Leliyn Falls Trail
Nitmiluk National Park
Directions - Located in the northern section of Nitmiluk National Park, from the centre of Katherine head north on the Stuart Highway for 41km until you reach the right turn for Edith Falls Road. Follow this for 19km until you reach the main car park. The trail starts at the southern end of the car park, near the cafe and gift shop.
The Hike - After a drive through of Litchfield National Park to explore a couple of trails I missed out on hiking on my first visit there, we finally headed to the main stop of our latest trip to the Northern Territory, Katherine. Spending just under a week here with Caris' family, I was looking forward to exploring Nitmiluk National Park, even if the opportunity to hike the Jatbula Trail would not be on the cards (bookings for the trail open in November the previous year and fill up fast).
Our first full day in Katherine would see us have a leisurely breakfast at the only place in town that was open, as many businesses had chosen to close down for the Katherine Show weekend, or had staffing issues due to Covid/sickness. Town was very busy that weekend with it also being the end of school holidays, so we decided to hit up the northern section of Nitmiluk and hike the Leliyn/Edith Falls Trail. Unfortunately we were down one member of the group as Hal had flown back to Melbourne before we arrived and that took a bit of the fun out of the holiday. In the afternoon we all made our way to the Leliyn Falls car park, meeting up with Caris' aunt, uncle and 93yo grandmother, before heading down to the edge of the lower falls to have a look around. Candy would be joining us on the hike while Grannam and Guy would head back to Katherine after having a look around. We ventured down to the bridge where the lower pool drains out and continues along the Edith River, spotting plenty of fish in the water.
The lower falls are off in the distance and a few people had swum over to sit on the rocks around them. It's a really impressive spot here with the wide cliff walls framing the lower pool and the waterfall nicely. With Grannam and Guy departing, Caris, Candy and myself started the popular Leliyn Falls Trail from here as I didn't want to backtrack to start my Garmin watch. One of two marked day walks in the area, the Leliyn Falls Trail is the easier option, being an achievable 3.4km, while the longer hike out to Sweetwater Pool on the Jatbula Trail is a 9km return trip. I had hoped to do this one while we were here but time wasn't on my side. Perhaps one day I'll book in to do the Jatbula and it will be a nice finish to the trip. Leaving the lush surrounds of the lower pool and Edith River, the Leliyn Falls Trail soon enters much a much drier landscape as it starts climbing up the first hill of the loop. It's quite the contrast and highlights the effect all the streams and rivers have on the vegetation in the northern part of Australia.
Slowly ascending and taking in the rugged beauty of the landscape, I was loving the bright yellow flowers of the Kapok that really stand out if you get the right angle and have the sky as the background. As we walked along, we spotted some that had developed into fruit already, something I don't recall seeing on previous hikes. The hill isn't too bad of a climb but being exposed does mean it can be draining in the heat of the day. The views more than make up for it as you gaze out over the national park towards distant hills. The rocky edge of the hill marks the end of the ascent and you enter a maze of small boulders, bigger trees and the first of a few wildflowers, including a round Wattle species. Here we ran into plenty of other hikers going in the opposite direction but for the most part it still felt pretty empty. Following the orange markers, we headed along the flatter plateau towards the Bemang Lookout, spotting plenty of White-breasted Woodswallows sitting in the branches of a dead tree.
Taking the side trail to the Bemang Lookout, I noticed quite a few yellow pea flowers starting to emerge on several bushes and managed to get a couple of shots of the more open examples. The side trail is only a 50m detour off the main trail and is well worth it thanks to the stunning views you get overlooking the middle pool and the upper pool, a place you'll visit a little further along the hike. The wide views of the middle pool and waterfalls coming down from the upper pool was truly magnificent and is a real highlight of this walk. Using my zoom lens I was able to capture the upper pool area, with all the people looking like little ants as they moved about. Keen to move on and explore the area between here and the upper pool, we headed back to the main trail and continued on. The trail from here winds its way through the grassy plateau and it isn't long before you start getting some amazing views looking straight down the middle pool to where it flows down into the lower pool.