Mittagong to Katoomba Bushwalk

In early July, I was joined by Sarah and Saul on a week long bushwalk from Mittagong to Katoomba. This is a classic Blue Mountains bushwalking trip. It can be done as a very long and hard daytrip (by runners) or in two days by tiger walkers. However to do it that quickly means walking along a lot for roads. It is far better to take a longer time and spend time appreciating some of the great scenery that is available. I have done this walk (and the reverse) a number of times and it is good to go either via the Blue Breaks or via Kanangra Walls.

This time, we originally intended to go via the Blue Breaks – by traversing the Axehead Range and then climbing onto Lacys Tableland and continuing for a traverse of Bimlow Tableland. However, we encountered a period of very strong winds and a high level route that involved some rock scrambling and exposed campsites did not seem like a good idea. Instead, we went to the Kowmung River at the north end of the Bulga Denis Canyon and then via Gingra Range to Kanangra Walls and Mt Cloudmaker. Then to Splendour Rock and the Wild Dog Mountains, crossing Medlow Gap, followed by the last part – Narrow Neck.

Walking down Starlights Trail to the Nattai River

Sarah crossing the Nattai River

There are various routes into the Nattai Valley. On previous trips I have gone in from the south via a traverse of Russells Needle. This is quite a scenic route. The quickest way into the valley is from Hilltop via the Nattai Road firetrail. This was is very direct, but a more interesting way is to go via Starlights Trail and McArthurs Flat. This is a nice and easy way into the valley and McArthurs Flat makes a very nice and popular campsite. We had lunch there and then farewelled James, Sarah’s partner, and then continued downstream. Mostly this is easy walking on the riverflats following a rough track. The track is marked in places by blue, red or yellow tin tag markers – but bushfires have made many hard to spot. Consequently, it is often easier and faster to ignore looking for markers and make your own way. There are quite a few good places on riverflats where you can camp in this section. It is disturbing however to see lots of damage caused by feral pigs rooting up the ground.

The Nattai is also polluted by sewage from Mittagong. The river always seems a bit murky. It is certainly not as nice to walk along as say the Kowmung River. Despite this, on a previous trip I did see a platypus swimming in the river.

Firetrails in the Nattai

The last part of the Nattai section of the walk involves walking along the Nattai Road firetrail. This passes through old and now overgrown farms at Middle Flat. We followed the road to Vineyard Flat and then climbed up to Beloon Pass. On two previous trips from Katoomba heading south – I had been in parties that had crossed Beloon Pass to the Nattai. On both of those trips I had left the river via various routes towards the Picton area.

Wollondilly River from Beloon Pass

Beloon Pass provides a very handy route from the Nattai to the Wollondilly Valley. It is good that there is a bushwalkers corridor that enables access through the strictly controlled Sydney Catchment Area.

Burragorang cliffs

We camped on a high top above the Wollondilly River. Next morning we walked along roads (the bushwalkers corridor) to Yerranderie.

Bonnum Pic - Wollondilly Valley

On the way to Yerranderie, the wind got stronger and stronger and stronger. We had to sit in the lee of an old building in Yerranderie to shelter from the wind while we had lunch. We scrapped plans to climb Yerranderie Peak and instead went and visited some of the old mines. The “private” village of West Yerranderie has recently been gifted by its owner Val Lhuede to the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Val, in her late 80’s, explains on the Yerranderie Website that she is getting too old to be able to manage Yerranderie and the gift to the NPWS seemed like a good way to go. This was very generous of Val. People who have visited Yerranderie know it is a very special place.

Yerranderie is an old mining town. Its heyday was in the period between 1900 and 1927. Then economic conditions made the mines unprofitable. Later, in the 1950’s, the town got cut off by the waters of Lake Burragorang and it became a ghost town. The old buildings and mines are most interesting places to potter around.

The Silver Peak Mine at Yerranderie

Sarah inspects some old mine equipment at Yerranderie

Yerranderie

Sarah on Scotts Main Range - dull firetrail walking

Many walkers who make the trek from Mittagong to Katoomba wall via Scotts Main Range. It is a logical connecting route – but it is also a very boring way to go. A hard slog, a road bash. We had to walk a bit of the range to Mt Feld. Then we went via a track along Denis Range to the Kowmung River.

