Just 31 miles west of metropolitan Sydney, the foothills of the beautiful Blue Mountains begin with sandstone plateaus, and you’re entering the Greater Blue Mountains Area World Heritage Site, a vast area consisting of seven national parks and a conservation reserve.
These mountains are dissected by gorges nearly 3000 feet deep and at their highest point, Mount Werong soars almost 4000 feet above sea level. The climate in the Blue Mountains varies with the elevation – there are a few snowfalls during the year, but the rainfall has a more significant impact on the upper Blue Mountains with many misty days.The high ridges in these mountains are dominated by thick eucalyptus forests, while more sheltered gorges often contain temperate rainforests. This area is inhabited by more than 400 different animals…including the Koala, the yellow-bellied Glider, and the long-nosed Potoroo. The main predators are the dingoes who hunt the area for grey kangaroos.
The Blue Mountains are a popular destination for adventure sports. Guiding and equipment companies based in nearby Katoomba outfit rock climbers and mountain bikers for day trips and longer treks. There are great climbing destinations including Centennial Glenn Cliffs, Mount Victoria, Mount Piddington, and Mount Boyce. Climbing is currently banned on The Three Sisters – the sandstone rock formations that are among the best known attractions in the area. The many fire trails that branch away from the spine of the Great Western Highway are ideal for mountain biking and hiking paths. In addition, many dedicated walking trails exist throughout the region. One popular attraction is the Zig Zag Railway, a steam-powered railway near Lithgow that offers a visit through the Blue Mountains via coach. Another interesting destination is Jenolan Caves, a series of limestone caves located southwest of the town of Katoomba. The Giant Stairway walking track extends down a cliff into the Jamison Valley near The Three Sisters rock formations, providing easy access to a series of nature walks through the valley.
Examples of early Aboriginal presence in the area, some dating back 22,000 years, can be seen in many places. Near Glenbrook, the Red Hands Cave contains hand stencils from adults and children preserved over thousands of years in this rough rock shelter. Close to Wentworth Falls, a rocky knoll has a large number of visible grinding grooves created by stone implements being sharpened and shaped on the rocks. There are also carved images of animal tracks and an occupation cave. When the original European settlers first arrived in Australia, the Gundungurra people had already been inhabiting the Blue Mountains for several millennia.