Duration: full day | Length: 14km return | Difficulty: medium to hard
If you want to appreciate the walk in full length start at the Furber Steps (hard, 14km return) or at the start of the scenic railway (hard, 12km return). The Furber Steps are more rewarding since you’ll have crisp morning views into the Jamison Valley towards your destination.
At the base turn west and follow the Federal Pass which takes you mostly through forest at the base of the escarpment. There’s one area where a giant landslide has exposed rocks and earth, and it will take some years to come for this big wound to heal. The track criss crosses through this rough terrain and you have to pay attention not to miss the arrows.
The less fit can join the Federal Pass at the Golden Stairs, thus shorten the trip to roughly 8 kilometres (medium, 5 hours). It is here where the trail leads through wonderful open forest, and if you walk in spring you can enjoy the birds singing and smell the scent of many a flower. I thought I was in paradise.
The ascent to the Ruined Castle is rough, and two signs warn that it’ll be a “steep hard climb” and that the track is “in poor condition”. But this is only true for the first 200 metres and well worth the effort. After you’ve recovered a bit while walking on the ridge you’ll discover that the castle is actually a peculiar rock formation.
It takes a bit of courage to climb the castle, but the 360 degrees views are tremendous and well worth it. You can look back to Katoomba and overview the Jamison Valley and Mount Solitary in the east.
Tip: Stop the time from your departure to when you arrive at the Ruined Castle and bear this in mind for your decision when to walk back.
When you’re back at the Scenic Railway let your legs decide if you want to climb the Furber Stairs back up.