Lady Barron Falls Circuit
Start - Mount Field Visitor Centre
Length - 6.5km (Loop)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, Boardwalk
Vertical Climb - 198m
Time - 2-4 hours
Signed - Yes
Cost - National Park Fees Apply
Date Hiked - 1st November 2018
Best Time - All Year Round
Traditional Custodians - Lairmairrener People
Directions - Located 1.5hrs west of Hobart, take the Brooker Hwy north and follow the signs for New Norfolk. Pass through the town and follow the signs for Mount Field NP. The trail starts from the visitor centre and there is plenty of parking available.
The Hike - With an excellent morning spent exploring the stunning Mount Field East circuit, I drove back down the mountain with the hopes of tackling the very different Lady Barron Falls Circuit. With lush temperate rainforest, waterfalls in abundance and the largest flowering trees found in the world, it was a stark difference to the mountains, alpine fields and lakes of the upper reaches of Mount Field National Park. Having finished the Mount Field East hike in bright sunny weather, I was hoping that the sunshine would disappear for the next hike as the rainforests are not at their photographic best in these conditions. Having checked the weather forecast it was saying afternoon rain was on the horizon so with plenty of time I decided to wait around for a while before starting the hike.
Visiting the gift shop in the impressive information building and exploring the various displays they have passed some time before I retired to my car and watched the Warriors play the Pelicans (basketball) on my phone. When the game ended the sun was still out but I could see the first signs of the clouds rolling in off the mountain. Deciding that they would arrive soon I grabbed my gear and made my way to the start. Combining a few tracks close to the visitor centre, the Lady Barron Falls Circuit provides a longer option to link up the three main waterfalls found in the area (Russell Falls, Horseshoe Falls & Lady Barron Falls).
The tourist friendly track to Russell Falls begins at the visitor centre and is paved almost all the way up to the falls. The 750m walk to the falls runs alongside the water course that is fed from the mountains above and feeds into the nearby Tyenna River. Large ferns line the pathway and there are some large examples of the Swamp Gum to admire, both standing upright and in a state of decay on the forest floor. Given the short length and proximity to the visitor centre, this is a very popular spot so expect to see a few people no matter what day it is (during non-winter times). When you arrive at Russell Falls it is a lovely place to be with up close views of the waterfall from behind the wooden barriers. A bridge crossing the water also provides an excellent viewpoint and it quite selfie-friendly if that is the kind of thing that floats your boat.
Unfortunately the sun had reappeared with great brightness so combined with the crowds I didn't take too many photos here. I did find a little spot off to the side where I could get a semi-clear shot of the falls behind some ferns but they came out a little blurry because of the wind blowing on the fern fronds. Having being foiled in my attempts at capturing Russell Falls I vowed to return after I'd finished the hike to get some better shots. I moved on to the track leading away from Russell Falls and up the hill to Horseshoe Falls. For some reason I was getting the vibe of being at an amusement park, possibly Jurassic Park themed, as the dirt path was very manicured and the rocks didn't look real. That feeling didn't last long and seemed confined to the area around Russell Falls.
Marching up the hill, I seemed to have found a quiet patch of path and was enjoying the peace and quiet as I walked through the forest. A lovely section of Sassafras with their white trunks reminded me of the nearby Marriotts Falls hike I did a couple of days prior. It wasn't long before I was at the top of Russell Falls admiring the views from behind the wooden fence they have erected. I get why it's there given the popularity of this section but it feels like you're in a nature zoo, peering from behind the barriers at the wilderness. The stream running between Horseshoe Falls and feeding Russell Falls is very lovely to behold but was hard to get a good photo of because the barriers were in the way. Moving on I hoped for better access photographing Horseshoe Falls and was happy to find a good viewing platform when I arrived.
At this moment the dark clouds arrived and heralded the start of the lovely photographic conditions that would be with me almost until the end. Setting up my tripod I spent a lot of time here shooting different angles and exposure lengths while families and tourists came and went. I have to say that out of the three waterfalls, Horseshoe Falls was my favourite thanks to the angles the water cascades over the rocks at and the different levels of water flow. It is just framed right with the ferns, rocks, forest and water. After quite a while I packed everything up and headed off on my way. Leaving the wooden boardwalks and bridges behind, it was nice to be wandering through the forest with not a lot of man made structures everywhere.
I did however have to slow down/speed up every now and then as other people caught me up or I caught them. Having a thing where I like my photos to be mostly devoid of people, it was an effort to maintain this here. One legitimate reason to stop and faff about with my pack was the introduction of rain to the hike. Having being excited when the clouds rolled in for good at Horseshoe Falls it was only a matter of time before the heavens opened up. Having experienced some pretty perfect weather so far on my Tassie trip, I expected the rain to be nothing more than a drizzle but as I approached the intersection with the Tall Trees Walk it started to become more than a drizzle.
