Sunday, 11 February 2018

Minyon Falls Track (Nightcap National Park)

A great waterfall walk in New South Wales' Nightcap National Park, the Minyon Falls Track takes walkers to the head and foot of the 100 metre tall Minyon Falls. Starting near the head of the falls, the trail follows the cliff top before leading down into beautiful subtropical rainforest and the foot of the falls. Returning via Minyon Grass, this is a superb circuit walk in the Gondwana Rainforest of Australia World Heritage Area

Distance: 7.5 km (loop)
Gradient: A mix of  relatively 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, with markers along the way and clearly marked trail markers
Experience Required: Some Bushwalking Experience Recommended
Time: 2-3 Hours (depending on if you swim or not)
Steps: Many steps, particularly leading up and down the cliffs
Best Time to Visit: After decent rains
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: The trail starts at the Minyon Falls car park on Minyon Falls Rd. From Repentance Creek Rd, head northwards on Coopers Creek Rd for 1.8 kilometres then turn left onto Minyon Falls Rd and continue for 2.4 kilometres to reach the Minyon Falls car park on the left side of the road

Having enjoyed our sojourn across the border to Byron Bay a few weeks earlier, Simon, Zach and I headed south from the Gold coast to tackle a walk in New South Wales' Nightcap National Park. While part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area and featuring a spectacular 100 metre tall waterfall called Minyon Falls, Nightcap seemed like a relatively under recognised national park. With the park having a range of walks to choose from, the 7.5 kilometre loop taking walkers to the head and foot of Minyon Falls looked to be exactly what we were looking for.

After driving down some somewhat dodgy looking roads and parking our car at the Minyon Falls car park, we started on the trail in a counter-clockwise direction. We were only a few metres into the walk when we came to the lookout at the head of the falls which featured incredible views of Minyon Falls in action. Photographs do not do justice to the sheer height of the falls, and it made us all the more excited knowing that we would be swimming at its base - especially since it was going to be a very hot day.

The view across to the sheer cliffs and valley were another highlight of this early part of the walk, and it gave us a sense of just how much elevation loss and gain would be required to get to the base of the falls and back up to the top.

Continuing along the trail, we passed Repentance Creek as it flowed towards the falls. Access to the very head of the falls is prohibited due to the sheer drop, and after taking a few photos we continued on without exploring further downstream.

At a safe distance from the head of the falls, the track crosses Repentance Creek via a series of constructed stepping stones. This was an easy enough crossing to undertake, however it would be interesting to see how flooded the area gets after significant rain as I can imagine the middle 'island' of rock being totally engulfed in a major downpour.

Across on the other side of the creek, an orange trail marker reminded us that we were back in New South Wales as these markers a relative rarity on the trails we'd visited in Queensland.

Even more impressive was the very large street-style sign indicating the correct direction for walkers to travel to reach the Minyon Falls car park and the alternative picnic/day use area at Minyon Grass.

The trail follows the cliff tops seen earlier from the lookout point while providing glimpses of the falls in action through the trees.

Considering the trail has a long way to go down, it was a bit of a surprise to find it following an upward trajectory, with several flights of steps leading towards higher ground.

The trail goes over another creek crossing before ascending ever more on the other side!

After reaching the end of the cliffline, we could see another waterfall to our right through the bushes before the trail made its way down a series of switchbacks.

Up until this point, we had largely walked through dryer Eucalypt forest, but by the time we'd reached the bottom of the switchbacks we were well and truly in the typically dense and lush subtropical rainforest common to the national parks in the area.

The rainforest walking was typically spectacular, with incredible sounds of life everywhere we walked. Some sections were also quite rugged, with the trail passing through sections strewn with boulders as it made its way past ephemeral streams and watercourses.

Our excitement greatly increased when we once again saw (and heard) Minyon Falls through the forest.

The trail cleared as we reached a boulder-filled crossing of Repentance Creek.

On the other side of the creek, a side trail leads to the foot of the falls. While most of the walk is relatively straightforward, this section required a fair bit of scrambling up and over boulders to reach the walk's most stunning locale.

As we cleared the boulders, Minyon Falls came into full view and was even more impressive than we could have imagined. While just about every walk in South East Queensland and Northern NSW seems to feature a spectacular waterfall or two, Minyon Falls was a far taller waterfall and was well worth the drive and effort to walk to.

Unfortunately, my camera lens was just not wide enough to take in the entire waterfall and the amphitheatre at its base...

Minyon Falls in Nightcap National Park - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

... however this 360° view should give some indication of what its like to stand at the base of the falls. After spending a fair bit of time cooling off in the water and sitting under the falls, the three of use doubled back along the walk trail and continued along the trail's loop. 

The trail runs alongside Repentance Creek, with a section of it under boardwalk. This gave us some indication that the water levels can probably get quite high and the trail fairly muddy in wet weather. 

Furthermore, the number of fallen trees that had been cut in half to provide a clear walkway was pretty high along this stretch, and I had to wonder whether this was the result of Cyclone Debbie from the previous year. 

Inevitably, the trail became a continuous series of steps and switchbacks as it made its way up to Minyon Grass. While relentless, I found the steps to be less difficult than I expected and we were up at Minyon Grass faster than I had thought we would. 

Minyon Grass is a quieter picnic area compared to the main picnic area at Minyon Falls, and features a lookout overlooking the waterfall.

This is another great view point, and we appreciated being able to see the falls from so many different angles. 

After taking a short break to drink some water in the shade of a sheltered picnic table, we began the last bit of the loop walking back up the road to Minyon Falls. This was a mercifully short walk that was no where near as steep or as long as the last bit of the the Lower Bellbird Circuit in Lamington National Park two weeks earlier.

As a fitting finale to our trail, we saw a goanna emerge from the bushes at the Minyon Falls car park. These guys seem to be pretty inquisitive; this was our second sighting near the end of a trail and it makes me wonder how much of their diet is based on scavenged scraps.

Although less talked about than some other national parks in New South Wales, we all agreed that the Nightcap National Park and the Minyon Falls Track were well worth the drive across the border. With so many great waterfalls walks to do in South East Queensland and the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, it can be hard to stand out from the pack, however the sheer drop of Minyon Falls and the very enjoyable walk make it a real highlight, and one that I'd be happy to visit again if lived in the area permanently. 


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