Getting to the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains National Park is an easy day trip from Sydney, but the travel time makes for a long day — two hours each way by train. So I decided to maximize my mountain time by spending a couple of nights in Katoomba. The town is right next to the park and just a short walk to the area’s most popular rock formation: The Three Sisters.

In fact, the formation’s viewing platform, Echo Point, was just a 20 minute walk from my accommodation, or a quick ride on bus #686. The platform can get really crowded with day trippers, so it’s best to visit early. I visited one morning at 8:00 a.m. and had the Sisters all to myself.

TIP: It’s also worth returning late in the afternoon when the sun’s hitting them just right. Like this!

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I stayed at the budget-friendly Blue Mountains YHA, conveniently located in the town center. My private room/bath was basic but very clean.

YHA stands for Youth Hostel Association, and my Katoomba hostel was in a restored National Trust building. It had a cozy fireplace, a huge kitchen/living area and plenty of historic charm. It even had its own stage. Let’s put on a show!

As for hiking … Blue Mountains National Park offers a wide variety of “bushwalks” that can last from a few hours to several days. The view from above underscores the park’s massive size and the density of the bush. While most visitors come and go each year without incident, there are still hundreds who get lost or injured. Occasionally, there are fatalities and people who are never found.

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To help keep visitors safe, the park service encourages campers and those on longer hikes to register their routes and carry personal locating beacons. My hostel even had a sign in/out sheet to trigger search efforts for guests who didn’t return as planned.

I, of course, didn’t need a beacon for my Blue Mountains hike. I followed a well-trodden path that started at Echo Point and continued down the amazing and steep (!!!) Giant Stairway. With more than 900 steps carved out of the mountain, it was the first time my legs got rubbery from going down a staircase!

While I didn’t encounter many hikers along the way, I was constantly surrounded by singing birds. When I got to the bottom of the stairway, I took a moment to record their birdsong … while giving my rubbery legs a rest!

After the stairway, my hike continued west on the Federal Pass Walking Track to “the world’s steepest train ride” that took me back up the mountain. From there, I walked to Katoomba Falls then followed the Prince Henry Cliff Walk all the way back to Echo Point.

After more than four hours of hiking, I’d worked up an Aussie-sized appetite. So I headed back into town and ordered — what else? — a crocodile pizza. Only ordering an accompanying Foster’s would’ve made me look more like a tourist!

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Here are the rest of my photos from Blue Mountains National Park: