I loved my first long hike through the mountains, which ended at the Giant Staircase in Katoomba. Katoomba is a cute mountain town with stunning views out over the mountains and valleys. It’s also the main town in this area and the starting point for most major trails. After that beautiful trail, I decided to try a different one the next day. As always, I got lost, but that is par for the course for me. My first hike was such fun and such beautiful trail that I knew it would be tough to rival the beauty. The Giant Staircase hiked ended with a glowing ochre sunset over the Three Sisters rock formation. But Ross promised that my four hour hike to see Wentworth Falls would equal the beauty.
The hike to Wentworth Falls is much like the hike that ends in the Giant Staircase. They both have similar forest and pathways, but the Wentworth Falls hike brims with waterfalls and streams at every turn. If we passed a dozen waterfalls on the first hike, we passed two dozen on this hike. The weather cooperated, which is one of the key reasons I visited Australia in the warmer summer months—I’ve read that the Blue Mountains can be very cold, wet, and overcast at other times of the year. But our hike had the weather gods smiling down upon us. The strong bright sunshine fractured in every direction on the mists wafting from the waterfalls. Every droplet of water became a multifaceted rainbow.
My hiking buddy and I found Wentworth Falls within the first two hours of the hike. One of my favorite part of this trail is the structure. The trail forces visitors to hike across each section of the waterfall before you reach the base. When we reached the bottom of the rainforest, we looked up and saw each of the three individual sections of waterfall. These waterfalls align down the cliff face, and the waters from each nourishes and strengthens the one below it.
The waterfalls are quite spectacular. As we stood below, our eyes traced the path our bodies had taken. We had hiked under, around, and behind nearly every part of the waterfall. So neat! The misting spray of the waterfall coated our faces in reflective droplets. We had reached the wider base of the water and allowed the mist to cool our our face as we hopped on stones to get to the other side of the river.
And as much as I loved the hike, I was jibing with my hiker partner again and I really loved having a chance to chat and swap stories. In fact, we were both so engrossed in the conversation that we got lost again! But this time was worse than the previous disorientation. This time the trail had disappeared. Since we hadn’t left a breadcrumb trail, we had no idea how we would retrace our steps back to the main trail. Our first clue that all was not well started when we began to hike through, under, and inside of waterfalls. We thought there was a faint trail in evidence, but really it wasn’t until the trail led us to a slippery, steep cliff face that we turned around. The teetering—it was a near miss that I didn’t slide over the edge. Seriously.
We tentatively started charting a course back along the “path.” As we passed back through the drenched rocks, I slipped and fell down hard. I have two huge mottled-colored bruises on my thigh to prove it! At this point we slowed our pace because we both realized that we were definitely not on a marked trail. Things were getting a bit out of hand.
I own up to my lack of direction, while I can always retrace my steps, I can’t usually orient myself within a larger setting. I argued with him a bit as I looked out at the vast swathes of green valley and dense trees in every direction. But he made a compelling case for the way to get back to the hostel. Couple all of that with the fact that I was shaken by this time, and I asked Christian to completely take over the navigation to get us back on track. He was right about the direction of our path home, and he got us both safely back to town, onto the train, and safely back to the hostel—all with deep darkness slowly encroaching.
By the time we got back, we both acknowledged that it was a good thing we had heeded the warnings. On my first day in town, Ross explained to me the two cardinal rules of hiking in this area: never hike alone, and always tell someone your planned hiking route, as well as when you expect to return. Also, I just might carry a compass next time I head out on a long hike!
For a more detailed how-to on hiking this region, head to the end of this post where I explain How to Independently Explore the Blue Mountains. If you’re heading to Australia, check out my free online Australia Travel Guide, and use the most recent Lonely Planet plan your trip. And if you’re planning long-term travels, I have an extensive list of world travel resources here.