Blackheath For Beginnings

'For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands. How great are your works, O Lord, how profound your thoughts!'

Psalm 92v4,5.

The top of Govett's Leap Falls

Topographic Maps: KATOOMBA, MT WILSON 1:25000 Second Edition

The National Parks and Wildlife Heritage Centre (K501754) at the end of Govett's Leap Rd is well worth a visit for it's displays, informative leaflets, maps, books and friendly advice. There is an easy nature walk starting from here called The Heritage Track, which has wheelchair access. At the end of Govett's Leap Rd is the magnificent view from Govett's Leap Lookout of the Grose Valley. Here you will also find a lovely picnic area with BBQ and toilet facilities.

The following are all day walks but with experience some may be extended into overnight jobs. Times and/or grades given for each walk are only approximate as so many variables, such as level of fitness, size and age of walking group etc, come into play.

The top of Govetts Leap (Bridal Veil) Falls © Allan Wells

1. The Grand Canyon via Neate's Glen to Evan's Lookout. Medium.
From the highway turn east into Evan's Lookout Rd and continue for about 3km till you eventually come to Neate's Glen bush carpark on your right (K508730).

Park here and follow the signposted track down the hillside and into the beautiful Neate's Glen rainforest till you reach the main stream at the bottom (Greave's Creek). Cross the creek and turn immediately left (downstream) and follow the track down into the Grand Canyon along narrow ledges above the deep slot. A number of people have slipped to their deaths here by going outside the safety rail.Warn your children to remain on the track. There is a small dark tunnel to go through before you eventually descend to creek level again. Here you can take a side trip upstream into the narrow canyon proper. Go as far as the first swim to get a taste of what it is like in a true narrow sandstone canyon before returning to the main track and continuing downstream for about 300m to a turnoff on the left bank indicated by a signpost on the right bank. Crossover to the left bank and follow the track which ascends the rainforest gully and a steep climb to Evans Lookout carpark. There is now a track which follows Evan's Lookout road back to Neate's Glen carpark.
This is probably the most popular walk in Blackheath and deservedly so. The canyon proper is a popular beginners canyon in summer with a single 16-17 metre abseil at the start. It can also be done by walking and swimming upstream from the exit point and returning the same way. If the canyon is done at night you are bedazzled by one of the wonders of God's Creation : myriads of glow worms. If just doing the main walk allow two and a half to three hours. Add one hour for the side trip.

2. Govett's Leap Lookout to the bottom of Bridal Veil Falls and return.Easy/Medium
At the traffic lights in the centre of Blackheath take the right turn (SthEast) into Govett's Leap Road. Follow this road to its end at Govett's Leap Lookout. To your left there is a signposted track to the bottom of Bridal Veil Falls, also known as Govett's Leap or Govett's Leap Falls, which you can see to your right from the lookout. It takes between an hour to one and a half hours return. This is quite a spectacular walk as you descend the cliff face to arguably the best known (though not the most spectacular) waterfall in the Blue Mountains. William Romaine Govett (1807-1848) was a government surveyor who came across these falls in 1831.

3. Govetts Leap Lookout, Bridal Veil Falls (bottom), Junction Rock, Rodriguez Pass, Beauchamp Falls, Evans Lookout, Bridal Veil Falls (top), Govetts Leap Lookout. Medium to Hard
A rather long but beautiful walk which can be done in reverse order. Allow six hours to a full day, depending on your level of fitness. From the bottom of Bridal Veil Falls (see above) cross the shallow stream and follow the track down the hill for about 2km as it recrosses Govetts Leap Brook a couple of times before reaching the junction with Govetts Creek (K526754). Turn right (South or upstream) along Govetts Creek which the track follows for about 1.5km before crossing over to the left (east) bank after it passes the junction with Katoomba Ck,which you probably won't notice. After about another 600m the track recrosses over to the right (west) bank and continues climbing alongside Greaves Creek for approximately 1km, passing the beautiful Beauchamp Falls (K520727), till you come to the signposted track junction at the end of the Grand Canyon walk (K518727). Cross the stream here to the right hand (north side) and head north along the beautiful rainforest track which climbs up to Evans Lookout and the carpark (K518736). From the car park follow the signposted track along the cliffline back to Govetts Leap carpark. Well Done! With two or more cars it would be worth using a car shuffle between Govett's Leap and Evans Lookout in order to cut out the last clifftop section.

4. Govetts Leap Carpark, Horseshoe Falls, Pulpit Rock and return. Easy.
This is a very pleasant clifftop walk to a great lookout spot with excellent views of the valley along the way. It can also be done one way if you have more than one car. Allow about an hour each way. From the carpark head north down the stone steps to your left and continue north till you cross Pope's Glen Creek. Continue following the cliff edge track till you get to Pulpit Rock (MW520765). An easy 3km each way.

