Saturday, 19 October 2019

The Prince Henry Clifftop Walk

The Prince Henry Cliff Walk 19-10-2019
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Route: Scenic World, Reid's Plateau, Katoomba Cascades, Ladt Darley Lookout, Echo Point, Three Sisters, Bridal Veil Lookout, Leura Cascades, Tarpeian Rock, Olympian Rock, Elysian Rock, Gordon Falls, Lone Pine Avenue

Date: 19/10/2019
From: Scenic World

Parking: Leura
Start Point: Scenic World
Finish Point: Leura
Region: Blue Mountains National Park

Route length: 5.1 miles (8.2km)
Time taken: 03:25
Average speed: 1.5.mph
Ascent: 357m
Descent: 366m

Points of Interest: Scenic World, Echo Point, Honeymoon Bridge, Bridal Veil Falls

Since we decided to move to Sydney, the Blue Mountains have been high on my list of places to explore. The national park lies only 90km west of Sydney so I have high hopes of it becoming my regular stomping ground. While the land and peaks are generally high (over 1,000m in some cases), it's actually more of a canyonland than a mountain range with many of the walks starting on the clifftops.

The most populous town in the national park is Katoomba, home to many of the areas iconic walks but also its busiest tourist spots. Katoomba sits atop a plateau above the Kedumba and Jamison valleys meaning many of the walks from the town are either along the cliff tops or involve a steep descent into the valley via elaborately constructed stairways. One-way walks are fairly easy to concoct thanks to the regional railway line, and the best of these walks is the Prince Henry Cliff Walk.

Completed in 1936 and named after the third son of King George V and Queen Mary, the Prince Henry Cliff Walk is exciting but reasonably easy trail between Katoomba and Gordon Falls in Leura. It is one of the few walks in the mountains that doesn't involve climbing in and out of the valley. The walk has some of the best views in the Blue Mountains and has numerous lookout points along the way including Olympian Rock, Elysian Rock and Gordon Falls. It also passes by some of the most iconic areas such as Echo Point and the Three Sisters.

We parked in Leura at the end of the route and walked uphill to the nearby station before hopping on a train to Katoomba. Once in Katoomba, we walked the mile or so through the town to the beginning of the Prince Henry Walk at Scenic World (alternatively you can catch a bus from Katoomba station to Scenic World).
A greeting from one of the locals
Scenic World, located to the south-west of the town centre, is a curious place, a sort of outdoors theme park which is home to a cable car (the Scenic Skyway) and the world's steepest railway - the 52-degree Scenic Railway. The Prince Henry Cliff Walk starts at Scenic World, along a well-signed path next to the main entrance building.
Scenic World
The path follows a set of concrete steps around the back of the Scenic World building before continuing along a track that winds through the wooded hillside towards the first series of lookouts at Reid's Plateau, and our first real view of the spectacular Kedumba valley far below, including a view of Katoomba Falls from the Katoomba Falls lookout.
The start of the Prince Henry Cliff Walk
The Scenic Skyway over the Kedumba valley
The Scenic Skyway cable car
The eastern cliffs
Katoomba Falls
From the Reids Plateau area, we followed the small Kedumba River north through the forest, until we reached the Katoomba Cascades.
Kedumba River
The falls are a popular spot, a picturesque set cascades on the Kedumba River which sits just below a road and park. The river can be crossed by a set of stepping stones or a small footbridge (presumably for times when the flow is high.
Katoomba Falls
Katoomba Falls
Katoomba Falls
The Cliff Walk does a loop under the cascades to the Eastern Skyway station where the Scenic World cable car terminates. The track heads eastwards along the top of the valley, passing several lookouts, all of which have much the same view of the Kedumba River and Mount Solitary, one, in particular, drawing the crowds. Our next major port of call would be Echo Point but Lady Darley lookout is a highlight along this section.
One of the many Cockatoos that roam the area
Kedumba Valley from Cliff View
The western cliffs from the eastern Skyway station
The view of the Jamison Valley from Little Milou Lookout
Heading along the Prince Henry path
The Three Sisters from Allamble Lookout
Mount Solitary
Blue Gum trees line the path
Blue Gums
Lady Darley Lookout
Echo Point is the Blue Mountains’ most famous and popular lookout, home to one of the best views the Three Sisters, the iconic trio of sandstone towers that overlook the valley below. The lookout at Echo Point is officially called the Queen Elizabeth Lookout.
The Three Sisters and Mount Solitary
The Three Sisters
Echo Point is a very busy place, most (if not all) the tours from Sydney coincide at this location and disgorge hundreds of daily passengers. Some 2 million people (including us) visit this location every year but most simply wander to the lookout, take a selfie and then return to their allocated bus. Therefore, once you get away from Echo Point, the crowds diminish rapidly.
Echo Point
Queen Elizabeth Lookout
Mount Solitary
Narrow Neck Plateau
The visitor centre at Echo Point
The clifftop walk leaves Echo Point along the Three Sisters Track which led us to the top of the Giant Stairway, one of several carved or constructed stairways which link the valley rim to the rainforest below. For the adventurous, a short but hair-raising steep climb takes you down to Honeymoon Bridge, across a chasm and into a hollow under the first tower. Further climbing on the towers is prohibited due to their cultural significance with the Aboriginal traditional owners, the Gundungurra.
Leaving Echo Point
More Blue Gums along the route
Stop of the Giant Stairway
Meehni - at 922m the highest of the Three Sisters
The Giant Stairway
Honeymoon Bridge
The Kedumba Valley
The commonly told legend of the Three Sisters is that three sisters, Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo, lived in the Jamison Valley as members of the Katoomba tribe. They fell in love with three men from the neighbouring Nepean tribe, but the marriage was forbidden by tribal law. The brothers were not happy to accept this law and so decided to capture the three sisters. A major tribal battle ensued, and the sisters were turned to stone by an elder to protect them, but he was killed in the fighting and no one else could turn them back.

