Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Warrie Circuit (Springbrook National Park)


South East Queensland's other classic day walk, the 17 kilometre Warrie Circuit is the longest and best walk trail in Springbrook National Park. Starting at the Tallanbanna Picnic Area, the trail diverts from the Twin Falls Circuit to explore the waterfall-rich valley. Featuring impressive waterfalls, creek crossing and the magnificent Meeting of the Waters, this is one of Australia's finest day walks


Distance: 17 km ('tadpole' loop)
Gradient: A mix of gentle, level walking and steep descents and ascents via switchbacks
Quality of Path: Generally clear and well maintained trail with constructed steps and railings in places
Quality of Signage: Clear and easy to follow trailhead, but no few along the way. Some trail junctions are unclear
Experience Required: Some Bushwalking Experience Recommended
Time: 4.5-7 Hours (depending on if you swim or not)
Steps: Many steps, particularly leading up and down the cliffs
Best Time to Visit: All year round
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: The trail starts at the Tallanbana Picnic Area on Springbrook Rd. The usual route is to take Gold Coast Springbrook Rd until it becomes Springbrook Rd, however at time of writing a section of the road is closed due to landslips. Check with National Parks and Main Roads for current road conditions. 



Having completed the relatively low key Tallebudgera Creek to Burleigh Heads the previous week for Walking Wednesday, I decided to finish my hiking adventures in South East Queensland with a bang by heading out to Springbrook National Park once again to tackle the Warrie Circuit. One of the two walks I really want to get in while working on the Gold Coast (the other being the Coomera Circuit), Simon, Alissa, Zach and I drove up to do the hike a few weeks earlier only the find the trail closed due to damage from recent storms. With Simon and Zach working and Alissa back in Perth, I decided to head out on my day off to tackle this 17 kilometre track solo as this was likely to be my one and only chance to do the walk before heading back to Perth.



Commencing from the Tallanbanna picnic area, the Warrie Circuit starts by initially following the same route as the Twin Falls Circuit. While the subtropical rainforests of South East Queensland are lush all year round, the high rainfall of March meant that this early part of the walk looked slightly different to when we did the Twin Falls Circuit back in January. With more rain and less intense sunlight, the moss and fungi growth made everything look even more green and lush. Having already enjoyed the Twin Falls Circuit the last time I was here, I knew I was in for a real treat with the Warrie Circuit.



As a bit of a reality check, I also saw some of the negatives to the wetter weather. Since our last visit, many trees had fallen over due to the effects of tropical cyclones off the coast and further north, and I could see why the trail had been closed the last time I tried to attempt it. I was very glad that the trail had been reopened so quickly as it had been closed for an extended period in 2017 due to the effects of Cyclone Debbie.



At the first trail junction, I continued to the right to complete the walk in an anti-clockwise direction. This part of the walk was identical to the Twin Falls Circuit as it passed over a bridge near a series of cascades flowing down towards Twin Falls.



While the Warrie Circuit does not go to the base of the Twin Falls, I was taken by how loud the waterfall was roaring. This would be a constant theme for most of the walk; except for a few sections, the walk was filled with the sound of either waterfalls or running water as a soundtrack. 'Warrie' means 'rushing water' in the local Aboriginal language, making for a rather apt name.



Crossing the falls and continuing along the fenced of section that runs along the cliffs, I noticed how muddy the trail was. Back in January the ground here had been baked hard by the Summer Sun, but with all the rains it was a lot more squelchy this time around.



After descending the switchbacks to the bottom of the cliffs, the trail passes through a chasm between a series of boulders and the cliffs. Again, the area was noticeably wetter, with water constantly trickling down the walls.



While it is not clearly signed, this is the point where the Warrie Circuit branches off from the Twin Falls Circuit. Where the Twin Falls Circuit goes left between two more boulders, the Warrie Circuit runs alongside the cliffs and continues to the right. As a general rule, if you stick right along the shared stretch with the Twin Falls Circuit until you reach the Warrie Circuit you will be heading in the correct direction.



A little further along, a sign confirms that this is indeed the Warrie Circuit. Given the somewhat mellow nature of the Warrie Circuit, people may be forgiven for underestimating the trail's 17 kilometres. Signage just before a series of gates astutely advise hikers to ensure that they have enough time to complete the walk before dark. Having started early in the morning, I had more than enough time to finish the trail, however I can imagine less experienced and organised parties heading out in the afternoon being caught out by the trail's considerable distance.



