3 Day Hike: Explorers Tree to Scenic World, Katoomba

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This is a 3-day hike that starts at the Explorers Tree just outside Katoomba, and returns you back to Scenic World by the Three Sisters, in Katoomba.

This route is not for the faint-hearted, the days are long and full of walking, and on the 3rd day, the final climb up and out of the valley onto the fire trail is very dangerous.

The walk and views are beautiful though and you will experience some stunning panoramas of the Blue Mountains National Park.




Must-Have Items

  • Map(s)
  • Compass
  • GPS
  • PLB (very important for this hike)
  • Climbing rope



Route map for Explorers Tree To Katoomba by Tony Burke on plotaroute.com

Day 1: Explorers Tree to Coxs River Campsite via Six Foot Track.

Distance: 16KM One Way
Time: 5-6hrs (depending on pace / fitness / no. of stops)

You start the hike at the Explorers Tree, a well-known historic point just outside Katoomba in the Blue Mountains.  From here the walk is very straight forward and there is a constant and clear path to take for the whole day.

There are a number of existing (and well articulated) Six Foot Track walking notes around the web that can be used for this first day, so I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but essentially keep following the main “Six Foot Track” and hiker signposts through to Bowtells Swing bridge which is about 10 minutes hike from Coxs River Campsite.

Camp here for the first night.


Day 2: Coxs River Campsite to Dunphys Campsite via Coxs River, Breakfast Creek and Carlon Creek Tracks.

Distance: 18.5KM One Way
Time: 6-8hrs (depending on pace / fitness / no. of stops)

Keeping the Coxs River to your right-hand side, follow the river due south.  You will be able to stay with the river to your right for the best part of this section.  There will be some rock-hopping and a bit of bush-bashing but it is doable and not too difficult.  There will be a couple of gates to get through, please make sure you leave the gates as you find them.  The track at times is fairly well defined, but where it is not, just keep heading in a southerly direction and you’ll be fine.

After about 11KM, you will get to a defined trail and will come to a small creek that feeds into Coxs River.  This is Breakfast Creek.  Turn left at this junction and start to follow Breakfast Creek up.

This section is challenging, as the path jumps from one side of the creek to the other.  In some parts, it is well-defined and clear, in others it is not.  You’ll get wet feet for sure.

Keep navigating up the creek on either side.  After about 1.5hrs, you will come across a large clearing that is popular with campers (who walk in).  There are a number of fire pits and areas to camp, plus a large pool in the creek to relax in.

Keep following the river at this point, and you’ll hit a defined trail again that will take you up and over a knoll, and then back down onto the creek again.  Keep working along the creek until you hit a signpost called Carlon Creek Track.


NOTE: It is best to get water from Breakfast Creek here, before heading up Carlon Creek Track.  This may be the last opportunity to get water if the water tank at Dunphys Campsite is empty.


Turn left here, and start to follow Carlon Creek.  This is a very clear and defined trail, although it is very narrow and passes through large areas of stinging nettles.  If you are wearing shorts – be warned!  It would be best to ensure you have thick trousers for this part of the walk.  In some places the nettles are so high you may have to lift your arms up also.

Keep on this defined track as you head up the creek, which, at the time of this report, had no water in.

After about 1hr, the walk will open up to a larger grassy area, head directly up the hill and you’ll hit a clear management trail and a fence with stile to cross over.  Turn right at this point and head up the trail, about 300 metres up the hill will be Dunphys Campsite.

Camp here for the second night.


Day 3: Dunphys Campsite to Scenic World via Carlon Head Pass and Narrow Neck Fire Trail.

Distance: 15.5KM One Way
Time: 5-6hrs (depending on pace / fitness / no. of stops)


Leaving Dunphys Campsite, take the steep management trail labelled “Bellbird Ridge Lookout Trail”.  At the top of the rise, the route will be a distinct fire trail.  Follow this route for about 25 minutes until you reach the intersection of the Medlow Gap Management Trail which will cross you from left to right.  Ahead will be a smaller trail that continues straight and up to the power lines that are in front of you.

Follow this more overgrown trail, until you reach the first power line tower.  Look to the right and there will be a very small trail heading directly up the hill.  This section of the track is now very steep, slipperly and undefined.  There are sections that will look clear, other parts are not, so just make your way as directly as possible up to the start of the rock section at the top of the hill.

Once by the rocks, veer to the left around the base of the rocks where there is a faint trail.  Keep looking up to the right of the rocks and you should see the first of three climbs that you’ll need to get up.  I marked the start of the first climb with a clear cairn made of rocks.

Note: This section of the hike needs great care and attention, as one slip and you are in trouble.

Climb One

The first climb is good, the spikes, foot and hand-holds, and chain are all OK to use.  Take your time and work your way up to the sign (that is blank) at the top of the chain.

Climb Two

Look to the left and you’ll see a very small flat ledge at the base of a larger and more vertical climb.  You should see the chain and spikes again.  Get up onto the ledge and ensure you are ready to climb.

Some of the spikes and hand-holds lower down are either completely gone or showing very serious signs of rust.  The chain is also very rusty and care should be taken if you are going to put your full weight onto it.

This is the most dangerous part of the climbs, and the drop to the right-hand side of the cliff is very challenging.  So please take care.

Once you are at the top of the main vertical climb, there is a secondary climb (with chain and one spike) that you’ll need to make to get to the top.

Climb Three

Climb three is similar to the first climb, in that the holds and spikes, chain etc. all feel strong.  Take your time again and you should be OK to get to the top.


From the top of Carlon Head, the walk heads east through the scrub.  The trail is unclear but is OK to just keep heading in an easterly direction along the ridge line.  After about 15 to 20 minutes, you should start to see a Fire Tower through the trees ahead of you,  aim for this tower and you will find yourself out of the bush and into a more open area.  Walk to the right, and you will see Narrow Neck Fire Trail in front of you going left to right.

Head left, and follow the Fire Trail all the way back into Katoomba, which should take around 4hrs.



gpx download Gone Bush Track Route:

Explorers Tree to Scenic World via Coxs River and Dunphys Campsites.


Follow tonyburke:

37 years young, living and working in Sydney Australia. Been into outdoor activities and adventure since I can remember.

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