A steep climb back up the steel steps of the Giant Stairway took us back up to the clifftop track where we started along the second half of the walk. This stretch (between Echo Point and Gordon Falls) is notably different to the previous half; it is more forested, has fewer lookouts and is much quieter. But that's not to say it's any less enjoyable.
The Giant Stairway
We strode through the forest passing a few more lookouts which peer down to the valley below until we reached the lookout for Bridal Veil. The lookout here has a peerless view of the Bridal Veil waterfall and we were lucky to arrive at a time when the afternoon sun was creating a shimmering rainbow in the spray.
Lady Carrington Lookout
Leura Forest
Banksia Streamlet
Copelands Lookout
Bridal Veil Falls
Rainbows form in the spray
The cliffs east of Bridal Veil Falls
We ducked back into the woods again, this time heading for the Leura Cascades, a delicate set of waterfalls which tumble through the woods. The official route of the Prince Henry was closed due to path works so, instead, we ended up on the 'Round Walk' track and ultimately, the Cascades Walking Track which climbs up alongside the waterfalls.
Descending towards the Leura Cascades
Leura Forest from the Amphitheatre Track
Leura Cascades
Below Cliff Drive
Mount Solitary
After returning to the Prince Henry Track, the route approaches the village of Leura. The path comes to a lookout just before the hair-raising Buttenshaw Bridge, which it then crosses, continuing up a set of steps to the dramatic Elysian Rock Lookout on the other side. Despite not featuring the Three Sisters, Elysian Rock rivals Echo Point for its grand view of the Jamieson Valley.
Elysian Rock
Buttenshaw Bridge
Showers form over the lower Blue Mountains
Mount Solitary
Shower over Mount Solitary
Sublime Point juts out into the valley
With only a short distance to go, the final detour was a short out and back to the Gordon Falls lookout. Sadly, unlike the previous waterfalls of the day, Gordon Falls were completely dry so we returned to the path to the main road. Thanks to our efforts earlier in the morning, it was a short, pleasant stroll through the leafy streets of Leura back to the car.
Mount Solitary
Ruined Castle and Narrowneck Plataeu
For a short-ish hike, this really packs a punch - a fine welcome to the Blue Mountains.

1 comment :

  1. Well done, Dave - great pictures as usual.

    It's all a bit of a contrast to Kinder!