A short way into the Warrie Circuit finds the trail passing behind Rainbow Falls. Walking behind a waterfall is certainly not an everyday occurrence but it might as well be here in Springbrook as this is the third such waterfall in the area - the others being Twin and Blackfellow Falls. Interestingly, Rainbow Falls had a strikingly similar appearance to Crystal Shower Falls in Dorrigo National Park.



As I was passing behind Rainbow Falls, it began to rain heavily and I had to stop and grab a makeshift cover for my camera in the form of my hat. Not knowing how long the showers would last, I decided to press on given that the rainforest canopy took most of the brunt of the rain. Thankfully the rain did not last for long and I was able put away my hat and keep enjoying the subtropical rainforest walking without fear of my camera shorting out!



With the trail running between the base of the cliffs and the valley below, gaps in the dense forest provided some lovely views of the misty valley and the cliffs on the other side.



While not waterfalls per se, there were plenty of smaller moments of beauty along the trail with water gently flowing down the cliff walls in some of the more rugged sections.



The walking remained fairly flat and constant until it reached a series of switchbacks just before a waterfall.



An impressively tall multi-tiered waterfall, Alissa, Simon and I had visited the head of Goomoolahra Falls and its picnic area after we had completed the Twin Falls Circuit back in January. The waterfall is less obviously epic from the top, and serves as a perfect example of why going the long way - and doing the Warrie Circuit - is better than a short stroll from a picnic spot.



A concrete bridge without any railings allows walkers to cross the falls to the other side.



While the bridge was broad enough that this didn't feel particularly dangerous, looking down to the left at the water as it continues to make its way down to the valley below does illustrate that one slip at this point could be potentially fatal.



Safely across the falls, the next section of trail featured a number of short streams with water flowing over the track. With all the constant trickling, the cliff walls here were carpeted in moss and gave the area an extremely lush and beautiful appearance.



The Warrie Circuit is so replete with waterfalls that they don't even bother to put a sign up to name one of the smaller examples along the way! While less epic than Rainbow or Goomoolahra Falls, the way the tree branch has fallen right in front of the falls makes for a particularly photogenic scene - you really couldn't have planned that better if you tried!





After leaving the small waterfall behind, the roar of the waterfalls slowly fade away as the track descends another series of switchbacks.



While lacking in waterfalls, the area definitely didn't lack in wetness. This was one of the muddiest sections of the entire Warrie Circuit, though I kept putting it into perspective as being only 'WA's Karri/Tingle Forest muddy' rather than 'Tasmania muddy'!



While Western Australia is far less lush than the subtropical forests of South East Queensland, the appearance of large, buttressed trees that people can stand in definitely brought back memories of the Valley of the Giants in Walpole-Nornalup National Park - though the Tingles are even bigger than these east coast giants.



The next waterfall along the track was Ngarri-Dhum Falls. An impressively tall twin waterfall, Ngarri-Dhum is one of those tall but relatively low flow waterfalls that you have to be lucky to see at full flow based on the photos I have seen online.

Waterfall on the Warrie Circuit (Springbrook National Park) - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

I seemed to have timed my visit perfectly as the falls were looking quite good as I passed through.



From Ngarri-Dhum Falls, the track continues past a number of streams making their way down the valley.



While not always on switchbacks per see, the track was clearly zig-zagging as it makes its way down the valley, with the cliffs switching from being on the left of the track to the right. The walking was fairly easy going along this stretch, however I did encounter a Red Bellied Black Snake that was right in the middle of the track. Having grown up in Tiger Snake country, I was not afraid of this far less venomous snake, and a few loud taps of my foot on the ground were enough to convince the snake to move to the right off the track and under a rock.



The trail reaches another series of switchback just before reaching another waterfall.



The step construction along this part of the track was quite cool, as at one point the track builders had literally built the steps right into the base of a tree growing along the hillside.



The Warrie Circuit is so waterfall-rich that it doesn't even bother to go to the base of the waterfall seen along the switchback, however walkers are able to clamber up the rocks to see it if they so wish.



The reason the waterfall is relatively ignored is that the creeks are the main event along this stretch of track. The broad, rocky creek is crossed at a point that is just under ankle deep as it continues on the other side.



