Conquer the Federal Pass in the Blue Mountains

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The Federal Pass walking track is one of the most historic and most challenging walks in the Blue Mountains, exploring old bushland trails in the Katoomba and Leura area.

This classic hike follows the base of the cliffs, from Leura to the Golden Stairs and Ruined Castle, passing through dense forests with great picnic spots along the way.

There are various entry and exit points to the walk, which means you don’t have to do the whole Federal Pass in one go. Each of these points involves a challenging descend into, or climb out of, the valley.

Federal Pass
Distance:13 km (one-way)
Time:5-8 hours
Grade:Hard
Dogs:Not allowed

Sections of the Federal Pass

The Federal Pass walking track is long, very long. Most people won’t actually do the whole thing in one go, but rather they do smaller sections.

In this article, we’ve divided the Federal Pass into four sections, with clear start and end points. Each section below comes with a map that will give you a rough idea of where this section is located.

Also note that the Federal Pass is well sign-posted, and you won’t get lost all that easily. The track overall is hard at times, but pretty easy to follow from start to finish.

And as always, when heading out to the Blue Mountains to do a decent hike, check the National Parks website to see if there are any closures in the areas you are planning to explore.

Federal Pass entry and exit points:

  • Leura Cascades (via Fern Bower)
  • Giant Stairway
  • Furber Steps
  • Golden Stairs

1. Leura Cascades to Giant Stairway

Federal Pass section 1

From Leura Cascades, you can access the start of the Federal Pass walking track via the Leura Cascades Fern Bower circuit walk.

Alternatively, you can also access the Federal Pass by descending into the valley via a small section of the Prince Henry Cliff walk accessible via Cliff Drive.

This section connects with the Fern Bower track, which in turn connects with the Dardanelles Pass and the Federal Pass.

Dardanelles Pass through Leura Forest
Leura Forest

The track from Leura Cascades and Fern Bower to the Giant Stairway goes through Leura Forest, which is so peaceful and quiet that it makes you feel like you’re far away from civilization.

Towards the end of this first section, you have the option to either continue the Federal Pass, or to climb out of the valley via the Giant Stairway. Just know that this climb up the stairs is very challenging!

2. Giant Stairway to Furber Steps

Federal Pass section 2

This second section follows the bush trail from the Giant Stairway to the Furber Steps and the Scenic World valley station in the Katoomba area, passing the base of Katoomba Falls.

The Furber Steps allow you to exit the Federal Pass and hike back up to the Katoomba Falls circuit walk and to Scenic World on Cliff Drive.

The other option is to catch a ride on the Scenic Railway from the valley station back up to Scenic World. The valley station is not too far away from the bottom end of the Furber Steps.

Tip!
A great day adventure in the Blue Mountains is a circuit trip that starts with a ride on the Scenic Skyway, followed by a section of the Prince Henry Cliff Walk to Echo Point and the Three Sisters. From the Three Sisters you descend into the valley via the Giant Stairway, followed by the hike to the Scenic Railway valley station, from where you can travel back up to Scenic World.

3. Furber Steps to Golden Stairs

Federal Pass section 3

The third section brings you to the base of the Golden Stairs along the Narrow Neck Plateau in the western side of the Katoomba area.

One of the highlights in this section is the Landslide, a vertical cliff where in 1931 a series of major rockslides occurred. There are some good vantage points along the Federal Pass walking track with good views of this cliff from below.

From the Landslide it’s a pleasant walk through dense trees, following the base of the cliffs, to the Golden Stairs.

4. Golden Stairs to Ruined Castle

Federal Pass section 4

According to NSW National Parks (and Google maps), this final section is officially part of the Federal Pass, but it can be considered an optional section.

In fact, it would make perfect sense to end the Federal Pass at the Golden Stairs, because continuing on to the Ruined Castle is like an extra dead-end stretch. From the Ruined Castle, you will need to go back to the Golden Stairs to return back to civilization.

So in that regard, it would perhaps make more sense to do the Ruined Castle track as a separate adventure on a different day.

Intersection Ruined Castle and Mount Solitary
Intersection Ruined Castle and Mount Solitary

It’s hard to imagine now, but the trail to Ruined Castle was once part of an old coal mining route through the Jamison Valley in the 19th century.

After about an hour of hiking on this trail from the Golden Stairs, turn right at the intersection going up the hill to the Ruined Castle, a unique rock formation located on top of a ridge between Castle Head and Mount Solitary.

Once you’ve visited Ruined Castle, you have the option to continue your hiking adventure to Mount Solitary, or you can make your way back to the Golden Stairs.

 

Federal Pass in the Blue Mountains

 
 
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