South Lawson Waterfall Circuit Walk is a short (2.8 km circuit) but very picturesque walk along Lawson and Cataract Creeks that takes you along a fern-shrouded trail to 5 different waterfalls (in order): Adelina, Junction, Federal, Unnamed and Cataract waterfalls. These are not some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the Blue Mountains, but they are very picturesque, especially after a few days of rain, and each one is different.
This walk doesn’t get many out of town visitors and the few people you meet on the trail are likely to be local residents taking their pooches for a walk – this is one of the relatively few dog-friendly walks in the Blue Mountains. If you are not a fan of dogs, don’t worry, you won’t meet many, and those you do will be on leashes.
The walk is mostly easy with a few steep sections leading to the waterfalls from the main trail. It may get quite muddy after the rain, so proper hiking shoes are a good idea for this walk.
Track at a glance
- Distance: 2.8 km circuit
- Time: 2 hours
- Difficulty: Moderate There are some steep sections approaching the waterfalls and at the start and the end of the track
- Closest train station: Lawson
How to get to South Lawson waterfall walk
- Driving: Take the Great Western Hwy out of Sydney and exit at Lawson. Drive for 1 km along Honour Avenue and park on the corner of Honour Avenue and Livingstone Street in Lawson.
- Train: Catch the train from Central to Lawson. From the train station walk 1 km along Honor Avenue until you get to the car park on the corner of Honour Ave and Livingstone St.
Walking South Lawson waterfall circuit trail
The start of the South Lawson waterfall circuit walk is well sign-posted at the car park on the corner of Honour Ave and Livingstone St, about 1km from Lawson train station. There is a map at the start of the walk that gives you an idea of where the waterfalls are located along the circuit. It’s a good idea to have a look at the map so you know what to expect as you walk. The waterfalls are reached by side trails from the main track, so there will be a few intersections along the walk and if you are not familiar with the lay of the land, it may get a little confusing.
The first intersection you come to will give you a choice to continue along the main trail or follow a side trail down set of stairs to Adelina Falls. Take Adelina Falls trail – you won’t come back this way, so this is your only chance to see it.
READ MORE: How to explore the Blue Mountains by train
Adeline falls is quite a high waterfall, but the best view you get is of the lower part of the falls. We happened to visit on the first sunny day after a couple of soggy weeks, and while all the rainfall filled up the waterfalls, the sun was shining onto the falls quite strongly which made photography very challenging. The afternoon might be a better time for photographing Adeline Falls.
From Adeline Falls, return to the main trail and follow the signs for Waterfalls Walk. The trail runs along largely flat ground parallel Lawson Creek. At one point the trail will cross the creek – it’s not a dramatic crossing, just a small hop from one rock to the next. The creek around the crossing is home to yabbies, so keep an eye out for them.
Junction Falls are quite pretty. Here the creek cascades in multiple streams over a multitude of sandstone shelves creating a terraced watery amphitheater.
There is a ledge to the right of the cascades that you can walk along to approach the falls. Or you can wade in the pool at the bottom of the terraces.
From Junction Falls continue along the main trail. This section of the trail is quite interesting. It passes some large rock overhangs and the ferns are particularly varied along this section.
When you come to an intersection with signs pointing to Cataract Falls and Federal Falls, take the side trail to Federal Falls.
Federal Falls have some picturesque rocks at the bottom of the waterfall that make for a nice image. This is one of the best falls for dipping your toes in – it’s shaded and the bottom of the pool is soft and sandy. You’ve been walking for some time now and your weary feet will appreciate a waddle in the refreshingly cold water.
Once you are ready to move on, return to the main trail and follow the signs to Cataract Falls. The trail starts climbing uphill here, gradually moving towards the top of the escarpment.
After crossing the second wooden bridge (a few hundred meters from Federal Falls), you will notice an unmarked side trail on left. It leads to a lovely small waterfall on Cataract Creek that’s not marked on any of the maps. It’s much smaller than the other four falls, but it’s very atmospheric, fringed by the bright green ferns.
When you arrive at Cataract Falls, at first, they don’t look like much. But these falls hide a little secret. There is a path on the right-hand side of the falls that leads you to a small cave behind the falls. It’s not as big as the caves at Horseshoe Falls in Hazelbrook, you certainly can’t walk behind Cataract Falls, but if you hunch or crouch down to get into the cave, you can sit on the rocks and watch the world through the veil of falling water.
And the best thing about caves behind waterfalls is that they usually hide a colony of glow worms. Cataract Falls are not as convenient glow worm site as say, Burralow Creek or Horseshoe Falls, but you can certainly see them here if you stick around until the sun sets.
Most of the glow worms are hidden by the vegetation on the left-hand side of the falls, so you won’t be able to approach them closely. But if you stand on the beach at the bottom of the falls, you’ll see the worms glow on the sides of the waterfall. There are a few glow worms along the cave wall on the right-hand side, but you have to be very careful walking along that ledge in the dark. It’s best to enjoy glow worms from the safety of the beach.
And always remember, that bright light disturbs the worms and also causes them to stop glowing. So make sure not to point the light directly at the glow worms.
By the way, if you are as keen as I am on glow worms, check out my guide to finding fireflies and glow worms in the Blue Mountains.
From Cataract Falls, the trail leads uphill and soon reaches the top of the falls. This is your last waterfall view along the South Lawson waterfall circuit walk, and it’s quite a different view of the previous locations where you viewed the bottom of the four falls.
Another few minutes along the trail bring you to the Southern car park on Honour Avenue, about 500 meters from the car park at the start of the trail.
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