National Pass, Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains
If you’re looking for a bushwalk that offers you a big dose of Blue Mountains beauty, a decent challenge without being utterly defeating and can be completed easily as a day trip from Sydney, then look no further than the National Pass in Wentworth falls.
The National Pass is one of my favourite walks in the Blue Mountains because it combines all the things that make the mountains so special and unique. It offers spectacular valley views; a variety of scenery including ferny grottos, sandstone cliffs, cool water holes and of course a couple of stunning waterfalls, including Wentworth Falls itself (who doesn’t love a good waterfall!). It’s a popular and well-maintained track with various detour options and it’s a good length to be not too short but not too long.
Personally, I like to tackle the walk in a clockwise direction, starting from Wentworth Falls Picnic Area. There are several reasons for this: firstly, there’s plenty of parking; secondly, instead of climbing up the horrendously steep cliff side steps, we climb down them, which is challenging on the knees but easier on the heart and lungs (apparently it’s the tallest outdoor staircase in Australia!) Thirdly, the climb out from the Valley of the Waters at the other end lands you at the doorstep of the Conservation Hut, a lovely café with views and decent food, where you can offset the calories you’ve just burnt on the hike!
Additionally, the National Pass is one of the few Blue Mountains walks that can easily be accessed by public transport. Catch a train to Wentworth Falls station, cross the highway and take the Charles Darwin Walk beginning at Wilsons Park on Falls Rd. where you can retrace the footsteps of the famous naturalist who walked this track in 1836. It will take you just over an hour to reach the Falls from here. If you’re planning a day trip, factor in an hour walk back to the station.
The signs say that the National Pass will take you between 3 and 4 hours but if you’re reasonably fit, and don’t stop for too many photos, you can smash it in 2-2 ½ hours. If you have some time up your sleeve I recommend taking the Rocket Point circuit detour. This gives you a great frontal view of the falls and will add about 15 minutes to your walk.
At the end of the walk, from the Conservation Hut, you can backtrack to your car via the easier level short-cut track or if you’re bushwalking appetite is still not satiated, try the overcliff/undercliff track back to the car park.
The only down side of walking the National Pass is that the track can get quite busy on the weekend, but if you plan your walk early (before the 10am tourist buses arrive) or take off after lunch (particularly in summer when you have the benefit of the extra sunlight hours) you may find the track less crowded.
One weekend, as I was walking the National Pass in Wentworth Falls, I met an Old Italian Nona leaning against a tree trunk, having stopped to catch her breath. We got chatting. She told me she did the entire National Pass almost every weekend by catching the train up from her place in Western Sydney, walking along the Charles Darwin track, joining the National Pass and walking back to the station to catch the train home again. The National Pass had become somewhat of a pilgrimage for her, ever since her husband died many years ago. We chatted a while walking and she told me how she and husband used to come together when they were young, pointing out places along the way that had special memories for her.
If you’re walking the National Pass one weekend, look out for her and say “hi”. I’m sure she’s full of great stories.