Saint Columba Falls Nature Walk offers an action-packed 1.2-kilometer (0.75-mile) round trip trek. Without the waterfall, this would be a pleasant hike through a charming Tasmanian rainforest. To put things over the top, this hike ends at a waterfall, and an impressive one at that. The walk terminates at a viewing platform below booming Saint Columba Falls, one of Tasmania’s tallest falls at 90 meters (295 feet). This walking track is located in Saint Columba Falls State Reserve in northeastern Tasmania near the town of Saint Helens.
Start from an easy-to-spot trailhead at the top of Saint Columba Falls Road. There’s a sign for Saint Columba Falls, One of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks next to a wooden archway and an information kiosk. Begin down the trail, descending into a wooded canyon.
While airy at the top, the vegetation quickly builds into a dense shaded rainforest. The forest is dominated by blackwood, sassafras, and myrtle (the most common tree in Tasmania’s moderate rainforests). The most striking trees in the forest are probably the tree ferns, which grow to several meters trail, giving visitors the pleasure of walking beneath massive green fronds. A panel along the trail points out that some sassafras trees are epiphytes (plants that grow non-parasitically on another plant). Look for tree ferns sprouting out-of-place bushy spires. The extra growths are actually sassafras trees, and their roots can be seen wrapped around the trunks of the tree ferns. This combination occurs when sassafras seeds stick to the sides of tree ferns and germinate.
The trail descends 40 meters over the first 0.45 kilometers. There are three benches along the way in case you need a break (or need to catch your breath on the walk back). Around the second bench, look to your right for views through the trees toward the top tiers of Saint Columba Falls, which gushes down a wall of exposed granite on the opposite side of the canyon. These obscured views will only build your anticipation for the views of the waterfall at the end of the trail.
Also along the track, you’ll pass through a posted 25-meter long area with a small risk of landslide. The park asks hikers to “please reduce your exposure to this risk by not stopping on this section of the track.”
The trail levels out as you reach the bottom of the canyon, passing between the hikes tallest tree ferns in a truly enchanting environment. To make things more serene, there’s a stream flowing down the bottom of the canyon, a fork of the Gorges River, which you will cross on a wooden footbridge.
Across the bridge, the trail curves to the right along the picturesque stream, and then curves to the left to ascend a short distance to a fenced-in viewpoint below Saint Columba Falls. Water comes over the top of the falls and plunges down a granite wall with several steps that separate the falls into white fingers. The water comes back together to cascade right past the viewpoint, adding to the impressive volume of this powerful waterfall.
Water leaps over Saint Columba Falls at an average rate of 42,000 liters per minute. If you visit in the winter, the flow rate can exceed 200,000 liters per minute, showering visitors in mist and spray. The waterfall has never dried up (since it’s been observed) and should be rewarding to visit year round. A few tree ferns rise out of the rocks next to the falls to complete the rainforest scene.
When you’ve finished taking in the views, head back the way you came. For 0.15 kilometers, the trail will gradually descend back to the bridge, and then you will climb back up to the road over the next 0.45 kilometers. Dogs and bikes are not permitted, but no fee or permit is required to hike to Saint Columba Falls, so get out and enjoy!
Directions: Take Tasman Highway (A3) to Saint Columba Falls Road (C426), located 26 kilometers east of the town of Saint Helens and 75 kilometers west of Scottsdale. Turn south of Saint Columba Falls Road and drive 11 kilometers to the start of the walking track. There is a picnic area and toilets just past the trailhead at the end of Saint Columba Falls Road.
Trailhead address: Saint Columba Falls Road, Pyengana, TAS 7216, Australia
Trailhead coordinates: -41.321271, 147.926203 (41° 19′ 16.57″S 147° 55′ 34.33″E)
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