My relationship with the Six Foot Track goes back to March 1989, about five years after the historic route was re-opened as a bushwalking track, when I attempted the walk with my Dad and younger sister. Four days of heavy rain rendered the Coxs River unpassable, at least without a rope, and we turned back after camping for one night (the Bowtells Swing Bridge, constructed three years later, now provides an alternate route for the Six Foot Track when the river is in flood.) I’ve still got the original “Six Foot Track” brochure issued by the Department of Lands in March 1985! Before European occupation, the area traversed by the Six Foot was home to the Gundungurra, Daruk, Darkinjung and Wiradjuri people, and the Aboriginal name of Megalong is thought to mean “Valley under the Rock”.
My next attempt is with a couple of friends 16 years later, which is planned as a three-day walk in the winter of 2005. It’s overcast but not raining when we set off around 11am from the Explorers Tree and down a narrow track with a series of timber steps through Nellies Glen Canyon. After about 2.4km, the narrow track reaches Nellies Glen Road, which it follows gently downhill through scribbly gum forest. Most of the track so far is through private property, with Nellies Glen Road being accessible by 4WDs and used to access private land (although we don’t encounter any vehicles).
Once Nellies Glen Road fords the Megalong Creek, the Six Foot Track leaves the dirt road and crosses mostly open farmland.
At the 8.2km mark the Six Foot track crosses the sealed Megalong Road; a short distance to the north is the car-accessible Old Ford Reserve campsite (toilets and water from creek – must be treated). The track passes the Megalong Cemetery after about 500m, the final resting place for at least 14 people who died between 1894 and 1931. For the next few kilometres the Six Foot Track traverses more open farmland. A legal right-of-way was negotiated with the Euroka property and part of the track is a farm access road. There are nice views of the escarpment behind us, which is perhaps the only reminder that we are actually in the Blue Mountains on and not walking through a farm!
We reach the Coxs River around 3:15pm after almost exactly fours of walking, crossing it via the Bowtells Swing Bridge which was constructed by the First Field Squadron of the Royal Australian Engineers and opened in 1992. This has become the standard crossing route, even when the river is not in flood. Although there are swimming holes around here, it was way too cold for a swim – and I’m not sure I’d want to swim in the Coxs River even on a hot day. Despite being the second largest source of water for the Warragamba Dam (which supplies most of Sydney’s drinking water) the river is one of the most polluted rivers in the Blue Mountains. Testing carried out in 2008 showed that the upper Coxs River had high levels of heavy metals, 125 times more sulphate and pH levels up to 1000 times higher than that of neighbouring creeks, and only 5% of the oxygen that fish need (Wikipedia). Even visually it doesn’t look very appealing for a swim!
A few kilometres further, on the other side of the river, is the Coxs River Campsite [and the commercial Six Foot Track Lodge, which wasn’t here in 2005]. Like all of the official Six Foot Track camping areas, the Coxs River Campsite is accessible by 4WD.
We continue walking, having a few hours of daylight left. The track now continues along a dirt road (Glen Chee Road) which is also open to cars, ascending quite steeply at first up to the Kiangatha (or Kyangatha) Yards and then further up to the Mini Mini Saddle. From Mini Mini Saddle (at about 780m asl) the track heads downhill through tall peppermint gums to the Alum Creek Camping Ground. A fairly flat grassy area off the side of Glen Chee Road, this campsite is the least used and least developed of the three official camping areas on the Six Foot Track. We keep going, and about 800m further and with light starting to fade, we find a grassy area next to Little River where we set-up camp. I’m not sure if we are allowed to camp here – one of the challenges of the Six Foot Track is that many sections traverse farmland – but we haven’t passed any “no camping” signs for a while.
We wake up to heavy fog, which makes for some scenic photos as the morning sun rises above Little Creek.
We’re back on the track (which is still the Glen Chee Road) around 9:30am – a relatively late start, but we’ve done about half the distance and we’d planned on completing the walk in three days. The dirt road ascends again initially through fairly open farmland, fording Little Creek another couple of times before reaching a gate marking the Kiangatha property boundary. The fog is starting to clear and is replaced by blue sky.
The Six Foot Track (still Glen Chee Road) continues to ascends fairly steeply up to the Black Range ridge, meeting the Black Range Road near the top of the ridge. The Six Foot Track continues to the right along Black Range Road. To the left, the Black Range Road becomes the Cronje Mountain Fire Trail which passes the Black Range Pluviometer and continues to the boundary of the Kanangra-Boyd National Park. The track continues uphill but less steeply, reaching the junction with another fire trail after 2km: the Moorara Boss Fire Trail (which also leads to the left into the Kanangra-Boyd National Park). There are some views from the Black Range ridge of the surrounding bush and farmland below.
There’s one more fire trail after another three kilometres, with the Warlock Fire Trail on the left heading to Mt Warlock. The Black Range Road then passes through some pine plantations and a Kanangra-Boyd Information Board before reaching the third official camping site, Black Range Camping Ground. A large grassy area, this campsite is also at one of the highest points of the walk (1,200m asl) – so it can get chilly at night. It has picnic tables, water from a tank, toilets – and is also accessible by car.
It’s pretty much all downhill from here… three kilometres (about an hour) after the campground, the track crosses Jenolan Caves Road.
The track now roughly follows Jenolan Caves Road, up to Jenolan Caves Cottages (another spot you could stay if you wanted to extend the walk over three days without carrying a tent!). From here the track takes a different route from the road, as it continues to descend, gently at first and then more steeply. There are some views over Jenolan Valley to the right.
A set of stairs leads to a fenced lookout near Carlotta Arch, a large cave remnant overlooking Blue Lake that is believed to have been named in honour of a daughter of a surveyor.
