Russell Falls and Horseshoe Falls

Mt Field National Park / New Norfolk, Tasmania, Australia

About Russell Falls and Horseshoe Falls


Hiking Distance: 1.4km round trip (Russell Falls only); 2.2km round trip (both falls)
Suggested Time: 30-45 minutes (Russell Falls only); 60 minutes (both falls)

Date first visited: 2006-11-29
Date last visited: 2017-11-28

Waterfall Latitude: -42.67714
Waterfall Longitude: 146.71279

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.

Russell_Falls_099_11282006 - The impressive but now-forbidden Upper Russell Falls from our first trip in November 2006 seen late in the afternoon when the sun was no longer a problem for long exposure photographs like this
The impressive but now-forbidden Upper Russell Falls from our first trip in November 2006 seen late in the afternoon when the sun was no longer a problem for long exposure photographs like this

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.

That said, we tend to favour Russell Falls given our somewhat suboptimal experiences at Liffey Falls.

In any case, what made this waterfall stand out to us was its character.

As you can see from the photo immediately below, it actually consisted of two main drops.

Russell_Falls_17_041_11272017 - Russell Falls from the main lookout during our late November 2017 visit
Russell Falls from the main lookout during our late November 2017 visit

However, it was the satisfyingly segmented and vertical appearance along with its size that really drew the camera clicks from us.

And it wasn’t only us, because we noticed that just about every other visitor who shared the experience at the Russell Falls did the same.

This waterfall 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.

Hiking to Russell Falls

Russell_Falls_001_11282006 - Julie on the wheelchair-friendly Russell Falls Track, which was only 10 minutes walk when we first did it back in November 2006
Julie on the wheelchair-friendly Russell Falls Track, which was only 10 minutes walk when we first did it back in November 2006

From the large car park (see directions below), we paid the national park fee at the visitor centre then proceeded behind the building.

As we left the building, we then went 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.

Russell_Falls_17_017_11272017 - Julie on the longer non-wheelchair path during our late November 2017 visit
Julie on the longer non-wheelchair path during our late November 2017 visit

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.

Russell Falls Trail Description – going above Russell Falls

After having our fill of the main lookout, we the proceeded onto the track climbing up to the top of Russell Falls.

Note that the main track bypassed the short spur path to an alternate overlook that was very overgrown and no longer sanctioned.

The rock-stepped track initially ascended a couple of switchbacks before it started ascending wooden steps.

Russell_Falls_17_066_11272017 - Approaching the steps climbing above the Russell Falls (concealing the old use-trail to the base of the Russell Fall's upper drop), and headed towards the Horseshoe Falls during our late November 2017 visit
Approaching the steps climbing above the Russell Falls (concealing the old use-trail to the base of the Russell Fall’s upper drop), and headed towards the Horseshoe Falls during our late November 2017 visit

These steps concealed the old unofficial but well-used track leading to the top of the lower drop.

That was 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, I could totally see why the authorities closed off this path.

As a matter of fact, the revegetation that was naturally occurring from the relative lack of foot traffic would further help stabilize the soil.

Russell_Falls_17_126_11272017 - Looking over the brink of Russell Falls during our late November 2017 visit
Looking over the brink of Russell Falls during our late November 2017 visit

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.

Russell Falls Trail Description – beyond 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.

Russell_Falls_017_11282006 - Approaching the peaceful Horseshoe Falls, which was just upstream from Russell Falls
Approaching the peaceful Horseshoe Falls, which was just upstream from Russell Falls

It eventually went 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.

Doing the excursion that way would significantly reduce the amount of hiking.

That said, I thought 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.

Russell_Falls_047_11282006 - Between Horseshoe Falls and Lady Barron Falls was the Tall Trees Walk, which featured very tall gum trees like this one
Between Horseshoe Falls and Lady Barron Falls was the Tall Trees Walk, which featured very tall gum trees like this one

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.

Best Time of Day for photographing Russell Falls

Finally, given the photogenic nature of Russell Falls, we do have to mention that we actually showed up to the falls multiple times strictly for photography reasons.

We visited the falls twice during our first visit back in late November 2006 on a sunny afternoon.

Russell_Falls_115_11282006 - On our first visit in late Novenmber 2006, I had to wait until late in the day before Russell Falls could be photographed in long exposure and the bright spots further above no longer became a problem
On our first visit in late Novenmber 2006, I had to wait until late in the day before Russell Falls could be photographed in long exposure and the bright spots further above no longer became a problem

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.

That said, we showed up from mid-morning to around high noon, which might not have been the best times for photographing Russell Falls.

