Thursday, 11 July 2019

Leura Cascades (Blue Mountains National Park)

A 4.5 kilometre loop walk in Blue Mountains National Park, the Leura Cascades Circuit explores the beautiful cascades leading to Leura Falls. Starting at the day use area, the trail features a series of small waterfalls along its course before the creek flows over the cliffs. Rising up, the trail then returns back to the car while offering spectacular views of the the valley and Mt Solitary in the distance. An excellent short walk option

Distance: 4.5 km (loop)
Gradient: Starts as a moderate descent with a moderately steep ascent on the way back
Quality of Path: A mix of purpose built walk trail and boardwalks
Quality of Signage: Generally well signed, with clear trailheads and markers at junctions
Experience Required: No Bushwalking Experience Required
Time: 1 Hour
Steps: Several steps along the boardwalks
Best Time to Visit: Autumn-Spring
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: The trail starts at the Leura Cascades car park. From Leura, take Leura Mall south and turn right onto Cliff Dr following signs for Leura Cascades. Turn onto Chelmsford Dr just before crossing the Leura Falls Brook to reach the car park and trailhead

Having completed two overnight hikes back to back (the Royal Coast Track and Grose Valley), Alissa and I spent most of the next day tackling other non-hiking related activities in the Blue Mountains like visiting the Norman Lindsay Gallery, multiple museums and the shops of Katoomba and Leura. After the epic day out of the Grose Valley, the aim had originally been to give hiking a bit of a rest, however we decided to go for a short walk in the afternoon to keep moving. With more hardcore walks definitely out of the question, we settled on the somewhat tourist friendly Leura Cascades given its close proximity to our last museum stop at the Leuralla Toy and Rail Museum (which is definitely worth checking out). 

Starting from the car park on Chelmsford Rd, the walk initially starts on hardened paved surfaces as befitting its more tourist-friendly nature. As is to be expected, the walk was much busier than our overnight journey into the Grose Valley, where we encountered only a handful of hardy groups before joining onto the Grand Canyon Walk near the end.   

While the infrastructure that has gone into the area did mean it had lost some of its wildness, it was nevertheless lovely to see water flowing over the cascades almost immediately upon starting the walk.

At this early stage, the visibility of the road bridge did take away somewhat from the experience, however the fern-line Leura Falls Creek itself was lovely and was at least not choked up by introduced grasses.

Heading further away from the car park, the sealed path gave way to a compacted natural surface that was very similar to what we had experienced on the Lady Barron Falls Circuit in Tasmania. While firm under foot, the recent rains meant that puddles had formed along the track and had become somewhat muddy as a result. Being an impromptu visit, Alissa's flats and my cloth sneakers were not ideal for the conditions, so we had to be a bit more careful than we would have been in our usual hiking boots.

As we continued downstream, the earlier signs of the road disappeared as the trail made its way through the lush forest. A bridge over the creek provided us with a good spot to stop and take in the view.

After the bridge, the trail descends along some well constructed wooden boardwalks as it leads to the most dramatic stretch of the walk. 

Here, the creek widens and cascades down a series of small waterfalls that brought to mind the Cascades back home in Western Australia along the Lefroy Brook. Given how easy and gentle the terrain had been to get this viewpoint, this was definitely a walk that provided a lot of reward for a somewhat modest amount of effort.

After enjoying the view of the main cascades, the trail descends more steeply to the lowest part of the walk. 

At this point was another magnificent view of the Leura Cascades, so magnificent in fact that a guy was sitting mesmerised at the best vantage point just staring at the waterfall for several minutes. So mesmerised was he that he didn't seem to realise I'd been waiting for ages to get a photo of the waterfall, and in the end I had to descend and find a slightly alternate viewpoint as it became clear the guy was not going to move anytime soon!

From that lovely view of the cascades, the trail continues to an amphitheatre-like viewpoint just beneath the cliffs where the creek makes a sharp 90° turn. From here, the creek is mainly flat with very little in the way of cascades before it tumbles over the edge at Leura Falls.

Form the amphitheatre, the trail continues along boardwalks to the head of the falls. 

At the head of the falls, a lookout provides a great vantage point to take in the typically beautiful cliffs of the Blue Mountains.

From here, one can see the water from Leura Creek flow over the edge of the falls, however it is not the most satisfying view.

For this reason, it is best to continue up along the series of steps that follow as the provide an excellent view of the falls in action. 

The higher lookout point provides a good view of the water flowing over the falls, and while it is less spectacular than Victoria Falls from the Grose Valley, this was nevertheless a lovely waterfall.

Continuing along, it became clear to Alissa and I that the Leura Cascades were part of a much more extensive trail network, with a lot of options for longer journeys along the cliff top. Alissa and I definitely got the impression that we were barely scratching the surface and that it would take quite a few more visits to the Blue Mountains before we had run out of marked trails for us to enjoy. 

As the trail follows the cliff line, the trail joins onto the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, and walkers are supposed to turn right to head back to the Leura Cascades car park. Unfortunately, the trail was closed for maintenance at the time of our visit and Alissa and I had to make a decision - either turn back and walk up the way we had come or continue along to Echo Point and then follow the road back to the car park.

Given the beautiful looking cliff walking ahead of us, we chose to continue along to Echo Point as the scenery looked rather intriguing. 

This did mean more stairs, however we felt it at least meant going to see something different and hopefully worthwhile. 

The stairs led us to the Bridal Veil Lookout, presumably named because it provides a good view of Bridal Veil Falls. While I don't recall a particularly spectacular view of Bridal Veil Falls from here, the view of the Blue Mountains was nevertheless exemplary with Mt Solitary being the major focal point in the valley beyond. 

Just a short distance beyond Bridal Veil Lookout is Copeland Lookout, which provides an alternate view of Mt Solitary from a slightly different vantage point. 

After enjoying the lookouts, Alissa and I walked up onto Cliff Rd. Following Google Maps, we walked back down the road towards the car park to finish the slightly extended version of the Leura Cascades walk. People clearly do this walk as there were times where a clear bush pad had formed alongside the road. 

After some days of considerably more challenging walking, the short Leura Cascades walk was exactly the kind of easy but still scenic walk we were looking for. While the track is initially slightly marred by signs of civilisation, the scenery improves and becomes increasingly wild as it reaches the valley. Given the quality of the cascades and the relative ease of the walk, this is definitely a trail that provides a lot of reward for very little effort, and is well worth the modest hourlong investment. 


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