The Six Foot Track // All You Need To Know
The Six-Foot track is located in the beautifully stunning Blue Mountains of NSW and it is one track that is worth every step, every hill and even a scary swing bridge.
This is a 3 day, 45km hike that goes along an old historical Bridle trail which connects Katoomba to Jenolan Caves. The six-foot track will have you walking along some diverse terrain, from the very steep climb down from Nellies Glen through a lush tropical canyon, over rivers, creeks, through grassy farmlands up lots of steep hills and down lots of steep hills. You will travel on old dirt roads as well as crossing the Bowtell’s swing bridge.
On the trail, keep your eyes peeled for many different animals you could have the pleasure in meeting. There are Swamp Wallabies, Wallaroos, Kangaroos, Echidnas (saw signs of them but sadly not one) Wombats, Possums (ringtail and brushtail). There are also lizards like the Bluetongue and Mountain Dragon as well as many different varieties of birds like the Lyrebirds, cockatoos, honeyeaters and over 150 other species so a real feast for the eyes!
While we were walking we were fortunate to spot the ‘Nellies Glen Butterfly’ with it glorious markings of Yellow, brown and orange. You will find butterfly’s and dragonfly’s everywhere it’s a real treat. Do keep eyes peeled for the more not so friendly critters like the Red Bellied-black snake, Brown snake and the Copperhead. These fellers are protected and will bite so leave them alone and stay clear.
When you have a variety of terrain you get a variety of vegetation and I found this to be wonderful especially as some are native to NSW and I am from WA. There are Peppermint gums, the stunning (my favourite) Mountain Ash, which is found up on the high sandstone plateau and in the lower areas like Nellies Glen you will find Cedar Wattle, King Fern and the Black Wattle. Other sections along the way there are plenty of Banksia, Hakea, Acacia and the very distinctive and funny looking Scribbly Gum. The other gums are the Manna Gum, Forest Red Gum, Grey Gum and the Stringybark and River Oak.
Brief History of the track:
This area of NSW in the Blue Mountains was the original home to the Gundungurra, Daruk, Darkinjung and Wiradjuri people. These tribes lived a nomadic life along these valleys. The aboriginal name of Megalong is thought to mean “Valley under the Rock”.
The Jenolan Caves were discovered back in 1838 and the access to them were quite difficult. In 1884 the NSW Premier, Hon. Alexander Stuart, appointed a survey team to find a bridle route between Katoomba and Jenolan Caves. On the 24th March 1884, the team set out from Sydney to Katoomba then 11 days later ended at the Jenolan Caves. The track was constructed and made it possible for travellers to get to the caves in less than 8hrs.
By the 1930’s motor vehicles became a popular choice of transport and a road was constructed so the Bridle trail was left and parts reclaimed by farmers or converted into fire trails. In 1985 the Orange Lands Office remarked the track and made it possible for walkers to follow and enjoy the walk, though not all of this new track is the original a better part of it is.
Interesting places to note along the way:
- Explorers Tree– This is the remains of a tall eucalyptus at the start of the trail at Pulpit Hill and has the initials of the great Australian Explorers- Lawson, Wentworth and Blaxland carved into it reportedly from their 1813 crossing of the Blue Mountains.
- Nellies Glen– Starts at the top of the trail near the Explorers Tree and takes you down through lush rainforest to the Bonnie Doon Falls. This Glen was named after the daughter of a local Katoomba business man.
- Megalong Village- This site is on Private land that runs alongside the Six-Foot Track in the Megalong Valley. There is a plaque in memory of the village that popped up for the short time between 1885 – 1904 to accommodate the workers of the Gen Shale Mine.
- Megalong Cemetery- just a bit further down the track from the old village site. There is a small obelisk structure with the names of those buried there including the early settlers and aboriginal people. The last known burial was back in 1931.
- Bowtell’s Swing Bridge- was named after Corporal Robert Walter Bowtell and constructed by the 1st Field Squadron of the Royal Australian Engineers back in 1992. This is a swing bridge made of cable and wire that stretches across the Cox River for the times the river is high and flowing fast. If you don’t like heights or swing bridges then maybe take the alternative route.
What to bring essentials:
This is a 3-day wilderness track so be self-sufficient with everything one would require out in the wilderness for this time. Do include the following-
- Correct and up to date maps and a compass
- Sufficiently graded sleeping bag and sleeping mat
- Cooking equipment and food
- Water containers to carry up to 3litres minimum
- Head torch
- Wet weather gear and warm gear
- Spare clothes
- Hiking poles (although personal choice I would recommend for this track)
- A sense of adventure
Maps and guidebooks:
Always important to have up to date maps on any trail you walk as trails do change for various reasons from time to time. The other important thing that everyone should do is keep up to date with the weather and any alerts that maybe in the area of the trail you are walking. With the Six Foot Track, you can find this information on the National Parks site http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au You should also check out http://www.sixfoottrack.com as they have lots of information on the trail including interactive and printable maps and you can even purchase the book through them. The other map we picked up from a local outdoor store in Katoomba was really good and had helpful information on it. This has been put out by NSW Government Crown Lands.