5. Braeside Walk (K501744) Easy
Begin at Govetts Leap Lookout and take the clifftop walk immediately to your right (south). After about 500m you will have dropped down to Govetts Leap Brook. Cross here and take the track immediately to your right(upstream). After about 1.1km you will come to a small brick weir which supplied water for the steam trains in days gone by. Return the same way. One of my favourite flower/bird walks in Spring. 1-1.5hrs return.

6. Walls Cave (K498724)-Very Easy.
Once a popular tourist spot it was closed for many years by the Sydney Water Board but has been restored and reopened in recent years. Follow Evan's Lookout Rd. for about 2km and turn right into Walls Cave Rd. Drive the short distance to the end and walk the signposted dirt track down to Greaves Creek. Cross the little bridge, from which you'll see a tunnel canyon section to your right, and continue downstream (wet feet a distinct possibility!) to the large rock overhang in the curve of the creek. The cave was an aboriginal occupational site. Please respect this fact by remaining inside the fenced area and leaving no rubbish behind.

7. Baltzer Lookout and Hanging Rock. Easy/Medium (MW505806)
After passing through the township of Blackheath turn right off the highway onto Ridgewell Rd (K480759). Follow this dirt road for 1km till you reach the council barrier gate. Park the car here and use a mountain bike to ride the next 6km. At the end of the road follow the short walking track to Baltzer Head with it's magnificent view of the Grose Valley and beyond. Keep at least a body's length back from the cliff edge as the ground surface is loose and slopes slightly downwards. From the lookout a short but steep track to your left brings you to the incredible "Hanging Rock" first noticed in the early 1950's by Lewis Hodgkinson and friend(s). It has featured on many posters, postcards, climbing and outdoor magazines. NPWS have placed a vehicle barrier half way along Ridgewell Rd.

8. Blue Gum Forest (MW549777)Medium/Hard.
Bluegum Forest This is the "Jewel in the Crown" of the Blue Mountains National Park. The fight to save it from the woodman's axe was the beginning of the Blue Mountains National Park. It is a stand of majestic Bluegum trees (Eucalyptus deanii) located at the junction of Govett's Creek and the Grose River and attracts bushwalkers from all over Australia, along with many overseas visitors. Overnight camping is allowed nearby at Acacia Flat but not in Bluegum Forest itself in order to protect Bluegum seedlings and allow regrowth of the forest. The original Bluegum Forest, which was saved in 1932, is actually on the other (NthEast) side of the Grose River. What is now called Bluegum Forest was owned by the Hordern family (of Anthony Hordern's fame) and known as Hordern's Flat. It was acquired much later.

Bluegum Forest © Allan Wells

The shortest and st e e pest access to the forest is via the Perry's Lookdown track at the end of Hat Hill Rd (MW536789). Don't be surprised if your legs are a bit wobbly after the descent which can take up to one hour. Allow two hours for the steep return trip back up to Perry's Lookdown. About half way down the track you may notice a tall rough-barked tree on your left with the fraction "1/2" carved into it's bark. The tree is on a sharp left-hand bend. This was carved into the tree in the early 1990's by a member of the Sydney Bushwalkers club who was in training for a Snowies trip that Christmas. Surprisingly the tree has survived a few major bushfires since then. Carry at least 2 litres of water if doing this as a day trip. If you decide to camp at Acacia flat for the night clean water can be obtained by following the main track South West towards Govett's Leap for five minutes or so until you reach a shallow, rapidly flowing creek crossing the track(Orang Utan Ck. MW542768). Fill containers here and return to Acacia Flat. No camp-fires are permitted at Acacia Flat; all cooking must be done on a fuel stove. Perrys Lookdown is apparently named after Mr Perry, a surveyor who served under Major Thomas Mitchell in the early 1800's.

