About Crater Falls
Crater Falls was a series of small cascades and waterfalls where each drop was on the order of 5m to 10m tall though the cumulative height could very well be on the order of more than 30m or so. Given the dense vegetation surrounding Crater Creek, we weren’t able to appreciate all of the drops of the waterfall in one view. Instead, we experienced each small drop separately where the most impressive of the waterfalls was probably the lowermost (and first) tier, which featured a narrow chute that plunged about 5m into some shady forest cover. Another cascade further upstream that was of similar size but fell in multiple drops in succession (pictured above) was also just as attractive. The waterfall series ended with a small upper cascade above the forest cover roughly over 100m from the first drop.
In my mind, Crater Falls was more of an incidental side attraction to longer hikes leading to lookouts and lakes. On our first visit back in late November 2006, Julie and I did the 3.6km round trip hike (nearly two hours return) just to the base of the first waterfall from the Ronny Creek car park and shuttle stop. However, it felt like a lot of work for such a tiny waterfall. We wisened up on on a second visit here in late November 2017 when we extended that same hike another 600m or so to Crater Lake taking in other aforementioned tiers of the waterfall as well as the glacial lake itself, which was fringed by 200m knobby cliffs. It took Julie and I about 2.5 hours to do that longer roughly 5km return hike.
Speaking of longer excursions, we very easily could have extended our second visit into a 6km loop hike that would have included Wombat Pool and Lake Lilla. We even could have taken advantage of the park shuttle bus, which was included in our park admission fees, and do a three-hour hike from Dove Lake up to Marion’s Lookout for a top down view of Cradle Mountain with Dove Lake together before descending via Crater Falls to the Ronny Creek trailhead (or do this one-way shuttle hike in reverse). Of course, the most famous of the hikes that included the falls was the six-day 65km Overland Track which began at the Ronny Creek Trailhead and ended at Lake St Clair (Tasmania’s deepest lake) through some of Australia’s most pristine and rugged wilderness.
For a wordseye view of the more modest hike that Julie and I took, we’ll take you from the Ronny Creek Trailhead to Crater Lake and back. From the trailhead, we followed along a boardwalk that more or less followed Ronny Creek through a wide open buttongrass moorland that reminded me very much of the type of brown tussock grassland scenery we encountered while hiking in the volcanic Tongariro National Park in New Zealand’s North Island. During this boardwalk stretch, we encountered several sightings of wombats and echidnas happily grazing on the long grasses here.
Shortly after passing by a trail junction with a spur track leding up to the Waldheim Cabins, we then crossed a bridge over Ronny Creek, where Julie noted that the creek was fringed with low-lying trees that looked like the kind of palm trees we tended to associate with the deserts of Palm Springs or Joshua Tree in California. Immediately after the bridge, we kept right at a trail junction (the left track was for the Lake Lilla Track and Wombat Pool), and the track started climbing in earnest as we were leaving the grasslands into bushlands before entering the cover of forest further ahead (roughly 1.5km from the trailhead). Amongst the shrubs in this long uphill stretch were large mats of yellow, white, and orange wildflowers that were in bloom this late in the Spring and early Summer.
Eventually at around 300m past the Horse Track junction and the start of the forest cover, we reached the lookout for the bottom of Crater Falls, where there was a rest bench as well as a viewing platform. The track continued climbing steeply up wooden steps alongside other cascades of Crater Falls. One of the cascades was an attractive multi-tiered one fringed by large boulders that involved a short spur scramble to reach, and it was the one pictured at the top of this page. As the track continued climbing, it eventually left the forest cover and became more semi-exposed bushlands with some higher elevation trees as it skirted by another spur track for the uppermost cascade of Crater Falls.
For the remaining 600m or so, the track continued to climb moderately up steps as the knobby cliffs fringing Crater Lake were getting closer. The climb at this point felt more on the relentless side though it offered attractively expansive views back towards the Ronny Creek Trailhead way in the distance. Eventually at nearly 2.5km from the trailhead, we reached a boat shed shelter right by the mouth of Crater Lake. This was pretty much our turnaround point though I spent some extra time exploring parts of the southwestern fringes of the calm lake. The knobby cliffs fringing the steeper northern and eastern fringes of the lake really made the scenery here stand out.
That said though, I felt that lakes were best seen from the top down and not from near its shores and so in hindsight, I probably should have taken the extra time to keep climbing up to Marion’s Lookout to at least look back over Crater Lake as well as look in the other direction to Dove Lake with Cradle Mountain as well as smaller lakes like Lake Wilks and Lake Lilla. I could have even descended to the Wombat Pool and Lake Lilla to make a circuit out of the hike we just did. In any case, we returned back the way we came in a predominantly downhill hike where we took advantage of the downhill momentum to make good time, and we got to watch wombats and echidnas grazing against back in the buttongrass moors by the trailhead.
The nearest starting point that we took was from the Ronny Creek Trailhead, which was the car park before the last one at Dove Lake (about 7km south of the Cradle Valley Vistor Centre or 5.3km south of the Cradle Mountain Lodge along Cradle Valley Rd in the settlement of Cradle Mountain). The end of Cradle Valley Rd at Dove Lake was about 2km further south of the Ronny Creek Trailhead.
Since traffic was limited by a boom just past the lodge, the park had also set up a shuttle service to get into the restricted area, where both the Dove Lake and Ronny Creek stops were located. Since we were fortunate to have self-driven into the restricted area on both of our visits to Crater Falls, it only took us about 15 minutes to do the drive from Cradle Mountain Lodge to the Ronny Creek Trailhead. However, the shuttle buses have an interarrival time at each stop of 20 minutes, which can be as little as 15 minutes during busy periods depending on how many buses they run.
To give you some geographical context, Cradle Mountain was about 111km (over 90 minutes drive) north of Queenstown, 101km (about 75 minutes drive) south of Burnie, 78km (about 75 minutes drive) southwest of Devonport, 93km (about 90 minutes drive) west of Deloraine, 157km (about 2.5 hours drive) west of Launceston, and 319km (4 hours drive) northwest of Hobart.
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