At the Kowmung River

We crossed the icy cold waters of the Kowmung River and spent a lazy afternoon at the bottom of Roots Range. This provided me with the opportunity to spend some time taking photos of the river.

Kowmung River



Sarah at Kanangra Walls looking towards Mt Cloudmaker

Thurat Spires

View from Mt Stormbreaker

Our route from the Kowmung, was via Roots Range to Gingra Range and then to Kanangra Walls where we had lunch in a sheltered cave on the eastern end of the main plateau. We then walked along the Kilpatrick Causeway to Crafts Walls, Mt Berry, Gabes Gap and Mt High and MIghty to Mt Stormbreaker. There we set up camp. The sheltered campsite that I had remembered was not quite as sheltered as I had hoped. It was very cold and still quite windy. It seemed to be snowing on the other side of the valley. But we did have fine views.

Ti Willa and the Blue Breaks

On the way to Moorilla Deck

Next day we quickly walked to Mt Cloudmaker, then to Dex Creek and out to Mt Moorilla. On the way we passed an interesting aboriginal art site discovered years ago by Colin Gibson. To be seen were ochre drawings of boomerangs and kangaroos as well as some sharpening grooves. Then it was a fast descend down the open Nurla Morella Ridge to the Coxs River.

Aboriginal art - Mt Moorilla

Saul crossing the Coxs River. Icy cold fast flowing water.

At the bottom of Nurla Morella spur, we crossed the Coxs River and then ascended the very steep Howling Dog Ridge to Little Dingo Hill. This ridge is also known to bushwalkers by the name “The Bitch”. As you climb it, its not hard to work out why. It is steep and unrelenting. But it is a fast route to Splendour Rock which was climbed to with the aid of “Thomos Chains”. From an old bushwalkers song –

Its goodbye sloths of Sydney Town
Way out south of Dingo
We’re headin’ out to our trampin’ ground
Down the Bitch from Thomo Chain!

Sarah at Splendour Rock - dusk

Dawn - The High Gangerang Range from Splendour Rock

It is always good to experience sunset and sunrise from Splendour Rock. Even when it is cold and windy! The view is magnificent. The Blue Breaks, The Coxs and Kowmung country, The High Gangerangs, the Three Peaks – Cloudmaker, Paralyser and Guouogang, and Kanangra Walls are all visible. We camped our last night of the trip and Splendour Rock and the next day walked via Mobbs Soak and the Glens of Guess to Narrow Neck and Katoomba.

Kanangra Walls and Mt Strongleg

More photos of the walk are online here

Here are some more route suggestions for trips between Yerranderie and Katoomba –

1. Yerranderie – Lacys Gap – Lacys Tableland – Bimlow Tableland – Broken Rock Range (northern section) – Butchers Ck – Mt Cookem – White Dog – Medlow Gap – Narrow Neck

2. Yerranderie РByrnes Gap РAxehead Range РGreen Wattle Creek РBroken Rock Range РButchers Ck РMt Cookem РWhite Dog РMedlow Gap РNarrow Neck

3. Yerranderie – Byrnes Gap – Axehead Range – Butchers Ck – Kowmung River – Low Gangerangs – Spotted Dog – Splendour Rock – Medlow Gap – Narrow Neck

4. Yerranderie РColong Gap РMootik Walls РMt Armour РChurch Ck РKowmung River РCambage Spire РKanangra Walls РMt Cloudmaker РStrongleg Buttress Р Yellow Pup РMedlow Gap РNarrow Neck

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28 Responses to Mittagong to Katoomba Bushwalk

  1. DigiDave says:

    Great post Dave, looks like a fun week. Especially liked the long exposure shots of the Kowmung.

  2. Col Gibson says:

    A classic walk and great pictures. I found out that the Nattai Trail was not built as a fire trail. It was built by Eric Miller, the one farmer the Water Board forgot to evict from the Nattai Valley. Like Neville Lang, he found himself cut off by the floodwaters until he established his own access. It took him ten years.

  3. Daniel says:

    G’day just curious is the walk well marked out?? i really want to do it but aint sure how well marked out it is ill prob get lost.

