Motor Car Falls (Yurmikmik)

Kakadu National Park / Cooinda / Pine Creek, Northern Territory, Australia

About Motor Car Falls (Yurmikmik)


Hiking Distance: at least 6km round trip; or 8.6km round trip (incl. Boulder Creek Falls)
Suggested Time: allow at least 3 hours

Date first visited: 2022-06-15
Date last visited: 2022-06-15

Waterfall Latitude: -13.53292
Waterfall Longitude: 132.47846

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Motor Car Falls (Yurmikmik) is one of the few Kakadu National Park waterfalls that you can actually hike to in the Wet Season.

That’s because the Wet Season tends to close most roads as well as trails due to flooding and the increased threat of saltwater crocodiles in all waterways, respectively.

Yurmikmik_152_06142022 - Motor Car Falls or Yurmikmik in its Dry Season flow
Motor Car Falls or Yurmikmik in its Dry Season flow

In addition to this waterfall and its atmospheric large swimming hole surrounded by tall cliffs, there’s also the possibility of extending the walk to experience Boulder Creek Falls, which was another Wet Season waterfall.

Anyways, the catch to visiting Motor Car Falls is that you have to go on a bit of a half-day excursion, which is not trivial when you consider how hot and humid such hikes can get in the Top End.

Timing A Visit to Motor Car Falls

As you can see from the photo above, which was taken in early June 2022, Motor Car Falls struggled to flow even early on in the Dry Season.

That meant that you pretty much had to show up in the Wet Season in order to see this waterfall perform.

Yurmikmik_048_06142022 - The upper tier of Boulder Creek Falls, which wasn't flowing on our June 2022 visit, and its upper plunge pool
The upper tier of Boulder Creek Falls, which wasn’t flowing on our June 2022 visit, and its upper plunge pool

However, during the Wet, despite Motor Car Falls likely having better flow, the large plunge pool on Motor Car Creek would probably not be suitable for swimming due to strong currents and the possibility of a saltwater croc getting this far.

Indeed, it wouldn’t be until the Dry Season that the pool fronting Yurmikmik would likely be suitable for a swim, but then the falls wouldn’t be flowing.

If the desire would be to try to swim in front of a flowing waterfall, I’d imagine that you’d have to time your visit for right at the end of the Wet Season, which I’m guessing would be the end of April or as late as mid-May.

Options for Accessing Motor Car Falls

There are actually two main starting points for hiking to Motor Car Falls (see directions below).

Yurmikmik_206_06142022 - Signs at the trailhead for Yurmikmik Motor Car Falls
Signs at the trailhead for Yurmikmik Motor Car Falls

The closest car park to Motor Car Falls is the Yurmikmik Motor Car Falls Trailhead, where the signs here suggested that the hike would be 7.5km return.

This car park is actually close to the Yurmikmik Lookout (which was another short detour for a little more variety to the experience), which was about 500m away (200m return detour from the Motor Car Falls hike).

That said, my GPS logs suggested it was about 6.8km round-trip, and this included the detour to the Yurmikmik Lookout.

Anyways, the other trailhead is the Yurmikmik Boulder Creek Trailhead, where you can combine Boulder Creek Falls with Motor Car Falls in a single half-day excursion.

Yurmikmik_009_06142022 - Looking back at the picnic area and car park for the Yurmikmik Boulder Creek Falls Trail
Looking back at the picnic area and car park for the Yurmikmik Boulder Creek Falls Trail

According to the signs at the trailhead, the hike from here along with the Boulder Creek Falls detour added an additional 2km round trip (though my GPS logs suggested that it was more like 2.8km round trip).

The signs here suggested that it was more like an 11km round-trip hike from the Boulder Creek Trailhead to Motor Car Falls, but my GPS logs suggested it was more like 9.6km round-trip (including the Boulder Creek Falls detour).

When we did our hike in June 2022, we started from the Boulder Creek Trailhead so that’s how I’ll do the trail description below.

Trail Description from the Boulder Creek Falls Trailhead to the Motor Car Falls Trail

From the Boulder Creek Trailhead, it was a straightforward walk going roughly 600m before reaching a signed trail junction with the Boulder Creek Falls spur.

Yurmikmik_030_06142022 - The signposted trail junction where the spur path on the right went to Boulder Creek Falls
The signposted trail junction where the spur path on the right went to Boulder Creek Falls

In this initial stretch, the trail briefly went across a seasonal side stream (which eventually would join up with Boulder Creek) before passing through some savannah-like area with little shade.

