folk today look at the Blue Mountains wilderness area and imagine that it has always been protected from those who would wish to do it harm. But that just isn’t the case.
Blue Mountains National Park was only established in 1959; before its inception everything within this wilderness area was up for grabs.
The stand of blue gums that comprise Blue Gum Forest – with their amazingly straight trunks; just perfect for telegraph poles – fell under the gaze of the logging industry in the early 1930s.
Fortunately for us, local conservationist, Myles Dunphy, managed to raise the funds necessary to buy Blue Gum Forest and save the trees.
It’s time to start the long and slow hike back to civilisation.
Having consumed most of your food by this stage, and downed most of your water, your pack should be considerably lighter than it was yesterday and thus you should be able to power back to Junction Rock.
There are two ways back to Evan’s Lookout from Junction Rock:
- return the way you came; and,
- return via Govett’s Leap
Kirbs and I opted for the latter.
From Junction Rock the track quickly begins to gain elevation.
Expect to be slick with sweat throughout this climb as the sub-tropical rainforest you’re marching through – all those pretty tree ferns and lichens and mosses – makes for one humid environment.
Govett’s Leap Falls
You’ve arrived at the base of Govett’s Leap Falls.
Just have a couple hundred metres of sheer cliff to climb and you are out of the valley.
From the bottom of the Falls it looks impossible that an ordinary hiking trail could navigate its way up the cliff.
But the trail is there; it’s just camouflaged, hidden beneath thick swathes of overhanging vegetation.
Govett’s Leap Falls has a 180 metre drop (by the way, leap is an old Scottish word for a waterfall), and to get out of the valley you’ll have to climb that height, and then some.
Eventually you’ll crawl into Govett’s Leap carpark, emerging amongst hundreds of day-trippers – it’s a very popular lookout, especially on weekends – who have driven to the lookout in air-conditioned comfort.
Expect a few of the day-trippers to be unimpressed to be mixing it up with bedraggled, sweat-soaked hikers .
You’re almost done. From Govett’s Leap follow the clifftop walk back to Evan’s Lookout. It’s only 3 km, but it’s a long, long, long 3 km on weary feet.
Before you know it you are back at your car. And that’s it. All done.
Your time in the verdant Australian wilderness is over. You can return to work refreshed and rejuvenated. 🙂
Practical information and how to reach Blue Gum Forest:
I accessed Blue Gum Forest via Evan’s Lookout and Govett’s Leap, but there are many different ways to approach this hike. If you’re willing to walk the extra few kilometres (or get a taxi) from Blackheath station, then it’s possible to get to Blue Gum Forest by public transport.
Make sure you comprehensively research and plan the hike before setting off. Smart phone maps, even offline maps, won’t be of much use. All the info you need to plan the hike can be found here.
My favourite hikes:
Mount Villarrica, Chile – hike to top of 2840m volcano, toboggan down