New South Wales is home to some truly world-class rainforest walks; from the tropical North to the misty canyons of the Blue Mountains, you’ll be in constant awe of these natural wonders. Some are even near Sydney. Enjoy!
1. Crystal Shower Falls
Distance: 3.5km return
Time: 2 hours
Close to: Coffs Harbour
The Crystal Showers Falls Walk is an enchanted day-hike through the lush rainforest of Dorrigo National Park. Water from the whispy falls has turned the surrounding forest a stunning oversaturated green.
Best bit: You can walk behind the falls! Feast on that new perspective, then close your eyes and listen to the bird calls mingling with the crashing water. Welcome to your happy place.
2. Grand Canyon Track
Distance: 6km loop
Time: 2-4 hours
Close to: Blackheath, Sydney
No it’s, not the big one in the states, but you can start to forgive the somewhat unoriginal name when you find out that this track has been in service for over 100 years. The Grand Canyon Track is a rainforest walk that winds beneath waterfalls, caresses your face with ferns and skirts over muddy patches on stepping stones.
One of the most exquisite hikes in the Blue Mountains, this day tripper is super close to Sydney and is best tackled counter-clockwise for a finale on top of Evans Lookout. Why are you still here? Go. Now!
3. Gloucester Tops Circuit
Time: 4-5 hours
Close to: Newcastle, Port Macquarie
Some 8km hikes take the best part of 2 hours. Others, when the going is tough, can take twice as long. But it’s rare that a relatively easy track can take in excess of 5 hours. Why does it take that long to walk the Gloucester Tops Circuit? It’s simply that stunning.
Along your walk you’ll encounter gorgeous cascading swimming holes, move between open sub-alpine forest dripping with wildflowers and dank rainforest gullies and take in the endless scale of Barrington Tops National Park at Andrew Laurie Lookout.
The Antarctic Beech Forest walking track is a 2.5km section that winds through an ancient temperate rainforest of Antarctic Beech, a relic of a cooler period, only found in high altitude, cooler regions along the East Coast.
4. Mungo Walking Track
Distance: 23km one way
Time: 1-2 days
Close to: Hawks Nest & Tea Gardens
The coastal rainforest environment (a rarity on the East Coast) is chockas with native birdlife and massive ferns. Look out for the Cabbage Tree Palm (Livistona australis) which can reach 30m in height, making it one of Australia’s tallest natives.
Start the hike from Mungo Brush Campground with the Mungo Rainforest walk before continuing along the Mungo Walking Track all the way to Hawks Nest. Dark Point Aboriginal place is a sacred area for the Worimi people that’s well worth a visit on your way south.
5. Minyon Falls Walking Track
Distance: 8km return
Time: 3-4 hours
Close to: Byron Bay
This epic walk to the base of a cathedral-esque 100m high waterfall can be taken in either direction but the best is without a doubt walking from Minyon Falls lookout.
After soaking up the views, you’ll head down into the valley beneath trees so gargantuan that their tops disappear into the canopy, before clambering, soaked in sweat, up to the vine-strangled base of the falls for a well deserved swim.
6. The Falls Walk Budderoo National Park
Distance: 5.8km return
Time: 2-3 hours
Close to: Wollongong, Nowra
Budderoo National Park is so stoked with its rainforest that it built the Minnamurra Rainforest Centre just to brag about it. And rightly so, the rainforest within the canyon is lush and cool, protected from the midday sun by a high canopy and higher valley walls. Luckily this rainforest walk is near Sydney, you’ll spend more time under ferns than in the car!
Linking up the Rainforest Loop Walk and The Falls Walk you’ll have a chance to spot native orchids, lyrebirds and delicate ferns from suspension bridges and elevated walkways that protect the rainforest floor. After a steady climb you’ll emerge at the base of the mesmerising Minnamurra Falls. It’s hard to get more tranquil than this.
7. Brindle Creek Walking Track
Duration: 3-4 hours
Close to: Gold Coast, Byron Bay
The Brindle Creek walking track features the kind of dense, spongy, everything-is-growing-on-everything-else rainforest one comes to expect of Northern NSW.
This day hike in the (badassly named) Border Ranges National Park takes you deep into an ancient rainforest environment littered with waterfalls and the elusive Antarctic Beech. The large leaves of the Helmholtzia lily will be hard to miss, there’s so many that there’s a loop track named after them.
The hike is one way so your best bet is to take two cars and do a car shuffle, or plan for a 12km rainforest epic.
8. Monolith Valley
Time: 2 days
Close to: Jervis Bay, Batemans Bay
High up in the Budawangs, a wilderness region within Morton National Park, lies an impressive valley that would look more at home in the Northern Territory. If it wasn’t full to the brim with rainforest.
Don’t be fooled by the short distance, getting to Monolith Valley is hard. It’s easy to get bushwacked by the difficult navigation and hard to follow track. If you’re an experienced hiker, your best bet is to hike up and camp at Cooyoyo Creek before setting off into the valley the next morning.
9. Gibraltar/Washpool World Heritage Walk
Distance: 45km loop
Time: 3-4 days
Close to: Coffs Harbour
The epic Gibraltar/Washpool World Heritage walk is a rare breed. A multi-day hiking experience that ends where it starts, the hike encounters multiple side trips and a plethora of environments.
From wetlands to granite outcrops, to dry eucalypt forest and of course, world-class Gondwana rainforest, expect a sensory overload as you become immersed in the rituals of the wildlife and native flora.
Indigenous and Colonial history dots the track, with sacred sites and the remains of tin mining and grazing preserved along the length of the hike.
Luckily for the region, mining no longer takes place, but the photographer in you will probably feel like they’ve struck gold.
10. Protesters Falls
Time: 1 hour
Close to: Byron Bay
Nightcap National Park is home to rainforest environments that would make more sense on a lost Pacific island than 1.5km from a car park in Northern NSW.
Barely a hike, the walk to Protesters Falls is a rainforest power session that features subtropical palms and massive Yellow Carabeen (Sloanea woollsii) complete with plank buttress roots that sprawl across the forest floor. Emerging from the rainforest you’ll reach Protesters Falls itself and the natural rock pool at its base. Time for contemplation (or lunch).
Feature image by Jonathan Tan | @thetantrap