We found the walk to be a well-marked trail even though there isn’t a lot of signs there is enough as the trail its self is well-defined. Never did we feel confused in any way to where to go, though we always recommenced you carry up to date maps and have some basic navigational skills.
Campsites and accommodation:
There are 3 campsites on this trail as well as an Eco Lodge, a homestead/lodge as well as some cottages.
The campsites available along the way don’t need to be booked and you will find they all now have the basic facilities of picnic shelters, drop toilets and water tanks, with Alum Creek just adding in a toilet and water tank, (though quite a small one).
As follows are the campsites. Most people take the three days of walking staying at Coxs River and Black Range though now I wish we slowed down even more and stayed at all 3 campsites as it would have been nice to explore more of the surrounding areas.
- Coxs River Campsite – 15.7kms from the Explorers tree.
- Alum Creek Campsite – 6kms from Coxs River Campsite and 21.7kms from the Explores Tree.
- Black Range Campsite – 13kms from Alum Creek Campsite and 19kms from Coxs River Campsite.
Great place to stop and very close to the Coxs River Campsite. The lodge is being developed as a true Eco Lodge and the new owners, Pavel and Lucie are doing a fantastic job.
- Kitchen, well equipped with all cookware, utensils, cutlery and glassware.
- A gas top stove, BBQ as well as a Pizza Oven!
- Fridge with soft drinks, wine and beer you can purchase.
- Drinking water is fresh from the rain tanks.
- There is a composting toilet and a camp shower as well.
- Two cabins that accommodate up to 28 people with bunks beds, bedding, a slow combustion fire and lounge area.
- Also, a private campground for a cheaper rate on the Cox River itself.
For information and current costs to stay visit their website http://www.6fttracklodge.com.
We found it hard to get information before we left about the water availability on this trail so we carried a fair bit with us. There is water but do be aware you cannot ever guarantee how much would be in the tanks, especially after a long dry summer. We were walking in April after summer and the rivers were still flowing, not hugely but enough. DO TREAT THE WATER! This is extremely important whether you get the water from the tanks or the rivers. To get sick while out on the trail is not a nice thing and there are no towns nearby. There is quite a range of water purifiers available on the market to use and the price can range from relatively cheap to very expensive, it’ your personal choice and do your research on what works best for you. We use the Micropur Forte Water purifier tablets (approx $38/per100) or even just boiling the water, do make sure if boiling it is a rolling boil for around 3 minutes.
Best time to go and weather:
It is important on any trail that you may attempt to check current weather conditions and more so when you start walking in areas like the Blue Mountains where it can change quite quick. The creeks and rivers in the Blue Mountains are prone to flash flooding without warning so be aware of this and please camp in allocated areas and not next to rivers, you might have a wet awakening.
Seasons in Australia are:
- Summer; December – February
- Autumn; March – May
- Winter; June – August
- Spring; September – November
Do not attempt this track in Summer as it is just too hot and risk of fire danger and dehydration is high. Winter you must be aware it can get quite cold and has been known to snow. As with most hiking the shoulder seasons of Autumn and Spring are the best times.
My personal suggestion on skill level is
- Have a good understanding of map reading (it is well signed but don’t ever rely on this on any track)
- Be track fit, be comfortable to carry a full backpack over consecutive days over some difficult terrain
Safety on the trail:
It is important to take responsibility for yourself when you embark on any journey. Take the time to Plan, Research and be Prepared. Don’t become a News Headline!
Steps you can follow for your safety-
- Plan, Research and Prepare. There is enough information available on the internet for you to find so take the time to find it.
- Register your planned route with the proper authorities, family and friends. Write down your itinerary and give it to them. Stick to the planned itinerary where possible. Register with the local police go to http://www.police.nsw.gov.au.
- Take an emergency Beacon (PLB) These can be borrowed for free from the local police stations if you don’t have your own. If you have your own please be sure to update your travel details on-line.
- Have a clear plan of the route and up to date maps as trails do change from time to time for various reasons.
- Carry sufficient drinking water and be sure to treat any water collected along the way correctly.
- Check and recheck track conditions and weather as these can change suddenly. You can find this information on http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au as well as http://www.bom.gov.au.
- Carry and wear correct gear for the type of journey you are on.
- Carry sufficient food as there are no shops along the way.
- Be aware that a far bit of this trail DOES NOT have mobile phone coverage.
For transport at each end of the trail we found very good although the trail head is approx 2.5kms out of Katoomba itself so be sure to count that part of the walking in when planning your trip.
Getting to Katoomba:
Trains run hourly from Sydney Central and go to Katoomba, get on the Blue Mountains Train Line (T1), this is approximately a 2 – 2 .5hr trip. Check out the timetable http://www.sydneytrains.info. Driving from Sydney you can take the M4 and Great Western Highway. This is approximately 100kms and would take about 1hr 45mins.
To get to and from Jenolan Caves to Katoomba you can book a one-way trip with Trolley Tours. You must book ahead and they do a one-way rate for the walkers. Go to http://www.trolleytours.com.au.
Driving from Sydney to Jenolan Caves you can take the A32 and Great Western Highway. This is approximately 190kms and would take nearly 3hrs.
Hope you find the information we provided on this trail helpful to get you on your way to Discovering The Six Foot Track.