Grade: MediumAllow: 2h
This is The Big One. The Giant Stairway is definitely the most popular half-day walk in the Blue Mountains, with fabulous views and excitement all the way, as you descend to the foot of the Three Sisters via 998 steps cut into the side of the cliff.
If you want your legs to feel like jelly, and the next day wonder where all your new muscles came from, this is the walk for you!
Plunging into the Jamison Valley behind the Three Sisters, the Giant Stairway truly deserves its name. A grand total of 998 steps lead you down to the bottom of the cliffs of the Three Sisters, some carved right into the cliff face and some steel staircases.
Don't get too worried though – the stairway is well protected with fences and steel handrails, and if you're reasonably good on your feet this is a perfect way to experience both the clifftop and valley bottom environments of the Blue Mountains.
The walk begins at the visitor centre at Echo Point. Walk under an old stone archway and you're straight into the bush, walking along a smooth path through tall ribbon gums on your way to the Three Sisters. This section of the track is wide and very easy going and has a couple of great lookouts.
The Giant Stairway begins directly above the first of the Three Sisters, and takes you down to the valley via a series of dizzying staircases – some pinned to the rock, some carved right out of the cliff itself. Go nice and slow on the way down – and don't miss the chance to walk across Honeymoon Bridge to stand on the first of the Three Sisters.
Once you reach the bottom of the steps turn right on to the Federal Pass walking track, which winds around the base of the Three Sisters, passing through some beautiful tall wet sclerophyll forest; keep an eye out for lyrebirds along this stretch of the walk.
After about 30 minutes you'll cross Kedumba Creek, where you can stand on the bridge and gaze up at a fantastic view of Katoomba Falls. Another five minutes walk and you'll be standing at the base of the Scenic Railway.
Make an elegant retreat to the cliff top on the world's steepest railway ($16 one way, last train up departs at 4.50pm), and rejoin the Explorer Bus in the carpark Scenic World.
Grade: Medium | Distance: 3km | Time: 2 hours
Alternatives and extensions
Giant Stairway, Federal Pass and Furber Steps
If you're feeling fit, skip the Scenic Railway and test your legs against the Furber Steps. They're steep in places, but much less rugged and exposed than the Giant Stairway. And there are only about 996 of them.
Grade: Hard | Distance: 4km | Time: 2.5 hours
Dardanelles Pass Walk
The Dardanelles Pass leads you through one of the most stunning little pockets of rainforest anywhere in the Blue Mountains. It's a moderately challenging alternative to the Giant Stairway-Furber Steps walk.
Turn left instead of right at the foot of the Giant Stairway, and you'll soon find yourself walking in the dappled shade of a thick green canopy of huge sassafras, coachwood and lillypilly trees, which only get taller and more magnificent as you head down into the beautiful mossy hollow of Leura Forest.
Leura Forest is truly magical, and one of our favourite spots in the Blue Mountains. Giant boulders, tumbled down from the cliffs hundreds of years ago, rise up like the moss-covered hulls of sunken ships, and the whole area is bathed in a mysterious green light. Bring a picnic and hang out here for a while.
You can return to the base of the Giant Stairway via the same track.
Or for a change of scenery, follow the National Pass to descend further into the forest passing through Marguerite Cascades and Lila Falls. The forest on this lower level gives you a wonderful insight into the variety of natural habitats that make up the Blue Mountains wilderness.
At the intersection take the Fern Bower track to the left then turning right onto the Prince Henry Cliff Walk. You'll come out of the forest at the top of Cliff Drive where you'll be able to jump on the bus at Stop 16 for a well earned rest.
Grade: Hard | Distance: 6 km | Time: 3 hours