Once on the Boulder Creek Falls side track, we then walked about another 300m to the foot of the waterfall, which was aptly named since the area was full of boulders.

During our mid-June 2022 visit, there was only a trickle left going over the lowermost tier of Boulder Creek Falls, which suggested to me that it was clearly a Wet Season-only temporary waterfall.

Given the low flow conditions, I did manage to carefully scramble alongside the falls to reach a plunge pool and potentially a taller tier of the Boulder Creek Falls had it been in higher flow.

Yurmikmik_042_06142022 - Looking towards the mostly dry (except for a little trickle) boulders supporting the aptly-named Boulder Creek Falls
Looking towards the mostly dry (except for a little trickle) boulders supporting the aptly-named Boulder Creek Falls

However, we didn’t linger here for long and went back to the main trail, where we then continued for nearly another 800m where we then encountered a well-signed trail junction.

Going right at this junction would continue the Motor Car Falls hike, but going straight ahead uphill for nearly another 300m landed us right at the Yurmikmik Lookout.

From here, we got to look across the valley carved out by the South Alligator River as well as some distant escarpments.

By the way, even though we’ve interchanged the names Motor Car Falls and Yurmikmik in this write-up, Yurmikmik is actually the native Jawoyn name for the area between the Marrawal Plateau and the South Alligator River (i.e. what we saw at the lookout).

Yurmikmik_073_06142022 - Julie checking out the view from the Yurmikmik Lookout, which was about 500m from the Yurmikmik Motor Car Falls Trailhead
Julie checking out the view from the Yurmikmik Lookout, which was about 500m from the Yurmikmik Motor Car Falls Trailhead

Nevertheless, after having our fill of this nice view, we then returned back to the main signposted intersection to resume the Motor Car Falls hike.

Note that up to this point, we had walked about 3.4km (though it would have only been about 400m without the Yurmikmik Lookout detour had we started from the Yurmikmik Motor Car Falls car park).

Trail Description from the Yurmikmik Car Park and Lookout Vicinity to the Motor Car Falls

Continuing on with the hike from the signed trail junction near both the Yurmikmik Lookout and the Yurmikmik car park, we then hiked about 2.3km of mostly flat but unshaded terrain on the well-used trail.

The track was noticeably wide and flat, and it turned out to be that way because in 1946 a tin miner named Paul Allmich drove his truck as far as Motor Car Creek via this path (which is how the creek got its name).

Yurmikmik_125_06142022 - Shortly after the signed trail fork where the Yurmikmik Walk split off from the Kurrundie Creek Track, we then started to approach the impressive escarpment supporting Motor Car Falls
Shortly after the signed trail fork where the Yurmikmik Walk split off from the Kurrundie Creek Track, we then started to approach the impressive escarpment supporting Motor Car Falls

While this stretch of the hike can seem somewhat featureless and long, there was always the intriguing knobby escarpments to the south (our right) throughout.

Nevertheless, it was this stretch that made the hike feel like it was long given the heat and humidity of the Top End combined with the relative lack of eye-popping features.

Anyways, we’d eventually reach a signed trail fork, where we kept to the right to continue towards Motor Car Falls.

By the way, the path on the left considerably narrowed even more, and it was part of the Kurrundie Creek Walk (to Kurrundie Creek Falls), which was rougher and should only be attempted by well-prepared and experienced hikers.

Yurmikmik_131_06142022 - There was a little bit of mild boulder scrambling as we got closer to Motor Car Falls
There was a little bit of mild boulder scrambling as we got closer to Motor Car Falls

So continuing with the Motor Car Falls Track, we then went the final 400m as the track descended towards the imposing escarpments that we had been noticing throughout this hike.

As the track got closer to the escarpment, the on-trail hike then became a little more of a mild scramble though staying on the trail wasn’t difficult.

The scramble was more of the bouldering nature as it skirted alongside Motor Car Creek, and ultimately the trail would descend and end right at the fringes of the massive plunge pool in front of Motor Car Falls.

There was a huge rock slab that we took advantage of to have a picnic, but otherwise this was a nice quiet spot for a swim as well.

Yurmikmik_143_06142022 - Another focused look at Motor Car Falls from across its big plunge pool surrounded by sandstone cliffs
Another focused look at Motor Car Falls from across its big plunge pool surrounded by sandstone cliffs

Even though the falls was only trickling, I’d imagine that its height was probably on the order of at least 35-40m or more.

After having our fill of the falls, we then went back the way we came where we encountered several more hikers going to the falls.

