A short drive from Sydney, the Blue Mountains offer some of the most picturesque views and trails in the country, and there are awesome free Blue Mountains camping spots on offer, if you know where to look! Sydney-siders often take the Blue Mountains for granted, but getting up for a weekend will remind you of what’s available right at your doorstep.
For those who want a less rugged experience, the Blue Mountains has plenty of caravan parks. These have sites for tent camping and better amenities than bush campgrounds, like flush toilets and showers. But if you’re after a cheap weekend and a real dose of the Aussie bush, read on for our favourite free Blue Mountains camping spots.
General tips for free Blue Mountains camping
Summer is the obvious season to cuddle up under the canvas, but don’t discount your Blue Mountains camping options for the rest of the year! Yes, winter is super cold in the Blue Mountains, and only experienced campers with the right gear will enjoy it. But transition seasons like Spring and Autumn are very reasonable and less crowded. You’ll get some crisp mornings, but snuggling up with a hot coffee is part of the experience!
This isn’t an article about what tent or sleeping bag to buy, but make sure your gear suits the weather you’re camping in. Mostly that means checking temperature ratings and making sure your gear is rain-proof, whether you expect it to be wet or not.
Because free Blue Mountains camping means roughing it, you’ll need a few other items. Most of the sites in our list have toilets, but bring your own paper. It’s also a good idea to bring your own firewood. Bring plenty of water, a gas stove, cutlery, a bucket and soap to clean said cutlery, and good insect repellent. Regarding soap, it should be eco-friendly and used at least 50 metres from waterways – Leave No Trace has a good guide on this.
There’s plenty more gear you need to pack, but it’s beyond the scope of this article – this Lifehacker article can help with that.
The best free Blue Mountains camping spots
Here are our 6 favourite free Blue Mountains camping spots, in order of ease of access and general ‘rough’-ness (least to most). All of these spots are free and don’t require bookings, but some fill up when it’s popular, so get in early to give yourself more options.
1. Old Ford Reserve
Old Ford Reserve is one of the most very accessible free Blue Mountains camping spot. The campground is on the bank of the Megalong Creek in the Megalong Valley. Old Ford is close to Katoomba, which hosts some of the best attractions in the Blue Mountains. Especially if you’re a first timer, Old Ford Reserve makes for a great home base.
The 44 kilometre Six Foot Walking Track is just south of the campground, offering incredible views, historic sites, multiple campgrounds, and a suspension bridge. The walk stretches from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves, but if you’re based at Old Ford you can easily do a day hike.
Facilities: There’s plenty of space to camp and park at Old Ford, and it’s 2WD accessible via sealed roads. There are toilets at the reserve, and space for camper vans and trailers.
Things to note: There are several swimming holes in the Creek, but signs advise against swimming, possibly due to the farming in the valley. It’s probably not that bad for you, but keep this in mind. There are waste facilities, but bring extra plastic bags just in case. You’ll also need to bring your own water.
Getting to Old Ford Reserve: Take the Great Western Highway to Blackhealth, then head west over the train tracks onto Bundarra Street. Turn left immediately onto Station Street, then the next right onto Shipley Road. After 800 metres, there’s a hard left onto Megalong Road. Take this slow, there are lots of tight turns. Head along Megalong Road for 13 kilometres, then Old Ford Reserve will be on your left.
Old Ford Reserve on Google Street View:
2. Cathedral Reserve campground
Cathedral Reserve is on the Western Edge of the Blue Mountains, and is very accessible for casual campers. It’s accessed from Bells Line of Road and is run by the council, just outside the town of Mount Wilson. A 10 minute walk will get you to the Cathedral of Ferns, a 30 minute round trip that is a must visit. It’s beautiful when it’s misty, and home to fireflies on summer evenings.
Facilites: Two composting toilets are on site. There are open several fireplaces and barbeque facilities, which the progress association prefer campers use, instead of lighting fires elsewhere. There are also picnic facilities, garbage bins, and a large car park.
Things to note: There’s tank water for washing (boil it first), but it’s not suitable for drinking, so make sure you bring your own drinking water.
Getting to Cathedral Reserve: From Bells Line of Road, head east onto Mount Wilson Road – the turn off is 2 kilometres east of Bell. Take Mount Wilson Road all the way to town, where it will turn into The Avenue. Turn left at the end of The Avenue onto Mount Irvine Road, and Cathedral Reserve will soon be on your left.
Cathedral Reserve on Google Street View:
3. Ingar campground
Just near Wentworth Falls, Ingar campground is one of the best free Blue Mountains camping spots, especially for families. Strip off and go for a swim in the nearby dam (you remembered swimmers, right?), or bring a kayak and go for a paddle down the creek. Ingar also offers quality mountain biking, so throw some bikes in the back if you’re so inclined (a great option in colder weather!).
Important Note! – Unfortunately, Ingar is no longer accessible by car, due to restricted access through private property. You can still get to the campground by walking or cycling the fire trail, but it’s a 10 kilometre trek that, while an easy trip down into the valley, is tough going on the way back up. Get in touch with the Blackheath National Parks office on (02) 4787 8877 for more information.
Facilities: Ingar campground offers picnic tables, pit toilets, and barbeques. There are 8 unmarked campsites, and one large campsite that can cater for 20 people and 5 tents.
Things to note: This is a remote campground, so make sure you’re well prepared for the trip, especially considering road access issues mentioned above. On the other hand, while Ingar was a popular Blue Mountains camping spot when the road was in use, it’s far less busy now – so you might have the place to yourself!
