The Six Foot Track is one of the easiest multi day hikes in the Blue Mountains. I had a spare week in Sydney before heading to Tasmania for some hiking and cycling. I headed up the to Blue Mountains west of Sydney to walk the famed Six Foot Track. The original horse path between Katoomba and Jenolan Caves. Its popular among bushwalkers as a relatively easy introduction to hiking. Little navigation skills are needed, comfortable campsites with water, toilets and flat sections for pitching the tent. Sure its 44km long and there are some hills but its all relatively manageable for anybody of average fitness level. Its also possible to complete the track with the assistance of public transport, which is a bonus for me.
I caught the train to Katoomba and had lunch in town. By 12pm I was fed and watered and ready to go. What I didn’t count on was the weather being above 30 degrees. Blue Mountains is known for its milder climate.
Day 1 Six Foot Track
It was about a 3 kilometer walk from the Train station to Explorers tree, which is the official start of the track. I headed along Main street and the Great Western Highway. From the explorers tree the track heads to Nellie’s Glen and the gully that funnels hikers into the Megalong Valley.
It was thankfully shady and cool, but still a steep decent. Once at the bottom it was a long trudge through fire trails and farmland to the banks of the Coxs River. Would have been great to mountain bike this section, with stages of awesome singletrail but they are banned from this area.
At the Coxs River I choose to walk across the swing bridge. It was erected to make it easy to cross the river during floods. Then another short walk of about 20 minutes to the campsite.
Camping at Cox River
I was surprised when I arrived that there was nobody else there. It was 5.30pm. For such a well known, accessible hike I expected there to be at least a couple of hikers there, and it was a Friday night so how many people might be having a long weekend. As I started from Katoomba at 12pm, surely there was nobody else behind me.
About 30 minutes later a couple of English lads arrived carrying a very small daypack and 2 shopping bags over each shoulder. Not your average method for transporting your gear while hiking. But they made it. They told me they left before me but went to the resort several kilometers away and found out they were a little lost. They had a bit of a laugh then set up camp.
The campsite was comfortable with a choice of camping with the resident Cows and Kangaroos near the river banks or with the resident Cows and Kangaroos on the grass near the shelter / water tanks / toilet area. Total of 5 hours 30 minutes walking for the 18 kilometers for the day, including rest stops.
Day 2 Six Foot Track
I set of with the intention of making it to Alum Creek Reserve campsite before the main heat of the day and having a rest and stocking up on water for the long push to Black Range campsite, but I left camp at 8am and it was already warming up fast. While hiking to Alum Creek Reserve Camp I was passed by several trail runners. It appears to be a popular past time, running very long distances through bush trails. They have a race along the 6 foot track every year, the winner completes the marathon distance in 3 hours 15 minutes. Crazy time.
Alum creek campground has several riverside campsites with a running creek which provides water for drinking. There was no toilet or shelter but the tranquility of a more wilderness area. I filled up a total of 4 litres of water which I treated with a Steripen just to ensure it was drinkable. By 10am it was already 30 degrees so I thought I would need 4 liters before the campsite which was 12 kilometers to the next water.
From Alum Creek the track rises and rises with little respite until I reached the top of the ridge at about 12pm. It was hot and I had already consumed about 3 liters in the short time from Alum Creek. I had to make the rest of the water last the final flatish section to Black Range Campsite. After several extended rest stops I reached the campsite at 2.30pm. By this time I had no water left but I was very well hydrated and not concerned about having no water.
Black range Campsite
There were several people at the campsite already. One guy started hiking in Canberra following the Bicentennial National Trail. I cycled several hundred kilometers of that trail last year. There was also a couple that arrived 30 minutes ahead of me after camping at Alum creek the previous night, must have been close behind them at some stage on top of the ridge line. After a several hour wait the English guys staggered in at about 5pm, both shattered, but grateful to be there. 20 kilometers in 6 hour 30 minutes, including rest stops.
Day 3 Six Foot Track
I started hiking at 7am. I wanted to completed the majority of the short 10 kilometer hike from the camp to Jenolan Caves before it got too hot. With the exception of the last kilometer or so it was flat and I covered the distance in no time. By 10am I was sitting in the cafe at Jenolan Caves sipping on flavoured milk and a somewhat healthy sandwich. I stayed there for an hour or so just watching the tourists go about their holidays. A short time later I heading down to Blue Lake which is on the other side of a large Natural archway that doubles as the main road through the area.
I managed to convince several other somewhat skeptical hikers that there was a chance of seeing one of Australians most secretive animals, the Platypus. Well, sure enough the Platypus was there and putting on a show, diving for 1 to 2 minutes at a time searching for food. I didn’t really hold out much hope of seeing one there, they are after all normally nocturnal. Well, a great end to a great 3 days of hiking.
I pre-arranged a bus to pick me up from the caves. The driver told me it was the last trip. They have suspended the service due to lack of demand and therefore lack of profitability. Bummer for hikers in the future, I for one would not have done the hike if I could not have organised transport at Jenolan Caves. Thanks to the knowlegable, friendly guide driver.
Would I recommend this hike?
Definitely. It is not too difficult, yet hard enough that your body knows its been hiking for 44 kilometers. Navigation is easy, I didn’t use my map once. I did carry a GPS. It was used to work out how far I was from the campsites. I wouldn’t bother with a GPS for this hike. Reliable, clean water was at each of the campsites. On a cooler day would be more than sufficient for the hiker to not need to carry 4 liters as I did. And yes I did end up with blisters, due to some way too old inner soles, which I will replace, better that I discover them now than net week when I am in Tasmania. Superfeet brand of inner soles are supposed to be good!!!!
I found wildwalks.com had all the info I needed to plan the hike. Including trip notes and background information, well worth a look.