Start - Off Lyell Highway
Length - 2.7km (Return)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Single Track, Vehicle Track
Vertical Climb - 80m
Time - 1 Hour
Signed - Yes
Cost - National Park Fees Apply
Date Hiked - 13th April 2021
Best Time - All Year Round
Traditional Custodians - Lairmairrener People
Directions - Located over two and a half hours north west of Hobart, take the Brooker Hwy north and follow the signs for New Norfolk. Cross the River Derwent at New Norfolk and then follow the Lyell Highway north west all the way to Derwent Bridge. Donaghys Hill is located a further 30 minutes along the highway with ample parking available.
The Hike - Stop number two on our journey along the Lyell Highway from Lake St Clair to Strahan and this one would provide a bit of a different experience. After a lovely walk around the Franklin Nature Trail, it was a brief ten minute drive along the twisty roads before we came across Donaghys Hill. With all the time in the world to explore these little trails along the way, we parked up and gathered our packs to tackle this small climb up to the lookout at the top.
I was a bit worried at the start after spotting what looked like a track closure sign at the start but closer examination revealed this to be a notice about future maintenance works that would have well and truly finished by the time you are reading this. Happy we would be getting this one completed, we started up the fairly innocuous vehicle track that serves as the trail for the first little bit. While this wasn't the most scenic of ways to begin proceedings, I still enjoyed scanning the edge of the track for little details like the drooping white flowers, lichen and various fungi that enjoyed the moist undergrowth. While not the most interesting of walking trails, the others used this as an opportunity to zoom up the hill while I hung back and photographed what I could find. Rounding the final section of the track, it comes to a dead end near some well hidden rocky formations and Caris was there waiting for me by the wooden walkers sign. This marks the start of some very enjoyable walking with the trail now switching onto single track as it continues up the hill.
Immediately there were some dark fungi camouflaged just off the track with Caris and I forming a team once again to seek out all the different varieties we could spot. With cloudy conditions overhead, the lighting was perfect for a stroll in the forest and with a bit of moisture hanging around from the previous few days of bad weather, I was loving the damp forest feels. The lush feeling was multiplied by the different types of ferns lining the trail with all kinds of deep greens adding to an already rich colour palette. One of my favourite ferns through here was the Hard Water-Fern, a thick leaved variety with little nodules all over it, giving a wonderful texture that I loved photographing. We had some more fungi finds along the wet edge of the trail with plenty of Clavulinopsis sulcata (Red Coral variety) and a black and white variety that is perhaps in the Coltricia family. Rising up a series of wooden planks that serve as the occasional step, I think this is the area that was going to receive some maintenance as some of the wooden planks were a bit slippery and mud had started to take over some parts.
As we climbed higher, the forest to the right got even better with some thic boi trees adding to the charm of what was turning out to be a very enjoyable walk. By now the others had well and truly left me behind so I continued to meander along at my own pace and marvelled at the prominent rock formation leading up the hill that looked very much like someone had parked a limestone ship in the middle of the forest. To your left where the forest leads down the steep flanks of the hill provides some fleeting glimpses of the landscape beyond the tree canopy but this is just a tease of what is to come later. There is a very sudden point at where the lush forest disappears and you reach Buttongrass and Banksia woodlands for the final stretch up to the lookout. I caught up to everyone here as they had stopped to admire some Banksia flowers and we all walked together along the exposed path where the views started to open up. Looking north, you get sweeping Buttongrass plains below, Pyramid Hill in the distance and the Collingwood River as it flows south and joins up with the Franklin River (which you can see from the lookout). We could see and hear a couple of girls up at the lookout and it wasn't long before we had joined them at the wooden platform that provides stunning views all around the surrounding landscape.
The real highlight here is the view looking south with the Franklin River below, endless forests and then standing proud in the distance was Frenchmans Cap and the nearby peaks. We had passed the start of the Frenchmans Cap walk on the drive here and it was a bittersweet moment as it's a trail that I really want to do along with the Walls of Jerusalem and the Overland Track but haven't booked in a time to do it yet. Perhaps in 2022 I will return to Tassie and hike them but for now it was just a fleeting glimpse and a promise to return one day. Zoomed in with my 18-140mm lens, Frenchmans Cap was looking a treat thanks to a dusting of snow and the iconic shape (last photo of the gallery above). I was a kid in a candy shop racing about the platform, taking a lot of photos of each view and all the distant peaks that were visible. I wasn't expecting views like this from up here so it was nice to be surprised and it was definitely a highlight of the day. We got the two girls to take a group shot of us and then left them to it as it seemed like they wanted some more time alone to take photos and yell out from the lookout (which we heard on our return trip). Making our way back to the car, I enjoyed spotting things I didn't see on the way up including some interesting new fungi and a few different varieties of ferns.
Final Thoughts - As I said in my Franklin Nature Trail post, I enjoy that this mentally exhausting drive between Derwent Bridge and Strahan is broken up with a few little trails that give you a brief experience in this World Heritage Area.
To borrow a phrase from Dave Osborne of WalkGPS fame when describing the Clackline, Bobakine and Mokine series of walks, this is like a hiking degustation. You get a small taste of different aspects of the landscape with this being the hilly portion.
Ignoring the first section on the vehicle track, this is a fun trail with plenty to enjoy and the views from the lookout are pretty special.
Get out there and experience it!
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