Conquer the Six Foot Track in the Blue Mountains

Last updated: June 12, 2020

The historic Six Foot Track is a challenging but exciting multi-day hike, starting at the Explorers Tree in Katoomba all the way to the Jenolan Caves, crossing the Megalong Valley and the Coxs River in the Blue Mountains.

This once-in-a-lifetime experience is a true adventure for bushwalkers, taking in a variety of landscapes and habitats, and with great overnight camping options.

Six Foot Track
Distance:45 km (one way)
Time:3 days
Grade:Hard
Dogs:Not allowed

How to Get There

The Six Foot Track is a one-way hike, which means you can start at both ends. Most bushwalkers however start in Katoomba, at the historic Explorers Tree on Nellies Glen Road.

The Explorers Tree is located a couple of kilometres west of Katoomba Station, and has a small parking area available.

The other end of the Six Foot Track is at Jenolan Caves House, a beautiful heritage-listed building with dining and accommodation options available to visitors of the Jenolan Caves.

Due to the distance of the track, it’s best to get yourself dropped off at one end, and be picked up at the other end.

About the Six Foot Track

The historic 45-kilometre long Six Foot Track was first built in the late 1880s as a bridle trail to the Jenolan Caves. The track was six feet wide to allow for two laden horses to pass through.

It was known simply as the Bridle Track up until 1937. Now managed by Crown Land, the Six Foot Track meanders through state forests and through the Blue Mountains National Park.

The average hiker will need two nights and three days to complete the Six Foot Track, but the professional hiker or trail runner can certainly complete the track in one full day.

We have included the Six Foot Track as one of the top 15 best walking tracks in the Blue Mountains region.

Explorers Tree

As mentioned, the Six Foot Track starts at the Explorers Tree in Katoomba. When you see this tree – or rather, what’s left of it – for the first time, it is probably going to be a somewhat underwhelming experience.

The tree isn’t alive anymore, and sits on a sandstone platform with a fence around it. Definitely not a good look, and the fact that a car crashed into this structure a few years ago hasn’t helped either.

Explorers Tree in Katoomba
Explorers Tree in Katoomba

So what is the Explorers Tree?

The story goes that the three explorers Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson carved their initials into this tree during their 1813 crossing of the Blue Mountains. These carvings aren’t actually visible today, and there has always been widespread doubt about the authenticity of this story.

But regardless, it’s an interesting place to visit and to learn more about the explorers and also about the Durag and Gundungurra people, the traditional custodians of the lands where the tree is located.

Starting point of the Six Foot Track
Starting point of the Six Foot Track

The actual starting point of the Six Foot Track is not too far away from the Explorers Tree, a few hundred metres further into Nellies Glen Road. Take a left turn at the big sign, and your hiking adventure will officially commence.

One of the first highlights of the track is the Norths Lookout, from where you can enjoy great views of the Megalong Valley and Nellies Glen. The track then descends deep into Nellies Glen and into the Megalong Valley.

Coxs River Suspension Bridge

Perhaps one of the most significant landmarks and milestones along the Six Foot Track is the Coxs River Suspension Bridge, otherwise known as the Bowtells Swing Bridge.

Crossing this bridge over the Coxs River is an adventure in itself, because of its height and its instability. The bridge was built as an alternative crossing for hikers during periods of heavy flow in the river.

Bowtells Swing Bridge
Bowtells Swing Bridge

The bridge was built and opened in 1992 by the Royal Australian Engineers. It was named after Corporal Robert “Bob” Walter Bowtell, a fellow soldier of the Royal Australian Engineers, who died in 1966 during the Vietnam war.

The best and safest way to cross the bridge is by placing both hands on the cables, and by moving forward in a slow pace. If you are unsure or afraid of heights, you can also cross the river by walking over the rocks, provided the river isn’t flooded.

Six Foot Track Marathon

If hiking from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves isn’t hard enough already, you can actually also run the trail as a real marathon. The first Six Foot Track Marathon was held in 1984, and has been organised on an annual basis each year since, with now almost 1,000 runners participating.

The race is a not-for-profit event, with all proceeds going to the Blue Mountains Rural Fire Service who provide assistance to participants on race day.

Since the race is considered much harder than a conventional marathon, there are some strict qualification criteria in place for safety reasons.

You can read more about these qualification criteria, the actual course, registration details, and much more, on the official Six Foot Track Marathon website.

Camping Grounds

There are several well-maintained camping grounds to choose from along the Six Foot Track. From east to west, these are:

  • Old Ford Reserve:
    A free camping site just north of the Megalong Creek along Megalong Road. The site is accessible by car and has lots of flat space with shaded areas to set up your tent.
  • Coxs River Campground:
    Situated along the Coxs River close to the Bowtells Swing Bridge, this camping ground is quietly tucked away in a forest of high eucalyptus trees. This is one of the more popular camping spots along the Six Foot Track, but it has lots of space available.
  • Alum Creek Camping Ground:
    This is another free campsite with basic facilities, such as tank water, a pit toilet, shelter, and benches. It has a reasonably large grassy area where you can set up your tent.
  • Black Range Camping Ground:
    This campsite is located close to Jenolan Caves Road, and is accessible by car via a dirt road. It is equipped with pit toilets, sheltered picnic tables, a rainwater tank, and a rather large grassy area.

When using water from the tanks at any of the campsites, make sure you boil or treat the water before drinking.

If you prefer a bit more comfort, the Six Foot Track Eco Lodge is also a great option. Located close to the Coxs River Campground, the lodge provides accommodation for up to 28 guests in two cabins with comfortable wooden bunk beds.

The lodge has a fully equipped outdoor kitchen, but if cooking your own food is not your thing, you can also order your meals in advance. Bookings are definitely recommended.

Map and Route

The map below gives you a rough idea of where the track starts and ends. To find a more detailed route, it’s best to zoom in using Google maps.

Overall, the track itself isn’t too hard, with only a few steep sections. But it’s the distance that makes the Six Foot Track such a memorable challenge.

Map and route of Six Foot Track

Google Map:

 

Six Foot Track in the Blue Mountains

 
 
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