St Columba Falls

Pyengana / St Helens, Tasmania, Australia

About St Columba Falls

Hiking Distance: 1.2km round trip
Suggested Time: 30-45 minutes

Date first visited: 2006-11-25
Date last visited: 2017-11-25

Waterfall Latitude: -41.32105
Waterfall Longitude: 147.92398

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Julie and I came to St Columba Falls with some expectations given that it was said to be one of Tasmania’s tallest permanent waterfalls at 90m thereby drawing quite a bit of fanfare and literature devoted to it.

When we showed up, we saw the impressive waterfall in somewhat of a wishbone shape though its flow looked to be far less than what was typically shown in the literature in addition to what the signage here had indicated.

St_Columba_Falls_17_037_11242017 - St Columba Falls
St Columba Falls

While that first visit took place during the Great Australian Drought of the 2000s, we had a similar experience on a second visit in late November 2017.

That visit followed an unusually dry and warm Winter and Spring in Eastern Tasmania even though the climate anomaly of the prolonged drought wasn’t nearly as pronounced in that later decade.

Speaking of its flow, the South George River, which was responsible for the falls, was said to be fed by a very large 4200 hectare drainage in an area that would typically get high rainfall from Mt Victoria and Mt Albert.

In fact, we read a sign here that said the falls had never been known to run dry since its discovery.

That said, Julie and I wondered if that claim would be tested if Climate Change would continue to alter rainfall distributions worldwide.

St_Columba_Falls_030_11242006 - Looking up at the St Columba Falls from the old lookout in November 2006
Looking up at the St Columba Falls from the old lookout in November 2006

Further adding stress to this watercourse was the presence of clear-fell logging, which was on total display when we drove the Mt Victoria Road between Ralphs Falls and St Columba Falls on our latest visit in late 2017.

Such denuding of the forest could destabilize the soil, accelerate erosion, and reduce the ability of the soil to retain the moisture that would not only attract clouds but also keep the river flowing.

Visiting St Columba Falls

From the car park and trailhead, we were already able to get distant views of the falls from across the gorge.

While the partial views of the falls could be satisfying as we were nearly eye level with most of its drop from here, we wanted to get closer for a more immersive experience.

So we passed through a shelter full of interpretive signs about the area’s past before embarking on the downhill 600m track to get as close to the falls as we could.

St_Columba_Falls_040_11242006 - Looking across the canyon from near the trailhead towards the St Columba Falls
Looking across the canyon from near the trailhead towards the St Columba Falls

The track was pretty well-shaded for most of the way as we were flanked by tall umbrella ferns throughout the well-developed walk.

The presence of these ferns tended to indicate that we were indeed in a rainforest.

At the end of the walk, we stood on a lookout platform in a partial opening revealing the St Columba Falls near its base.

When the South George River would flood, it was said that the lookout would be sprayed with mist.

This wasn’t the case in either of our visits.

It also appeared that on our first visit, the track went a little further (as shown in the photo at the top of this page).

St_Columba_Falls_17_024_11242017 - Near the bottom of the downhill track, we found ourselves looking up at these umbrella-like ferns
Near the bottom of the downhill track, we found ourselves looking up at these umbrella-like ferns

However, I’d imagine that erosion and flooding over the years forced the lookout position back to a more conservative spot.

In any case, we spent about 30-45 minutes in our visits to the falls as most of the energy and time spent was on the walk going back up to the car park.


St Columba Falls resides in the St Columba Falls State Reserve. 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.

Ralphs_Falls_014_iPhone_11252017 - On the Mt Victoria Road between Ralphs Falls and St Columba Falls, we drove through this depressing stretch of denuded old growth forest, which we'd imagine couldn't be good for the long term life of the South George River that sustained Pyengana for so long
St_Columba_Falls_17_004_11242017 - Parking alongside the St Columba Falls Road
St_Columba_Falls_17_006_11242017 - Looking across the South River Gorge towards St Columba Falls from near the trailhead
St_Columba_Falls_012_11242006 - View of St Columba Falls from a similar perspective back in late November 2006
St_Columba_Falls_17_009_11242017 - Approaching the start of the walk for the St Columba Falls
St_Columba_Falls_001_11242006 - The same trailhead seen in late November 2006. As you can see not much has changed except the signage
St_Columba_Falls_17_016_11242017 - The well-developed downhill walk towards the bottom of St Columba Falls
St_Columba_Falls_17_017_11242017 - The further down we went, the more green and lush the rainforest became
St_Columba_Falls_17_020_11242017 - Abundant ferns flanking the trail indicated to us that we were indeed in a rainforest
St_Columba_Falls_17_022_11242017 - This section of the track was prone to a landslide so they urged us not to linger in the next 25m
St_Columba_Falls_17_030_11242017 - Approaching the lookout at the end of the track
St_Columba_Falls_034_11242006 - The typically misty lookout platform for St Columba Falls from back in late November 2006
St_Columba_Falls_17_035_11242017 - Portrait view of the St Columba Falls from the end of the track in late November 2017
St_Columba_Falls_033_11242006 - Frontal look at St Columba Falls from the lookout platform further along in late November 2006. I don't think this vantage point is sanctioned anymore
St_Columba_Falls_17_052_11242017 - On the way out, we paid more attention to these unsusual fuzzy trees with ferns growing out of some of the branches. I believe a sign here called them epiphytes
St_Columba_Falls_17_058_11242017 - Last look back at St Columba Falls before returning to the car park


Since the nearest city of reasonable distance is Launceston, we’ll describe the driving directions from there. We were also able to make a visit here from Ralphs Falls as well as St Helens so we’ll describe those driving routes later in this section.

From the Launceston CBD, we’d head east onto the Tasman Highway (A3) for about 62km to the town of Scottsdale. Note that the Sideling Lookout was about 48km along the A3 from Launceston. Once in Scottsdale, we turned right to continue on the Tasman Highway (A3) and took it for another 72km to the St Columba Falls Rd turnoff on the right near the farming town of Pyengana.

After going onto the St Columba Falls Rd, we continued another 12km to the signed trailhead and car park for the falls. Just beyond the trailhead, there was space to do a U-turn as well as some picnic tables. Overall, this 144km drive took us over 2 hours.

St_Columba_Falls_17_002_11242017 - The St Columba Falls Rd just beyond the trailhead where there was room to make a U-turn by the picnic tables
The St Columba Falls Rd just beyond the trailhead where there was room to make a U-turn by the picnic tables

Coming from Ralphs Falls, we continued east on the Mt Victoria Rd for about 11km. We then turned right onto the St Columba Falls Rd and followed it for about 1.6km before reaching the car park and trailhead.

From St Helens, we drove the Tasman Highway (A3) for about 24km to Pyengana. Then, we turned left onto the St Columba Falls Rd (C428) and drove for about 11km to the trailhead and car park for the falls.

For some geographical context, Launceston was about 103km (over an hour drive) east of Devonport, 167km (over 2 hours drive) west of St Helens, and 201km (nearly 2.5 hours drive) north of Hobart.

Checking out the falls from the end of the track

View of the falls from its base

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Tagged with: pyengana, dorset, st helens, northeast, launceston, tasmania, australia, waterfall, bass, south george river

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