    • Dave Noble says:

      Some of it has markers (not much), some of it is on fire roads. You do need to be able to navigate using a map and compass (or GPS)

  4. Pingback: A wet and windy week in the Blue Breaks | fat canyoners

  5. Sarah says:

    Hi David,
    We are planning a similar walk but in the opposite direction – from Katoomba to the Wollondilly. From Kanangra Walls we will head down Bullhead Ridge to the Kowmung, then south along the Kowmung to Church’s Cave Creek, up Mt Armour and then south over the Bindook plateau and finally down into the Wollondilly valley. Do you know any part of this route? – would appreciate any tips/advice you may have.
    Cheers,
    Sarah.

    • Dave Noble says:

      I know most of your route – and it sounds quite good. The Bullhead Range is good – a faint track all the way to the Kowmung. Then he river is OK to Church Ck (stay on the true left bank most of the way and cross the river close to Church Ck). Then there is a track from the clearing near the caves to Mt Armour. Then you can follow all farm roads to the Wollondilly or go cross country.

      Dave

  6. Sarah says:

    Cool. Thanks.
    The second (and final) leg of the journey is to head down through Ettrema country and into the Budawangs. We’ll get dropped off at Tallong. I’m also interested to know whether it is feasible (?sensible not to mention fun) to enter Ettrema Gorge via Tullyangela Creek and then head south (upstream). The various descriptions indicate that Ettrema Creek is fairly open, so it sounds possible. Again, I’m interested in any tips or advice people may have.
    Sarah.

  7. Zephaniah says:

    Hello;

    Amazing photos.

    I did this walk solo in 1993 from Mittagong to Yerranderrie.(spelling?).

    I would like to ask your advice on the journey regarding the quickest route avoiding most roads as possible. Even in 1993 it was not marked that clearly; and i would like to do this solo walk again in january 2013. Any information regards markings and routes would be great.

    great website.

  8. Pingback: Mittagong to Katoomba – 3-9 July 2011 | Sydney University Bushwalkers

  9. Hugh McInally says:

    Did this walk recently in the opposite direction – had seven beautiful blue sky days, and loved every minute of it, even the ones that hurt. Would make a few observations for anyone thinking about it, however. Many of the tracks which don’t consist of fire trails are vague to non-existent, so as Dave points out above your navigation and map reading skills need to be quite sound. We actually ran into a walker near Mt Stormbreaker who had been lost and run out of water. He had pieces out of him everywhere from going off track to find water, and was backtracking to Kanangra and hoping he would find a lift there. Which also highlights two other issues. I do a lot of solo hiking, but was very happy on this walk to be able to consult my companions on some of the navigation issues we encountered. I would strongly advise against doing it alone on your first trip. There is also very little water between Coxes and the Kowmung – Mobbs Soak was barely a trickle, and Dex Creek little better. There was good water at Dance Floor Cave, but the tub at Coal Seam Cave had a small amount of stagnant water in it – that is the sum of your options other than a diversion to Kanangra Falls. Not to put anyone off, just make sure you are properly prepared – if this is your thing you will love it.

  10. Brian Cunningham says:

    I did this walk as part of Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award program in 1979 – 6 students + 2 teachers shadowing. Started at Narrow Neck camping at Coxs River, Dex Creek, Kanangra Walls and Kowmung River before pickup at Batsh Camp.

    Amazing walk, with a highlight being writing in the logbook on Mt Cloudmaker before the traverse across to Kanangra Walls. I would love to know where the old logbooks end up – any ideas?

  11. Nash says:

    Hi Dave, Thanks for the great write up.
    Two friends and I attempted this in reverse last weekend. We could not find the Mt Cookem trail though. We descended Wild Dog Range, crossed then Cox’s walked to the Kowmung river junction, crossed the Kowmung, then continued North along the Cox’s looking for the track to Mt Cookem. We could not find it, so just walked straight up until it became impossible to carry bikes. Would you (or anyone) be able to tell me how far north of the Kowmung/Cox’s river junction the Mt Cookem trail starts? I would say we went 500m past accross some sand but could not see it.

    Thanks

    • Dave Noble says:

      The track up Cookem is about 1 km north along the Coxs River from the Kowmung Junction. The track is signposted on the way down White Dog – and goes steeply down to the river, then crosses, goes down another 100 m or so, then up to Cookem. Note that it is a walking trail only. MTB activities can attract a hefty fine.

