Franklin Nature Trail
Start - Off Lyell Highway
Length - 1.8km (Loop)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Single Track, Boardwalk
Vertical Climb - Flat
Time - 30 Mins
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. The Franklin Nature Trail is located a further 20 minutes along the highway with ample parking available.
The Hike - With our time at Lake St Clair over, the next destination on our road trip was the west coast town of Strahan located a two hour drive away. Over the course of our stay at Lake St Clair, the weather had been on the cold, wet and snowy side of the spectrum so it was nice to wake up to light clouds and relatively clear conditions on our final morning. After a lovely breakfast at the lodge, we packed up our things and as Caris was finishing, I took one last stroll along the lake where I was delighted to see Mount Ida for the first time.
Leaving Lake St Clair in convoy, the drive to Strahan on the Lyell Highway is one of the more scenic roads in Australia and contains plenty of jaw-dropping views and short trails to stop at along the way. The short 20 minute drive from Derwent Bridge contains a couple of Buttongrass plains with snow capped peaks in the distance and at the first large one we passed through Hal had the same idea as me by choosing to stop on the side of the road for pictures. In the distance was Mount Hugel that I had seen on the previous day's hike on the Shadow Lake Circuit. About halfway between Derwent Bridge and the Franklin Nature Trail is an official viewing spot with stunning vistas looking across to King William I, Milligans Peak and Mount Pitt. Naturally we stopped here and marvelled at the beauty of these mountains before getting back in the car and driving the short distance to the start of our first hike. Leaving the plains behind, you drop about 400m of elevation and start to head into the stunning temperate rainforests of this World Heritage Area. The car park for the Franklin Nature Trail is well signed and we were lucky to have only a couple of cars here given it was school holidays.
As it is only a short walk, I left the pack in the car and only brought my camera and trusty fungi hunting sidekick, Caris. By this point of the trip we had a good system down pat where Caris would go at her own pace up ahead of me and stop to point out anything interesting she saw along the way. As usual, Hal was way ahead of everyone so I was happy to be tail end Charlie, taking my time to photograph everything that peaked my interest, which was quite a lot on this trail. Being deep within the rainforest and right next to two rivers, this area has the perfect conditions for fungi to thrive. From the car park things don't look too out of the ordinary but once you cross that threshold then everything changes and you enter an inviting world of ferns, fungi, moss, tall timber and raging rivers. I love the shroud of a good forest and this gentle meander through this characterful place was very relaxing. Early on there were plenty of great finds with almost every mossy log and tree trunk containing a plethora of different varieties of fungi, which Caris was happily pointing out for me.
With perfect lighting, it was a joy to photograph all the different fungi and with no one around but our group (and even then I was so slow the others were normally well ahead), this was an excellent start to the journey to Strahan. Knowing the trail wasn't very long, I took my time breathing it all in and trying to be in the moment. Eventually I caught up with the others as they had stopped at the end of the boardwalk next to the Surprise River, so named because the European explorer that named it, stumbled upon it as a surprise when mapping the area. This spot is where the walk turns from pleasant forest meander to excellent forest meander with raging river. The boardwalk allows you to get close to the water without worrying about muddy tracks or damaging the river bank and there is a seat about halfway down where you can sit and soak in the sights and sounds of the forest. I enjoyed looking out over the extremely tannin-stained waters and across to the other side where the ferns and forest were looking a treat. Up ahead, the others were waiting for me as Caris had found our first green fungi of the trip and I told her about a Mauve Splitting Wax Cap that she had missed earlier. Hal was up ahead and had decided to explore the side trail that takes you all the way to the spot where the Surprise River meets the Franklin River.
Caris, Candy and I ventured out there and stood on the edge, in awe of the two rivers colliding. This western part of Tasmania receives some of the highest rainfall in Australia and these wild river systems carve their way through the mountain systems, creating some pretty stunning results. Heading back to the main path, it takes you along the banks of the Franklin River and back to the car park. Through here I enjoyed the sloping trees that all seemed attracted to the river and so was I as every opportunity I got, I was trying to get a better shot of the fast flowing water. Walking with Caris and Candy on the last little section we found plenty more fungi and in one spot, lots of purple and red berries that looked pretty cool with water droplets hanging off them. Before we reached the car park, I thought there was more to see with a trail leading down to the toilet block then looping around to the traffic bridge and a lovely piece of public art. I think there is a requirement for more trails in Tassie to have public art on them and this certainly didn't distract from the overall experience so good on them for installing it. One hike down and four more to go for the day, this was an excellent way to start.
Final Thoughts - With this being the only route from Hobart to the West Coast and also passing through a World Heritage Site, it's great that there are a number of options to experience the stunning landscapes up close.
The drive itself is quite demanding on your mentally thanks to a never ending series of twisty hills, blind corners and mostly wet conditions. To be able to stop every half hour and enjoy a stretch of the legs is a great experience and the Franklin Nature Trail is the first of many great locations.
It may not be a long trail but it's high quality thanks to the stunning forest, vast array of fungi and the two rivers meeting at this point.
If you're doing this drive then I highly recommend stopping at every opportunity, starting with the Franklin Nature Trail.
Get out there and experience it!
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