Russell Falls and Horseshoe Falls

Mt Field National Park / Derwent Valley Council / near New Norfolk, Tasmania, Australia

Rating: 3.5     Difficulty: 2
Russell Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Russell Falls could very well be our favourite waterfall in Tasmania. It was certainly the best known and most popular waterfall that we had visited in the state. In fact it had been said that it was often a contest between this waterfall and Liffey Falls for the title of Tasmania's most beautiful waterfall (though we tend to favour Russell given our somewhat suboptimal experiences at Liffey). In any case, what made this waterfall stand out to us was its character. As you can see from the photo above, it actually consisted of two main drops, but it was the satisfyingly segmented and vertical appearance along with its size that really drew the camera clicks from us and just about every other visitor who shared the experience at the falls.

Russell Falls was the centrepiece of Mt Field National Park, which was said to be Tasmania's first national park. It was also part of the greater Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area which dominated much of the southern and western sections of the island state. From the large car park (see directions below), we paid the national park fee at the visitor centre then proceeded behind the building to go onto the short 1.4km (about 700m on the way there) well-developed loop track to the base of the falls. On our first visit, we took the slightly shorter wheelchair accessible path on the left side of the loop. On our second visit, the wheelchair path was closed for some trail work so we kept right, which was slightly longer. Once at the main lookout at the base of the falls, I took advantage of the solid railings to take the long exposure photographs that most of the postcards would show of this falls.

After having our fill of the main lookout, we the proceeded onto the track climbing up to the top of Russell Falls (bypassing the short spur path to an alternate overlook that was very overgrown). The rock-stepped track initially ascended a couple of switchbacks before it started ascending wooden steps. These steps concealed the old unofficial but well-used track leading to the top of the lower drop where it was possible to be face-to-face with the hidden block-shaped Upper Falls after scrambling towards the middle of Russell Falls Creek. However, given the amount of erosion and cliff-exposure on the way to the ledge between the two tiers of the falls (in addition to the revegetation that was naturally occurring from the relative lack of foot traffic), I could totally see why the authorities closed off this path.

The steps continued to climb steeply as it eventually reached the very top of Russell Falls after nearly 300m from the lower lookout. From this vantage point, we were able to enjoy the precipitous views over the top of the falls towards the treetops well below us. Continuing further upstream for another 100m or so (going past a footbridge) led us to the shorter but wide Horseshoe Falls.

In case you're wondering, the track that continued on the other side of the bridge over the creek went to the Tall Trees Walk in another 15 minutes and eventually to the trailhead for Lady Barron Falls in another 50 minutes. We have a separate writeup for the Lady Barron Falls since it was possible to drive up to a different car park for the Tall Trees Walk and significantly reduce the amount of hiking though it was certainly worthwhile to extend the current walk to take it all in and make it a solid half-day of walking before returning to the visitor centre. Overall, Julie and I spent on the order of an hour to take in both the Horseshoe Falls and Russell Falls. It might take half that time if we only did the base of Russell Falls before turning back.

Finally, given the photogenic nature of Russell Falls, we do have to mention that we actually showed up to the falls twice during our first visit back in late November 2006 on a sunny afternoon. Earlier that afternoon, there were shadows and high-contrast spots as a result of the sunlight. So we actually had to come back later towards sunset when the shadows were long enough to keep all the lighting of the falls more or less uniform. On a more recent visit in late November 2017, there was enough cloud cover to maintain even lighting even though we showed up from mid-morning to around high noon.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

Further up the slope towards Lake Dobson from the visitor centre was the Tall Trees Walk, which featured giants like this one reaching high up at the sky trying to leave the shade of the forest floorFurther up the slope towards Lake Dobson from the visitor centre was the Tall Trees Walk, which featured giants like this one reaching high up at the sky trying to leave the shade of the forest floor
Hobart was a little over an hour drive from Russell Falls so we were based in this scenic harbour city each time we've visited the waterfallsHobart was a little over an hour drive from Russell Falls so we were based in this scenic harbour city each time we've visited the waterfalls
Hobart was roughly a 90-minute drive to the Blowholes and Sea Arches near Eaglehawk Neck. These colourful sheds reminded me of the kind of bachs found in New ZealandHobart was roughly a 90-minute drive to the Blowholes and Sea Arches near Eaglehawk Neck. These colourful sheds reminded me of the kind of bachs found in New Zealand
This was the impressive but now-forbidden Upper Russell Falls (from our first trip in 2006) seen late in the afternoon when the sun was no longer a problem for long exposure photographs like thisThis was the impressive but now-forbidden Upper Russell Falls (from our first trip in 2006) seen late in the afternoon when the sun was no longer a problem for long exposure photographs like this
Julie on the track behind the Mt Field Visitor CentreJulie on the track behind the Mt Field Visitor Centre

Along the Russell Falls Track, there were tall trees like this oneAlong the track, there were tall trees like this one

Julie on the lush Russell Falls Track as we were made to take a slightly longer course of the loop walk due to trail work being done on the handicapped access routeJulie on the lush track as we were made to take a slightly longer course of the loop walk due to trail work being done on the handicapped access route

Julie on the Russell Falls Track as it was now alongside the creekJulie on the track as it was now alongside the creek

In addition to tall trees, there were also tall umbrella ferns indicating that we were in a high rainfall areaIn addition to tall trees, there were also tall umbrella ferns indicating that we were in a high rainfall area

