In need of an escape from Sydney? Head up into the Blue Mountains to do the Blackheath Blue Gum loop bushwalk. If you like being alone in the bush, stunning waterfalls, crystal clear swimming holes, sunbathing lizards and pushing your body to the limits, then this is the bushwalking escape for you! Be warned though. It is an overnight hike so you have to carry your gear with you. This includes your water, food, and sunscreen. I guarantee that it will be worth it – the serenity and the beauty of the valley will blow you away.
Details of the Blackheath Blue Gum Loop Bushwalk
- Distance: 24ks (loop)
- Location: Blackheath, Blue Mountains, Australia
- Getting there: Train from Sydney or you can drive
- Cost: Free – there are no costs, not even for the campground
- Camp Ground: Acacia Flats
- Water: You need to carry your own water, but you can fill up at the river and use water purification tablets to remove the bacteria.
- When to go: Early summer, when the weather is warm (but not too hot) and there have been some recent rains for the river to flow.
- Maps and Details: I used the details found on WildWalks
What I packed to do the Blackheath to Blur Gum Loop Bushwalk
- Camping stove and fuel
- Plastic bowl and spoon
- Swimmers (bathing suit, togs, one piece, swimsuit)
- 2x Change of clothes (one for the second day and one for when I finished the hike)
- Baby wipes
- Thongs (flipflops, jandals)
- A small flask of whiskey (a dram or two helps with getting to sleep with muscle pain)
- First aid kit (with lots of band aides)
- 4 liters of water
- Water purification tablets
- Sleeping bag
- Self-inflating sleep mat
- inflatable pillow
Food for the Blackheath to Blue Gum Loop Bushwalk
- Meal for 2 people – I take a freeze-dried meal that just needs water added. Personally, I like this brand as it tastes more like food to me.
- Muesli bars
- Pre-made chicken wraps
- Plain wraps
- Peanut butter
- Nut mix
About the Acacia Flats campground on the Blackheath to Blue Gum Loop Bushwalk
The campground isn’t hard to find… it’s just hard to get to. Especially the last part as the track is very overgrown so you often wonder if you are going the right way. Keep your eyes peeled for snakes as we saw a baby diamond python sunning itself before it slithered off the track.
The campground itself has two drop toilets. The first one is right near the track, so most people camp near there. But walk through to the other side of the clearing and you will find the other toilet and some more picturesque spots to camp. The river is a short walk away, with plenty of spots to jump in for a swim or do some washing up. There are no rubbish bins at this site so please remember to take everything home with you. There is no water source apart from the river, we filled up and treated our water with tablets and had no problems with it.
Notes on the Blackheath to Blue Gum Loop Bushwalk
It was 23 degrees by the time we arrived at Blackheath station at 10 am, a scorcher of a day. What was worse was that a group of teenagers in hiking gear had gotten off the train with us and they were carrying a portable stereo… not the sounds you are after when you are escaping to the bush for a weekend. However, they did provide some extra motivation, in order to beat them to the track we quickly hitched our backpacks and headed off down the road at a very brisk pace. The first hour of the hike was a little urban as we walk through the back of the Blackheath village towards the rim of the gorge. I enjoyed seeing the beautiful mountain homes covered in spring and summer flowers – it really is a stunning part of the world to live in.
The first signs of some serious bushwalking appear when you arrive at the Evans Leap lookout and stare off in the giant gorge that seems to stretch as far as the eye can see. It is breathtaking, awe-inspiring and just a little bit daunting. I stood there on the edge for a while, trying not to contemplate how on earth we were going to get down, and more importantly… how would I ever get back up again? We chose to have a rest here and a snack, but quickly changed our minds and packed up when the teenagers caught us up with their portable stereo still playing. This would be a constant activity for us over the day as they would arrive blaring tunes and ruining the serenity that we were so desperately seeking.
Heading down to the valley floor
Walking down that first section, basically destroyed my legs for the rest of the weekend. It wasn’t as hard as combing down Mt Kinabalu… but it wasn’t far off. Going down that many stairs in quick succession had my thighs burning and shaking. Somehow I managed to ignore all of this at the time, primarily because it was so beautiful. You couldn’t help but look around and enjoy the fern gully style flora and fauna. There were a number of day walkers on this part of the track as well, which made getting through some of the tighter passes harder.
At the bottom of the gully, the track notes said that there was a signpost that would direct you away from the main canyon track… we walked past it completely. When we reached the little waterfall we decided that we obviously had missed a turn and started to backtrack. We stumbled on the signpost by accident while I was splashing about in the river to cool my hands and head down. To celebrate our victory in finding the signpost we stopped for a quick lunch and break.