9. Centennial Glen to Porter's Pass (K473757) Easy/Medium. Allow three hours.
At the traffic lights in Blackheath turn left over the railway lines and go straight ahead into Bundarra St. Head past the Baptist church (on your left) to the end of Bundarra St and turn right into Eveleigh St. Park your car somewhere here. Return to the end of Bundarra St and follow the dirt road west. This quickly turns into a foot track. Follow this down to the creek, cross over and follow the track as it winds it's way into Centennial Glen. The very short side trip to Fort Rock is worth doing for the view into Kanimbla Valley. Back on the main track you will drop down into a narrow gully and follow it round to the left behind Centennial Creek Waterfall (K471747). This area has become very popular in recent years with rock climbers. Continue for about 300m until you come to a large rock with a faint sign 'Porters Pass/Walls Ledge' painted on it. The track diverges here. Take the right path which leads to a set of cut steps and hand rail dropping down to the creek. At the bottom of the steps take a short side trip upstream (right) into the dark, short canyon section known locally as 'The Grotto' which ends with a lovely small waterfall running over a vertical dead log. Reverse out of here and continue downstream beside another lovely waterfall which breaks through the main cliffline. At the bottom of the waterfall turn right and pick up the track at the base of the cliffs (K469745). Continue to follow this NthWest for just over 1km. It then begins to climb once again through a rainforest gully up to Porter's Pass, eventually bringing you out at Burton St. Walk back to the car via Wombat, Waragil and Bundarra streets.

10. Wall's Ledge. Very Easy.
Turn left at the traffic lights in Blackheath, cross the railway lines and immediately turn left into Station St which runs parallel with the railway. Follow Station St for 350 metres, turn right into Shipley Rd. Continue along Shipley Rd for about 750 metres till you approach the multi signpost for Megalong Valley. Turn right here onto Centennial Rd. Go to the end (about 200m) and park your car. Follow the foot track at the end of Centennial Road, heading NthWest for 300m. Turn left when you hit the main track (K470744) and continue to Wall's Ledge from where you will get magnificent views of Kanimbla Valley and beyond. Walls Ledge has become very popular with rock climbers in recent years which, unfortunately, has left much of the delicate vegetation severely damaged and the wonderful sandstone cliff peppered with stainless steel bolts. Continue along the track which will eventually lead you back up to the heath covered tops near K466741 and onto an old dirt road back to the car. The main track is not indicated on my 1982 edition of Katoomba map but is easy to follow.

Sketchmap for walks 7,8,12 & 14. © Allan Wells
Note: Should only be used in conjunction with the relevant topographic map.

11. Old Bridle Trail. Katoomba Topo map K465724. Easy/Medium Drive out along Shipley Rd.(see Walk 10 above) for about 2.1km till you come to the property "Waratah" on your right. Park somewhere near here and immediately on the north (Blackheath) side of "Waratah" you will see a dirt road/firetrail which appears to be a driveway (it isn't). Follow this and it quickly turns into a walking track going alongside Waratah's boundary fence. It soons turns off to the right. Keep following it till it starts to clear the cliffs where, beside the track to your right, you'll come to Arthur's Lookout*, indicated by a small gap in the rocks (K461732). It's worth the short scramble into the gap and climbing up onto the lookout rock for the views into Kanimbla Valley but take care - a fall here would be fatal. Back on the track continue to descend the talus slope till you reach the delightful Blackheath Creek. You'll see scraps of a broken treated pine bridge in the creek. The crossing is just downstream of this over a large dead log half buried in the creek bed. After crossing the creek it is a gradual climb along a cleared track which leads into an open forest clearing and comes out onto Kanimbla Valley Road at K457735. I recommend having a break in the clearing and returning from here.

Directly across the road there is a rockclimber's footpad which leads up the slope to a massive climbing boulder and then continues up to the base of the cliffs where there are a number of bolted climbs. A gully at K456735 offers a scramble pass/exit up through the cliffline. Return the same way.

* Arthur Dalton, a long-time Shipley resident, lived at "Waratah" for many years.

12. Option 1. (Medium-experienced walkers with good navigation skills). Hat Hill, Bald Head Ridge, Hat Hill Creek and return.
Option 2 (Hard) continue to Grose River, Blue Gum Forest, Perry's Lookdown, Hat Hill.
Because of the wading involved this walk is best avoided in winter. Coming from Sydney go through the traffic lights in Blackheath and turn East into Hat Hill Rd (second street on the right after the lights). Proceed for about five kilometres till you come to the signposted Hat Hill on your left. There is a turning circle here where you can park your vehicle. Follow the short foot track up to the top of Hat Hill (MW517780) and take in the great views if it's a clear day. From here head NNE along the ridge top for 300 metres and then NNW for another 500m along Bald Head Ridge till you come to a small rocky knoll at MW517789. You should have been walking on a clearly defined foot track by this stage. From this point on there is no track. From the knoll head left in a NWdirection down the slope and follow the spur to the head of a gully/side creek at MW514795 heading SSW. Descend into this gully which is an easy entrance into Hat Hill Creek. If time permits it is well worth walking/wading upstream for a kilometre or so and investigating the lovely side streams on the east side of Hat Hill Ck. From where you entered the main creek walk/swim downstream until you come to a lovely waterfall. The most pleasant option after viewing the falls is to return the way you came back to the car. The second option is to continue down past the waterfall to the Grose River. At first sight it appears that you can only proceed by abseiling the falls and this has certainly been the normal means of descent. However just a few metres to the left (west) of the falls is the somewhat obscure (and potentially dangerous) Lews Pass, named after Lew Hodgkinson, a long time resident of Blackheath who, along with his friend Don Campbell, found the pass in the 1930's. The pass consists of a short drop of 2.5m onto a narrow vegetated ledge. A short rope or tape placed around a tree for a handline is worthwhile here. Carefully follow the ledge to your left (away from the falls) for a short distance till you can descend the talus slope and then backtrack to the base of the falls. From here it is a steep, rough and scrubby descent to the Grose River , sidling the slopes well over to the left or right of the creek. I do not recommend trying to scramble down via the creek itself. When you reach the Grose River follow the walking track to Bluegum Forest till you reach the signposted track to Perry's Lookdown and the carpark. From the carpark follow the dirt road back to Hat Hill and your vehicle. If the party has two vehicles you could leave one at Perry's Lookdown carpark before starting the walk.

