Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve

Open, check current alerts 

Fire affected area

Some areas of this park were affected by fire in 2019/2020. You’ll notice some changes to the landscape, as well as signs of recovery. Some areas may remain closed for longer to allow habitat to recover or because we’re repairing park infrastructure. Stay safe with these after-fire tips for visitors.

Overview

Explore the caves at Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve, near Oberon. It’s a great daytrip from Sydney, or enjoy a weekend away staying in heritage accommodation.

Read more about Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve

Regarded as Australia's most outstanding cave system, Jenolan Caves is the oldest cave system in the world, and forms part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

The main attraction is the vast network of caves with their amazing limestone formations and pure underground rivers. Book a guided tour to explore the caves. There are also some caves that you can walk through on your own.

Make the most of your visit and stay at the heritage-listed Caves House hotel. You can also book a leisurely lunch or a delicious dinner at Chisolm’s restaurant, or a decadent high tea. Any of these treats can be combined with a guided tour of one of our spectacular caves if you book in advance. For a more casual visit, enjoy the spacious cafe, which offers light lunch, drinks and snacks.

The reserve offers wonderful opportunities for bird watching and wildlife spotting. You might catch a glimpse of a brush-tailed rock wallaby or a platypus. Enjoy the reserve's scenic walking tracks, all leaving from historic Caves House. Look for eastern water dragons along Blue Pool walking track, or take the McKeown Valley walk upstream from Devils Coach House.

Current alerts in this area

There are no current alerts in this area.

Local alerts

For the latest updates on fires, closures and other alerts in this area, see https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/jenolan-karst-conservation-reserve/local-alerts

Contact

See more visitor info

Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve.

Getting there and parking

Get driving directions

Get directions

    From Sydney

    • Travel west on the M4, which becomes the Great Western Highway at the foot of the mountains
    • Pass through Katoomba and Blackheath and turn left at the Jenolan Caves turnoff from Hartley
    • Please note that the section of the road into the Jenolan Valley is one way from 11.45am to 1.15pm every day to allow coaches to enter Jenolan safely. Take Oberon Road if you’re leaving Jenolan between these times.

    From Canberra, take Tablelands Way via Goulburn and Taralga.

    Park entry points

    Parking

    By bike

    Check out the Bicycle information for NSW website for more information.

    Best times to visit

    There are lots of great things waiting for you Jenolan Caves Karst Conservation Reserve. Here are some of the highlights.

    Autumn

    Treat your mum to a lavish Mother's Day Lunch in the award-winning Chisholm's Restaurant, add in an underground concert or guided tour for a double treat.

    Spring

    It's a great time of year to tackle the Six Foot track; you can camp overnight before finishing up at Jenolan Caves. Caves House is a great spot to enjoy a cuppa.

    Summer

    Escape the heat to the undergrond world of the caves on a guided tour and finish the day wit a picnicin one of the scenic spots around the reserve.

    Winter

    Experience Yulefest, an annual Blue Mountains tradition when Caves House offers Christmas-style festivities.

    Weather, temperature and rainfall

    Summer temperature

    Average

    14°C and 26°C

    Highest recorded

    37.5°C

    Winter temperature

    Average

    0°C and 10°C

    Lowest recorded

    -5.6°C

    Rainfall

    Wettest month

    January

    Driest month

    May

    The area’s highest recorded rainfall in one day

    153.2mm

    Facilities

    Maps and downloads

    Safety messages

    However you discover NSW national parks and reserves, we want you to have a safe and enjoyable experience. Our park and reserve systems contrast greatly so you need to be aware of the risks and take responsibility for your own safety and the safety of those in your care.

    Mobile safety

    Dial Triple Zero (000) in an emergency. Download the Emergency Plus app before you visit, it helps emergency services locate you using your smartphone's GPS. Please note there is limited mobile phone reception in this park and you’ll need mobile reception to call Triple Zero (000).

    Prohibited

    Pets

    Pets and domestic animals (other than certified assistance animals) are not permitted. Find out which regional parks allow dog walking and see the pets in parks policy for more information.

