Hike to Forty Foot Falls (NSW)

Highlights:

  • Epic waterfall
  • The history of the area
  • The 84m Tunnel

Summary

Nestled between Sydney and Canberra is a hidden gem of a waterfall.

Forty Foot Falls is a stone’s throw from the Hume Highway but you wouldn’t know it. On a tip from a fellow adventurer, I sought out this waterfall near the small town of Mittagong.

The route to Forty Foot Falls veers off the Boxvale Tramway Trail – named for the tramway that used to run through these parts. The tramway became operational in 1888 to haul coal extracted from the Nattai River Gorge to the Great Southern Railway. At its peak, the mine produced 100 tons of coal a day.

Coal extraction finished in the area in 1896. Bush grew over the railway and bushfires destroyed the railway trestle bridges. The Boxvale Tramway Trail was opened in 1986, following the line of the former tramway track.

The trail takes you through rock cuttings built for the coal transporting tramway. It’s mostly flat until the last section where you go down a series of steps, down a ladder built into the rock and then you’ll see the falls. You can walk around the back of the falls and stand under them, and there’s also a lookout above the falls. If you don’t mind a bit of rock scrambling, you can head further down the Nattai River to get a view from the falls from the front.

From the falls, you can continue across the Nattai River and take the trail to Mittagong and Sixty Foot Falls, or return back to the Boxvale trail and head to the old tramway tunnel – an impressive 84 metre tunnel carved into the rock.

Essential gear required

  • Hiking shoes
  • Rain jacket
  • Insect repellent (for leeches)
  • Water
  • Torch

How to get there

Forty Foot Falls is located off the Hume Highway about 75 minutes from Sydney and just shy of two hours from Canberra. Forty Foot Falls leads off the Boxvale Tramway Trail. To get there, follow the signs to Mittagong, get onto the Old Hume Highway and turn onto Boxvale Road at Welby. You’ll then see a small carpark and signage pointing you onto the Boxvale Tramway Trail.

Activities

  • Photographing
  • Hiking
  • Swimming

Skill Level

Beginner. There are a couple of short steep sections, and some rocks to scramble over to access the waterfall, but the rest of the trail is mostly flat.

Distance covered

12km if you complete the Boxvale Tramway Trail and the detour to Forty Foot Falls. 3 hours (including stops taking photos).