In case you're wondering, this was the well-developed handicapped access track that we had taken on our first visit back in late November 2006In case you're wondering, this was the well-developed handicapped access track that we had taken on our first visit back in late November 2006

Approaching the very busy main lookout at the base of Russell FallsApproaching the very busy main lookout at the base of the falls

Looking up at Russell Falls from the main lookoutLooking up at Russell Falls from the main lookout

This was Russell Falls from our first visit here in the late afternoon in late November 2006This was Russell Falls from our first visit here in the late afternoon in late November 2006

About to go up the steeper track to the top of Russell FallsAbout to go up the steeper track to the top of the falls

This was the view from an alternate lookout for Russell Falls, but as you can see, it was quite overgrownThis was the view from an alternate lookout for the falls, but as you can see, it was quite overgrown

Going up the rock steps on towards the top of Russell FallsGoing up the rock steps towards the top of the falls

Approaching the wooden steps somewhere in the middle of the climb up to the top of Russell FallsApproaching the wooden steps somewhere in the middle of the climb up to the top of the falls

Continuing up the wooden steps leading to the top of Russell FallsContinuing up the wooden steps leading to the top of the falls

Looking down from the wooden steps towards the old track leading to the bench between the lower and upper tier of Russell FallsLooking down from the wooden steps towards the old track leading to the bench between the lower and upper tier of the falls

This was the attractive upper tier of Russell Falls taken from our first visit in November 2006This was the attractive upper tier of Russell Falls taken from our first visit in November 2006

At this point, the track was skirting the rim of the cliffs containing the Russell Falls as people were already gathered near the waterfall's topAt this point, the track was skirting the rim of the cliffs containing the Russell Falls as people were already gathered near the waterfall's top

Looking down over the top of Russell FallsLooking down over the top of the falls

Further upstream of Russell Falls, we kept right at this junction to reach the Horsehoe FallsFurther upstream of the top of the falls, we kept right at this junction to reach the Horseshoe Falls

Some fish in the creek just below Horseshoe FallsSome fish in the creek just below Horseshoe Falls

Approaching the lookout for Horseshoe FallsApproaching the lookout for Horseshoe Falls

This was Horseshoe Falls as seen from our visit in late November 2017This was Horseshoe Falls as seen from our visit in late November 2017

This was our first look at Horseshoe Falls in seemingly higher flow from back in late November 2006This was our first look at Horseshoe Falls in seemingly higher flow from back in late November 2006

I spotted this little wallaby when we came back to Russell Falls on our first visit back in late November 2006 just as it was transitioning from late afternoon into the eveningI spotted this little wallaby when we came back to the falls on our first visit back in late November 2006 just as it was transitioning from late afternoon into the evening

Descending the wooden steps and boardwalk as I was headed back to the visitor centreDescending the wooden steps and boardwalk as I was headed back to the visitor centre

Hikers being dwarfed by tall trees along the Russell Falls Track.  There were actually larger giants at the Tall Trees Walk further up the mountainHikers being dwarfed by tall trees along the track. There were actually larger giants at the Tall Trees Walk further up the mountain

Returning to the visitor centreReturning to the visitor centre


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Approaching the main viewing platform before fully examining the falls and its surroundings from there


Checking out the top of the falls and the scenery below as well as partial angled views of the upper tier through the foliage


Right to left then back sweep showing the Horseshoe Falls with some background chatter


Checking out the upper drop of the falls from the forbidden bench between the two tiers


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

We visited Russell Falls from a pair of approaches - one from Hobart and another via a long drive from Queenstown. We'll describe both routes starting with the shorter route from Hobart.

From the Hobart CBD, we drove the one-way Macquarie St (A6) then turned left onto Brooker Ave. After a large roundabout, we kept straight (2nd exit) onto the Brooker Highway (Hwy 1) and continued along this highway for about 18km to its junction with the Lyell Highway (A10). Just before the Brooker Hwy (Hwy 1) crossed the River Derwent, we left the highway to go onto the Lyell Highway (A10) and continued down this route for about 16km to New Norfolk.

Within the town, we left the Lyell Highway (A10) to continue west on the Glenora Rd (B62) starting at Montagu Street. After about 18km on Glenora Rd (B62), we then kept left onto the Gordon River Rd (B61) at Bushy Park. After another 18km or so on the Gordon River Rd (B61; crossing over a few railroad tracks en route), we then entered the town of National Park where we turned right onto the Lake Dobson Rd (C609). The Mt Field Visitor Centre was at the car park to the right just after 600m.

Overall, this drive took us about 75 minutes.

From Queenstown, we drove the Lyell Highway (A10) for about 178km to Ellendale Rd (C608) turnoff on the right. We then followed the Ellendale Rd (C608) for about 23km before turning right onto the Gordon River Rd (B61). Then, we followed this road towards National Park and eventually to the visitor centre as directed above.

That route took us around 3 hours to complete.

For some geographical context, Hobart was about 101km (90 minutes drive) northwest of Port Arthur, 201km (nearly 2.5 hours drive) south of Launceston, and 260km (over 3.5 hours drive) southeast of Queenstown.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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Looking beyond Russell (Russell Falls) 
I wonder how many "Horseshoe Falls" there are in the world? I've certainly seen a few and here is another to add to your collection. Once you've admired …

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