Food lovers guide to the Grand Cliff Top Walk Blue Mountains

19 km grade 3 walk linking Wentworth Falls to Katoomba

Heralded as a ‘new’ walk, the Grand Cliff Top Walk is an easy-to-follow grade 3 track along the Jamison Valley escarpment, on Gundungurra Country, that has been formed by linking old tracks known to us locals (and those who can read maps) for years. Many of the sections are part of my daily walks, so when Great Walks Magazine asked me to write an article about the rebranded route, I knew I had to experience it through fresh eyes and in a new (to me) way: over the NPWS recommended two days.

In this version of the article, I’ve included more details on the logistics, with links to recommended accommodation, experiences and food options. Massive thanks to all the local businesses and people who supported this trip through Blue Mountains Tourism and to my fellow walker, Briar (she of the blue shirt) who is also writing about it for other travel publications. Checkout my Insta Reel – 2 days in 90 secs!

Elysian Rock’s ripple effect
Some signage still includes the old names eg. Prince (or is that Price?) Henry Cliff Top

Day 1 // Wentworth Falls to Leura – 11km

As the 8.12 am train from Central lumbers into Wentworth Falls Station, school students shoulder heavy backpacks for their day ahead. Swinging mine into place, relieved to feel the floatiness that comes from a light day pack, there’s a jaunt in my step as I make my way beside the beautifully dressed shop windows of this tidy Blue Mountains village.

With a bag like this and 19 km of grade 3 track ahead of me, it’s hard to believe I’m in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area with everything I need for the next two days. 

Sure, I’ve got the usual suspects like a first aid kit, sunscreen, water and a raincoat on board, but not even my favourite homemade scroggin made the cut. The only slightly unusual addition is a spare pair of undies, PJs, cossie and my toothbrush.

This is inn-to-inn walking at its best.

The track weaves along the edge of the cliffs, in and out of gullies (and up and down!)

The concept is simple: Hike during the day carrying just the essentials, then eat, drink, sleep and relax in the villages along the way. No tent, no sleeping bag and no heavy pack.

This classic European style of multi-day hiking, like a Camino (or pub-to-pub in the UK for a different type of religious experience), is what makes the new (but very old) Grand Cliff Top Walk (GCTW) unique in the Blue Mountains. Traditionally a region that calls for self-sufficiency with full packs for overnight walks, the GCTW welcomes hikers who enjoy exploring local communities along with the natural environment and the comforts of tourist accommodation.

Fed Wentworth Falls with ample offerings

Meeting my friend outside Fed Cafe, we grab an excellent coffee and healthy takeaway lunch for the day. I’m impressed by the hiker-friendly snacks on offer such as rolled oat and white chocolate cookies or fig and nut slice—these might be better than my scroggin

My local knowledge tells me this walk traverses the undulating clifflines along the northern escarpment of the Jamison Valley; crossing waterfalls, cascades and lookouts steeped in endless, yawning views. Who knows where hunger will interrupt our steps? I better buy two. 

Crossing the Great Western Highway and turning down Falls Road, we arrive at the official start of our journey – Wilson Park Picnic Area.

Views throughout the walk look south across the Jamison Valley to Mount Solitary and beyond
Jamison Creek weaves its way down towards Warragamba Dam

Entering through the sandstone gates, there is good interpretive signage to read before pressing onto this first section of the track, also known as Darwins Walk. [Read this excellent article by another writer mate (and lauded outdoor guide up here, Dan Lewis, about why Charles Darwin’s name is lent to this track.]

It’s here that we spy the first black cockatoo. Unlike most meetings with this well-known Blue Mountains local, this one isn’t preceded by the tell-tale squeaky door screech or yellow-feathered tail flash as they take to the skies. And although science has debunked the myth that they are the soothsayers of bad weather, the ponderous sky above foresees otherwise.

This cockatoo — the stylish emblem of the track, designed by local Gundungurra artist, Kelsie King (daughter of Uncle David King)— predicts easy navigation with way markers and arrows at key junctions.

The wayfinding icon of the GCTW by Kelsie King
Gordon Falls Lookout (in case you’re wondering, this pic was taken from inside the fence ;))

Tourists have been walking tracks in this area for nearly 150 years. It’s part of a vast labyrinthine network of trails, some that date back to the late 1800’s work of master trackmaker and Irish immigrant, Peter Mulheran, the first ranger for what was then called the Wentworth Falls Reserve.

Only a few k’s in and his influence is seen along the route in low stone walls, reminiscent of traditional Irish farm fences and stone water wells resembling pizza ovens. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture women in long frocks and ample petticoats, along with gentlemen in stiff woollen suits, pausing on their amble to scoop water with a steel cup left behind for the public’s convenience. There’s still crystal clear water in this well today, but as with any water along this track, you need to treat it first.

