Mount Field National Park: One Walk – Three Waterfalls

Mount Field National Park is a magical world of mossy rainforest and serene waterfalls. It is home to the popular Russell Falls, some of the world’s tallest trees, three of Tasmania’s Great Short Walks and a delightful hidden gem (read on to find out).

All this is packed into a compact area in the lower section of the park near the Visitor Center. This area is dominated by the fairytale-like temperate rainforest and can be explored in a single walk – the 6-km Three Falls Walk – one of the Great Short Walks in the park.

And if you don’t feel like walking the full circuit, you can still explore two waterfalls on much shorter trails.

Mount Field Tour from Hobart

Mossy tree trunk in Mount Field National Park

If you don’t have your own transport, you can visit Mt Field on a day tour from Hobart. I’ve done this tour, and it’s a great and easy day out.

Tasmanian devil at Bonorong sanctuary
Tasmanian devil in Bonorong Sanctuary

The tour includes the entire walk I describe below and a visit to the wonderful Bonorong Sanctuary – your best chance to see (rehabilitating) Tasmanian animals, including Tassie devils, unless you plan to visit places like Cradle Mountain or Maria Island. It is also the only place I’ve ever seen an albino pademelon (not to be confused with albino Bennetts wallabies of Bruny Island).

The Journey Begins: Mount Field National Park

Temperate rainforest in mount field national park
Temperate rainforest in Mount Field

Mount Field National Park, established in 1916, is one of Tasmania’s oldest national parks. And since it is located just 64 km northwest of Hobart, it makes for a popular day trip destination from the city.

I was amazed to learn that Mount Field is part of the enormous Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, which also includes the Cradle Mountain, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers, Walls of Jerusalem, and Southwest National Parks. The combined protected area covers 15,800 km2 – almost 25 percent of Tasmania’s. It is also one of the last expanses of temperate wilderness in the world.

There are two popular areas in the park: the Russell Falls area, described below, and the Lake Dobson area in the higher elevations of the park. The two areas are 15 km apart. And while the lower elevation is characterized by lush temperate rainforest, the Lake Dobson area features alpine vegetation with several glacial lakes.

If you have enough time, you should go for a drive to Lake Dobson at stop at the viewpoints along the way to appreciate the diversity of landscapes at Mount Field.

If you only have half a day, you may like to focus on the Three Falls Walk. Without too many stops (unlikely, given the charming scenery), you could complete this walk in 2-3 hours. More realistically, however, give yourself at least 4 hours to explore the temperate rainforest section on this walk.

Visitor Center to Russell Falls

Russell Falls in Mount Field National Park, Tasmania
Russell Falls

The first section of the walks follows the 1.4-km Russell Falls track, a Great Short Walk in its own right.

Starting at the Mount Field National Park Visitor Centre, the trail is well-marked and takes about 20 minutes to reach Russell Falls. But I would recommend slowing down and soaking in the sights. This is the most atmospheric patch of the rainforest.

As you step into the forest, you are immediately enveloped by the cool, moist air of the temperate rainforest. The path winds through a canopy of towering swamp gums, which are among the tallest trees in the world. These ancient giants create a serene, shaded environment, with dappled sunlight filtering through the leaves.

The understorey is rich with lush green ferns, moss-covered logs, a gurgling creek and an array of multicoloured fungi picking out of the thick carpet of moss. This mossy landscape is very similar to the forest at Lake Chisholm on Tarkine Drive in northwest Tasmania. It has the same ‘fairytale woods’ atmosphere.

Glow Worm Grotto

Glow worm tour in the Blue Mountains with WildScape Adventures
Glow worms

Just before you reach the falls, you’ll pass by the sign for Glow Worm Grotto on your left-hand side. The grotto is a spectacular hidden gem, but there is a catch. To see the glow worms, you need to come back at night.

The small grotto is just a rock overhang with some jumbled fallen trees next to the trail. It doesn’t look like much during the day. But after dark, the glow worms light up the rock face like a starry sky.

As always, when visiting glow worm colonies, the red torch is best. At the very least, don’t shine your light on the insects. Not only will it prevent you from seeing them, but it will also disturb the glow worms. I have a guide to photographing glow worms if you are keen to take some snaps.

moss-covered trees in Mount Field National Park

As you continue past the Glow Worm Glen, you’ll hear Russell Falls before you see it. It is a beautiful tiered cascade that tumbles down over multiple levels of dark volcanic rock. The falls are much taller than I realized; you just can’t see the top tier very well through the thick forest.

As you view the falls, keep one eye on the ground. We saw a lyrebird here.

Russell Falls to Horseshoe Falls

Horseshoe Falls in Mount Field National Park
Horseshoe Falls

From Russell Falls, one trail runs back to the Visitor Centre via an alternative route and another – to the second waterfall. Continuing to Horseshoe Falls, the trail starts to climb uphill along an elevated walkway.