This attested to Motor Car Falls’ popularity though I suspected these people were really there to swim or at least have an alternative to Gunlom Falls, which was closed due to cultural reasons during our June 2022 hike.

By the time we had returned to the car, we ended up spending a little over 4 hours though I’d imagine that more determined hikers in a hurry could easily finish this hike in less than 3 hours (not counting the detours that we took though).

Authorities

Motor Car Falls (or Yurmikmik Falls) resides in Kakadu National Park near Jabiru or Cooinda in the Northern Territory. It is jointly administered by the Jawoyn People and the Northern Territory Government. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Yurmikmik_002_06142022 - Looking back at the short undulating access road leading to the Boulder Creek Falls car park
Yurmikmik_010_06142022 - Tahia starting on the walk from the Boulder Creek car park
Yurmikmik_013_06142022 - Looking towards a stagnant seasonal side stream on the track between Boulder Creek car park and the signed fork leading to Boulder Creek Falls itself
Yurmikmik_016_06142022 - Following the maintained Yurmikmik Walk shortly after the seasonal creek crossing on the way to the Boulder Creek Falls spur during our June 2022 visit
Yurmikmik_021_06142022 - The family going through the savannah-like terrain as we were still approaching the Boulder Creek turnoff
Yurmikmik_023_06142022 - There was actually some degree of shade early in the morning on the way to the signed fork leading to Boulder Creek Falls during our June 2022 visit
Yurmikmik_026_06142022 - Another look at the context of the savannah-like trail on the way to Boulder Creek Falls
Yurmikmik_032_06142022 - Julie and Tahia following the use trail leading closer to Boulder Creek Falls
Yurmikmik_041_06142022 - Portrait look at the dry (or barely trickling) Boulder Creek Falls during our June 2022 visit
Yurmikmik_048_06142022 - Checking out the upper plunge pool and a dry upper tier of Boulder Creek Falls before heading back down to the main Yurmikmik Walk
Yurmikmik_049_06142022 - Closer look at the scenically clear upper pool between the pair of drops of Boulder Creek Falls
Yurmikmik_053_06142022 - Looking downstream over the lip of the lower drop of Boulder Creek Falls while the water was stagnant enough to appear like a calm pool
Yurmikmik_056_06142022 - The family continuing on the Yurmikmik Walk after having our fill of Boulder Creek Falls where the shade from the unrelenting sun was few and far between
Yurmikmik_059_06142022 - Continuing on the semi-open Yurmikmik Walking Track towards a signed intersection near the Yurmikmik Lookout
Yurmikmik_061_06142022 - Looking at the continuation of the Yurmikmik Walk adjacent to a sign board indicating the distances to the next points of interest
Yurmikmik_063_06142022 - The family going uphill as we briefly pursued the Yurmikmik Lookout
Yurmikmik_066_06142022 - The family continuing with the ascent up to the Yurmikmik Lookout as the climb became a little rockier
Yurmikmik_068_06142022 - On the final stretch to get up to the Yurmikmik Lookout
Yurmikmik_072_06142022 - This was the view from the Yurmikmik Lookout as we peered across Gimbat Road towards neighboring escarpments in the direction of the South Alligator River
Yurmikmik_078_06142022 - A lone tree fronting the view at the Yurmikmik Lookout
Yurmikmik_085_06142022 - The family heading back down to the Yurmikmik Walk after having had our fill of the Yurmikmik Lookout
Yurmikmik_092_06142022 - Approaching the signed intersection at the conclusion of our short jaunt up to the Yurmikmik Lookout
Yurmikmik_097_06142022 - The family back on the wide trail along the Yurmikmik Walk as another fast hiker actually passed us on the way to Motor Car Falls. She was the first person that we saw on the morning of our hike in June 2022
Yurmikmik_104_06142022 - Context of the family on the Yurmikmik Walk with the neighboring escarpment to the right of us on the way to Motor Car Falls
Yurmikmik_111_06142022 - Continuing along the Yurmikmik Walk through what appeared to be an area charred by prescribed burns as we continued the long straightshot stretch towards Motor Car Falls
Yurmikmik_117_06142022 - The Yurmikmik Walk narrowing a little as the track veered towards the other side of the valley closer to the base of the escarpments that we had been paralleling for a while en route to Motor Car Falls
Yurmikmik_122_06142022 - The family veering to the right to continue to Motor Car Falls while the Kurrundie Creek Track continued to the left of this post
Yurmikmik_128_06142022 - Julie about to enter a thicker forest or jungle where it was clear that a waterway was providing water for vegetation as we were getting closer to Motor Car Falls
Yurmikmik_133_06142022 - The family descending towards the plunge pool fronting Motor Car Falls after having done a bit of a rock scramble alongside Motor Car Creek
Yurmikmik_136_06142022 - Our first look at Motor Car Falls looking like nothing more than a wet stain on a tall escarpment wall across its big plunge pool
Yurmikmik_141_06142022 - Looking towards Julie and Mom on a large slab that acted as our picnic spot at Motor Car Falls
Yurmikmik_137_06142022 - Portrait view of the context of Motor Car Falls across its big plunge pool as seen in June 2022
Yurmikmik_144_06142022 - Another look at Motor Car Falls in trickling form during our June 2022 visit
Yurmikmik_149_06142022 - Looking towards the bouldery mouth of Motor Car Creek, where I suspect that it would be less likely for saltwater crocodiles to make it beyond the boulder-stewn stream to make it up to the plunge pool for Motor Car Falls this far into June 2022
Yurmikmik_163_06142022 - Checking out Motor Car Falls from a more severe angle as I positioned myself on the large slab where we were picknicking
Yurmikmik_162_06142022 - Portrait view of Motor Car Falls from the big rock slab we were picnicking from
Yurmikmik_165_06142022 - Looking back at the rock slab and Motor Car Falls as other people had shown up during our June 2022 visit
Yurmikmik_168_06142022 - The ladies making their way back from Motor Car Falls as they traversed the rocky scramble on the way out
Yurmikmik_170_06142022 - The ladies continuing the rocky scramble alongside Motor Car Creek on their way back after having had their fill of Motor Car Falls
Yurmikmik_175_06142022 - Noticing some fish within Motor Car Creek as we made our way out of Motor Car Falls
Yurmikmik_179_06142022 - The ladies back on the Yurmikmik Walk with the escarpment now on our left
Yurmikmik_184_06142022 - Shade was limited on the Yurmikmik Walk so we were glad to have brought lots of water on this excursion, especially since it was becoming another hot day in the Top End
Yurmikmik_186_06142022 - The ladies continuing on the straight shot part of the Yurmikmik Walk as we were headed back to the car park
Yurmikmik_190_06142022 - The ladies making the final stretch on the Boulder Creek Walk en route to the car park that we started at on our way back from Motor Car Falls
Yurmikmik_192_06142022 - Noticing a termite mound along the Boulder Creek Track
Yurmikmik_200_06142022 - Finally making it back to the car park for the Boulder Creek Track to end our half-day excursion to Motor Car Falls and its neighboring attractions


