6 wild walks (or runs) near Sydney

Ready to discover secret waterfalls, Aboriginal rock art and historic caves twinkling with glow worms? You’ll find something intriguing at every turn on these wilderness trails near Sydney. 

Enjoy the royal treatment  

Just 50 minutes’ drive south of central Sydney, the Royal National Park‘s rugged coastline is intersected by dozens of bushwalking trails, making it a favourite playground for locals. Experienced and up for a challenge? At 26km, The Coast Track between Bundeena and Otford takes in the park’s highlights, including soaring rock formations, scenic rockpools, towering waterfalls, dense rainforest and stunning ocean views (look for migrating whales between May and October). If you’re super-fit, you could complete this walk in a day, but it’s worth taking your time and camping at North Era overnight (bookings essential). Note that there are few fences or barriers on the cliffs in this area, so take care when visiting.

Get glowing with the family  

Looking for a short-but-sweet walk for the family? Hit the Glow Worm Tunnel trail in Wollemi National Park, near Lithgow, a 2.5-hour drive west of Sydney just beyond the Blue Mountains. Although a little steep in places, the 2km-return trail passes through beautiful forest before arriving at its spectacular centrepiece: a 400m historic (and very dark) rail tunnel, where thousands of tiny glow worms sparkle on the walls. Make sure to pack a torch. If you’d like a longer adventure with an expert guide, Wolgan Valley Eco Tours runs a half-day 9km guided option.  

Explore the big blue  

You could spend years hiking the Blue Mountains National Park, an hour’s drive west of the city, and still find new swoon-worthy vantage points — its UNESCO World Heritage-listed wilderness sprawls over 2,700 square kilometres. For a great introduction to it, explore the Katoomba region. The Three Sisters Walk is fantastic for families, as its 800m path is very accessible and leads to the spectacular rock formation that, according to Aboriginal Dreamtime stories, represents three girls turned to stone. Nearby, the moderate Prince Henry Cliff Walk (7km one-way) offers incomparable views of waterfalls and more than 20 lookouts over the Jamison Valley. For a challenging 46km option, take a guided two-day walk with Peak Potential Adventures along the Six Foot Track, built in the 1800s as a horse and cart track.

Go the distance  

The Great North Walk spans 260km between Sydney and Newcastle, and takes up to 18 days to complete. But you don’t need to do it all in one go — mixing and matching a series of single- or multi-day walks is a great way to experience its diversity at your own pace. The trail starts at Macquarie Place in the city centre, crosses Sydney Harbour by ferry, then passes through several national parks and state forests, and alongside Lake Macquarie, before finishing at Queens Wharf in Newcastle. Not sure where to start? Sign up for a guided three-day hike with Life’s An Adventure or visit the Great North Walk website to choose your trails. 

Reach for higher ground  

For some of the state’s most spectacular coastal vistas, explore the Forest Walk to Sublime Point Track, along the Illawarra Escarpment south of Sydney. The track starts at Coalcliff — about an hour by train from Central Station — and meanders through upland swamps and blackbutt forest with panoramic views of Wollongong and beyond. Fourteen thigh-burning kilometres later you’ll arrive at pretty Austinmer, where you can cool off at the patrolled beach before boarding the train back to the city. With its steep and laddered sections, this is a challenging trail only for the experienced, but its stunning views make it well worth the effort.  

Discover ancient Aboriginal art  

Step back in time in World Heritage-listed Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, just 40 minutes’ drive north of the city centre, where forested bush trails afford epic views over the Hawkesbury RiverPittwater and Barrenjoey Head. At least 800 sacred Aboriginal art sites can be found within the park. The Aboriginal Heritage Walk, a 4.4km loop, is a great introduction to rock art and engravings, including the impressive Red Hands Cave. To learn more about these sacred sites, and the Guringai Aboriginal people who created them, book a walk with Guringai Aboriginal Tours.