The sandstone slot canyons near Sydney are all found in the Greater Blue Mountains area. They lie in the northern half of the Blue Mountains National Park, in Wollemi NP, with some in the Gardens of Stone NP and in nearby State Forest or Crown Land. They can be found in a narrow band running north-south, on the western side of the ranges.
To the south are the more open canyons of Kanangra, and further south again is the Bungonia area.
The three areas can be seen in yellow in the map at right.
Below is a brief overview of the canyons to be found in the more popular canyoning areas.
The Wolgan River has many canyon tributaries, located on the tops to the north of Newnes and on Island Mountain to the south of Newnes. There are also canyon tributaries further downstream below Rocky Creek. The most commonly visited ones are close to Newnes itself. Devils Pinch Canyon, Newnes (Starlight) Canyon and Pipeline Canyon are all excellent canyons, and are fairly easily accessible. Firefly Canyon and Looking Glass Canyon are also nearby on Island Mountain.
Newnes is about 3h drive from Sydney. To get to Newnes, follow the Great Western Highway to Lithgow. Stay on the Highway past Lithgow and take the Mudgee turnoff on the left about 8km past the traffic lights at Lithgow. 4km further on at Wallerawang, take the signposted turnoff to the right to Newnes. About 500m further on, keep going straight ahead (where the road veers left) in the town of Lidsdale. This road is bitumen for about 12km to the bottom of Wolgan Gap, although narrow and winding toward the end. From there it is gravel and dirt for the last 23km to Newnes. There is a kiosk/information centre in the old hotel on the left, and the main campsite is 1km further on. The only services at Newnes are a small kiosk which has no refrigeration and is only open on the weekends. The nearest food and petrol is in Lidsdale.
The South Wolgan area covers the tributaries of Rocky Creek, Deanes Creek and Annie Rowan Creek, and a few smaller tributaries of the Wolgan River. The most popular canyons are probably Twister Canyon and Rocky Creek Canyon, as they can be done without abseiling, and Tiger Snake Canyon, which can be visited all year round. Rocky Creek in particular is spectacular, with a long dark constriction that is almost as long as that of Claustral Canyon. Other good canyons in the area include Surefire Canyon and Galah Canyon.
Many of the tributaries of the north branch (Dingo Creek) and the south branch of Bungleboori Creek have sections of canyon in them. The best ones include Crikey Canyon, Luna Park Canyon, Banks Canyon and Hole-in-the-Wall Canyon. Dingo Creek also has an impressive canyon section downstream from the Hole-in-the-Wall junction. The north-south running canyons are typically drier than those to the south and east, with short wades and the occasional swim.
The Wollangambe River flows north of Mt Wilson, a small hamlet off Bells Line of Road. Major tributaries of the Wollangambe include Bowens Creek, Dumbano Creek and Yarramun Creek. Both the Wollangambe River and the major tributaries flow roughly west to east, and contain long sections of relatively flat canyons, with mostly small waterfalls. Many of the minor tributaries of these creeks are canyons also. The most commonly visited ones are close to Mt Wilson itself. The best of these include Whungee Wheengee Canyon, Upper Bowens Creek South Canyon and Lower Bowens Creek North Canyon. Other popular ones include Geronimo Canyon and Why-Don't-We-Do-It-In-The-Road? Canyon.
The North Grose canyons lie on the south side of Bells Line of Road, west of the Explorers Range (Mt Banks). They are mostly lower quality canyons, in small creeks, and as a result are typically fairly dry. Their main attraction is their proximity to Sydney and easy access. Dargans Creek Canyon, though not technically flowing into the Grose, is probably the best quality canyon. Yileen Canyon and Dalpura Canyon are also pleasant outings.
The Carmarthen Labyrinth is one of the most spectacular areas for canyons, boasting the classics of Claustral, Ranon and Thunder Canyons, all joining in Thunder Gorge. They all feature long, deep and dark constrictions, and their proximity to Mt Tomah means they are wetter than most. Claustral is the most popular of the three as it does not require a car shuffle. The lesser known Burumin Canyon (Explorers Brook) and King Georges Brook Canyon also have long canyon sections.
The South Grose region sports a variety of canyons, from the short but spectacular Mt Hay Canyon, to the long, impressive Grand Canyon, as well as pretty creeks but less exciting canyons such as Crayfish Creek Canyon. Most of the South Grose Canyons are wet, though not all require swimming. The Grand Canyon is the pick of the canyons in the area for quality. Other good canyons include Arethusa Canyon, Fortress Canyon and Mt Hay Canyon.
Empress Canyon is the only well-known canyon on the south side of the main Blue Mountains ridge. Given its quality, it is perhaps surprising that there are no others. There are certainly a few short slots, and some of these can be seen from walks such as the National Pass (Den Fenella for example) and Prince Henry Cliff Walk.
The Kanangra canyons are quite a different experience from the canyons of the northern Blue Mountains. The rock is typically quartzite and related rocks, rather than sandstone, and the rocks are significantly more slippery as a result. The waterfalls are much bigger, the exposure is greater, and the canyons are more open. In most cases the canyons do not have a true slot, although Kanangra and Danae Brook do have slot sections. Dione Dell is a relatively easy canyon, and popular as it doesn't require swimming.
The canyons around Bungonia are somewhat similar to Kanangra. The main slot canyon in Bungonia Creek is limestone, and can be walked through. However the abseiling canyons are a mix of quartzite and other rocks. The canyons are open, more like gorges, with large waterfalls. Bungonia Creek and Jerrara Creek can be easily accessed from the campground and are popular. Spring Creek used to be a popular trip, but it is closed because of loose rock. Long Gully is open, although NPWS advises against trips there for the same reason.