How to Plan a One Day Blue Mountains Itinerary
We have put together three different one-day itineraries for visiting the Blue Mountains by train.
- One day with Scenic World and the HOHO bus
- One day with the HOHO bus and lots of bushwalking
- One day in the Blue Mountains for less than $20
But first, let’s figure out how to get the train…
- Catching the train to the Blue Mountains
- Itinerary One – Blue Mountains with Scenic World and the HOHO Bus
- Itinerary Two – the HOHO bus and lots of bushwalking
- Itinerary Three – the Blue Mountains on a budget using the public bus
Catching the train to the Blue Mountains
Trains to the mountains leave from Central Station, usually from platforms 5-12 which are in the main hall. The trip takes just under 2 hours. Most of it is not that scenic so pack a book or have a little snooze. I suggest you take a seat upstairs on the left if you can. This will offer the best views once you reach the lower mountains, but until then it’s pretty suburban.
How much does a train ticket to the Blue Mountains cost?
The cost of tickets depends on the time of the day and also the day of the week.
If you catch the train in the official off-peak time before 7 am or after 9 am it is $6.08, during peak times between 7 am and 9 am it is $8.69. The return peak runs between 4-6.30pm.
On Sunday the return fare is $2.70, but as a consequence of the cheap tickets, there are a lot more people on the trains and also in the mountains so I don’t usually recommend this unless you are on a tight budget. If you are not familiar with the Opal ticketing systems, read our 101 Guide to Opal first.
What time train should you take to the Mountains?
Trains from Katoomba are as follows:
|Central Station||Katoomba Station|
|6:23 am||8:21 am|
|6:53 am||8:51 am|
|8:18 am||10:16 am|
In my opinion, it is best to take is one of the first two trains. These trains will get you up to the mountains before the tour buses and in time to grab a coffee before the first HOHO bus or Scenic World open.
Itinerary One – Blue Mountains with Scenic World and the HOHO Bus
Short bushwalks and lots of photo opportunities.
This first itinerary is for anyone who would prefer to keep their bushwalks limited to 30 minutes or less. It focuses on the key spots of Echo Point, Scenic World and Leura.
The first thing I recommend is that you buy a Lyrebird Pass online to save valuable time on arrival. The Lyrebird pass entitles you to use the hop on hop off bus and entry to Scenic World without having to line up to get a ticket when you reach Katoomba. Lines at Scenic World can also be quite long.
If you are not planning on visiting Scenic World, you can buy the standard HOHO pass instead.
Planning your stops on the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus
Head to the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus office opposite Katoomba Station to pick up your guidebook. The office opens at 8:45 am on weekdays and 8:15 am on weekends. You can also show your driver your voucher and collect your booklet on the bus.
9:15 am – Join the bus on the main street of Katoomba, Katoomba Street, opposite the Carrington Hotel (Stop 1)
The first HOHO bus leaves Katoomba at 9.15am and arrives at Scenic World at 9.25am. If you are visiting Scenic World, I suggest going there first before the big tour buses usually arrive around 10 am. If you come later in the day leave Scenic World until mid afternoon.
9.25 am – Arrive at Scenic World, show your pass and walk right in. (Stop 9)
Planning your time at Scenic World
I suggest you allow 1.5 hours for your visit to Scenic World if you want to take all three rides. This is how I would plan my time:
Ride the Scenic Skyway first.
The Skyway offers 360-degree views as it travels 270m across the valley passing Katoomba Falls on the way across. You also get a fantastic view of the Three Sisters. The glass bottom floor gives you a chance to feel the vastness of the valley. The Skyway is popular with tour groups, and also the light is best earlier in the day which is why I recommend you take this ride first.
Once you arrive on the other side of the valley, you can take a short walk to the top of Katoomba Falls and return to the Skyway for the trip back to the base.
Ride the Railway next
The ride on the railway to the valley floor is an attraction in itself, and the platform at the bottom has fantastic views of the Three Sisters. The trip down is my preference because it’s like a rollercoaster ride. If you are scared of heights, you might prefer to ride up and take the cable car down.
The Scenic Walkway
The Scenic Walkaway is a 2.4km boardwalk that runs between the railway and the cable car. This walk is accessible for prams and wheelchairs with a natural incline and handrails along the way. There is an extension that is not wheelchair accessible and adds 10 mins to the trail. I did not think there was anything significant on this part of the walk, so it’s okay to skip it if you like. Follow the signs to the cableway.
The Scenic Cableway will take you from the valley floor back up to the base station.
11.22 am – Rejoin the HOHO bus, if you miss this there is another at 11:57 am.
Along the way, you will pass NarrowNeck lookout. The bus usually stops here for a couple of minutes so you can take a quick photo but if you are not looking to do a bushwalk, there is no reason to leave the bus here.
11:55 am – Arrive at Leura Cascades Picnic Grounds (Stop 17)
The Leura Cascades is a perfect picnic spot if you have already built up an appetite. It is also one of the prettiest walks in the mountains. You can walk down to the Cascades and return in about 35 minutes. Along the way, you pass by the top of Bridal Veil Falls.
