Whether you’re looking for a few days of solitude, a fresh new wilderness to explore or a hike that leaves you feeling absolutely bushwacked, this Blue Mountains trek from Tarros Ladder to the Explorers Tree has what you need.

Quick Overview

Tarros Ladder to the Explorers Tree is a 55km one-way, Grade 6 hike located in the Blue Mountains National Park in New South Wales. The hike should take about 3 days to complete.


  • Hike the stunning Narrow Neck
  • Make your way down the challenging Tarros Ladder.
  • Navigating Breakfast Creek
  • Swimming in the crystal clear waters of the Coxs River
  • Camp overlooking Megalong Valley, and the Coxs River
Morgan Cardiff, Blue Mountains, NSW, Coxs River, hiking, river, crossing, hiking, backpacking, narrowneck, ridge, bush, Tarros Ladder

The hike begins with a 10km hike down the stunning Narrow Neck, with expansive views to both the east and west culminating with stunning views to the south once you hit the end.

At this point you will need to navigate Tarros Ladder, a series of spikes and foot ladders that help you get down the 8m drop and onto the ridge, which takes you towards the valley floor. Take some rope to help get the backpacks down. For non-climbers, this will get some adrenalin flowing.

From here you follow the ridge down to Mitchells Creek Trail, where you can begin to follow the signs to Dunphy’s Camp ground. Day 1 is about 20km, so leave with plenty of time to reach camp before sunset.

Morgan Cardiff, Blue Mountains, NSW, Coxs River, hiking, river, crossing, Tarros Ladder

Start Day 2 early as it is the longest and most challenging. This section is where the maps and GPS come in handy. The trail (Carlon Creek walking track) can be difficult to see, and thus the maps can help.

You will need to make your way down into the gully, which leads down to Breakfast Creek (2.5km), from here it is about a 5km walk that largely follows the creek (it’s slow going, the whole 7.5km should take around 3.5-4 hours). Hit the Coxs River around lunchtime, relax and have a swim.

In the afternoon, make your way north, following the Coxs River. You will make about 5 or 6 river crossings between here and the end of the day. Follow the river for about 4 hours, or 11.5km until you reach the beautiful Coxs River Campsite* and the point where the six-foot track crosses the river. There are numerous pools and waterfalls to explore and shady trees at the campsite.

Morgan Cardiff, Blue Mountains, NSW, Coxs River, hiking, river, crossing, hiking, backpacking, sunlight, Tarros Ladder

Day 3 is a straightforward 15km hike along the six-foot track back to Explorers Tree. Keep some Jellybeans for the steep slippery climb over the last km or so out of the valley. Call an Uber or Taxi and get back to your car around midday. This trip can also be done in reverse, although I think its easier to get down Tarros Ladder than up it with heavy backpacks.

NB. This is not a beginner’s hike; you need to be able to read a map and handle the long days. The hike is graded a 6/6. In saying that, it is a good hike for someone looking to take that next step, as the creeks and rivers are perfect navigation guides.

* Drinking water is provided at the Coxs River ground, otherwise you will need to carry and treat water as needed.

Essential Gear

  • Hiking boots or sturdy shoes
  • Long pants (there are lots of nettles in the gully leading to Breakfast Creek)
  • Sun protection
  • 3 days food and supplies
  • Sleeping bag + tent + head torch
  • 5m rope to lower bags down Tarros Ladder
  • Cook stove and gas
  • Rain jacket and warm jacket
  • GPS + EPIRB (can be borrowed for free from Katoomba Police Station or National Parks Office in Blackheath)
  • Topographic Maps: Jenolan (essential); Hampton, Jamison and Katoomba (useful).

How To Get There

Katoomba is about a 1 hour 40 minute drive from Sydney. Park your car at the gates at end of Glen Raphael Drive (the Narrow Neck). If you have two cars, leave one at Explorers Tree, which is the end of the hike, otherwise you can take an uber or cab back to the car at the end.


  • Wilderness hiking
  • Swimming
  • Photography

Skill Level

Advanced: You need to be able to read a topographic map, and be able to climb down Tarros Ladder. However in saying that this might be a good introductory multi-day wilderness hike.

Distance Covered/Elevation Gained

55km walk/2390m


More wild walks in the Blue Mountains

Escape From The Urban // Hiking Blackheath To Acacia Flat (NSW)

Hike the Six Foot Track // Blue Mountains (NSW)

High Above The Treetops on Malaita Wall // Blue Mountains (NSW)