With social distancing one of the key phrases that has emerged since COVID, one of the obvious things to do if you’re feeling a bit stir-crazy is hiking. The fresh air, the stunning scenery, the lack of people – it’s the perfect way to discover your own backyard. With that in mind, let’s have a look at some of the best hikes in NSW.

Snowy Mountains

We may be trying to flatten the curve, but that doesn’t mean you can’t climb a peak. Mount Kosciuszko is not just the country’s highest mountain, it also has some of the most beautiful scenery, with granite outcrops, wildflowers, and sweeping views across the Snowy Mountains from the top.

From the top of the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift, it’s an easy 13-kilometre return trip to the summit, or you can go for the more challenging 19-kilometre return walk from Charlotte Pass, which will take six to eight hours. Or try the Main Range track, across the Snowy River and past glacial lakes, on a 22-kilometre return hike that can be spread over two days with some back-country camping.

Blue Mountains

The dramatic sandstone plateau of the Blue Mountains offers constantly changing ecosystems as you move altitudes through eucalyptus forests, fern gullies, and natural caves. It has an enormous range of hiking trails, with something to suit almost any situation.

The challenging 34km loop walk to Mount Solitary is currently closed, so instead you can do the 46km one-way Six Foot track over three days from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves, past waterfalls and rivers along an old heritage horse trail. On the northern side of the highway, the 6km return Grand Canyon track may not be as dramatic as its American namesake but there’s still epic scenery with luscious native vegetation and textured sandstone cliffs.

And, of course, you can connect the busier trails in different ways between places like Katoomba, Leura, and Wentworth Falls, that will take you along cliffs or through the forests of the valley.

Coastal walks

Much of the natural beauty of NSW is found along the coast so it’s no surprise that this is also where some of the state’s best hikes are. Many of them are multi-day walks but can be done in different sections.

Unfortunately both the spectacular Light to Light walk and Nadgee wilderness walk are closed at the moment because of the summer’s bushfires, but keep an eye on when they’ll reopen. But another great option is the 26km one-way Coast Track from Bundeena to Otford through the Royal National Park. With rockpools, quiet beaches, sandstone escarpments and even whale-watching (May to October), this overnight walk is probably the most iconic in the state.

On the North Coast, there’s the epic 60-kilometre one-way Solitary Islands coastal walk around Coffs Harbour, with idyllic golden beaches and lush rainforest, plus lots of wildlife off the coast. It connects with the Yuraygir coastal walk, through a range of landscapes from lagoons to red rocky headlands on its 65km one-way route with plenty of camping and swimming spots.

Inland NSW

Going a bit further inland, there are a lot of trails within the World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforests, the ecosystem that’s survived from the time of the dinosaurs. Most of the hikes around parks like Dorrigo can be done in a few hours, but for a longer route try the Rocky Crossing walk in Barrington Tops National Park, with lyrebirds amongst the dense forest of sassafras and red cedar.

And then there’s some spectacular hikes through the rugged volcanic landscape of the Warrumbungles. Or head for a walking adventure in Mutawintji National Park, which has lots of tracks through the red desert, gorges, and Indigenous heritage.

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