12:55 am – Rejoin the HOHO bus where you got off 1 hour ago and stay on board until you reach Echo Point.
The bus will pass through Leura and Katoomba town centres on the way but resist the urge to get off. You will come back later.
1.39 pm – Arrive at Echo Point (Stop 14)
Walk down to the Three Sisters viewing platform for fantastic views of the famous rock formation and across the valley to Mount Solitary.
Once you are finished, I suggest you take the easy walk down to see the Three Sisters up close.
Head through the stone archway next to the visitors’ centre and follow the path to Honeymoon Bridge where you can walk out onto the first sister.
3:17 pm – Join the HOHO at Stop 14 and take the bus to Leura village. There is another bus at 3:39 pm if you want to spend longer at Echo Point.
3:32 pm – Arrive at Leura Village (Stop 21)
Leura is the perfect stop for coffee, cake and shopping! If you don’t fancy a picnic lunch, you could swap this stop and the second stop of the day and have lunch here and do an afternoon walk at the Leura Cascades.
Stroll the main street, Leura Mall, and make sure you visit Josophan’s for some of their delicious chocolate. There are lots of shops selling things you didn’t know you needed but will probably want after you spot them. I find I always spend too much time in Teddy Sinclair and Leura Whisk which I rarely fail to leave without a purchase. Check out the full list of shops and cafes here.
You might want to check out Bygone Beauty’s for their teapot museum if you are into that sort of thing 🙂
If you are not much of a shopper other stops in Leura might appeal like the Lyrebird Dell or Everglades Gardens.
4:40 pm – Join the bus back to Katoomba (Stop 26 or 27)
Ride the bus back to Katoomba and take a walk along the main street and down to the Street art in Beverly Place.
Trains back to Sydney leave Katoomba Station hourly at twenty minutes past the hour on weekdays and twice hourly on weekends at twenty-two and thirty-eight minutes past the hour.
If you are not in a hurry to return to Sydney the sunset over the valley at the Three Sisters is well worth staying to see. The last drop off at Echo Point is at 4:55 pm. If you choose to stay, you will need to take a local bus back to the station. You can use your Opal card on these buses.
You could pop into Miss Lilian’s at Lilianfels and have an early Vietnamese dinner and then watch the sunset before taking the train back to Sydney. There is a train at 8:20 pm that would work well and have you back in Sydney at 10:21 pm.
Itinerary Two – the HOHO bus and lots of bushwalking
This itinerary is similar to the one above but focuses on longer walks and less time in the villages of Katoomba and Leura. I suggest you pack some water and something to eat so that you can focus your time on exploring the trails.
Planning which bushwalks to take
Before you begin this itinerary be sure to check any track mentioned for closures. Currently, two very popular trails the Prince Henry Cliff Walk in Leura and the Valley of the Waters in Wentworth Falls are partially closed due to landslides and may not reopen for some time.
This itinerary includes three walks. There are of course more options, and these are outlined in the guidebook you receive with your HOHO bus ticket. Well, actually the booklet is your HOHO ticket 🙂
Planning your stops on the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus
9:15 am – Take the first bus from Stop 1 to Echo Point. If you want to grab some picnic items you can walk down Katoomba Street to the bakeries or even the Aldi supermarket for supplies. There is a second stop at this end of the street to save you walking back.
9:34 am – Alight at Echo Point and walk to the Three Sisters lookout to get your first view of the stunning Jamison Valley.
From here take a walk via the Giant Stairway‘s 998 steps to the base of Three Sisters. You then walk along the valley floor till you reach the Scenic Railway where you can ride back up to the top. This 3km walk is graded as a medium and will take you 2 hours. As long as your knees can handle going downstairs should be fine. Your legs may feel a little rough the next day 😉 Last time I did this it hurt for two days, but I am not in the best shape lol.
11:34 am – Arrive at the Scenic Railway. Here you can either take the railway up to the top or challenge yourself on the Furber Steps. There are 996 of them, so in my opinion, the $22 for the ride up is worthwhile. I suggest you check out the Google street view of the Furber Steps here before you decide!
If the view of the steps has put you off, I suggest you use the Lyrebird Pass for Scenic World/HOHO combination so you can take the other rides here.
11:50 pm – Ride the Skyway to the Eastern station to get a bird’s eye view of the terrain you have just covered and also the Katoomba Falls.
12:27 pm – Join the HOHO the bus will go past Narrow Neck lookout – sometimes the driver will make a quick photo stop here (ask if you would like to). Don’t leave the bus as it too long until the next one.
12:53 pm – Arrive at Kiah Lookout – Stop 16 – from the lookout you will walk via Bridal Veil Falls to Leura Cascades.
This walk will take about 45 minutes and has you walking through different terrain to the morning walk.
The environment is a lot wetter, and ferns flourish here. There is also the promise of little waterfalls along the way. Reward yourself with a picnic lunch before you head off to your next stop.
2:15 pm – Rejoin the bus at Stop 17 for the 4-minute ride to Gordon Falls Lookout. You can also choose to walk this 1km section. Your HOHO guidebook has instructions. Stay on the bus until you reach stop 20.
