Tolmer Creek Walk
Start - Tolmer Falls Rd
Length - 1.6km (Loop)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Pavement, Single Track
Vertical Climb - 35m
Time - 1 hour
Signed - Yes
Date Hiked - 12th July 2019
Best Time - Dry Season (May to October)
Directions - Located just over an hour south of Darwin, take Stuart Hwy south until you reach the turnoff for Batchelor Rd. Follow the Litchfield NP signs all the way through Batchelor and Rum Jungle until you reach Tolmer Falls Rd. The car park for the walk is at the end of this road.
The Hike - With a great start to our Litchfield day trip after a visit to Florence Falls, the next destination on the agenda was Tolmer Falls and more specifically for me, the Tolmer Creek Walk. Located a short drive through the park from Florence Falls, I was hoping that the crowds for Tolmer Falls would be significantly less than what we experienced at Florence Falls. Given that you can't swim at Tolmer Falls, that might have lessened a certain type of tourist but with a couple of spectacular lookouts located not far from the car park, there would still be crowds. We drove along the sealed road that leads through the park and followed the signs leading to the main car park (a short drive from the road).
With a 90yo Grannam on the trip I was aware that time would be limited so immediately examined the information board for the walks in the area. Given that there were two lookouts that were within Grannam range, I figured it would be more than manageable to get in the 1.6km loop that explores a bit more of the landscape. Leading away from the information board in the opposite direction to the lookout path, the Tolmer Creek Walk leads you through the dry Cycad woodlands before joining Tolmer Creek and then finishing on the cliffs above Tolmer Falls. Caris quickly bolted off into the distance, leaving me to enjoy the well built path, highlighted with many well placed stone steps.
The start of the walk takes you past some excellent examples of the Cycad, an ancient palm like plant (although not related to the palm tree at all), the Cycas calcicola found here is only found in the Northern Territory. Dating back over 280 million years, this species can only trace its origins back about 12 million years, still an impressive amount of time when you consider it. What I enjoyed about seeing the Cycads was the weird and interesting shapes and textures you get all over the plant, from furry new growth to the large seeds hanging off the sides. Also found along this section (and for most of the walk) was the brightly coloured Turkey Bush. With beautiful pink flowers, the name is a bit of an injustice to what is a very pretty flowering plant that is used by the Bininj people as an insect repellent.
With Caris nowhere to be seen, my only company was a couple of other walkers going the other way and I once again thought that this was a much better way to experience Litchfield, rather than going from car park to car park only visiting the lookouts. While the woodlands were great, the best bit of the walk was coming up as you arrive at the valley carved out by Tolmer Creek. Following the edge of the creek for the next section of the hike, the terrain ranges from a fairly dry and shallow valley to a more rocky path on the cliffs above the creek. Noticing a rocky pyramid shaped hill in the distance, I rushed off to get a better view and was amazed to see the rock platforms leading through the valley (do not go off track here to explore as the area is sacred land to the indigenous people).
From here the walk just gets better as you walk along the cliffs towards the two lookouts. The views here really open up and you get a sense of scale to Litchfield that I did not expect on the drive through the park. An endless horizon looking towards the south west was awe-inspiring to look out over, made even better with the dramatic cliffs in the foreground. Here Caris had waited for me so I made her do some natural pointing on a rocky platform before she once again headed off down the path. I was quite happy to spend a lot of time here photographing the beautiful scenes in front of me with the pyramid being a feature of the walk I wanted to capture in all its glory. The further along the walk you get, the more dramatic the landscape gets as you get closer to Tolmer Falls.
The sheer cliffs in places are pretty remarkable and the last of the cliff walking provides the best of them. Turning away from the great views, you head down the rocky stairs and join up to the path leading down to the Tolmer Falls Lookout. A big metal structure on the side of the cliffs, you get a fantastic vantage point to view the impressive waterfall. A tall but thin ribbon of water gently cascades down the rock face into a pool of water below. With this being the closest point at which you can view the falls, it does look a little small but the terrain around here would make it almost impossible to safely view the falls from down near the pool (if it was culturally sensitive to do so in the first place, which I don't think it would be). The views are still fantastic and we were probably a bit too early in the day as the waterfall was still in the shadows of the northern cliffs.
I enjoyed looking down the sheer vertical drop at the oasis surrounding the pool, noticing a clumping of palm trees rising from the undergrowth and towering next to the cliff face. Aware of the time I had taken, I headed back up the path and found the others. With just the second lookout to go before heading back to the start, I quickly ventured along the side path to the structure that sits on a high point overlooking the landscape. Providing a different viewpoint of the area, this lookout is mainly focused on showcasing the excellent vistas to the south and the aforementioned endless horizon that you also see on the longer Tolmer Creek Walk. I'm always in awe of views like this as it fills my imagination with possibility and leaves me a sense of wonder. With the lookout to myself I took a moment to soak it all in before finding the others and moving on to our next stop at Wangi Falls.