Kanangra to Katoomba, Southern Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia

Jeff Kingston > Bushwalking

I did this classic walk in April 2017 with a Bush Club/NPA group led by Nicola Le Couteur. However these notes are entirely my work and my responsibility. They are a supplement to the map, not a replacement.

This walk is for experienced walkers only. It is done in one day by very fit and experienced walkers as a fitness challenge. We did it over three days, and with a full pack I would not want to do it faster. You could get into a lot of trouble underestimating the difficulty. We started around 8-9am each day and finished around 4-5pm.

Added 17 December 2019: Most of this walk was burnt out by the December 2019 bush fires. It is considered unsafe to enter burnt country for at least 12 months after a fire, because trees can fall suddenly and unexpectedly at any time.

Day 1: Kanangra Walls car park to Dex Creek

Walk towards the lookout, but turn right before you get there at the Plateau Track signpost. Follow the track, which is clear all the way to Mt. Cloudmaker. There is one awkward descent down a slot, where we passed packs. At the summit of Mt. Cloudmaker there is a cairn and the remains of a trig. A faint pad leads south-east, towards Te Willa Plateau, and cairns lead north. These soon turn into a track which goes north-east for about 1km then bears left down the last possible ridge, meeting Dex Creek shortly before the creek plunges off the plateau.

A small party could camp near the crossing, but it is not wonderful. We camped about 200m from there, in trees on the right going upstream. There was a fireplace, plenty of firewood, and very good water in the creek.

There is no practical alternative to Dex Creek for water, but it is not completely reliable. There is a rock overhang some way downstream from the track crossing which is said to be the best bet when water is a problem. I did not go there on this trip but I did get water there once, long ago.

Day 2: Dex Creek to the Splendour Rock track junction

This is the hardest day. Traditionally there has been no continuous track from Dex Creek to Mt. Moorilla Maloo, and good navigation skills have been required. There was a track all the way in April 2017, but it would be a mistake to rely on it until it has persisted for a while.

Where the track reaches Dex Creek there are two yellow markers on trees pointing the way up the other side. Climb up on a rough but clear track. Just over the top there is a fork. Take the left branch and follow it all the way to immediately below Mt. Moorilla Maloo (a large, obvious rock outcrop). The track then bears left down Strongleg Ridge, following the top except at Mt. Strongleg where it sidles to the east.

The bottom is steep and messy. The track fragments and disappears, and although there is not much scrub it is hard to see down and work out where you are. There is a small bluff along the south bank of Kanangra Creek near the junction with Cox's River. If you hit Kanangra Creek upstream from this bluff (as I have done, twice) you will have to cross Kanangra Creek twice to get around it. It would probably be better to walk downstream along the hillside above the bluff and descend right on the junction, but I have not done that. There is a beautiful campsite on the north bank of Kanangra Creek opposite the bluff.

Cross Cox's River a few hundred metres downstream from the Kanangra Creek junction, at an unmarked point at the top of a short set of rapids that connects two long placid sections. The start of the Yellow Pup track is about 100m further down the river. It is very obvious and marked with cairns.

Opinions differ about whether it is safe to drink water taken from Cox's River. It looks clean. One member of our party did it and survived. My opinion is that Kanangra Creek is close by so there is no need to chance it.

The track up Yellow Pup Ridge is clear and includes some welcome zig-zags. Nevertheless the main climb alone took us two hours, going slowly and carrying water. We had planned to camp at Mobb's Swamp, but we were tired, it was getting late, and we found a campsite with fireplace a few metres before the Splendour Rock track junction. There was no water, but unlike Mobb's Swamp it was quiet, flat, and had plenty of firewood.

Day 3: Splendour Rock track junction to the Narrowneck locked gate

This is the easiest day, following good tracks and fire trails.

The most reliable water is at Mobb's Swamp, either trickling across the track or down below at the camping cave. It's usually there but I have seen it bone dry. If you can't get water there you will have to force march to the point where the fire trail from Medlow Gap to Dunphy's Camp crosses Breakfast Creek, where the water is good and completely reliable.

Because of our full packs, at Tarro's Ladders most of our party chose to go around via the Wallaby Track, Duncan's Pass, or whatever it is called. A few metres before the ladders, bear right and follow a clear rough track with the cliff line on your left. After five or ten minutes the track turns up a steep slope, then left again back along the top of the cliff line to a point a few metres from the top of the ladders.