Summary: The Wonderland Track, Sunbath Track and Colosseum Track form part of the network of historic Hydro Majestic walking tracks. They offer some great Megalong Valley views, and a steep descent through narrow slots in the rocks to the base of the Medlow Bath cliffs.

Behind the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath lies a network of lesser-known bushwalking tracks, developed by William Hargraves (Chief Clerk in Equity of NSW and Blackheath pioneer) in 1893. When Sydney retailer Mark Foy purchased the land – with its already extensive bushwalking tracks – in 1903 and established the iconic Hydro Majestic Hotel, he constructed an additional 5km of walking tracks outside the hotel grounds. The tracks today are still on private land, across multiple parcels (so dogs would be permitted to join you on this walk.)

The varied features of this cultural landscape were linked by Australia’s most extensive privately owned walking track system, totalling some 18km in length. These tracks were made to the highest standards of construction and embody significant aesthetic values in the way that they blend with the natural landscape features. They contain the most extensive dry stone walling features in the region.

The Hydro Majestic walking track network is a rare example of a very extensive privately constructed walking track complex, mostly over 100 years old, which as survived virtually fully intact to the present time.

Blue Mountains Heritage Register Review

Wonderland Track

Leaving the car at the Hydro Majestic Hotel (you could easily do this walk from Medlow Bath railway station), we head down the unsealed Station St, which runs parallel to the railway line and highway. It’s just over a kilometre to reach the unmarked and wonderfully named Wonderland Track.

Initially the Wonderland Track is pleasant but not too exciting (although I overlook the side-track to Marks Tomb (not an actual tomb, but as I discover later an interesting cave formation which gets its name from the desire of Mark Foy to be buried here). There are a few glimpses of the Megalong Valley through the trees.

Sunbath Track

The Wonderland Track meets the Sunbath Track; the name of this track is fairly obvious, as it ends an enormous but surprisingly shallow concrete pool. I can’t find any historical information or photos of the Sunbath, but presumably water was piped down from the Hydro Majestic Hotel, as part of the hydrotherapy options they offered guests.

A short and unmarked trail leads to Tuckers Lookout, an unexpectedly spectacular lookout: one minute you’re surrounded by scrub, and the next you’re on a rock outcrop with sweeping views over the Megalong Valley and Shipley Plateau.

Valley Farm Track

The next section of the Hydro Majestic walking track network is an historic pass that descends through the cliff-line via Sentinel Pass, providing access to the Megalong Valley. The Valley Farm Track is magnificent – as scenic as any of the more popular Blue Mountain passes, which would be swarming with people on a long weekend. The track passes a climbing area, as it descends steeply beneath Tuckers Lookout.

There’s more Megalong Valley views, as the track reaches the edge of the cliffs. The rusted remnants of the old safety barriers add to the charm of this not-quite-forgotten trail.

There are a few moments when you think there’s nowhere to go, before a slightly improbable route presents itself. A narrow slot provides the first safe passage through the cliffs. A wooden ladder is in remarkably good condition, despite missing a few slats: Jim Smith noted the ladder was protected from bushfires by the “tunnel”. This is the oldest wooden ladder in the Blue Mountains walking track system.

Having traversed this narrow cleft, a sturdy metal ladder allows access down the next vertical section of the cliffs.

A narrow ledge followed by a set of stone steps leads to small drop, that’s (fairly) easily negotiated without a ladder!

Then there’s another, final, magnificent slot through the cliffs. Although some of these passages are natural, explosives were used to blast away parts of the cliff when the path between the Hydro Majestic and the Megalong Valley was created.

We’re finally at the base of the cliffs, but still well above the bottom of the valley. The Valley Farm Track continues to descend to the Megalong Valley – but it has been described as “difficult to follow, and in poor repair” (Bushwalking NSW).

Colosseum Track

We take the Colosseum Track (signposted on the cliff face as the “Coliseum Track”), which follows the base of the tall cliffs.

The Colisseu Track is in an impressive condition considering its age and minimal maintenance, and while not quite as exhilarating as the descent through the cliff-line it’s a very scenic walk.