13. Rienits Coal Mine (MW486796) Easy/Medium. Experienced walkers with navigation skills.
This mine was brought to my notice courtesy of Brian Fox from the Lands Dept at Bathurst. Drive through the town and turn right onto Ridgewell Rd which is the first dirt road on your right (K480759). Follow this till you reach the locked NPWS barrier gate (approx.MW491776) and park your car nearby. Hop over the gate and look for a faint track almost immediately on the left (west) side. Follow this track for a while past an old rusty car and continue out along Burra Korain Ridge for about 2km (MW491796) before taking the short spur to the left (west) for about 350m till you reach the cliffline. Head south along the cliff line till you come to an obvious ramp/slope which will take you down below the cliff line at approximately (MW488793) . You should pick up a narrow foot track here but no matter if you don't. Just make your way down below the cliff and turn right (north) along the slopes for about 250m before heading down into Victoria Creek. You may come across a small rock cairn which indicates the route down. Either way don't go as far as the large rock overhang in the cliffline. Once in Victoria Creek keep an eye out for the coal mine which is driven into the right (east) bank of the creek, just above a waterfall which has a vertical drop of about 2.5 metres. The mine opening is very obvious once you reach it. The narrow mine goes straight into the seam for about 30metres. One wonders how on earth Mr Rienits and friends managed to transport the coal out of here and back to Blackheath or Mt Victoria. About 20-30m upstream of the waterfall is another pretty but smaller cascading fall. Henry Rienits was a prominent citizen and school master at Mt. Victoria for many years from around 1880 and beyond. This mine dates from 1903. More information may be gleaned from Andy Macqueen's excellent book, "Back from the Brink". If you have the time it would be worth exploring this creek downstream for a while and maybe even exploring Victoria Brook which joins the creek about 150 metres downstream of the mine. Return the way you came. Allow four hours, or longer if you intend to explore the creek.

14. Wallace country. Mt Wilson topo map. Easy. Wallace's Steamtraction engine
This is a short, pleasant stroll to a lovely, rarely visited, lookout and an area formerly occupied by mining brothers Tim and Eric Wallace. Tim and Eric began coal mining exploration in the Grose Valley around 1928, bringing with them a steam traction engine, which was used to haul on the steel cables of an aerial ropeway they had constructed to haul coal and timber up from the base of the cliffs through the gully immediately west of Surveyors Gully. Lengths of this cable are still in the gully and coiled at the base of the gully's waterfall.

Tim and Eric Wallace's steam traction engine. Photo © Allan Wells

The Wallace's hut foundations, steam engine, bed heads and other relics are still lying around hidden by the bush.
Head out along Hat Hill road till you reach the small parking area below Hat Hill. Immediately east of the parking circle there is a small foot pad which quickly brings you on to an old overgrown 'firetrail'. Follow this to your left(NthEast) and down the slope as it curves to run parallel (SthEast) to Orangutan Creek well over and down to your left. The track will eventually lead you to a cliff lookout just to the west of Clarke Head.(See above sketchmap). On the sketchmap you may also notice "Orangutan Pass' below Clarke Head, named after a rude song Wally Roots and his fellow 'orangutans' in the Sydney Bush Walkers used to sing. This pass no longer exists due to a collapse on the cliff face.

Blackheath Sketchmap
Sketchmap for walks 1,2,3,4,5,6,9,10 and 11 above. © Allan Wells
Note: Should only be used in conjunction with the relevant topographic map.

Blackheath Sketchmap. © A. Wells