Getting to Ingar: Turn off the Great Western Highway at Tableland Road, Wentworth Falls. After 1.6 kilometres, turn left onto Elizabeth Drive. The end of this road is where the Ingar fire trail begins. Leave the car here and follow the unsealed road for 9-10 kilometres, taking the left fork at the end of the trail.
Ingar campground on Google Street View Trekker:
4. Murphy’s Glen campground
Murphy’s Glen campground is near Woodford, midway through the Blue Mountains. The campsite has heaps of space, and is a perfect serene weekend getaway. There’s good options for bush walking and bird watching, but there’s no significant water nearby (a few pools). This one might be best for a getaway with friends or a significant other, rather than a family trip.
Facilities: There are pit toilets, barbeque facilities, space for camper vans or to park by your tent. Murphy’s has 5 unmarked campsites.
Things to note: There’s no water at Murphy’s Glen, so you’ll need enough water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. There’s a Foodworks at Hazelbrook and a few service stations along the Great Western Highway that will sell water. Being remote, you’ll need to check you have everything you need. The roads to Murphy’s Glen are unsealed, and are 4WD access only.
Getting to Murphy’s: From the Great Western Highway, turn onto Appian Way at Woodford. Cross the Railway bridge and turn onto Railway Parade. Continue down Railway Parade until you reach Bedford Road. Head down Bedford Road for a while – you’ll pass a gate, after which you’ll drive 7 kilometres to reach Murphy’s Glen campground.
Murphy’s Glen campground on Google Street View Trekker:
5. Perrys Lookdown campground
Head off the main road at Blackheath and you’ll hit Perrys Lookdown, a rustic campground on the edge of Grose Valley. Perry’s Lookdown is on the Western Edge of the Blue Mountains national park, so is less busy than other Blue Mountains camping spots. There are some great walks and some of the best views in the mountains here, including the towering sandstone walls of Mount Banks.
Fit walkers can descend into the Blue Gum Forest in the Grose Valley itself, by hitting the Perrys Lookdown to Blue Gum Forest track. It’s a tough, 4 kilometre return trip, but well worth the effort.
Facilities: Perrys Lookdown offers 5 campsites with restricted vehicle access – it’s a short walk from the car park to the campsite itself. Pit toilets are available.
Things to note: You can’t light campfires at Perrys, so don’t head here if that’s your bag. If you go, remember a gas stove. There’s an unsealed road you’ll need to drive, but you can use a 2WD if it hasn’t been raining heavily.
Getting to Perrys Lookdown: Perrys Lookdown is one of the easiest Blue Mountains camping spots to get to, even if it’s one of the farthest from Sydney. Just take the Great Western Highway to Blackheath, then turn east onto Hat Hill Road. Now, follow the signs to Perrys Lookdown.
Perrys Lookdown campground on Google Street View Trekker:
6. Acacia Flat campground
Requiring a tough hike to access, Acacia Flat campground offers something special for those who put in the time. Acacia Flat is one of the most secluded wilderness areas in the Blue Mountains, in the bottom of the Grose Valley, by Govetts Creek. You can get there either via a 2km walk from Perrys Lookout (via the Great Western Highway) or an 8km walk from Pierces Pass (via Bells Line of Road).
Facilities: Toilets are provided, as are 30 unmarked campsites – plenty of space!
Things to note: This site requires you to walk a decent distance into the site, followed by challenging ascent when you leave. You’ll have to bring everything you need for the entirety of your stay, and it will need to fit in a backpack. If you haven’t been camping recently and you’re not a semi-regular bush walker, this might be a campsite to work up to.
If you’re worried about leaving cars remote and unattended, you should carpool or arrange a drop off to minimise the risks. Before setting out, it’s a good idea to fill out a trip intention form and to tell people where you’re going, just in case.
There are no fires allowed at Acacia Flat, so bring a gas stove.
Getting to Acacia Flat campground: Acacia Flat is one of the more difficult Blue Mountains camping spots to access, but it’s worth it. There are two options, one from the Great Western Highway, the other from Bells Line of Road.
– Option 1: Take the Great Western Highway to Blackhealth, turn east into Hat Hill Road, then follow the signs to Perrys Lookdown. Leave the car there and follow the Perrys Lookdown to Blue Gum Forest walking track. This is a tough, 2km track down to the forest, but it offers some incredible views and idyllic scenery for those up to it. Once you reach Blue Gum Forest, follow the signs to Acacia Flat campground.
– Option 2: From Bells Line of Road turn west into Pierces Pass road, which is just west of Mount Banks Road. After enjoying the view at Pierces Pass lookout, leave the car and follow the Pierces Pass to Blue Gum Forest walking track. This is one of the best walks in the Blue Mountains, but it’s a tough one. Once you get to Blue Gum Forest, follow the signs to Acacia Flat campground.
Acacia Flat campground on Google Street View Trekker:
Blue Mountains camping – Worth the effort!
Hopefully this gives you somewhere to start! Camping in the Blue Mountains is well worth the effort it takes to get there. Once you hit a few Blue Mountains camping spots, you’ll get hooked on the mountain air and incredible views the Blue Mountains offer.
If you’re after a car to get you up the mountains, GoGet has a range of vehicles across Sydney that can get you there. It’s worth noting GoGet members aren’t covered when they drive on unsealed roads – so keep that in mind if you decide to join GoGet!