With scenery more dramatic than a Kardashian family dinner and as rugged as Chuck Norris’ jaw line, the Blue Mountains National Park is an incredible sight to behold. Packed with experiences that cater to all adventure palates, the Blue Mountains really are at the epicentre of adventure in New South Wales.
Here are our five favourite spots in the Blue Mountains for a bit of adventure.
#1 Canyoning at Empress Canyon
Like an adventurous cocktail you can slurp in the Peruvian hilltops, canyoning combines a dash of rock climbing, bush walking and abseiling to give you an immense rush, sometimes with spiritual revelations too! The aim is simple: Simply follow a river, stream or tributary that cuts its way through the mountains. However, unlike a bushwalk down by a peaceful creek, you will be scrambling, climbing, sliding, jumping and rappelling down waterfalls and navigating through steep ravines.
With over 100 unique and magical canyons to choose from, there is something for everyone willing to set foot into this vast network, much like the pioneering explorers of yesteryear.
Empress Canyon—with its 30m waterfall abseil at the end—is a perfect place to start for beginners. Please note that canyoning is a high risk activity, so if you’re new to it contact the crew at BMAC who will tailor something special for your group—the instructors have conquered more canyons than we’ve had hot dinners, so you know you’re in safe, albeit calloused hands.
#2 Hiking and Wild Swimming at The Pool of Silolam
There are few more rewarding experiences out there than working up a sweat on a mystical bush trail and then finding a remote watering hole to throw your clammy self into. The Pool of Silolam and Lyrebird Dell are two such refreshing head clearers!
Both are quite easily accessible—the quiet track off Carleton Road provides the jaw-dropping views of the Three Sisters. There’s an easy 1.5km circular route joining the two swimming spots together with the Gordon Falls Picnic Area but the track opens up a world of possibilities for more adventurous hikers as it connects with several trails that cover a large area of the Blue Mountains.
#3 Mountain Biking on The Oaks Trail
This 28km track connecting Woodford and Glenbrook is favourite among people with a hankering for an adrenaline injection. Suitable for novice-level riders, the fire trail weaves through towering forest and along scenic plateaus with views across the Lower Blue Mountains valleys.
It’s also easily accessible from Sydney: catch the train from Central to Woodford (1.5hrs, $5), hire a bike from Blue Mountains Bikes if you don’t own one ($69), lunch and a beer in Glenbrook ($20), train from Glenbrook to Central ($5). Arguably the best $100 you’ll spend this year.
#4 Liloing at The Colo River
If you’re feeling intrepid and you’re searching for a unique outdoor experience that shifts the wacky gear up a notch or three, then this maybe just what you’re looking for.
Not for the fainthearted, liloing (paddling water on an air mattress) is world away from an inflatable flamingo in your local swimming pool. Essentially it involves carrying your essentials in a waterproof bag and following the course of a river from A to B (which can be as near or as far as you desire). In terms of the Colo River, car-pooling is best for the overnight adventure. Leave one car at the end of Bob Turners Track, and take another car to the starting point at the end of Grassy Hill Fire Trail (Canoe Creek Track).
In all seriousness, this one is riddled with potential risks at certain times of the year, so ensure you’re prepared! If an overnight trip is a little intimidating, then find your ‘river-legs’ on a more gentle stretch of water first.
#5 Caving in The Jenolan Caves
This is the perfect pint-sized microadventure where, for a few hours, you can be guided on a fun, safe but slightly claustrophobic version of underground yoga.
The underground wonderland of the Jenolan Caves is an intricate labyrinth of tunnels, caverns and crevices; its mesmeric limestone stalagmites, stalactites and crystal formations have been formed over millions of years leaving caves that are like a living fossil documenting the eons but still changing, growing, forming and crumbling today.
If you’re feeling brave, the River Cave and Off Track Tours will take you into some of the more inaccessible, rarely visited caves. So throw a harness and headlamp on and delve deep into the mountain’s subterranean paradise.
Image credit: Henry Brydon