There are two trail options you can take here, one continues straight towards Lady Barron Falls and the other deviates slightly into the forest on the Tall Trees Walk. Meant to be accessed as a separate loop from the nearby car park, I decided to follow the Tall Trees Walk because why not experience some of the largest flowering trees in the world? These giants can grow up to 98m tall and are the tallest hardwood trees in the world. Arching my view skyward, the examples they point out on this short walk are nearer to 80m with the first branches appearing at a height of most other trees canopies. I do love walking through the Karri forests of WA and the Swamp Gums reminded me of that feeling, just with a lusher feel due to the amount of ferns around.
The gentle walk continues with a few information boards providing some impressive information and a very moving passage from one of the earliest colonial explorers, Bruni D'Entrecasteux. When talking about these impressive forests and the impact of man he says "Wishing only to preserve her beauties we destroy her charm, we rob her of that power which is hers alone, the secret of preserving in eternal age eternal youth". Given we are still robbing the forests of their power this was a particularly poingent message. With a few fallen giants showcasing their size, this would have been a cool place to sit and contemplate the world on one of the benches provided but as I was leaving the loop section of the track it really started to bucket down.
With a few unprepared tourists scrambling back to the car park for the safety of their dry cars I had no option but to continue on, something I didn't mind as I love the rain. With the camera somewhat protected I reached the open car park and crossed the road to find where the track continues on to Lady Barron Falls but for the life of me couldn't find the entry point. After much exploring in the rain I realised it was further along the road and was soon back in the forest. With the rain easing I enjoyed having my camera out and snapped away at the stunning scenery that was full of the greenest mosses, thick coverings of ferns and a healthy canopy overhead.
What I remember most from this section is not wanting it to end. There is an added magic to experiencing the rainforest during and after rainfall as the crispness of the recently wet leaves gleams in the filtered light. You can feel the forest react to the rain as different smells waft through the air. It was like this all the way to Lady Barron Falls with a good mix of thick forest, open pathway and a few wooden bridges to help navigate the various waterways that carve up the contours of the landscape. Reaching Lady Barron Falls I was alone on the platform overlooking the falls and would remain so for quite a while. This allowed me to setup my tripod and figure out a system to stop the droplets of water from the still wet canopy from falling on the lens.
With a not perfect result I got a few shots of the falls although not in it's entirety as an overhanging branch was blocking some of the view. As I was packing up and enjoying a drink from my TLoP drink bottle (#productplacement) another couple I had seen earlier joined me at the platform. Not wanting to get in the way of their experience I moved on and headed on the last section back to the car park. While the excitement of reaching another waterfall was gone and this was essentially the end of the hike I was keen to take in the beauty of the surroundings. More excellent scenery awaits you as you walk past babbling brooks with their rocky beds creeping into the forest and watched by towering ferns. Fallen trees provide a home for countless mosses, ferns and insects and also look kind of pretty.
The last challenge of this hike, not that it's full of challenges, is the climb up the stairs to the forest linking the visitor centre. It's quite an impressive structure and will have you puffing away when you reach the top. Luckily the views looking back down and all around the surrounding forest means a photo break is always a good option. When you reach the top the stark difference in the forest is noticeable. Gone is the lush undergrowth and Swamp Gums, replaced with a less dense undergrowth and a more open canopy. At the time of my visit lots of the trees looked like they had been recently burnt and I thought of the Jarrah forests of WA (and my podcast partner who just loves burnt Jarrah). The finish of the hike is a bit of a drastic change from what you'd just experienced with the unnatural looking campsite in full view and a return to civilisation when you come across the paved road and visitor centre. With the hike over I returned to my AirBnB to find a warm fire going and a lovely sweet treat on the table from Greg and Patricia.
Final Thoughts - As is the case with most touristy sections of popular national parks, there are a lot of short, user friendly trails to satisfy the casual visitor. To have a longer option for those that want to spend more than 30 minutes outside in nature at one time is fantastic and that is what is on offer here with the longer Lady Barron Falls Circuit.
Taking in all three main waterfalls in the area gives good value for money and there are areas where you can escape the crowds. The quality of scenery, while a little manicured in areas, is very high with some of the best rainforest I had experienced during my trip.
I love the contrast that Mount Field NP provides, allowing visitors to experience both rainforest and alpine terrain in the same day.
Having this hike directly after Mount Field East hammered that point home and I just wish there was a track leading from the visitor centre all the way to the alpine regions of the park (that wasn't the road).
Mount Field is a popular tourist destination and this is for very good reason. Amazing scenery, accessible to most but with longer options if you want to explore a bit more.
Get out there and experience it!
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