On the right track…
On this new branch of the track, there were a lot fewer people, in fact, we only saw about 12 other people for the rest of the day (not including the teenagers who we were constantly trying to stay in front of). The track soon started to follow the river, dipping in and out of the river bank at times, crossing it at others, and climbing back up into the trees as well. Our only problem was our nerves, after missing the first turn off we were paranoid about missing another one. We were constantly checking the track notes… which were not overly helpful as it didn’t really advise the amount of time between the landmarks it described.
After a couple of hours we ran into a gentleman who was coming from the other direction, we asked him if we were on the right path. Through great heaving breaths (he was going uphill while we were going down) he said yes, and made it clear that there was only really one track, we just had to follow the river.
Swimming in serenity
Our nerves finally put to rest we started to enjoy the views and the bush. It was serene and interesting at the same time. Each bend in the track bought out new views of the cliffs and the river. As the river widened I started to spot fantastic swimming holes. At first, I looked at these longingly thinking how nice it would be to cool down in one, then I started commenting to my walking buddy on how nice it would be to jump in for a swim. Finally, he said, “why don’t you?” – it was like the thought had never occurred to me. Why didn’t I? I thought that I shouldn’t slow down and that I should stay focused on reaching our campsite. That it would be too difficult.
And then I realised I was being a complete muppet. It was summer, we had hours of daylight left, stopping for an hour to have a swim wouldn’t have an impact on our campsite. But it would make me feel better and it would be so beautiful. My mind made up, I slid down the bank and quickly stripped off and changed into my swimmers. To be honest, it was so secluded and private that I could have gone in the nude but I didn’t want to traumatise the teenagers if they happened to follow us down to that particular spot.
It was one of the best hours of my life. The water was so deep that I could dive off the little rock ledge and when I tried to stand I couldn’t touch the bottom. It was also so clear and fresh that I felt like I was floating in paradise with a stunning backdrop.
Finally, I got out and sat in the sun to dry off a bit before changing back into my hiking clothes. I am not going to lie, the afternoon of walking felt a little tedious after the amazing swim… I just couldn’t stop looking at the water with big loving cow eyes.
A campsite to rest our weary bodies
The campsite was a lot further from the turn off than we expected, it was a secluded spot underneath some beautiful blue gum trees and just 20 meters from the river. So naturally, I headed straight back in for another swim. That evening we ate dinner by the river, slapping away mosquitoes and flies. My body was shattered but my mind was completely at peace. I knew without a doubt that when I crawled into my tent I would be asleep in seconds.
We had decided not to put the waterproof section of the tent on, just the fly screen. This created fantastic air flow and a view of the stars. Best decision ever. I woke up once in the night and glimpsed the milky-way through the blue gums, and drifted back off to sleep with a smile on my face.
In the morning we woke early, wanting to get on the trail early so we could have a pub lunch back in Blackheath. The blue gum walk headed back to the turnoff to the campsite before going in the opposite direction to the way we had come the previous day. It took us back up to the top of the rim via a different path before heading back into Blackheath. My legs, however, were very stiff from the day before so I couldn’t move very fast. One may have even called me “slowpoke”. As soon as we joined the river track my heart broke. There were so many beautiful swimming spots that were begging me to jump in. I vowed that I would go back and spend a couple more days down there just so I can swim in them all!
Climbing back out of the valley
What I wasn’t expecting was how hard I would find the climb back up. It was hard in part due to the pain in my legs from the day before, and in part due to the fact that I was carrying a backpack. Mainly it was hard because I have let myself get unfit and have been living in denial. There is nothing more motivating than climbing up the side of a cliff to remind you to do squats more often.
By the time I had reached the bottom of Govetts Leap waterfall I was soaked through with sweat. I have never wanted to fall into a pool of water so badly in my life. Looking up to the top of the waterfall, seeing how far I still had to climb almost broke my spirit. I definitely need to commit to more squats in my future.
The worst part about the climb was the path that cut into the cliff, with a steep drop to the valley floor below. It was a test for my fear of heights… I was so exhausted that the only thing I could concentrate on was putting one foot in front of the other.
Back in the real world after the Blackheath to Blue Gum Loop Bushwalk
Once up the top, it was a relatively easy walk along the ridgeline and through the bush back to Blackheath. First stop, the pub! I changed into some less stinky clothes and ordered a cider and several large glasses of water. Sitting the sun for an hour while we basked in our own amazingness, enjoying not moving. Finally, though, it was time to catch the train back to Sydney. Considering how tough I had found the second day, you would have thought that I would have been glad to be out of the mountains, but it was quite the opposite, I instantly wanted to be back down in the valley, swimming in the river.