Pizza oven or water well?
I love seeing the different eras of track building along the route. Where it’s still in good condition, NPWS have retained these features.

It is with the ghosts of Peter, the subsequent millions of tourists who came to ‘take the mountain air’ and the thousands of years of Gundungurra people’s history, that my friend and I step out on this diverse and wonder-filled Country.

Much has changed since Peter spent years toiling on these tracks, weathered by the seasons and conditions. Today’s track-building techniques draw from a greater understanding of erosion and the flow of water, the emergence of introduced English-style gardens in the towns above that carry seeds and invasive species into the precious National Park and the impacts of Sydney’s population, pushing 6 million people, just an hour and a half away.

On a clear day you can see south, south west to Kanangra and even Mittagong

This is my backyard, my home. I have the luxury of knowing how to link tracks, shortcuts and lookouts into one elegant journey, making it as long or short as I want. And herein lies the real nub of this joint NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and Blue Mountains City Council initiative: linking together the previous maze of historic tracks into one streamlined, cohesive journey—made easy to follow by an iconic black cockatoo emblem and signage.

So if you’ve ever wandered along sections of the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, Three Sisters Track, Katoomba Falls Reserve Night Lit Walk or Katoomba Cascades (Katoomba); the Charles Darwin Walk, Under Cliff, Over Cliff, Princes Rock Track, Wentworth Falls Track, Valley of the Waters Track (Wentworth Falls), Pool of Siloam Track (Leura), … you’ve already ventured onto the Grand Cliff Top Walk!

I like to think of it like the ingredients of a great recipe; each one bringing different flavours, textures, colours and moods, yet creating a harmonious, single dish. A hearty, tasty minestrone of walking tracks with a smorgasbord of lookouts, packaged up in a well-balanced trail.

Dramatic layered cliff faces of the Jamison Valley seen on our moody, grey day 1.

Light rain surrounded us as we took in the first (of many!) must-see short side trips to Fletchers Lookout. One of my favourites, this spot allows you to look down over the impressive 187m drop of Wentworth Falls.

The roar through the mist below us felt like the revving of our walking engines and marked the first of 4 key waterfalls that dissect the route: Wentworth Falls, Gordon Falls (50m), Bridle Veil Falls (55m) and Katoomba Falls (230m).

Off we go and the cockatoo shows us the way along robust sandstone stairs, natural earthen track and stepping stones as we peer through the curtains of cloud that swirl around us. 

By addressing the degraded and badly eroded sections of the old track, the project has homogenised difficult sections of the terrain so it now sits comfortably within grade 3. 

New managers took over the Con Hut Cafe in 2023. They also run Cafe 2773 in Glenbrook.

Taking our time to plunge deeper into the dripping rainforest side-trip to Den Fenella Falls, we arrive at the Conservation Hut Cafe for morning tea. Buoyed by coffee #2 and a cheeky cake, I started to think I could get used to this style of walking!

Crossing the top of Empress Falls, to the ‘woohoo!’ of canyoners below, the track shimmies through dry sclerophyll and allo-casuarinas (listen out for those hungry black cockatoos!) behind the Fairmont Resort and Leura Golf Course. From here, our friend, the cockatoo, flew us along the 1.3 km section of road, past impressive local homes to land us back in the National Park and heading for lunch. 

Empress Falls: an energetic but worthwhile side trip. In summer a great spot for a dip… but my cossie is packed for later!

With clouds closing in on us, we finally succumb to raincoats. The sandstone faces of small cliffs tried to persuade us to shelter for a dry lunch, but Briar humoured me to press on for lunch at one of Leura’s favourite delights—The Pool of Siloam. Here, we rested and indulged in the takeaway lunch we bought earlier from Fed.

OMG! Fed’s Thai beef meatball with salads hit the spot at the Pool of Siloam.
Pondering a dry spot for lunch. This spot can get busy on weekends, so mid-week timing can work in your favour.

Day trippers appeared, signalling that we were nearing the end of Day 1. Sure enough, it was only 400 metres later that we emerged at Gordon Falls Reserve and began the gentle 1.6 km uphill walk towards our accommodation, dinner and special end-of-day experience at Blue Mountains Sauna.

This little piece of Finland, hidden behind Leura Mall, is where you’ll find 90c temps (followed by a cold plunge) to be the perfect tonic for your bushwalking body. You’ll need to pack your cossie unless you opt for one of the clothing optional sessions (you can rent towels and robes) and my hot tip is to book and complete the waiver online in advance. It’s a super chill vibe and a great place to sit and ponder all you’ve seen during the day before heading for dinner and accommodation.

