There’s something celestial about the small towns dotted along the winding canyons of Sydney’s Blue Mountains.
I’ve always found the landscape, the energy, and the pace to be worlds away from the urgency that creeps all too easily into inner-city life. Less than two hours from Sydney, by train or by car, the emerald and indigo haze of the Blue Mountains offers respite from the everyday and a chance to get out into the wild.
Here, local communities like Wentworth Falls, Katoomba and Blackheath remain charming yet unencumbered; there’s a sense of warmth and an earthy disposition that greets you almost as refreshingly as, well, the fresh air. The myriad of hiking trails that connect these towns presents the perfect opportunity to breathe deeply, and undoubtedly, some of the more challenging paths will leave you short of breath.
One of the first hikes I ventured on in the Blue Mountains, the Braeside and Grand Canyon walk, has also remained one I treasure most. It was on this trail that I first experienced the true expanse of the mountains, the diversity of the native bush and the crispness of the lush, sub-tropical rainforest.
The Braeside and Grand Canyon hikes are easily accessible by car (from the Blue Mountains Heritage Centre car-park) and are a 20-minute walk from Blackheath train station. The Braeside trail begins near a waterhole before following a meandering creek to its head at the impressive Bridal Veil Falls. Looking out over Grose Valley, the trail continues along a cliff top and down into a canyon, reuniting with another creek at its base. Expect sharp contrasts in both terrain and temperature as you descend from the sunlit peaks into the depths of the gully; it’s here that the otherworldliness of the mountains is truly evident, as intricate rock formations and mossy outcrops encase the path and speckle the sunlight.
After 30 minutes the path begins to ascend, passing through a small tunnel before connecting back with the main track. At a good pace, the entire circuit should take roughly four hours and if you time it correctly you’ll get to see the sun set over the ranges – a perfect end to a day in the mountains.
Before embarking, ensure that you bring plenty of water and snacks (what is a hike without snacks anyway?). If you are unsure of the trail, speak to the park rangers at the Blue Mountains Heritage Centre before setting off.