    Smoking

    NSW national parks are no smoking areas.

    Nearby towns

    Jenolan Caves (1 km)

    Scientists from the CSIRO (Commonwealth Science and Industrial Resource Organisation) estimate that the limestone at the Jenolan Caves dates back at least 340 million years.

    Oberon (29 km)

    If the famous Jenolan Caves are on your travel itinerary Oberon in the Blue Mountains is the perfect spot from which to plan your caving adventure. There are a number of ways visitors can tour the caves.

    www.visitnsw.com

    Lithgow (54 km)

    Hassans Walls Lookout, near Lithgow, is the highest in the Blue Mountains. Admire Mt Wilson, Mt York, Mt Tarana and Mt Blaxland as well as the pretty Hartley Valley below. To the south are the Kanimbla and Megalong valley and Mt Bindo. While there, go for a walk or ride around the lookout.

    www.visitnsw.com

    Learn more

    Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve is a special place. Here are just some of the reasons why:

    Historic tourism

    Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve. Photo: David Hill

    Jenolan Caves is one of Australia's first tourist attractions; with land having first been set aside for public recreation and enjoyment in 1866. In the years following this, a number of buildings were constructed, the most notable being Caves House; an excellent example of early Victorian architecture and comfortable heritage accommodation. Innovations in engineering and cave lighting are evident - particularly in Chifley Cave. There are more than 300 caves within the Reserve, all containing a range of geological features and formations, like stalactites and stalagmites, plus rarer helictites and stromatolites The best way to find out about the caves is on a guided or self-guided tour. There are eleven caves to choose from.

    • Jenolan River walking track Jenolan River walking track takes in amazing Blue Lake, waterfalls, bridges and Jenolan Caves' hydro-electric heritage. Also called Working Waters walk, it's great for bird watching and wildlife spotting.
    • McKeown's Valley walking track McKeown's Valley walking track, also known as Healing Waters walk, is a short and easy return walk at Jenolan Caves offering fantastic karst landscapes and wildlife spotting in the Blue Mountains.

    Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area

    Blue Lake track, Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve. Photo: Jenolan Caves Trust

    It is truly amazing to think that a city the size of Sydney has a large World Heritage Area on its doorstep. The World Heritage listing recognises the geographic, botanic and cultural values of the area. The forests of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area have been described as a natural laboratory for the evolution of eucalypts; and more than 90 different eucalypt species occur here, some 13 per cent of all eucalypt species in the world. They grow in a great variety of communities, from tall closed forests, through open forests and woodlands, to the stunted mallee shrublands on the plateaus.

    Binomil

    Stalagmites in Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve. Photo: Jenolan Caves Trust

    The beautiful and mysterious Jenolan Caves holds special significance to the Gundungurra people who knew it as 'Binoomea' meaning 'dark places'. According to Gundungurra Elder, Old Jimmy Lynch, Aboriginal people knew the caves, carrying sick people as far as the subterranean water which they believed to have great curative powers. The Dreamtime myth of Gurrangatch relates to the forming of Wombeyan and Jenolan Caves. The caves are said to have been formed during a contest between Gurrangatch, a mythical being that was part fish and part reptile, and Mirragan, a legendary tiger cat.

    Plants and animals you may see

    Animals

    • Eastern bentwing bat. Photo: Ken Stepnell

      Eastern bentwing-bat (Miniopterus schreibersii oceanensis)

      In colonies numbering up to 150,000, eastern bentwing-bats congregate in caves across the east and north-west coasts of Australia. These small Australian animals weigh around 13-17g and can reach speeds of up to 50km per hour. Eastern bentwing-bats use both sight and echolocation to catch small insects mid-air.

    • A juvenile platypus saved by National Parks and Wildlife staff. Photo: M Bannerman/OEH

      Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus)

      One of the most fascinating and unusual Australian animals, the duck-billed platypus, along with the echidna, are the only known monotremes, or egg-laying mammals, in existence. The platypus is generally found in permanent river systems and lakes in southern and eastern NSW and east and west of the Great Dividing Range.

