THE NATIONAL PASS IS CURRENTLY CLOSED DUE TO A ROCKFALL WITH NO RE-OPENING DATE AS YET ANNOUNCED
Distant views, stone steps hewn into the side of the sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, ferny grottos and swimming holes all combine to justify the reputation of the National Pass as one of the Blue Mountain’s classic walks. The only downside is the popularity of the track — it’s hard to experience wilderness with twenty earnest backpackers trudging past. Go early in the day, or if you can, midweek outside school hols, to enjoy this walk at its best.
Finding the track
From Wentworth Falls railway station, turn right onto the Great Western Highway and then first left into Falls Road. Follow Falls Road for 1.7 kilometres to very end, and then follow signs to your right down to Wentworth Falls Picnic Area.
Time: 3 hours
Distance: 4.8 kilometres circuit
Ascent/Descent: 210 metres descent, 210 metres ascent
Weather: All conditions, even a delight in mist and rain, but avoid during or immediately after very heavy rain
Closest public transport: Local bus 685 runs past the corner of Fletcher St and Falls Rd, 500 metres from the picnic area.
1 From the car park area, walk 300 metres along the tarred road to Wentworth Falls Lookout, where a large sign indicates the start of the National Pass walking track.
2 From Wentworth Falls Lookout, follow the signs to the National Pass, heading downhill. Turn right at the first fork. Shortly afterwards, turn left next to Fletchers Lookout and continue straight ahead, following steps down to the top of the falls.
3 Cross the top of the falls on stepping stones. (Careful here after rain and don’t be tempted to explore on the other side of the fence.) After a short level stretch, the track descends steeply down a series of sandstone steps built in 1908 and restored by National Parks 100 years later, in 2008. (If you’re scared of heights, go slowly and keep looking at the steps, not the view!)
4 At the bottom, the track recrosses Jamison Creek immediately below the first drop of Wentworth Falls. This is a great spot to rest, looking up at the first 110-metre drop of the falls. From here, zigzag westwards, hugging the base of the cliff.
5 Ignore the turnoff to Wentworth Pass and Slacks Stairs and keep going straight ahead. You’re now walking along a claystone ledge perched halfway down the cliff, ducking under ledges and dodging the spray of waterfalls. As you continue, the cliffs close in on either side.
6 About 40 minutes after crossing the falls, as you approach the Valley of the Waters, ignore the track that comes up from your left — this is Wentworth Pass joining again with the National Pass (see Walk 45). Continue uphill. Shortly afterwards, cross the Valley of the Waters creek at the base of Lodore Falls, again on stepping stones.
7 Head uphill past Sylvia Falls where the water fans out like a veil, always seeming to catch the light, regardless of the time of day. A few minutes further on you cross one last time at the base of Empress Falls (a sublime swimming hole for those who don’t mind the cold).
8 Continue on, heading up two sets of simple wooden steps and across a side creek. At the next junction, fork to the right uphill, following signs to the Conservation Hut.
9 More steep steps lead past Empress and Queen Victoria Lookouts. Looking down, you can see the ‘open’ eucalypt forest of the Jamison Valley, so called because the canopy is relatively sparse and only blocks out 35 to 70 percent of the sky. The Conservation Hut café finally appears on the horizon (making an excellent diversion and resting spot).
10 Just a few metres below the Conservation Hut, the Shortcut Track branches off. This sandy, sheltered track heads directly back to the Picnic Area car park. Walk variations If you’re travelling by public transport, you can create a more extended walk by starting at Wentworth Falls railway station and heading along the Darwin Trail until you arrive at the top of the falls.