Sit, sweat, soak, rest
… rinse and repeat at Blue Mountains Sauna

Out into the cool night air, our bodies still warm and tingling from the sauna, it was only another 500 m around the corner to the luxe choice of the two accommodation options we would experience this trip: Varenna by Mountain Whispers. This huge 1906 Edwardian guesthouse, can accommodate 8 people over 4 bedrooms, 2 of which have 4-poster beds. This is classic, old-world mountains boujie accommodation at its best—perfect for a group of friends who like a few tasteful doilies and brass fittings. Owner Lorraine has thought of everything and has impeccable attention to detail, renovating and restoring five different mountain properties, that tap into those, ‘cosy-by-the-fire-sunken-couch’ vibes. The property also has a washing machine (every walker’s dream!). spa bath and gardens huge enough to host a Scout jamboree.

4 poster posh at Varenna, Leura

Oh yes, dear friends… THIS is inn-to-inn walking: hot shower, delicious restaurant meal and death by comfort – mountain guesthouse style.

Now, onto that meal… across the railway, 350 m away from Varenna is life-changing Korean BBQ restaurant, Jiggle. Korean born Jay and his Aussie wife Hannah are passionate about bringing traditional Korean flavours, through the recipes of his family and childhood, to the Blue Mountains. I learnt so much by having Hannah cook for us at the table, most importantly, that a sign of a good meal and enjoyment in Korea is a full table. My hot tips are the wagyu, fried chicken and taking their advice on how to build the perfect lettuce wrap. Oh and go easy on the soju… soju… so good.

Definitely order the egg dish… and fill your table
Wagyu and soju (with Hannah at the grill and Ellen from Blue Mountains Tourism) a winning combo
So succulent, so tasty, so tender. And yep, there’s mushroom there too for the vego’s.

Day 2 // Leura to Katoomba – 8km

Day 2 bursts into sunshine and the first of two breakfasts—maybe I’m a Hobbit? This is shaping up to be a seriously culinarily indulgent walk.

Varenna provides a full breakfast on a guest’s first night, but our tummies and caffeine levels were calling us a block away at Sparrows Cafe, where someone else would cook. A favourite with locals, Sparrows is the dream of former local maths teacher Josh and Jess. Known for their excellent coffee (Little Marionette) and good food, they also do a huge range of takeaway items suitable for a day’s hike. If you sit out the front, you’ll probably find yourself chatting with a local and their dogs.

Up with the Sparrows… they open at 6 am

Us hobbits had other plans for lunch though and were some of the first to taste the GCTW packed lunch box offering from Blue Mountains restaurant stalwart, Bunker. Just opposite Jiggle, we were given directions to come around the back to the kitchen door to collect what turned out to be a massive offering! This box could have fed us for an entire day. Nom, nom, nom. These treasure chests of tasty morsels need to be ordered in advance, but are perfect for an easy grab n’ go day 2.

Bunker-licious lunchbox fit for a tribe

Back through the leafy streets to Gordon Falls and the rich, moody moments of yesterday’s skies have disappeared like the chocolate left on my pillow. Throwing back the cloudy curtains to reveal the unmistakable grandeur of the Jamison Valley it’s hard to keep our eyes on the track, with Mount Solitary, Kings Tableland and Narrowneck wooing us on our left as we continue to head west.

Jamison Valley, Gundungurra Country

Tarpeian Rock (named after the 25m high rock in ancient Rome where the most unsavoury of types were flung to their deaths) is our first side trip for today; its rippled rocks betray the ancient underwater story that continues to carve the sandstone of the Blue Mountains to this day. Dragging ourselves away, I delight in sharing Bridal Veil View Lookout (not to be confused with Bridal Veil Lookout) with my friend:

‘It kinda gives you a drone’s perspective of Bridal Veil Falls’.

Me trying to describe the unique angle of Bridal Veil View Lookout
Bridal Veil View Lookout – one of many side trips
Tofu-like stepping stones help prevent erosion and control water flows

Powered by yesterday’s rain, the aspect is more than worth the short steep metal stairs and the 200m (one-way) offshoot. I’m sure our cockatoo friend won’t mind.

Graciously, the track drew us onwards and alongside the famous Leura Cascades, singing to us as we rounded the top of the falls, and onto our tasty packed lunch in the dress circle at Bridal Veil Lookout.

It’s along the next 5 km to the track end at Scenic World, that anyone familiar with the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, will feel right at home. Meandering in and out of spurs and gullies, yet staying comfortably at around the same elevation, the Grand Cliff Top Walk moves along through areas popular with lyrebirds and bower birds. Late afternoons (or early mornings) are a treat for the full chorus as you duck in and out of myriad small lookouts and viewpoints. 

Pay attention and don’t miss the grand dames of the Three Sisters by taking the sidetrack to the popular Lady Game Lookout, Honeymoon Bridge or the quieter (and my pick), Spooners Lookout.

