Canyoning in the Blue Mountains: the Best Way to Experience the Wilderness

I’ve been many times to the Blue Mountains when I was living in Sydney, for a day trip or a weekend away. The famous Three Sisters are often listed as an Australian must-do as they are the icon of the Blue Mountains. However, there are many better spots in the area – and less crowded.

I came down from Brisbane twice to do canyoning in the Blue Mountains – and one trip was even my first canyoning experience ever. I had done abseiling in the Blue Mountains before – which despite my fear of heights was a fantastic experience that I highly recommend if you don’t feel like getting wet with canyoning.

Canyoning in the Blue Mountains - Yileen
Canyoning in the Blue Mountains – Yileen

Out of all my trips to the Blue Mountains, these three trips (1x abseiling + 2 x canyoning) were the best way to experience the Blue Mountains… if you are adventurous!

If you don’t like water, check out this complete guide with all the necessary info to explore the Blue Mountain the way you’ll like it!

Abseiling in the Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains Abseiling 02w

As mentioned, I am scared of heights. I worked hard on it, and I am better now, but back then it was still a huge handicap. I actually did not choose to go abseiling: I had a voucher to use with a friend, and it ended up being the only activity we could pick from the list fitting our timetables at this season.

We made a day trip from Sydney by train to Katoomba station. The abseiling we booked was a 1/2 day activity for $99 that also let us time to do a walk from the Three Sisters in the afternoon.

We joined a tour (Viator* offers one you can book online) and got three cliffs to abseil:

  1. A 5m cliff: for the beginners to understand the technique
  2. A 15m cliff: great views and feelings on this one…
  3. A 30m cliff: obviously the most impressive one…

The immensity of the scenic untouched surrounding landscape when abseiling the last cliff was very impressive. I was glad we could do each one twice as I have to admit I was too anxious to enjoy the first one each time…!

It was a great way to see the beauty of the Blue Mountains far from the crowd with a hint of adventure and adrenaline.

And if you are ready for a bigger adventure, canyoning is the option to go for!

Blue Mountains Abseiling 05w

Canyoning in the Blue Mountains

There are 50 or 60 canyons to explore in the Blue Mountains, offering different levels of experience and different lengths. Tours go to about 15 of them.

A colleague who explored a few canyons in the Blue Mountains highly recommended three of them: Butterbox, Claustral and Bowen North.

So far, we have only tried two – always with a guided tour: Butterbox and Yileen. Both will take a full day. If you’re short on time you can check out Empress Canyon instead.

Canyoning in the Blue Mountains (Butterbox)
Canyoning in the Blue Mountains (Butterbox)

1. Butterbox Canyon (advanced level)

We picked Butterbox Canyon as from the photos it seemed to be spectacular with a lot of variety. We didn’t regret it.

I loved how we were just our group in the wilderness, by ourselves for hours in the immensity of the canyon. Our guides knew very well the area and having two staff to prepare the equipment, give the technical advice and take care of the security was a luxury: we only had to fully enjoy the views and have fun!

It was a real adventure, amongst the most physically demanding activities I have done during a trip.

Blue Mountains Canyoning (Butterbox)
Canyoning in the Blue Mountains (Butterbox)

I was the only girl, and the group had a decent pace that required a lot of efforts to follow. There were many opportunities to jump in the 14° water, as well as impressive cliffs to abseil. We ended with some rock climbing: with wet shoes and after many efforts, it was harder than I expected!

I was glad we only made a day trip and had no big plans in Sydney on the following day: it took me three days to recover from the muscle pain!

2. Yileen Canyon (intermediate level)

Our second canyoning adventure in the Blue Mountains was with a friend who had never done abseiling before. I also came back from a foot injury a few months earlier and didn’t want to push to the advanced level this time.

Yileen Canyon is in the Grose Valley near Blackheath – a place where we hiked before to my favourite lookout in the Blue Mountains.

Blue Mountains Canyoning - Yileen
Blue Mountains Canyoning - Yileen

With three abseils building up progressively (from five metres to 50 metres!) and no jump, Yileen looked perfect on paper. And it met our expectations: we had an excellent day, and we are already looking forward to our next canyoning trip.

Blue Mountains Canyoning - Yileen
Blue Mountains Canyoning - Yileen
Blue Mountains Canyoning - Yileen

Are you ready? Viator* offers a tour that you can book online.

When is the best time to go canyoning in the Blue Mountains?

I’ve only done canyoning a few times in my life (in Vanuatu and the Blue Mountains), so I won’t pretend to be an expert. But after discussing with the guides during our couple of canyoning trips in the Blue Mountains, I feel like summer and early autumn are the best seasons to go canyoning.

Summer brings the heat which allows you not to get too cold when you’re wet. However, the climb back may be strenuous.

In early Autumn, the water should have warmed up a little bit from the hot summer days. And if you’re lucky, you’ll have a lovely sunny day but the heat shouldn’t be too bad as you climb back.

Have you ever done canyoning or visited the Blue Mountains? Leave a comment below!

Where to stay in the Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains can be visited as a day trip from Sydney – and you don’t even need a car as the train will take you there. It was my prefered option to save on accommodation costs when I was travelling on a budget and living in Sydney.

But if you have a car, it is worth spending the entire weekend in the Blue Mountains, if you can.

Those travelling on a budget will love the free campsites available in the Blue Mountains. We stayed at Blackheath Glen Reserve. But be equipped for the weather: it can get very hot during summer, and very cold during winter. And it’s not unusual to have a storm at the end of the day. The Blue Mountains are about 1,000 metres above the sea level, so it’s not the same weather forecast than Sydney.

Not a fan of camping? Katoomba is the most famous town in the Blue Mountains and the easiest to reach. It offers many accommodation options. But I’d personally go for something out of town, like a charming cottage. I also find the region near Blackheath more attractive and less crowded.

If you don’t mind the price, The Enchanted Cave and the ECO certified Spicers Sangoma Retreat* are on my dream list. But they’re out of most people’s budget (including mine).

Booking.com

Where are these canyons in the Blue Mountains?

The Blue Mountains are at 50km to the north-west of Sydney. It is a World Heritage Listed national park of about the size of Belgium. It takes 1h40 by car to reach Katoomba from Sydney, and around 2h30 by train.

When joining a tour for abseiling or canyoning, you will meet the guide in Katoomba, the most touristy place of the Blue Mountains.

It’s one of the stops on my Australia’s East Coast road trip guide that you can download for free here.

Blue Mountains - Abseiling

*These are affiliate links: I will receive a commission if you make a booking using this link. This will help me maintain this website. 

 

2 thoughts on “Canyoning in the Blue Mountains: the Best Way to Experience the Wilderness

  1. Wow, I didn’t know you could do either, abeiling and canoeing. Such a great idea! I unfortunately just spent a day there and thought that was so not enough. Now I’ve got some ideas for the next time I’m there. :)

    1. Canyoning, not canoeing ;) I don’t know if you can do canoeing in the Blue Mountains, but that won’t be as impressive than canyoning. Glad I’m giving you additional reasons to come back! :)

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