Walk beneath giant Swamp Gums only a few hours from Hobart. The Tolkien Track in Styx Tall Trees Conservation Area is home to these gentle giants.
- Experience some truly magnificent and giant trees
- A good intro to easy off-trail hiking
- Less than two hours’ drive from Hobart (close to Mt Field National Park)
Always Ask The Locals
After chatting with a local Tasmanian Parks Ranger about how much we love the local trees, he gave us some special tips on where to find what he calls Tasmania’s most impressive trees – and he was right.
While it isn’t a well known fact, Australia is home to the world’s second tallest tree species, the Eucalyptus regnans, known as the Mountain Ash in Victoria and the Swamp Gum in Tasmania.
These giants are known to grow to more than 100 metres tall, like Centurion, the world’s second tallest tree found not too far from this forest.
The trees on this hike known as ‘The Tolkien Track’ might be just a little smaller – but hey, who’s counting!
As the local ranger told us, while Centurion might be bigger, this spot is much more impressive.
Mighty Giants Almost Felled
Tasmania has its problems with logging, which we won’t go into right now. But this magnificent part of the forest was almost lost when it was marked for logging back in 2003.
Luckily some brave activists, with the help of Greenpeace and The Wilderness Society, built a base literally high up in the most spectacular of these trees, which is today known as Gandalf’s Staff.
This story has a happy ending and this part of the forest was protected and is now known as the Styx Tall Trees Conservation Area.
The iconic giants in this patch are now protected and have been given fitting Lord of the Rings themed names like Fangorn, Morannon ‘Black Gate’, Cave Tree, the Felled Giant, and of course Gandalf’s Staff, which is 85 metres tall around 400 years old.
Well before these names, the Styx River area was home to the Palawa people, about which criminally little is known.
And while the activists secured a great victory that captivated people around the world, much of the surrounding forest is still actively logged – a sad sight you must pass to get to this now protected reserve.
Walking Among The Forest Giants
The path through the forest is as fantasy-filled as the name suggests. While the path is occasionally marked with pink tape, many of the markings have fallen with the branches and have been buried in leaf matter.
Like in some of Tolkiens’ forests, time moves strangely here, paradoxically like it’s speeding through growth and decay, while standing still for aeons.
It feels like no one has passed through for a very long time. Layer upon layer of life, death, and growth fill the floor and your nostrils with an ancient forest scent.
In parts the way is steep and you’ll need to duck or climb over fallen logs. Part of the magic is this density of the forest.
With your eyes and mind focused on finding the way the giants seem to suddenly appear as you look up and emerge from the undergrowth.
Leave no trace: Spots like this are fragile. To minimise your impact make sure you take all your rubbish with you, hit the loo before your walk and stay on the pink tape trail. Do your best to resist the urge to climb on the trees, if everyone does they’ll start to feel the impact!
Finding The Tolkien Track
Leaving Hobart, follow directions to Mount Field Visitor Centre. Instead of turning into the national park, follow the Gordon River Road about 13 kilometres southwest until you pass the small village of Maydenna.
Do not follow your GPS. It will take you the wrong way at multiple points.
About one kilometre past Maydenna you need to turn right onto Styx Road heading south. Within about 500 metres the road will U-turn and pass back under the main road.
Keep following this for about 20 minutes. Drive until you come across a small toilet block and information signs. Pass this and take the next right about one kilometre further which (depending on your map) will be called Styx Spur 13 or Waterfall Link Road.
Follow this to the top of the hill around to the right until you see the small yet fitting sign ‘Tolkien Track’ – which can be found at 42°49′05.66″S 146°40′23.06″E.
There’s not so much of an official track, but the pink tape shows the way between the special trees.
- As with any hike in Tasmania, a good waterproof jacket and other wet weather gear.
- Snacks or anything else you might want for a few hours. While it’s only about 2-3 kilometres of walking, we wandered in enjoyment for a good few hours.
- A GPS or good orientation skills. Although there’s pink tape to follow, it’s often hard to see.
The walking itself is easy in the dry, other than the odd fallen tree to get past. The important thing is to keep your bearings.
Distance Covered / Duration / Elevation Gain
2 – 3 kilometres / 1 – 2 hours / 100 metres