This is just about the end of our walk. The path from here zig-zags fairly steeply downhill for beside the limestone cliffs down to Caves House, where a ‘Six Foot Track’ sign points up the steps. We reach Jenolan Caves at 6pm on our second day, and hope there might be some way to get back to Katoomba (or a railway station). The bad news is there’s absolutely no public transport options anywhere after about 4pm… but, one of the Jenolan Caves staff takes pity on us, and gives us a lift up to one of the Blue Mountains railway line stations.
DAY ONE 0.0km Start at Explorers Tree (Katoomba) 5.6km Intersection of Medlow Gap Mgt trail and Six Foot Track 8.2km Track crosses Megalong Road 11.0km Bowtells Swing Bridge over Coxs River 15.3km Six Foot Track Lodge 15.7km Cox River Campsite (Six Foot Track follows Glen Chee Road) 18.8km Kiangatha Yards 20.0km Mini Mini Saddle 21.8km Alum Creek Camping Ground 22.6km Camp site next to Little River DAY TWO 22.6km Continue along Glen Chee Road 26.0km Junction of Glen Chee Road & Black Range Rd / Cronje Mtn Fire Trail 28.1km Junction of Black Range Rd and Moorara Boss Fire Trail 31.2km Junction of Black Range Rd and Warlock Fire Trail 34.7km Black Range Camping Ground 37.7km Six Foot Track crosses Jenolan Cave Road 40.6km Jenolan Caves Cottages 44.3km Carlotta Arch Lookout 44.8km Jenolan Caves House
Getting to the Six Foot Track
The Six Foot Track is generally done as a one-way walk, which can be done in either direction. From Katoomba to Jenolan Caves is the most popular direction, but finishing at Katoomba has the advantage of that there are more frequent public transport. (It’s 83km by car and at least a 2-hour drive if you’re doing a car shuttle).
- Katoomba – there are frequent train services along the Blue Mountains train line. From the railway station to the start of the Six Foot Track on Nellies Glen Road is 2.7km along the Great Western Highway (so allow about 45min or take a taxi).
- Jenolan Caves – the end of the Six Foot Track is in the middle of Jenolan Caves, behind Jenolan Caves House. There is no scheduled public transport to/from Jenolan Caves, but many of the companies providing day-trips to the caves can provide one-way transport from Katoomba. These include Near or Far Bus and Coach and Trolly Tours. The Jenolan Caves “Getting Here” web site has information on driving and parking at Jenolan Caves.
What gear do you need?
You need the usual overnight gear for the Six Foot Track – have a look at the Packing for an Overnight Hike page for essential and “nice to have” items. It can get very cold overnight in winter, and as the bushwalk is not in a wilderness area it’s essential you treat all drinking water.
How easy is the Six Foot Track?
Although the Six Foot Track is often rated as “Hard”, I’ve rated it as “Easy”… It’s one of the easiest multi-day bushwalks you can do around Sydney (the Royal National Park Coast Track is another easy overnight walk). A significant proportion of the track is on wide service trails through public land, and every campground is accessible by car. Navigation is also very easy, with lots of signage. So it’s not really a wilderness experience, anyway… There are a few steep sections, but they are mostly on service trails so the graident is always relatively moderate. Having said that, the Six Foot Track makes a great family or beginners bushwalk. If you’re fairly fit it can be done as a two-day bushwalk. Or you could even stay at one of the commercial accommodation providers along the track, so you only need to carry a day-back.
For alternate and more challenging overnight bushwalkks that offer a real Blue Mountains experience, you could also try:
- Katoomba to Leura or Katoomba to Mt Victoria via Mt Solitary
- Mt Victoria to Blackheath along the Grose Valley via Blue Gum Forest
- Katoomba to Kanangra Walls (partly off-track and a very hard route)
(Have a look at the Guide to Overnight Walks for lots more multi-day bushwalks around Sydney!)
Six Foot Track accommodation
If you’re finishing at Jenolan Caves, the only option is the Jenolan Caves House. It’s a nice way to finish the walk and have some time to explore the caves. It also removes the risk of missing your bus, if you’re finishing at Jenolan Caves.
Along the the Six Foot Track there are also a few places you can stay, if you want an “inn to inn” experience, without having to carry a heavy pack:
- Dryridge Estate is about 11km from the Katoomba end of the Six Foot Track, and can be used as a base to undertake the Six Foot Track without a heavy pack. Self-catering.
- Six Foot Track Eco Lodge near the Coxs River campground about 16km from the Katoomba end of the Six Foot Track. There are two cabins accommodating 12 and 16 people each – you can book a bunk or pay for the entire 12-person cabin). Meals can be booked in advance. Friday and Saturday nights only.
- Jenolan Caves cottages is a single cottage managed by NPWS, about 7km from the Jenolan Caves end of the walk within the Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve. Self catering.
Around Katoomba there are lots of accommodation options…
When to walk the Six Foot Track
You can walk the Six Foot Track all year… but be prepared for very cold nights in winter, when it has been known to snow. The average minimum temperature in winter is 5-6 degrees, but sub-zero degree nights are common – so you’ll want a good sleeping bag. It also can get very hot in summer – the average summer temperatures look mild, but the temperatures will exceed 30 degrees in a heatwave and long sections of the walk are quite exposed.
The best time for the Six Foot Track is autumn and spring – September/October is starting to get a bit warmer but not too hot, and average rainfall is lowest.
More Six Foot Track information and resources
- Dedicated Six Foot Track web site has an interactive map and detailed track notes
- National Parks (NPWS) official Six Foot Track site
- John & Lyn Daly, “Take a Walk in the Blue Mountains” (p.108)