Authorities

Russell Falls resides in the Mt Field National Park near Hobart, Tasmania. It is administered by the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Russell_Falls_17_007_11272017 - Julie on the Russell Falls Track behind the Mt Field Visitor Centre during our late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_010_11272017 - Along the Russell Falls Track, there were tall trees like this one seen during our late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_012_11272017 - 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 route during our late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_013_11272017 - Julie on the Russell Falls Track as it was now alongside the creek during our late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_014_11272017 - Julie continuing on the Russell Falls Track during our visit in late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_021_11272017 - In addition to tall trees, there were also tall umbrella ferns indicating that we were in a high rainfall area along the Russell Falls Track during our late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_023_11272017 - Approaching the very busy main lookout at the base of Russell Falls on our late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_027_11272017 - Looking up at Russell Falls from the main lookout during our late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_030_11272017 - Looking up at Russell Falls from the main lookout during our visit in late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_051_11272017 - Long exposure shot of the Russell Falls as seen from the main lookout in late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_055_11272017 - Looking towards the part of the Russell Falls Track that we had done in November 2006 but was being worked on in November 2017
Russell_Falls_17_057_11272017 - About to go up the steeper track to the top of Russell Falls during our visit in late November 2017
Russell_Falls_17_059_11272017 - This was the view from an alternate lookout for Russell Falls, but as you can see, it was quite overgrown as of late November 2017
Russell_Falls_17_062_11272017 - Going up the rock steps on towards the top of Russell Falls during our late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_068_11272017 - Continuing up the wooden steps leading to the top of Russell Falls on our late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_072_11272017 - This was my unsanctioned view of the Upper Russell Falls during my visit in late November 2017
Russell_Falls_17_075_11272017 - Portrait view of that upper drop of Russell Falls as seen during my visit in late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_083_11272017 - Fast exposed look at the Russell Falls' upper drop during my visit in late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_087_11272017 - This was the trail-of-use that led to the bottom of the upper drop of Russell Falls as seen during my late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_090_11272017 - Back at the steps to continue the climb up to the top of Russell Falls and to Horseshoe Falls during my visit in late November 2017
Russell_Falls_17_134_11272017 - Looking down from the wooden steps towards the old track leading to the bench between the lower and upper tier of Russell Falls during my late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_092_11272017 - 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 top as seen during my late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_095_11272017 - Further upstream of Russell Falls, we kept right at this junction to reach the Horsehoe Falls during our late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_106_11272017 - Some fish in the creek just below Horseshoe Falls during our late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_108_11272017 - Approaching the lookout for Horseshoe Falls during my late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_116_11272017 - This was Horseshoe Falls as seen from our visit in late November 2017, which appeared to have a bit less water than on our late November 2006 visit
Russell_Falls_17_119_11272017 - Returning towards the Mt Field Visitor Centre after having my fill of Horseshoe Falls during my late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_17_132_11272017 - Descending the wooden steps and boardwalk as I was headed back to the Mt Field Visitor Centre in late November 2017
Russell_Falls_17_141_11272017 - Hikers being dwarfed by tall trees along the Russell Falls Track during our late November 2017 visit.  There were actually larger giants at the Tall Trees Walk further up the mountain
Russell_Falls_17_145_11272017 - Returning to the Mt Field Visitor Centre on our late November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_006_jx_11282006 - Signage suggesting that reaching Russell Falls was definitely a lot shorter on our November 2006 visit than it was during our November 2017 visit
Russell_Falls_003_11282006 - When we first showed up to Russell Falls in late November 2006, the lighting caused a bit of a problem
Russell_Falls_009_11282006 - We noticed there was more to Russell Falls than what could be seen directly at the Lower Russell Falls, and we were keen to find out during our November 2006 visit
Russell_Falls_035_jx_11282006 - Signage giving us time frames for how far these other attractions were from the Russell Falls lookout during our visit in November 2006
Russell_Falls_042_jx_11282006 - Looking over the top of Russell Falls during our visit in late November 2006
Russell_Falls_010_11282006 - This was our first look at Horseshoe Falls in seemingly higher flow from back in late November 2006
Russell_Falls_015_11282006 - Contextual look at the Horseshoe Falls in seemingly higher volume during our late November 2006 visit
Russell_Falls_020_11282006 - Focused look at Horseshoe Falls during our late November 2006 visit
Russell_Falls_023_11282006 - Our first look at the upper drop of Russell Falls during our visit in November 2006 visit
Russell_Falls_044_11282006 - Another look at the elusive Upper Russell Falls seen in the early afternoon. It was a bit bright for long exposure photos at this time of day during late November 2006 visit
Russell_Falls_081_11282006 - When I returned to Russell Falls later in the afternoon, I started noticing wallabies along the Russell Falls Track during our late November 2006 visit
Russell_Falls_087_11282006 - Back at the main lookout for Russell Falls later in the afternoon as I attempted to take long exposure photographs of it in late November 2006
Russell_Falls_107_11282006 - Late afternoon look at the upper tier of Russell Falls during our visit in late November 2006
Russell_Falls_111_11282006 - This was me checking out the attractive upper tier of Russell Falls taken from our first visit in November 2006
Russell_Falls_122_11282006 - I spotted this little wallaby when we came back to Russell Falls in the late afternoon on our first visit back in late November 2006

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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.

Driving from Hobart to Russell Falls

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).

Russell_Falls_046_jx_11282006 - Some kind of picnic shelter near the Mt Field Visitor Centre
Some kind of picnic shelter near the Mt Field Visitor Centre

The Mt Field Visitor Centre was at the car park to the right just after 600m.

Overall, this drive took us about 75 minutes.

Driving from Queenstown to Russell Falls

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.

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


Fixated on the upper part of Russell Falls

Tagged with: mt field, derwent valley, tasmania, australia, waterfall, glow worms, new norfolk, tall trees, horseshoe falls



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Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

Tasmanian waterfall videos August 22, 2015 11:34 pm by Caedence Kuepper - Hi guys, just thought I'd share some links to three youtube videos I compiled from the waterfalls I've seen around Tasmania: ...Read More
Looking beyond Russell (Russell Falls) August 3, 2008 9:53 am by Ian Smith - 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 Tasmania's most famous waterfall, Russell Falls, there's a track off to the right that takes you uphill. It ultimately goes to Lady Barron Falls but, en route… ...Read More

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of 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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