Russell Falls Walk
Start - Mount Field Visitor Centre
Length - 1.7km (Loop)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Single Track, Pavement
Vertical Climb - 31m
Time - 1 Hour
Signed - Yes
Cost - National Park Fees Apply
Date Hiked - 7th April 2021
Best Time - All Year Round
Traditional Custodians - Lairmairrener People
Directions - Located just over an hour west of Hobart, take the Brooker Hwy north and follow the signs for New Norfolk. Pass through the town and follow the signs for Westerway and then Mount Field National Park. Turn right into Mount Field National Park and the trail head is located behind the Visitor Centre using the path to the left.
The Hike - Russell Falls is one of the more iconic waterfalls in Tasmania and constantly pops up on the marketing material you see about the island state. Being only an hour from Hobart and a short walk from the excellent Visitor Centre at Mount Field, the 1.7km loop provides easy access for those wanting a taste of the fern filled rainforest and an impressive waterfall. When we bought our current unit there were three Australian Airlines prints on the wall of the garage by artist Jo Anne Hook and one of them is the Tasmania print that I believe is Russell Falls. I love this style of travel poster and her work, mainly around Queensland has the same bright and vibrant style.
This is a walk that I had completed part of during my post on Lady Barron Falls Circuit (or sometimes known as the Three Falls Circuit) but for whatever reason I didn't see the need to write this one up. Much like the Pandani Grove Nature Walk, perhaps I thought it was beneath me at the time but now I'm bit older I appreciate these short walks a lot more. It was actually a lot longer than I thought it was and the full loop is a great way to stretch the legs and see some stunning scenery. Over the course of our stay at Mount Field on this trip we visited the falls several times and so this post is a combination of those walks along with the full loop I did early one morning. Given we were staying at the Russell Falls Holiday Cottages, it was only a short walk to the Visitor Centre so we took advantage of that over the course of the three days we were here. The walk starts to the left of the Visitor Centre (well worth spending some time wandering around in there) and there is a sign stating that this is one of the 60 Great Short Walks in Tasmania. Walking in a clockwise direction, the path leading to Russell Falls is all paved and wheelchair accessible. Heading past the William Crooke Shelter, it isn't long before you leave the openness of the day-use area behind and enter a world of fantastic ferns, babbling brooks and towering trees. The narrow loop takes you either side of Russell Falls Creek with the titular Russell Falls providing a stopping point at the halfway mark.
It was a chilly morning when I did the full loop and stopping quite a lot for photos did not help my body temperature. Along the path you get some larger trees, both upright and then a fallen example to give you a good sense of scale of what a medium sized Swamp Gum can grow to. A theme of this trip, especially in the latter half was searching for fungi and this walk has a few good opportunities to spot some. I did buy a FungiFlip identification guide but even then it's hard to narrow down exactly what fungi is what. I did enjoy the orange and while variety that oozed orange droplets (possibly postia punctata) and the common Turkey Tail clinging to bits of deadwood. Ducking under some large fern fronds, one thing I love doing is photographing the patterns of the ferns as they also produce results that are pleasing to my eye. Reaching the Glow Worm Grotto, this is a really cool spot that is worth coming back at night to experience. We did this the night before and once your eyes have adjusted, it's a cool spectacle to shuffle along the fence and see the dim green glow of the worms hanging out in the undergrowth. I don't have any photos as they were way too dim, even on a super long exposure (plus I didn't want to get in the way) but it was cool seeing possums on the walk there and I had fun shooting Russell Falls at night (see last gallery for photos).
Just past the Glow Worm Grotto you start to hear the rush of water getting louder and louder. Soon you reach the wooden platform at the base of the falls and it's an impressive sight. A multi-tiered waterfall, there is a giant slab of rock that forms the main part of the falls with the upper falls cascading over smaller ledges up the hill. The viewing platform provides a great spot to take in the falls and if you visit during peak times then expect a crowd gathering for their photos and selfies in front of the falls. Luckily it was cold and a bit early for your common tourist so I only had a couple of people around while I took photos and setup my tripod for some long exposure shots. I was still working out the kinks of my new camera that unfortunately doesn't have the functionality to use an IR remote for shutter control so my efforts in the dim light weren't very impressive. I managed to get one half decent long exposure shot from the smaller viewing platform to the left of the falls but everything else was sub-optimal. Going back to shooting regular photos, I had fun framing the various parts of the falls from different angles. I love the giant fern that provides a nice feature to the left of the falls and the lower section where the falls crash into the rocks is also a nice spot. I was keeping my eye out for platypus as the afternoon before this walk, Caris and I ventured down for a look here and were lucky enough to spot one splashing around in the water under the falls.
It was such a great experience as we were first watching a lyrebird scratching around in the moss and then all of a sudden we saw something splashing around in the water. I was in the middle of a long exposure shot so had to wait for that to finish before clicking away furiously as it moved along the rocks. Given it was around sunset and the falls are in the shadow of the higher peaks of the park, lighting wasn't great and the shots were super blurry. I got two that sort of look like a platypus but I was just excited to have finally seen one in the wild. When you're done admiring the falls, the signs pointing you back to the Visitor Centre are easy to follow. There is another lookout if you head up the hill and turn left or if you want to see Horseshoe Falls, it's a shortish climb up the hill past the top of Russell Falls (worth the side trip). I headed back to the Visitor Centre to complete the loop and this was the first time I had taken this route. The pavement ends after Russell Falls and is replaced with compact dirt paths snaking along the course of the creek. This was a really pleasant finish to the walk with lots of ferns, fallen trees and spots to explore the creek up close. With the sun rising over the hills to the east, there was a golden glow as I reached the Visitor Centre and I welcomed the warmth of the morning rays. It may only be a short loop but it's spectacular from start to finish and a must-do activity if you're visiting Mount Field National Park.
Final Thoughts - Russell Falls already held a special place in my hiking heart from the great time I had there on my previous visit so it was nice to return and spend some time during different parts of the day.
Being a popular tourist spot always has it's drawbacks if you're looking for a genuine nature experience but the quality of the trail and the highlight of Russell Falls more than makes up for this.
If you're staying at or very near Mount Field then I highly recommend coming back at night for the Glow Worms and during dawn/dusk to look for platypus.
Russell Falls is a Tasmanian icon for good reason and should be on your itinerary if you're planning a trip to this magnificent state.
Get out there and experience it!
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