As well as an ever-changing view of the towering cliffs above, there’s the occasional view of the Megalong Valley below.

Unfortunately a landslide blocked our progress a few hundred metres before The Colosseum, which is a huge, natural amphitheatre under the cliffs. It’s possible to carefully traverse the landslide, but we didn’t have time (the safest option being to drop down and cross lower down). While the The Colosseum is a natural formation, it has been described has having…

The most elaborate dry stone wall construction in the region… the use of dry stone walls here transcends the merely functional. The Collosseum should considered as a sculptural work of art, an example of what is currently termed Earth Art or Land Art. It has echoes of Italian Renaissance gardens and of some of the work of Frederick Law Olmsted.

We return the same way back along the base of the cliffs; it’s hard to be disappointed in our failure to reach The Colosseum, when the track is so picturesque.

Back via the Sunbath Track and Glen Rosa Track

Once back above the cliff-line, we continue along the Sunbath Track in an south-easterly direction. The thick forest gradually opens up to offers views towards the Megalong Valley to the west, and the Hydro Majestic Hotel to the east, on top of the ridge.

The Sunbath Track meets the Glen Rosa Track (it’s often not clear which track you’re actually on, as there is almost no signage), and heads for the edge of the cliffs. There’s some great views from the edge of the cliff, which is above The Colosseum, and some interesting rock formations.

The plan is to finish our walk via the Glen Rosa Track, which descends into a gully. The track quality gradually deteriorates and the terrain gets more boggier, until it’s not really clear if there is a track at all…

It seems as if this section of the Glen Rosa Track has been reclaimed by nature, and continuing off-track is not too appealing through dense and soggy undergrowth. So we retrace our steps back to the Sunbath Track, which continues towards the Hydro Majestic Hotel. This track condition is a little better, but there are lots of fallen trees and obstacles to negotiate.

The Sunbath Track finishes below the Hydro Majestic Hotel… and this is where the navigation becomes the most challenging. There is no obvious way to get into the hotel, or through the hotel grounds to return to our car. It’s a little ironic that the walking track network was developed for the hotel guests to enjoy – but now there is no access from the hotel to the trails. Having discovered as we reach a barbed wire fence that there is no way out at the northern end of the hotel, we finally managed to ignominiously scale a low fence next to the upmarket Boiler House Cafe, at the southern end of the Hydro Majestic.

Despite the highly variable quality of the bushwalking tracks, this relatively short foray into the network of Hydro Majestic walking tracks has been fantastic, combining Blue Mountains history and some spectacular scenery. You could comfortably do just the Colosseum Track in a couple of hours (allow an extra 30-45min to traverse the landslide), or spend a day exploring this area.

Getting to the Hydro Majestic Walking Tracks

There are a few different entry points to the network of Hydro Majestic walking tracks; the route described here starts on the Wonderland Track, with the trailhead located along Station Street (you can also access the trail from the end of Belgravia St). It finishes behind the Hydro Majestic via the Sunbath Track, with a low fence next to the Boiler House Restaurant & Cafe providing an exit point. Medlow Bath is less than 10min (6km) from Katoomba and about a 90min drive from Sydney. The bushwalk is easily accessible by train.

More information

The Hydro Majestic walking tracks were developed over a number of years:

  • 1894 – there are “upwards of six miles of paths, zig zag in shape, with steps here and there”.
    • Central core of tracks are constructed by McLennan for Hargraves between 1893 and 1902, including the track to the “Colleseum” via the “Sunbath” area and the Sunbath area to the hotel via the clifftops
  • 1900 – an article states there are “more than seven miles length of safe and substantial pathways”.
    • Between 1902 and 1912 the track network is almost doubled in length by Mark Foy to include Mark’s Tomb, Wonderland, Swimming Pool and Glen Rosa
  • 1904 – there are twelve miles of tracks in the grounds.
  • 1930s – guidebooks for guests in the 1930s and 1940s refer to thirteen miles of tracks.
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