    • Brush tail possum. Photo: Ken Stepnell

      Common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula)

      One of the most widespread of Australian tree-dwelling marsupials, the common brushtail possum is found across most of NSW in woodlands, rainforests and urban areas. With strong claws, a prehensile tail and opposable digits, these native Australian animals are well-adapted for life amongst the trees.

    • Common wombat. Photo: Keith Gillett

      Common wombat (Vombatus ursinus)

      A large, squat marsupial, the Australian common wombat is a burrowing mammal found in coastal forests and mountain ranges across NSW and Victoria. The only other remaining species of wombat in NSW, the endangered southern hairy-nosed wombat, was considered extinct until relatively recently.

    • Echidna. Photo: Ken Stepnell

      Short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus)

      One of only 2 egg-laying mammals in the world, the short-beaked echidna is one of the most widespread of Australian native animals. Covered in spines, or quills, they’re equipped with a keen sense of smell and a tube-like snout which they use to break apart termite mounds in search of ants.

    Environments in this park

    Education resources (1)

    What we're doing

    Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve has management strategies in place to protect and conserve the values of this park. Visit the OEH website for detailed park and fire management documents. Here is just some of the work we’re doing to conserve these values:

    Understanding landscapes and geology

    With a diverse range of geological and landscape value, Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve keeps the development of infrastructure and maintenance programs as a priority to protect the karst environment while meeting visitor needs.

    Conservation program

    Jenolan environmental monitoring program

    The Jenolan environmental monitoring program, created in 2008, uses special sensory equipment to measure tiny variations in air and water quality at different sites around the karst environment of Jenolan Caves. While still allowing visitors to explore the caves, this allows scientists to protect geodiversity, ensuring conditions stay stable for future generations.

    Preserving biodiversity

    The conservation of significant animal and plant species, along with their ecological communities, are a priority of Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve. As biodiversity is prized in the area, management programs are in place to keep the negative impacts on threatened species and their habitats to a minimum, and to restore them as needed.

    Conservation program

    Brush-tailed rock-wallaby conservation project

    The brush-tailed rock-wallaby may be an iconic species to many Australians, but in NSW it is also endangered. Saving our Species, a conservation project, aims to reverse the decline in population numbers by reducing pests and reintroducing captive-born animals to suitable habitats.

    Managing weeds, pest animals and other threats

    Pests and weeds have a significant impact to the ecosystems within Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve. Pest reduction of introduced species, such as wild dogs and foxes, as well as risk assessment for new and emerging weeds, is an important part of the work NPWS does to protect the biodiversity integrity of this conservation reserve.

    Conservation program

    Wild dog control program

    Wild dogs can have significant impacts on other animals and are regarded as pests. Our wild dog control program operates in many NSW national parks and reserves. When carrying out wild dog pest control, we aim to minimise the impact that they have on livestock and domestic pets, while maintaining dingo conservation in key areas.

    Conserving our Aboriginal culture

    Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve has an ongoing consultative relationship with Pejar Local Aboriginal Land Council, the Gundungurra and Wiradjuri Aboriginal People, along with other relevant Aboriginal community organisations and custodial families in the management of their Country, preferred management options for known Aboriginal sites and documenting their cultural heritage value. Park management includes the identifying areas of the reserve requiring further archaeological investigation and determining priorities for investigation in Jenolan.

    Managing fire

    NSW is one of the most bushfire prone areas in the world as a result of our climate, weather systems, vegetation and the rugged terrain. NPWS is committed to maintaining natural and cultural heritage values and minimising the likelihood and impact of bushfires via a strategic program of fire research, fire planning, hazard reduction, highly trained rapid response firefighting crews and community alerts.

    Conservation program

    Vegetation, fire and climate change in Greater Blue Mountains Area

    With its fire-prone dry sclerophyll forest, the World Heritage-listed Greater Blue Mountains Area is one of the most flammable environments on earth. Because of this, for management purposes, the area now has one of the most comprehensive fire regime analyses in the world.