Google ‘best day walks in the Blue Mountains’, and you’ll get a pretty solid hit list; ranging from 15-minute strolls, though to full-day mountain climbs. But, most, if not all of these walks will have two starting places; Scenic World, or Wentworth Falls.
What you might not see mentioned too often is Leura Cascades. Kind of like the awkward middle child, the cascades are sandwiched between their bigger, brighter and shinier siblings; Wentworth Falls and Scenic World.
This is a good thing, though, so shhhhhhhh. They fall under the radar of the common tourist, remaining peaceful and lush, with heaps of parking, no rubbish, and a great base for several unique trails in the mountains. Read on for three great walks that start from the cascades.
1. Prince Henry Cliff Top walk towards Echo Point and Scenic World
Starting with the easiest of the options, the cliff top track, named in honour of the third son of King George V and Queen Mary, was completed in 1936 to help boost tourism post-depression.
It follows the cliff edge (hence the ‘inventive’ name), staying high above the valley and offering some of the best lookouts and vistas of the Blue Mountains. Moderate in intensity, it’s mostly flat, with only a few small ups and down’s following the natural landscape all the way towards Scenic World.
Finishing at Scenic world will give you the chance to rest in their coffee shop and tuck into a pastry for some fuel, before returning to your car.
Length: 7km one-way
Time: 2-3 hrs, depending on how many photos you take.
Intensity: Easy – Moderate
Highlight: Sometimes the most popular things, really are the best, e.g. The Three Sisters. It involves some stairs, but head down to your left just before echo point (it’s signed, don’t worry) to cross the bridge between the rock formations, for a serious “Wow, I’m really small, and the world is really big” moment.
2. Prince Henry Clifftop walk towards Sublime Point Lookout
Surprisingly, this walk isn’t mentioned anywhere, despite being a real ‘bang-for-your-buck’ track. It combines several shorter walks into one; offering cliff tops views, lush rainforest gullies and even a beautiful waterfall into a tranquil pool.
Start at Leura Cascades (duh!), but this time, head left and follow the signs to Gordon Falls, which then becomes signs to the Lyrebird Dell trail. Along the way, you’ll stop at the pool of Siloam, a shady, cool little waterfall that offers the chance for a little splash and paddle.
Leaving the Pool behind, you’ll head out towards Golf Link lookout. This is surely one of the more under-visited lookouts in the Blue Mountains; take some time out to sit and enjoy it please, and then hop back up and follow the ‘Grand clifftop walk’ (yep, I really wasn’t kidding about the combining a bunch of short walks into one big one) out to the road.
You can certainly turn around at this point, but if you wanted to keep going, you’d need to head towards the Fairmont resort. Stick on the Sublime Point road for a bit, then turn left, just before the resort (don’t worry, you’re allowed to walk here) and join up with Lillian’s Bridge Walk. Connecting onto Valley of the Water’s track (yes, another ‘short walk’), you’ll casually pass by a few more waterfalls, finishing at the Conservation Hut.
You can rest, refuel and learn a little history if you’d like, before reversing the whole thing back to Leura Cascade.
Length: 8km one-way
Time: 3-4 hrs
Intensity: Moderate – challenging; some steeper ascents and descents.
Highlight: The local knowledge required for this trip. As it’s combining so many different tracks, you can’t actually google this walk. You heard it here (exclusively) first!
3. Fern Bower track, down to federal pass and the Three Sisters
Finishing my list with the hardest of the tracks, this stunning circuit will take around 3-4hrs to complete, and involves some serious climbing.
This time, we’re heading down into the valley, following the cascades right to the bottom to reach Leura Forest; a shady oasis that was once home to a popular tea house. You can still find the foundations of the tea house and rest under the historic rotunda.
Double-check you’re on ‘Dardenelles path’ when you leave (there are a few options) and follow the windy track to the base of the Golden stairs. From here, it’s a steep climb to the top, but there are several rest points along the way with rewarding views – it’s worth it, trust me! At the top, turn right and follow the signs along the Prince Henry Clifftop walk, which will take you right back to your car at Leura Cascades. This is certainly one of the best Blue Mountains day walks you can do!
Length: 5km circuit
Time: 3-4 hrs
Highlight: Along Dardenelles path, stop for a moment to listen. The beautiful bellbirds are numerous through here, and it’s also not uncommon to spot a lyrebird scratching away!
A little about Leura Cascades
Now, before you rush out to start trekking around, stay a moment longer to learn a little about the history of the cascades.
Already natural watercourses down into the valley, the Leura Cascades was turned into the Leura/Katoomba Baths in 1913. If you start walking down the stairs, near the weirdly wonderful ‘cave’ toilets and stand on the grass, you’ll actually be standing inside one of the pools, and would have been underwater 100 years ago. There is a small and very faded information board that can help explain this a little better, and the picture below can also give you an idea.
The baths were constructed as a tourist attraction, and due to their popularity, the first road connecting Leura and Katoomba was built to help tourists and locals to access the area easily. Of course, segregation was imperative, and there were two pools, one for males and one for females, which was located where the kid’s playground is now.
Unfortunately, despite some extensive research, there isn’t much more known about the pools, and no one recorded when they were closed down and why.