How to Visit the Blue Mountains By Train: Easy Itineraries to follow
Visiting the Blue Mountains by train on a day trip is a great way to save some money and have more control over what you see and do while you are there. It’s relatively easy and armed with our detailed advice; you have everything you need for a fantastic day trip from Sydney.
How to Plan a One Day Blue Mountains Itinerary
We have put together two one-day itineraries for visiting the stunning UNESCO listed Blue Mountains using a combination of the train from Sydney and HOHO Bus.
Note: The HOHO bus is currently running on a reduced schedule but is operating on weekends and in school and other holiday periods.
- One day visiting Scenic World and using the HOHO bus to see the main sites.
- One day skipping Scenic World to allow more time for bushwalking.
Let’s start with our tips for taking the train to the mountains.
Catching the train to the Blue Mountains from Sydney
Trains to the mountains leave from Central Station, usually from platforms 5-12, which are in the main hall. The journey takes just under two hours, and most of it is not that scenic, so pack a book or have a little snooze.
Take a seat upstairs on the left if you can. This will offer the best views once you reach the lower mountains.
How much does a train ticket to the Blue Mountains cost?
The cost of tickets depends on the time of the day and the day of the week.
If you catch the train in the official off-peak time before 6.30am or after 10am it is $6.51 one way; during peak times it is $9.31. The return peak runs between 3-7pm.
On weekend, the return fare is set by the Opal weekend travel cap of $8.40 per day. A consequence of the cheap ticket is there are more people on the trains (and in the mountains), which can often result in no empty seats on the way home!
If you are not familiar with the Opal ticketing systems, read our 101 Guide to using Opal in Sydney first.
What time train should you take to the Mountains?
The early bird catches the worm and avoids the tour buses, so set your alarm and get to bed before midnight!
Trains from Katoomba are as follows:
|Central Station||Katoomba Station|
|6:23 am||8:21 am|
|6:53 am||8:51 am|
|7:23 am||9:21 am|
|8:18 am||10:16 am|
Try to catch one of the first two services above. These trains will get you up to the mountains in time to grab a coffee before the first HOHO bus departs or Scenic World opens.
If you prefer to drive check out our Blue Mountains self-drive itineraries.
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Itinerary 1 – Blue Mountains with Scenic World & HOHO Bus
Short bushwalks and photo opportunities.
This first itinerary focuses on the best-known spots in the Blue Mountains, Echo Point, home of the Three Sisters, Scenic World and Leura. It’s a great choice for anyone who would prefer to keep their bushwalks limited to 30 minutes or less or those who have not had time to do much research.
Being able to hop on and off the bus is perfect for families with young kids who may struggle to keep up on a group tour.
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 includes entry to Scenic World without having to line up to get a ticket when you reach Katoomba. If you plan on visiting Scenic World, lines for tickets can be very long at times; having a ticket means you can get straight to the rides before the crowds.
If you are not planning on visiting Scenic World, buy the standard HOHO pass.
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 if you are early. It will allow you to plan your stops over your morning coffee. 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 if you prefer.
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, the big tour buses usually arrive around 10am. If you can get there before they do, you will not have to queue for the rides.
If you come later in the day, leave Scenic World until mid-afternoon.
9.32 am – Arrive at Scenic World, show your pass and walk right in. (Stop 11)
How long should you spend at Scenic World
At the moment, due to the social distancing, Scenic World is operating a little differently – you make your way through the rides in order.
If you want to take all three rides at Scenic World, then I suggest you allow 1.5 hours for your visit. 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 light across the valley is best earlier in the day, and the Skyway is popular with tour groups, 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 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. There was nothing significantly different 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 back up to the base station from the valley floor.
11.02 am – Rejoin the HOHO bus; if you miss this one, there is another at 11:47 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. If you are not looking to do a bushwalk, jump back on the bus after you have taken your shot.
11:23 am – Arrive at Katoomba Falls Tourist Park (Stop 16)
This is one of the prettiest walks in the mountains. Follow the signs to the main Katoomba Falls lookout before backtracking and following the walk Katoomba Cascades. There are plenty of picnic tables at the top of the stairs above the cascades waiting for you when you can tear yourself away from the view.
1.13 pm – Rejoin the HOHO bus here at Stop 9 and stay on board until you reach Echo Point
The bus will pass by NarrowNeck and Cahill Lookout
1.45 pm – Arrive at Echo Point (Stop 7)
Walk down to the Three Sisters viewing platform for fantastic views of the famous rock formation and across the valley to Mount Solitary; if you are up for a walk, head down to see the Three Sisters up close.
Walk 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.
2:30 pm – Join the HOHO at Stop 7 and take the bus to Leura village. There is another bus at 3:15 pm if you want to spend longer at Echo Point.
2:55 pm – Arrive at Gordon Falls (Stop 29) and take a walk from Gordon Falls to Olympian Rock – approx 20 minutes – Rejoin the bus at Stop 30.
3:40pm – Take the bus from Lurealla Toy and Railway Museum to Leura
3:45pm – Arrive at Leura Station
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 Katoomba 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.
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, check out the other stops in Leura like the Lyrebird Dell or Everglades Gardens.
4:40 pm – Join the bus back to Katoomba (Stop 29)
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. Two top-rated trails, the Prince Henry Cliff Walk at 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 many more options, and these are outlined in the guidebook you receive with your HOHO bus 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 Hominy Bakery or even the Aldi supermarket for supplies. There is a second stop at this end of the street to save you from walking back.
9:25 am – Alight at Echo Point (Stop 7) 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 😉
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 section is currently closed for repairs – stay on the bus.
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. 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.
If you need more suggestions, check out these articles
- 33 Blue Mountains Lookouts
- 12 Short Blue Mountains walks
- 50 Things to do in the Blue Mountains
- Where to Stay in the Blue Mountains
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