The skies were clearing and the forecast looking more optimistic for this on again, off again, on again walk with my local bushwalking club. As it turned out, the masses had a similar idea and it felt like half of Sydney had broken out of their mouldy homes to enjoy some fresh air and heart-pumping exercise on the Grand Canyon Track in the NSW Blue Mountains.
While this Grand Canyon does not compare to the more expansive and dramatic American version, it is still definitely worth a visit. Located on the Aboriginal land of the Darug and Gundungurra people, the track starts with a gentle walk through open, dry bushland before plunging steeply and quickly down into a completely different microclimate.
Here are the Nuts and Bolts of this little walk:
- Official Distance: 6.3km loop Garmin Distance: 9.7km (how did that happen?)
- Time: 4h36m
- Rating: Grade 3
- Ascent: 305m Descent: 290m
- Stayed At: High Mountains Motor Inn, Blackheath
- Mobile Phone Coverage: Telephone reception is patchy, especially right down the bottom of the canyon.
- Water: Take water with you. There are no watering points available anywhere along the path other than water you may find in creeks. That water looked perfectly clear, but you may like to treat it before drinking.
- Sun Protection: Wear a hat and sunscreen. Even though there is plenty of shade on the path, the Australian sun remains unforgiving.
- Snakes: This area would be prime snake country in summertime. Be careful where you step.
- Bushfires: Be careful with any cigarettes or naked flame. You are walking in a quite inaccessible area and it would be difficult to make a quick getaway.
- Toilets: There are no toilet facilities out on the path, but comfortable facilities back at the Evans Lookout carpark.
- Can you believe that this walk was first opened to the public in 1907? I have visions of ladies in long skirts and men in suits scrambling up and down the cliffs. We have got it easy these days in our high tech, wicking clothing.
- It is possible to walk the track in either clockwise or anticlockwise direction. Signage is in place to guide you either way, although the path itself is very clearly formed and it would be difficult to stray off.
- We started from Neates Glen and it was a gentle introduction to what would come. We walked through gently sloping open bushland before the path got serious and plunged steeply down. The temperature immediately dropped to comfortable coolness and moisture oozed out of the rocks, forming small waterfalls and trickling streams.
- It turned out that we had timed our visit perfectly as all the wet weather of the past month filled the creeks and fired up waterfalls of all sizes, creating a beautiful display. We were expecting to get our feet wet at some stage as there are many creeks to cross, but with a few well-placed footsteps and a couple of mighty leaps, our toes stayed dry.
- The path wends its way along the canyon floor, or as close as it can get. Much of the ‘floor’ is a series of inaccessible fissures that have been artistically eroded by thousands of years of gushing water. I can imagine how the cascades of water pooled and eddied to create almost perfectly circular gouges in the sandstone cliffs. Very sculptural.
- This track may not be good for people who are not keen on rock scrambling, lung-busting climbs or knee-straining descents. Having said that, most of the path has excellent timber or stone steps and stairs, and strategically placed railings.
Top Tips for this Track:
- Timing: For one reason or another, we didn’t start walking until nearly 11am. This is far too late (in my humble opinion) as we missed the beautiful morning light, cooler temperatures and quiet paths. Being a Sunday, it was also incredibly busy with a veritable United Nations of walkers out enjoying a stroll. While it was wonderful to see so many people of all ages and nationalities enjoying the Aussie bush, if you prefer a more peaceful path, visit mid-week.
- Rest Points: Take your lunch or a snack and enjoy a break in The Rotunda (a large, shady overhang next to a creek) or at the waterfall about 200m further on (anticlockwise direction). Both locations are beautiful and you can relax to the sound of running water.
- Rock Overhangs: Be careful of your head! This track features some engineering genius, excavating the original path midway up the sandstone cliffs. These paths, on the whole, are perfectly safe and provide lovely shaded areas to walk, however most of them also deliver very low ‘ceilings’ which are just waiting for distracted walkers. One member of our group was enjoying the walk so much that she clonked her head on the unforgiving sandstone, giving herself a mild concussion. Unfortunately, she managed to do this at the mid-point of the walk and then had a very wobbly and painful climb out of the canyon. Thankfully she was OK, except for a large lump on her head and a throbbing headache.
- Other Paths: The Grand Canyon Track links to a couple of other tracks if you want to extend your walking day. The Rodriguez Pass Track and the trail to Beauchamp Falls would no doubt deliver more lovely rainforest landscape and sculptural rocks, but just check if they open and accessible. They looked quite overgrown and not as clearly marked when we wandered by the turnoffs.
- Swimming: If it is a hot day, make the most of some of the deeper waterholes. They looked so appealing as we hopped and skipped across the stones. I suspect the water would be pretty cold, but oh so refreshing after a hot walk.
The Grant Canyon Track is a must-do walk in the Blue Mountains. I am not sure why it took me so long to finally step down its steep stairs and it certainly has inspired me to seek out more walks in this neighbourhood. It really does offer a little bit of everything – it is relatively easy to navigate and delivers endless contrast in vegetation, terrain and temperature.
Do you have a favourite bush walk?
What: There is ample car parking at either Evans Lookout or Neates Glen (both on Evans Lookout Road). You may like to park closest to where you intend to finish your loop to save your tired legs a longer trek back to the car.
Where: Evans Lookout Rd, Blackheath.
When: I would avoid this track if there has been heavy rain. It would be very slippery underfoot and the canyon would funnel all the run-off water to create impassable and dangerous waterways.
Why: For the joy of a good walk full of contrasts.
How: As far as I can tell, there is no public transport servicing this area, so it is Shank’s Pony (your two feet) or drive. You can catch the train to Blackheath and then it is a good 4.5km walk to Neates Glen.
Who: This is not an accessible path for those with mobility difficulties. You don’t need to be super-fit to enjoy it, just be prepared for the steep terrain going up and, of course, down. Take your time, catch your breath and enjoy the babbling brooks and delicate ferns.
Related Posts: For another stunning bush walk, but this time with endless ocean views, check out my stroll (wade?) through the Booti Booti National Park near Forster, mid-North coast of NSW.
Related Blogs: Jo always takes us to interesting places on her walks, although the countryside is very different.
It’s time to take a break from blogging over the holidays. Wishing you all a safe and happy Festive Season (whatever that looks like for you) and I look forward to packing our bags and travelling together in 2023!
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