2:20 pm – Jump off the bus Lyrebird Dell, Stop 20 and take the easy 800m walk to the Pool of Silom. Along the way, you pass a cave with Aboriginal engravings. There is also the possibility of swimming the pool if the weather has been kind.
3:28 pm – Head back to Stop 20 for the bus to Leura Village where your walking ends and the coffee and cake are calling you. It’s easy to kill an hour here looking in all the lovely shop windows.
From here you can either spend some time shopping before joining a bus back to watch the sunset at Echo Point or take a train back to Sydney from either Leura or Katoomba Stations. You can check the sunset times here.
Trains back to Sydney leave Leura at 4:24 pm and then hourly until the last one just before 10:30 pm.
Trains leave from Katoomba five minutes earlier.
Itinerary Three – the Blue Mountains on a budget using the public bus
If your budget is tight, then it’s hard to beat the value of travelling to the Blue Mountains on a Sunday and taking advantage of the Opal Sunday deal. The full day will cost you less than $3. The downside of such a bargain is that the train and the mountains themselves will be more crowded than other days of the week. However, if you are trying to keep costs down, it’s certainly the way to go.
This same outing using only public transport on a weekday will still cost you less than $20.
This itinerary starts with a 2-hour bushwalk before you take a well-earned rest at lunchtime. After lunch, you can choose one of a few options for the second half of your day.
Take the train to Katoomba and walk to the 686 bus stop outside the Carrington Hotel on Katoomba Street.
8:48 am – Take the 686 bus from Katoomba Street to Scenic World
When you get off the bus, there is no need to enter Scenic World itself. You can visit the cafe via the bus parking area and take in the view of the valley and the Three Sisters before heading off on your walk if you wish.
The 2km Katoomba Falls circuit starts near the carpark and is well signposted. It will take you about an hour and a half to complete. It is especially good after it has been raining, but this waterfall has some water year round regardless.
You begin by following signs to the Katoomba Falls access track from the between the carpark and the main building. We will start by taking the Round Walk to Katoomba Falls; this was one of the first tracks to be opened for tourists to explore in the late 1800s. This circuit will rejoin the Prince Henry Cliff walk but is worth the diversion as it offers so many pretty views
Katoomba Falls is rarely without at least a small fall and at times can be quite substantial.
The walk passes several lookouts including
- Vanimans Lookout – a great view of the Falls and the Three Sisters
- Juliet’s Balcony – a full-length view of the Upper and Lower Katoomba Falls
- Witches Leap – a small, but pretty waterfall
- Rainforest lookout – especially lovely lookout over lush ferns and the upper falls.
You can watch a video of some of this part of the walk here
From here we will return to the Prince Henry Cliff track.
The Prince Henry track takes you past the top of Katoomba Falls and the Katoomba Cascades before moving on to
- Cliff View Lookout
- Lady Darley Lookout
- Queen Elizabeth Lookout at Echo Point
Detailed instructions here
Or watch a video (all 55 minutes) of Prince Henry Cliff Walk from Scenic World to Echo Point
Once at Echo Point you will be rewarded with the classic Three Sisters view.
There are two lookouts at Echo Point. The one on the lower level is usually less busy once you are done make a quick stop at the visitor’s centre for any free maps of the park you might need before it’s time to head out onto the Three Sisters themselves and take a closer look.
The walk down to the rock formation is about 1km and will take you approx 45 minutes return. It is a relatively easy walk to a small bridge called Honeymoon Bridge which will take you out onto the first sister and let you check out the cave in this formation. The track is suitable for most people, but there are quite a lot of stairs down to the bridge.
By now I am assuming you are pretty hungry. You have a few options; Miss Lilian’s is excellent if you fancy a big bowl of Pho or a Vietnamese salad. If you would prefer a cafe or takeaway lunch, I suggest heading to Katoomba or Leura where there are much better options than those near Echo Point
Option 1 – Explore Leura
Don’t feel like any more big walks?
If you don’t feel like any more long walks, you could take the bus to Katoomba Station and either change buses or head one stop east on the train to Leura. There is plenty to see and do in Leura from exploring the shops and galleries to checking out more lookouts. You might also just want to drink a few large Aussie brews at the local pub after all that walking.
Option 2 – Wentworth Falls
Fancy more walking?
If you have stopped at Katoomba for lunch, then you can take the 685 Katoomba to North Wentworth Falls bus, just ask the driver to drop you as close to the Wentworth Falls carpark as possible.
An alternative is to take the train to Wentworth Falls Station and then jump on the local bus to the carpark of the Wentworth Falls tracks. There are only a couple of buses a day, but you can also walk the 1.3km to the start of the walk. Signs from the train station show the route via the Charles Darwin walk.
There are a few walks here that allow you to view the Jamison Valley from a different angle. The most spectacular view though is of Wentworth falls themselves.
This is NOT an easy walk so read the track notes before you start and make sure you carry water. If you prefer you can begin your day here and complete the mornings walk in the afternoon.
Before you go
Check the weather forecast before you leave. It can be entirely different from Sydney.
Download the National Parks and Wildlife app (available for iPhone or Andriod) to access maps offline
If you are a cyclist, you can also explore some off-road mountain bike tracks