Echo Point Lookout and the 3 Sisters – It’s the classic that is seen as you walk right past it on the Grand Cliff Top Walk
So close to the end, is it too early to toast?

We’re on the home stretch now, with around 2km to go (is it too early to toast ourselves at Bar NSW at The Lookout (the best bar view in Katoomba), but there’s still one key waterfall to take in and it’s the biggest of them all: Katoomba Falls! Best viewed from Katoomba Falls Lookout (100m side trip to Reids Plateau) and time to pause and reflect on the last two days and nearly 20km of track. 

From here, it is an easy ramble into the Scenic World forecourt and bus stop where if you arrive in time you can hop on the 686 bus or for the full tourist experience and interesting commentary, hop on the red Explorer bus.

Our planning fairy had other plans though and we found ourselves celebrating the end of the walk with yet more of the Blue Mountains great hospitality.

Did someone say, Gin?

In the foyer of the old Savoy Theatre (Avalon Restaurant upstairs)

Held within the embrace of the foyer at Katoomba’s old Savoy Theatre, pushing all the swish and kitsch art deco buttons, is Katoomba Street’s Gin Parlour. A partnership between the Blue Mountains Gin Company and the Avalon Restaurant upstairs, (where you could refuel with classics like slow roasted lamb, baked Atlantic salmon or confit duck), this whimsical venue provides prohibition era styling, live music and a solid offering of gin (and other) cocktails. My recommendation: go for the gin flight: a tasting of 4 gins (my pick is the Black Label), matched with garnishes and knowledgeable commentary from 50’s glamour-girl, Helen. [I wish I could style like she can!].

Helen’s heading for my fave right there

Feeling oh-so-relaxed after that wind-down and in desperate need of a shower, it’s a very good thing that my cosy bed for the night is all downhill from here at my favourite budget stay in the Mountains—No. 14 Lovel Street—just 550 m away.

Annette and Gavin have poured their heart and soul into this circa 1913 charmer, just an 8 minute walk from Katoomba Station. Loaded with cosy nooks for quiet moments (there’s no TV), I headed upstairs to the cute dormer windowed room, while Briar luxuriated in her ensuite room downstairs. This is the perfect place for groups, families or bushwalking clubs and importantly, Annette offers pre-booked guest transport & gear transfers for the Grand Cliff Top Walk. Giddyup I say! This is the independent walkers’ dream: catch public transport and have someone take your bags, then pick you up/drop you off. Oh and if you needed another reason to stay here, then you can try 10% off with discount code: LOTSAFRESHAIR.

Heading in for a cosy, budget evening
No. 14 Lovel – a quiet hostel with spots to take your time
No. 14 has double rooms, as well as traditional hostel bunk rooms. Great for whole house or group bookings. Ooo, my ankles are puffy from the day’s hike!

Day 3 // Katoomba to home

Given the amount of good food and drinks we’ve imbibed over the last 2 days, one could be forgiven for thinking we don’t need breakfast. But when my favourite local brekky is on the way home, how could I not stop by Tempus Up Early for my beloved hash brown. Now, I know what you’re thinking:

Seriously, Caro, I know there’s no Maccas in this part of the world, but hash brown?

~ Said everyone who hasn’t tried these
Still ruined for life… Tempus Up Early’s hash brown
Look around and you’ll see evidence of the old bank inside
Tempus Up Early – just not on weekends (another reason a midweek walk on the GCTW is a good idea!)

I am betraying myself (yet again), as I may or may not have been quoted in this article; but I’ll say it again… I am ruined for life. That, and the immense warm hospitality shown by Louise (she’s a trail runner, so hit her up for ideas) and her team with their love of food. She is a wizard on the machine, slinging Little Marionette brews that always hit the right balance, served in earthy-feel crockery that’ll have you ordering another.


Officially, the GCTW is connected with public transport (Wentworth Falls Station to Katoomba Station via 19 km bushwalk and bus), but attention needs to be paid to the #686 bus timetables that connect the end of the walk at Scenic World to Katoomba Station. Another reason to think about staying somewhere that can assist with bag and body transfers. Lookin’ at you No. 14 ;).



Good luck. We don’t really do Uber up here. On a good day, you might get one.

Caro’s other Blue Mountains food recommendations

Writer, producer and content creator by trade, search and rescue volunteer by passion, Caro Ryan started to inspire, teach and encourage people to get into hiking and the outdoors safely.

It’s all about connecting people to wild places in meaningful ways, so they can look after themselves, their mates and these precious places we visit.

She teaches wilderness navigation, authored the book, ‘How to Navigate’ and hosts, ‘Rescued - an Outdoor Podcast for Hikers and Adventurers.

In the bottom of her pack you'll find coffee grounds, instant noodles past their used by date and an insatiable curiosity.

Bushwalking & Hiking Tips from an Unexpected Outdoors Chick

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