You did what for Christmas?
I saw a pretty place with interesting looking trails on an Instagram account I follow and decided to go there over Christmas. I had been looking for a good destination for a solo Christmas running trip, and I may make traveling for that holiday my thing, we’ll see. I’m not a Christmas hater, but I’m a traveling lover and it was just the right timing for me to take off. I had a great time and felt really peaceful for the holiday, so I could see it sticking.
I found a place in Bilpin on Airbnb, and messaged the host to make sure that my stay wouldn’t interfere with her holiday plans. I did some research on trails in the Blue Mountains, setting one aside as a first day must do, and then highlighting some other options. Rather than over-plan, I figured I could always ask around once I got there, since at least I spoke the language this time. Before I left I was worried I wouldn’t have enough to do in the mountains over the holiday, but as it turned out, I wore myself out the right amount with adventurous days to enjoy early low key nights.
It was over 90 degrees, but I flew a long way to run here, so I just made up my mind that it wasn’t going to be a factor. I filled my pack, and made sure that when I was running low on water that I was already on my way back to my car. I had bought a large dispenser from the the grocery store, which stayed in my car the whole time so I never had to worry about finding water at or before getting to a site. It was such a great run that I didn’t even notice the heat.
The lookout at the turnaround point is just incredible, with many different points to just sit and take in the view. My pictures don’t really do it justice but here they are anyways! the total distance I ran was 4.6 miles, with going off and turning back included. If you just went out and back I imagine it would be around 8.5 miles. I found in Australia, walking tracks are given “finishing times” more than distances, so I’d do a little covering before starting out each time- yay math!
I did a turnoff to the Mount Banks lookout from the main trail indicated above, but that path was really overgrown and I found myself doing more hiking than running, and I returned to the main trail. On the way back I went right to a side trail instead of left which would have led me back the way I came. That trail also became very over grown but was fun to run for a bit if you want to check it out, and maybe in another season it will be easier to get through!
I started a new workout on my watch for the way out and the way back, which is how I have two separate maps. The maps below show the main route, as well as the turn off I did on the way out up to Mount Banks (left), and then the little side route I did before I ran back to my car (right).
Map & Parking: Turn off of Bells Line of Road to the dirt road, and drive until the end.
The trails I was after were headed at a spot full of tourists, arriving by bus, and by car. There is a great lookout spot, and while many were hiking, most were just driving in for a view and then leaving. There was parking available for a fee, for up to 8 hours. I was lucky enough to arrive early that I found a space right away, but when I left people were waiting on the road for spaces to open up, so I’d recommend getting there early if you are driving. Even though there were a lot of people around, I found myself alone on the trails away from the lookout points quite a bit.
I took the Prince Henry Cliff Walk to Federal Pass, then came back up to where The Three Sisters, a geological formation that was super popular for photo ops, were on my way in. Going down and coming back up meant using stairs. Both routes were steep but had rails where you needed them. I grabbed a shot in front of the valley beyond the rocks. There was no one on that lookout spot except for the person holding my camera, so I was able to take in a final view without having to hustle and duck.
I really enjoyed this run. Parts of it had to be walked- like the stairs, but the rest was great for trail running. Also, the landscape was varied for such a short run (4.1 miles). There were stunning views at the beginning and end, and cool waterfalls, vegetation, and serene surroundings in the middle on Federal Pass.
There was a dining area with several options for drinks and food right there, sit down or take-away. It also had great outdoor seating. I had a coffee and a non-alcoholic cider before I left, while I decided what to do with the rest of my day. I decided to make my way back towards my digs, and assess when I was closer to home if I had another run in me and if the weather would hold off enough for me to get it in.
On the way home from Katoomba, I stopped at Pierces Pass. My host recommended it to me, and even though it was right next to Mount Banks, which I had done the day before it made for a different kind of experience. It was more of a hike, and I was going down to a river, not up to a view. I spent an hour and a half on this trail, and the going up part was actually a little easier and less tedious than going down, as it tends to be that way for me often. Total distance round trip was 3.4 miles, and took me 45 minutes each way with minimal stopping, mostly walking, and some running.
Luckily, there was a river at the bottom, and I took off my shoes and let my feet soak in the cool water. If you make your way there, there’s another path that joins the one I took down, called the “Burra Korain Blue Gum Forrest Walking Track”, and is indicated on Google Maps, and had I not been exhausted I would be able to give you more information on it, but here is the route I did take:
Link to a here for directions & parking.
Will wrap up in a second post about the rest of the trip!