Motor Car Falls and Boulder Creek Falls are situated in the southern part of Kakadu National Park closer to Pine Creek than say Jabiru.

From the Kakadu Highway (Route 21), we turned off onto Gimbat Road, which was a wide and fairly smooth unpaved road (save for a handful of potholes).

Yurmikmik_003_06142022 - The Boulder Creek car park at Yurmikmik
The Boulder Creek car park at Yurmikmik

This turnoff was about 70km northeast of Pine Creek or 163km southwest of Jabiru.

Once on Gimbat Road, we then drove about 21km towards the signed turnoff for Boulder Creek Falls, which led the final short stretch to the car park and picnic area.

Overall, this drive would take a little over an hour from Pine Creek or over 2 hours or more from Jabiru.

If you want to continue the drive to the Yurmikmik Motor Car Falls car park, then continue another 600m to an unsigned turnoff on the right.

Yurmikmik_203_06142022 - The car park for Yurmikmik Motor Car Falls
The car park for Yurmikmik Motor Car Falls

This unsigned turnoff is easy to miss, and even the rutted and undulating dirt road leading to the car park would likely bottom out any vehicle with insufficient clearance.

For geographical context, Pine Creek was 225km (about 2.5 hours drive) south of Darwin, 164km (over 2 hours drive) southwest of Cooinda, 213km (over 2.5 hours drive) southwest of Jabiru, and 184km (over 2 hours drive) northwest of Katherine.

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Sweep covering the trickling base of Boulder Creek Falls


Sweep covering an upper tier of Boulder Creek Falls fronted by some nice plunge pools


Left to right sweep across the huge plunge pool before panning up the trickling Motor Car Falls


Back and forth sweep across the huge plunge pool before MC Falls before we managed to get a cleaner look

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Tagged with: yurmikmik, boulder creek falls, gimbat road, kurrundie falls, kakadu, motor car creek, northern territory



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About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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