Heading along the creek, I marvelled at the sheer number of small waterfalls along its banks - even with the sheer number of waterfalls I've seen hiking in South East Queensland, four is 10 metres is pretty ridiculous!



As I continued along the creek I was filled with anticipation as I knew that this meant I was heading towards the Meeting of the Waters.


Meeting of the Waters (Springbrook National Park) - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Much as Coomera Falls serves as the focal point of the Coomera Circuit, the Y-shaped junction known as the Meeting of the Waters serves a similar purpose for the Warrie Circuit. All the myriad of streams, creeks and waterfalls along the circuit flow to this single point where the two final creeks finally join together. This was not just a highlight of the trail but one of the most memorable of my entire time hiking in South East Queensland. Just stunning.





After stopping to enjoy the Meeting of the Waters, I continued back on the trail which immediately begins its ascent.



The initial stretch leading from the Meeting of the Waters runs upstream alongside Nerang Creek as it passes through a rugged, boulder-strewn series of rapids.



With the weather being decidedly cooler than earlier in the year, I was not planning to go for a swim while doing the Warrie Circuit. With Simon and Zach being big fans of swimming along a hike, I kept thinking they would have been disappointed by the Warrie Circuit as there were no major pools along the walk that were deep enough to take a dip in. Gooroolba Falls was the exception; looking similar to Kagoonya Falls on the Coomera Circuit, the waterfall featured a good size pool at its base and would definitely be the pick of the bunch for best swimming spot along the Warrie Circuit. That being said, if I were going to Springbrook primarily for the purpose of a cooling dip, I would highly recommend Twin Falls given that it is far less effort to get to and an even more spectacular swimming spot.



From the base of Gooroolba Falls, the trail rises up and passes by the top of the waterfall before veering left and away from Nerang Creek. From here, the trail ascends almost continually with much of the walking being up a series of switchbacks.



While lacking in the thrilling waterfalls and creeks that characterise much of the Warrie Circuit, the forests here are continually interesting. Take for example these super thick vines that were growing right over the track - these were so thick that I have seen whole trees that are skinnier than this!





The switchbacks do take walkers to a few more waterfalls as side trips just off the main track. Poonyahra Falls was easily the best of these, with the waterfall featuring a series of tiers before dropping down over a sheer cliff. The sheer walls here really made me think of the Grand Canyon Walk Track in the Blue Mountains, which was my first introduction to Australian rainforests.



As the trail came closer and closer to the top, the sound of rushing water made me hopeful that I had finally reached Blackfellow Falls - a waterfall that is also on the Twin Falls Circuit and in close proximity to the point where the Warrie Circuit joins back onto the shorter walk. With the trail zig-zagging constantly, I would get close to what sounded like the falls and then be taken away in the other direction only to come back to the sound of rushing water. On one occasion the trail reached an unnamed waterfall that was visible through the trees and it was pretty clear to me that this was an almost continuous series of waterfalls rushing down into the valley from Blackfellow Falls.



The sound of voices indicated that I was getting pretty close to the Twin Falls Circuit, and I was pleased to see the gate that is used to block off the Warrie Circuit when it is closed due to landslips.



From here it was a short walk to Blackfellow Falls, which looked to be flowing slightly better than when I was here with Alissa and Simon in January.



While I had enjoyed doing the Warrie Circuit by myself and at my own pace, seeing this area again without Alissa made me think back to my first visit and made me really wish that she had been here to do the walk with me. While she would have complained about all the ups on the way back, the rainforest and waterfalls would have been right up her alley.



From Blackfellow Falls, the trail follows the same path that Simon, Alissa and I had used on the Twin Falls Circuit as it passes over the top of Blackfellow Falls and continues along the clifftop back to Tallanbanna Picnic Area.



Given that we had planned to do the Warrie Circuit a number of times and had been thwarted by a complete track closure when we came up to do it a couple of weeks earlier, I felt extremely lucky to have ended my time in South East Queensland on such a high note. The Warrie Circuit had been one of the top two trails I wanted to complete while I was living on the Gold Coast and it did not disappoint; this would easily rank among the very best trails in country and was second only to the Coomera Circuit as the most excellent trail I've had the pleasure of walking in South East Queensland. If you only have time for two walks when visiting Brisbane or the Gold Coast, make sure to add the Warrie Circuit to your to-do list. 

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