Finding Cool in the Blue


By Ellen Hill

When the Summer sun blisters your skin. When the searing heat sucks you of energy. When the warm breeze quietens the raucous cockatoos demanding food scraps in the street . . .

That’s when it’s time to take a slow walk under a rainforest canopy that’s offered shade to Gundungurra and Darug peoples for millennia, to stand in the spritz of an icy waterfall or even take a dip in a bush pool.

Here are some of our favourite shaded bushwalks:


Sassafras Gully circuit track (moderate). Teeming with wildlife, you’re likely to meet lyrebirds if you walk gently through the gullies and over creeks. You will pass several small waterfalls and overhangs along the shaded 10.2km track between Faulconbridge and Springwood.

  • Allow 3-4 hours


Shaws Ridge/Blue Gum Swamp Track, Winmalee (easy to moderate). The 10km loop trail descends into the valley which separates Shaws Ridge to the east and Springwood Ridge to the west through an area known as Blue Gum Swamp, where there’s cool air, bird song, small creeks and towering blue gum trees with a thick undergrowth of ferns.

  • Allow 2 hours



South Lawson Waterfall Circuit (easy). This 3km circuit passes four waterfalls: Adelina Falls, the sand-lined Federal Falls, Cataract Falls and the amphitheatre of cascading water that is Junction Falls. The forest trail ends at the base of the falls, where there is a shallow pool. Listen carefully and you may hear lyrebirds mimicking the hum of the highway.

  • Allow 1.5 hours


Horseshoe Falls, Hazelbrook (moderate). Wear sturdy hiking boots and stick to the path, which includes large stairs with steep drops either side. When you get to the waterfall and duck behind the curtain of water, you’ll be amazed at the cave with a soaring ceiling. If you head there after dark, you’ll see it glinting with glow worms.

  • Allow 1.5 hours



Leura Cascades/Fern Bower circuit (difficult). Currently closed to vehicles and with a minor detour due to a landslide on Prince Henry Cliff walk, there are many diversions to lookouts where you can see our famous glowing sandstone cliffs and the track ends at a waterfall.

  • Allow 3 hours


Empress Falls, Wentworth Falls (moderate). The walk to Empress Falls from the Conservation Hut carpark opens out above the Valley of the Waters with views over the Kings Tableland and Mt Solitary escarpment. After lingering at lookouts along the way, you’ll curve around the valley to a rainforest walk with stepping across a creek.

  • Allow 1 hour


Minnehaha Falls, Katoomba (moderate). Cascading for 20m over slabs of sandstone sandwiched together over a pool surrounded by a mosaic of greens in a rainforest, the walk is popular with local families who come to the natural swimming pool to cool off.

  • Allow 90 minutes


Katoomba Falls, Katoomba (moderate). Tucked away near Scenic World, the circuit walk leads to the waterfall, with many diversions to lookouts along the way and views over the dramatic falls. Hint: Juliets Balcony near Orphan Rock is a popular spot for proposals.

  • Allow 1 hour


Victoria Falls, Mount Victoria (difficult). Jutting over a rock overhang like an open drawer, the 20m waterfall is best admired over a picnic lunch after the steep climb down the sandstone cliff to pretty Victoria Cascades.

  • Allow 2.5 hours


Scenic Walkway (easy). Wending its way under the canopy of temperate rainforest filled with many species of native flora and fauna, you can also explore elements of the site’s coal mining history along the boardwalk. Cool on hot Summer days, the walkway comes to life in the rain, with vocal native birdlife and magical mist.

  • Allow 30 minutes

You can explore these walks on your own or with an expert guide (there’s a list at

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