Philosopher Falls

Start - Butlers Road, Off Waratah Road

Length - 3.9km (Return)

Grade - Orange

Terrain - Single Track, Metal Walkway

Vertical Climb - 96m

Time - 1-2 Hours

Signed - Yes

Date Hiked - 16th April 2021

Best Time - All Year Round

Traditional Custodians - Peerapper People

Directions - Located a ten minute drive from the centre of Waratah in the North West of Tasmania, take Waratah Road south out of town and keep going for 10km until you see the sign for Philosopher Falls pointing you right onto Butlers Road. Keep going along the unsealed road until you reach the car park at the end. The trail head is not at the seat but further around on the eastern side of the car park. 

The Hike - With the next leg of our Tasmanian Road Trip taking us to Corinna, this was a place I was excited to visit thanks to the good number of walks in the area. While there was plenty to do close to Corinna, I had my eye set on visiting one particular hike that didn't seem too far away when I was planning activities. Only 50km away, this didn't seem so bad when looking at Google Maps but once we arrived in the area, it was clear that the roads and terrain weren't as easy to pass through as I initially thought. Nevertheless, with Candy and Hal wanting to check out the Pieman River from the comfort of their kayaks, I thought this was a great activity that both Caris and I would enjoy. 

Heading out after breakfast, we loaded up the Qashqai and made our way out to Philosopher Falls (or Sorcerer Falls for American readers). The narrow, twisty roads leading in and out of Corinna were fun to drive on but mentally involving given the constant inputs and blind corners you have to deal with. It was a relief when we reached a sealed road and could enjoy a more leisurely drive to the turn-off for this 4km return hike. Arriving at the car park, the place looks magical from the very start thanks to a thickness of tree cover and a moist, green look to the surrounding area. I assumed that the little seat and well defined track into the forest marked the start of this trail so with all our gear ready we headed off. It wasn't too bad to start with and having done a few hikes in Tassie where you just follow the pink tape, that's exactly what we did to start with. The variety of fungi through here was amazing but the path we were following was very muddy and becoming less defined. The pink tape was also harder to find so we ended up back-tracking before heading back to the car park to regroup.

 

It wasn't until I had a poke around the car park that sheepishly I admitted to Caris that I'd found the actual trail head with a proper sign and everything. Happy that it would be more of a straightforward walk from now on and we hadn't driven all this way to lose the trail at the start, we continued into the forest as it makes its way downhill towards the waterfall. Immediately I had a smile on my face as this place was like walking into a fairy tale forest. Thick, characterful trees everywhere, giant ferns, a hundred shades of green and more fungi than you could poke a wand at. Caris and I would once again be forming a dynamic duo with eyes scanning the undergrowth for all different kinds of fungi that the other may have missed. It wasn't hard to find them to be honest with almost every fallen log or moss covered tree trunk containing some kind of shroom thriving in the decaying matter. Some early finds included one of our favourites for the trip in Clavulinopsis sulcata (Red Coral) and what I believe to be Tubaria rufofulva (brown gilled variety). With the trail snaking downhill on a gentle gradient, we were enjoying a fun meander and not worrying about pace one bit.

The thick forest parted ways at one point and in its place was what looked like an area of regrowth thanks to many stick like trunks clumped closely together. Given this part was the only section to be inundated with water on the edge of the trail, it may have been a natural occurrence. I didn't mind one bit as it provided some variety to the shots and with some nice cloud cover, I had excellent lighting for the whole hike, if not a little dark when photographing the damp corners where the fungi live. Heading back into the denser forest, some of the trees that line the trail are simply magnificent. Thick, mossy trunks with root systems spread out to all corners of the forest floor in search of nutrients, this felt like a very special place. We were ambling along at a snails pace but it still didn't seem like enough time to stop and appreciate every little details of this amazing forest. While there were a lot of the same fungi around, the various shapes and forms they had along their lifecycle made it seem like they were different. Around this stage we found more Red Coral and a few different varieties of the Russula species (red tops with white stem). 

Our first big wow find was about halfway down the hill when we came across a large fallen tree that was home to a great number of different species. Among them was a variety we had found at Junee Cave earlier in the trip and were very happy to see again, the smol blue Pixie Parasol or Mycena interrupta. The vivid blue stood out against the dark brown of the wood but it still wasn't easy to photograph them as they are so tiny (only a few centimetres across). I spent a good amount of time surveying this log and snapping away at the various brown and white fungi before having to catch Caris up further down the path where she had discovered another favourite of ours. Green fungi are particularly hard to spot among all the different mosses, leaves and lichen of the forest floor so it's always nice to come across a clumping. Part of the Entoloma species, it was just another tick on the fungi finding list I had started to form on each hike. As we continued on our merry way, we spotted some people coming the other way, all looking a bit sad. Wondering what they could be glum about in such a beautiful place, it became apparent that it was a large group and perhaps not all of them wanted to be out hiking, especially when they were finishing with a hill climb.

