Amongst tough competition, the Valley of the Waters National Pass trail
has to be up there as one of the best walks of the Blue Mountains.
Wentworth Falls as viewed from National Pass - sensational
With its streaming waterfalls, soaring rock escarpment walks and rainforest canopies, it has drama, majesty and beauty.
It delights both the visual and acoustic senses and provides adequate physical challenge whilst not killing you.
My poor companion, by mistake, kept dumbly referring to it as the Valley of the Kings. It has that same sense of grandeur and prehistory. This is another world.
No, it's not Valley of the Kings.
The walk starts at the Conservation Hut
at Fletcher street, Wentworth Falls, the second township down the mountain from Katoomba.
From the Great Western Highway, turn into Falls Road. This is an intersection marked by a hardware store. From there, follow the signs. At the Conservation Hut (which is actually an eco style café) you will find some (limited) parking, toilets and maps. It is possible to walk from Wentworth Falls station or take a bus.
Variety, challenge and beauty
At the Valley of the Waters, there are several walks and branching routes to choose from, which can be confusing. It's a good idea to take a map. Walks are graded according to the level of difficulty and include the Overcliff Track, the less strenuous Nature Track and the more difficult Wentworth Pass.
The National Pass trail is graded as Hard. That can seem a little inaccurate on the easier way down: it's the climb back out of the valley that really gets you. Expect sore knees and legs after. In my experience, teenagers enjoy this walk too, which says something about it.
The scenery is always changing
The National Pass trail takes one deep down into the rainforest canyon then up to the cliff tops and finally out towards Wentworth Falls village. It takes approximately three to four hours to complete as a round trip. Do factor in time for view gazing and photographic stops. This will significantly increase your trip time. The walk is long enough to fill a day trip while still leaving adequate time for an unrushed café meal and return home voyage. But, ahhh, that depends how long you spend at the waterfalls. Don't let them enchant you to the extent you are walking out of there in the dark.
Not ANOTHER waterfall!
About halfway along the walk you encounter Wentworth Falls, a sunny and open spot strewn with large rocks. It makes a good rest and picnic spot and an awesome photo subject. Soak in the sun (weather permitting) and the relaxing ambience of the gushing falls.
The acoustics provide one of the key notes of this walk. The waterfalls roar, thunder, gush, hiss and trickle in the background of this fantasy land.
Visual and sound feast
The National Pass trail was renovated not too long ago with natural sandstone and timber sleepers and in 2008 won a heritage conservation award from UNESCO and the National Trust of Australia. It is a varied walk combining steep stair climbs, flat paths, small caves, cliff walks and rainforest depths. It never bores, for every few metres produces a new environment. The majority of the time it is shaded and cool.
Well maintained stairs and pathways
In terms of wildlife, we encountered black cockatoos, rosellas, a snake and large sun-baking lizard. You will also encounter mud, spray and water from the falls and potential weather conditions, so don't wear your best shoes. Expect to be touched by hanging ferns and trickling falls.
On the downside, I encountered many tourists confused by the plethora of branching trails and the occasionally misleading signage. So before you hit the track, take advantage of the free advice in offer from the Conservation Hut, which seems to double as both a tourist information centre and café. Or do some prior internet research on the National Pass
On the upside, you can finish with a bowl of ice-cream and rest those shaking knees at the conveniently located Conservation Hut.
The Valley of the Waters provides a free adventure and an unforgettable experience of the ancient natural landscape of the Blue Mountains.
Majestic cliffs at National Pass