There are 237 steps to climb on this walk, but if you take it easy and slow down to appreciate the incredible scenery around you, you won’t even notice the climb – it’s quite gentle. Although, if you are not a fan of climbing stairs, keep in mind that the trail from Lady Barron Falls, at the end of the walk, involves 270 steps on a pretty steep set of wooden stairways.

Tasmanian pademelons in Mount Field National Park
Tasmanian Pademelons

Just before we walkway, we came across two adorable pademelons who seemed to be very fond of each other’s company.

The forest on the way to Horseshoe Falls is as atmospheric as on the Russell Falls trail. Every rock, every tree trunk, standing and fallen, are covered in thick moss.

Top of Russell Falls in Mt Field NP
Top of Russell Falls

Once you reach the top, first you’ll come to the top of Russell Falls, where the creek tumbles over the edge of the cliff. The angle is not great, but just a few meters up the creek, you’ll find the gorgeous Horseshoe Falls.

This waterfall is set slightly further back from the trail, so the view takes in more of the surrounding moss-covered landscape. This gives the falls an even more secluded and peaceful appearance. In my opinion, it is the prettier of the two, even though it’s nowhere near as well-known as Russell Falls.

Tall Trees Walk

From Horseshoe Falls follow the trail to Tall Trees Walk – the third Great Short Walk in Mount Field National Park. The walk is a loop of approximately 1 kilometre and typically takes about 30 minutes to complete.

Tall swamp gum in Mount Field National Park
Swamp gum

Here, the trail winds among giant Swamp Gums (Eucalyptus regnans), which can reach heights of over 100 meters. The tallest tree on this walk is a whopping 79 meters tall and still growing.

These ancient giants are the tallest hardwood, and the tallest flowering trees in the world. They are so tall that strong winds often snap their tops.

As they grow, these eucalypts drop their lower branches, which explains the abundance of moss-covered tree limbs on the ground.

This walk is a good opportunity to spot the super bright pink robins – one of the prettiest singing birds in Tasmania. We also had flocks of yellow-tailed black cockatoos and sulfur-crested cockatoos flying above the canopy, calling noisily to one another with their screeching and croaking calls. Still not sure what excited them so much.

Lady Barron Falls Circuit

Lady Barron Falls in Mount Field National Park
Image by JJ Harrison via Creative Commons

Once you finish the Tall Trees Walk, you have two options: return to the Visitor Centre via Horseshoe and Russell Falls (1.7 km) or continue to Lady Barron Falls and then to the Visitor Centre (3.7 km)

The overall Lady Barron Falls loop trail is approximately 6 kilometres, but you’ve already walked almost half of it.

Creek in Mount Field National Park

The trail to Lady Barron Falls is more rugged and involves a series of steps, an elevated boardwalk, and some uneven terrain, particularly on the approach to the falls, but it’s absolutely worth it for the wild feeling this walk offers.

Lady Barron Falls, which can be viewed from a well-positioned lookout, is another multi-tiered cascade fringed by moss-covered logs and lush ferns. It’s not as impressive as the first two waterfalls but it’s even more tranquil. And the creek-side walk is particularly scenic.

From the falls, the trail follows the creek until arriving at the start of wooden stairways. Here, you’ll climb 270 steps out of the valley – it is the steepest part of the entire walk, and it comes at the very end.

If the thought of climbing stairs makes your knees tremble, you can take this walk in the opposite direction, starting at Lady Barron Falls and returning via Russell Falls. This way you’ll be climbing down both sets of stairs, these ones and the ones at Horseshoe Falls.

Best Time to Visit Mt Field National Park

Temperate rainforest in Mount Field National Park

The walk to Russell Falls and Lady Barron Falls can be enjoyed year-round. However, the best time to visit is during the wetter months (May to September) when the waterfalls are at their most impressive.

This year, I came to Mount Field to see the turning of the Fagus which happens around April-May. But I learned that fagus trees can only be found at the high elevation areas of the park, along the Tart Shelf. so I didn’t see the Fagus (you can see Fagus trees in Hobart), but I loved the rainforest and the waterfalls.

It also happened to be an unseasonably dry year in Tasmania. The first rains arrived the same day I did. I found Mt Field’s mossy wonderland to be luscious and very atmospheric even after a dry spell. The images in this post give you the idea of how the waterfalls look during the dry months.

I did visit similar temperate rainforest at Cradle Mountain in the rain and I definitely agree that this type of forest is at its best during the better months.

Facilities in the Park

Fallen Tree in Mount Field National Park

The Mount Field National Park Visitor Centre offers a range of facilities, including restrooms, a café, a gift shop, a wood-burning fireplace, and, unfortunately, some stuffed animals on display.

There is also a picnic area with tables and benches in the open grassy area next to the car park.

Entry Fees

Entry to Tasmania’s national parks requires a valid parks pass. If you don’t already have a multi-day pass, you can get a day pass ($22.35) at the Visitor Centre. You can also purchase it online on the national parks website.

More on Exploring Tasmania

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.