I recognised some of them from dinner the previous night at the Tarkine Hotel in Corinna and figured they must be on an organised tour. I had a smile on my face and that's all that mattered so gave everyone a cheery hello as the conga line passed us by and went on my merry way. With plenty still to explore and discover, we soon had the trail all to ourselves again so began the final push down towards the Arthur River. Along here we found plenty of thick bracket fungi clinging to the ancient trees and one particular tree that was right out of a Tim Burton movie with it's gangly, bendy limbs sprawled out in every direction. We found some more Pixie Parasols attached to a broken branch lying on the forest floor, right near a massive fallen tree with the root system exposed on the edge of the track. Although bad for the tree, I love when this occurs as you get to appreciate the immense size that some of these trees get to, roots and all. As we got closer to the river, we had some excellent finds in the form of some browny/orange resupinate fungi (Tyromyces merulinus) growing on the underside of a fallen tree where the moss didn't want to grow and a large log that was covered in orange gilled fungi. 

Arriving at the river crossing, a series of hairpin bends takes you down the last little part where you catch sight of the metal walkway over the river. More of a gentle flow at this point, further upstream is the Arthur Dam so I'm sure this used to be a lot wilder. This marked the point where the hike went from a very pleasant forest meander into something much more memorable. Following the edge of the Artur River for a while, the raised walking track was not constructed for the sole purpose of getting to a spectacular view of the waterfall. As with most things in Australia, it was built for mining as it follows the course of the water race that was constructed in the 1920s to service the nearby and now defunct mining town of Magnet. The waterfall gets it's name not from being the place where people of great wisdom wandered but a fellow named James "Philosopher" Smith that was prospecting in the area on his way to discovering a large tin deposit not far from here. Magnet and Smith are not connected as he died long before that mine was opened but the two are now linked as the water race is now used to get to the waterfall he named. 

After walking a short distance on the slightly raised track with excellent views of the nearby river, you make a left turn about where the river starts descending down to form the impressive waterfall you see later on. Reaching a metal walkway, the passage here is quite narrow thanks to the high rock wall and the steep descent down the valley. It's a very cool place to walk through with overhanging logs, a damp feel and the forested hills descending down beyond where the eye can see. Leaving the metal walkway, you join the raised track that runs parallel to the water race and it becomes a bit muddy in sections, something Caris didn't enjoy. Picking our way along the track, up and around fallen trees full of fungi, we eventually reached the staircase leading down to the platform overlooking the waterfall. The stairs are pretty steep and being metal, a little slippery in the wet so Caris elected not to complete this final bit. Instead I gave her the car key and she headed back up the hill on her own, content to see my photos later on. I descended down the stairs on my own and there are quite a lot to get down before you reach the viewing platform. Along the way I had fun photographing the ferns and the fungi but I was rushing a bit as I wanted to get to the main party piece of the hike. The viewing platform is wide enough for a few people to stand comfortably and provides an excellent view of the waterfall as it cascades out of the forest and down into the valley below.

Seemingly coming out of nowhere and then disappearing just as quickly, it's a pretty scene that caps off an excellent walk. Getting out my tripod and ND filters, I could get a sturdy enough placement on the holey metal platform to take some long exposure shots of the falls. Having a distance between myself and the water was nice as it meant I didn't have to worry about spray like at Hogarth Falls. There was a slight mist in the air but that was a small price to pay for the excellent cloudy conditions that made life easier. I am very happy with the end results, with the wide shots turning out well and the close-ups revealing the various details of the multi-tier falls. Aware that Caris would be waiting in the car, I looked at the shots I had on the back of the camera and set about photographing some of the other scenes from the platform in "normal" mode. The forest hanging onto the edge of the valley was quite photogenic and as I was climbing back up the stairs I noticed a vibrant purple coral fungi that is Clavaria zollingeri. An excellent find to finish what was one of the best waterfall hikes of the trip, I rocketed up the hill, stopping every now and then to photograph something that caught my eye. Hike over, we paid a visit to nearby Waratah where we enjoyed a hot chocolate from the MUSHroom Café and checked out the stunning Waratah Falls from a distance.