  12. Cedric says:

    Hi dave

    I read in the previous comments that the Mittagong to Katoomba trail is to dangerous alone on your first time. So I would like to know if there are any more safe long distance hiking trails through the Blue mountains, who provide the same view and challange. So not the Six Foot track.

    • Dave Noble says:

      Some people do the walk solo, but they are usually familiar with at least some of the country and know what to expect. I would also expect them to be experienced and competent. There are other long distance walking trails like the Great North Walk and the Hume and Hovel Track – but they are quite different in character I think.

  13. Ryan Hancock says:

    Gday Dave,

    Great write up.

    I’m looking forward to this trek myself.

    A quick question, I’ve been unable to locate copies of the Mittagong & Hilltop topos from my library & I’m wondering, on your week trip, did you start the walk from Mittagong train station to the Starlight Trail & McArthurs Flat.

    I’m planning to leave from Katoomba.

    If not how did you guys get to the trail & how long would it take to walk to the train station from there as it will be my way get home afterwards.

    Just need to know so I can organise to get the appropriate time off work.

    Thanks in advance,

    Ryan.

    • Dave Noble says:

      We got a lift from Mittagong to close to the start of the track down to the Nattai. On previous trips we have caught a taxi from Mittagong to Hilltop and then a bit further to close to the track. Its a fair way – not sure how many kilometres. You could take a mobile phone and ring for a taxi when you get to the top of the track. To see the distance – I would look at an online map that covers Hilltop and Mittagong – e.g. the SIX viewer.

      • Ryan Hancock says:

        Yeh thanks Dave, at the time I wrote to you I didn’t have a clue where Starlight’s actually started. Stoked to find the NPWS had a page dedicated to it! haha

        Another question, of all those route options you listed from Yerranderie, have you walked them all? And if so, when you did, were there rough trails you followed of did you just get out the map & plan a route of your own and see how it all went.

        I did the 3day option of Kanangra to Katoomba solo in Spring last year & noticed there were rough trails & I have been out to GOSNP & did the Baal Bone Gap to Pantoneys Crown following game trails.

        Will your route options be similar to this kind or travel?

        Cheers again mate,

        Ryan.

        • Dave Noble says:

          Yes – I have walked all those options (multiple times), all are mostly untracked and require navigation, route finding and a bit of scrambling. A lot rougher than Baal Bone Gap to Pantoneys in terms of scrub. Very scenic though.

  14. Chris says:

    Thinking about doing this soon. Have you completed this walk in the past few months, if so what’s the current condition of the tracks?

    Also, what’s the best time of year to go?

    • Dave Noble says:

      No – have not down this walk for a while. So do not know the current track conditions. They would be unchanged on the Katoomba side (so OK), most of the middle part is fire roads, so that only leaves the Nattai section, which should be OK.

  15. John says:

    I did this walk from Katoomba to Mittagong (or Bargo to be exact) in 3 day as part of my gold D of E award in January 1977 during a heatwave.

    I am planning on re enacting it with my 2 mates I did it with 40 years later

    Once again we will go from K to M but take 5-6 days this time and also we will do it at Easter to hopefully avoid the heat

  16. charli says:

    Hi. I am planning to do this the first time next year. How long did it take everyone and which route did you take?
    Also, in regards to ascending and descending routes, which way is less ascending and more descending? I would assume katoomba to mittagong is more down hill?

    • Dave Noble says:

      How long it takes depends on how fast you walk and your itinerary – People have walked from Mittagong to Katoomba in one or two days. The usual time would be 5 – 7 days. But this depends on what route you take. The shortest way is not necessary the best way, and there is a lot of great country to see on the way – e.g. the Blue Breaks, Kowmung River or Kanangra Walls. I favour M to K because it is easy once in Mittagong to get a taxi out of town – e.g. to the track near Hilltop down to the Nattai River and at the other end – its not far from Narrow Neck to Katoomba shops and station.

  17. Reece says:

    Hi is there any groups or tours that can be booked to go on a hike like yours. I don’t have the experience or wouldn’t want to take on a trip without people that haven’t done it before.

    • Dave Noble says:

      Not that I know of. You could join a bushwalking club – they all have lots of great walks (even if they don’t program this one)

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