Wangi Falls Walk
Start - Wangi Falls Car Park
Length - 2.2km (Loop)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Pavement, Single Track
Vertical Climb - 81m
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 Wangi Falls Rd. The trail head for the walk is just down the path from the Wangi Falls Cafe.
The Hike - With a couple of nice walks in Litchfield under our belt, it was decided lunch was needed so the group convened at the Wangi Falls Cafe. Located on the western side of the park, this is one of the more popular tourist areas as the waterfalls are magnificent, the swimming fantastic and there are great facilities here for day trippers and campers alike. In the open air cafe we enjoyed something to eat and a cooling beverage while making plans for the rest of the afternoon. It was decided that half of the group (Caris, Hal, Candy and myself) would continue on for the day while the others would check out Wangi Falls and then return back to Darwin. With lunch over we swapped the cars and then continued on down to the area surrounding Wangi Falls.
The path leading down to the falls was very busy and even from the cafe you could hear the noise from the crowds, suggesting this was a super popular spot. Luckily there is a grassed area with plenty of room so it felt less crazy then Florence Falls and there was a good mix of people either enjoying a rest on the grass, taking photos of the falls or having a swim in the expansive pool under the falls. Hal had a quick look at the crocodile safety sign but this is really only applicable during the wet season when they can occasionally come in with increased amount of water. The rangers routinely check for crocs between seasons but with this many people around you'd be unlucky to be the one they chomp down. Wangi Falls itself is very impressive with two sets of waterfalls cascading down the cliff face and a wide pool surrounded by lots of greenery.
It really is an idyllic part of the park despite the numbers and I can see why it is the most popular attraction in Litchfield. With a 2.2km loop trail leading away from the falls and up to the top of the cliffs, I decided it would be best to tackle the walk first and finish with a cooling swim. Walking in an anti-clockwise direction made sense as there is a boardwalk with more views of the waterfalls and everyone was already in that general area. Allowing a closer visit to the falls for those not swimming, the little platform over the river provided a nice place for people to sit and also do a spot of bird watching. It was here that I got a shot of a most elusive thing, the double natural point by Caris and Candy. As I'm always making people naturally point in photos, it was nice to capture some organic pointing as they were spotting birds in the canopy of the nearby trees.
As the other group were not continuing along the walk we said our goodbyes here and they departed back towards Darwin while we headed into a thick palm forest that contained a good amount of wildlife that we hadn't seen in the Northern Territory. A large collection of flying foxes were roosting in the canopy above and it was great fun looking up and trying to spot them all. Unfortunately the photos aren't great as they were really high up and I only had my 18-55mm lens on (plus the contrast between light and dark was quite strong). I managed to get a few snaps plus one of Caris doing more natural pointing. Heading through the dark forested section we arrived at the foot of the climb that would take us all the way to the top of the falls. It was interesting to see here the work of the NT Parks staff to maintain the area with one side of the trail clearly showing the effects of a prescribed burn.
With such a hot climate combined with a lot of flammable grassland, the need for burning up here is paramount and I was happy to see the burns done in a controlled manner all throughout my stay. On a day trip out to Mary River we saw crews of people burning but doing it in a way that was very easy to manage. On this section of the trail it was clear to see that the small green in the canopy remained but the flammable grasses had been burnt away. As we rose up the hill we entered the green of the dense forest once again, spotting spiders, skinks and streams along the way. The dirt soon gives way to a series of wooden staircases and this was by far the least favourite part of the walk for some members of the group. I enjoyed the climb up as there was a lovely array of ferns and broad leaved trees to keep my attention and the climb is broken up with a resting area that we made good use of.
After a quick drink we continued up the stairs and then a regular dirt trail all the way to the top of the falls. At one point a section of a palm tree almost fell on my head (a few seconds later and I would have been hit) and Caris took this as karma as we were making fun of her for something. Reaching the bridge over the creek that feeds Wangi Falls, it was hard to believe that such a small body of water would translate into two separate waterfalls of the size we'd seen at the start but there you go. While you don't get to stand at the top of the falls (and please don't go off track to try), the views from up here are still very impressive. The sweeping lands of green forests and endless horizons that we'd seen from the Tolmer Creek Walk were here too, this time extending off in a westerly direction. Also featured along the creek here was a bottle rush style of flowering tree with needle like leaves that reminded me of the She-Oak trees we get in WA.
With the highest point reached it was all downhill from here so we continued along the top of the cliffs, admiring the views below before reaching the series of stone steps and switchbacks leading down to the finish. As we got lower down we entered the denser forest and a small waterfall provided an opportunity to cool off. By this time we were all quite hot and sweaty from the walk so it was a welcome relief to reach the grassed day use area near the falls and finish the walk. I celebrated by immediately heading for a swim and was relieved to find the waters much warmer than the swimming spots at Karijini National Park. Access to the pool is via a set of stairs leading right into the water and once I made my way past the crowds gathered there, I swam out to a relatively quiet spot and floated around for a while. The joy of being able to swim on a warm day was not lost on me and in such a beautiful place I took some time to reflect on what had already been a very enjoyable day. With one more activity planned for the afternoon I finished up my swim so we could continue on our journey.