Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Tasmania
On the upper reaches of the iconic Franklin River is Orites Falls, a stunning waterfall encased in rainforest. The falls plunge about 20 metres and are the only named waterfall on the river, but reaching them requires a long and difficult hike, much of which is off track. There are a few routes that can be taken to reach the falls, but the most obvious involves hiking downstream from Lake Hermione, after descending down the rugged and trackless slopes from Hugel Ridge.
From Lake St Clair, take the Shadow Lake Track, which for the first couple of hours makes for pretty easy walking as it climbs gently before passing Shadow and Forgotten Lake. From here, the trail becomes rougher as it climbs to the top of the plateau beside Little Hugel, before continuing along the flatter ground for a while towards Mount Hugel. Eventually, the now-faint track climbs a short ways after passing a tarn, and it is at the top of this climb that you have to leave the track and head north-west towards the edge of the escarpment, where on clear days there are views towards Lake Hermione. It is at this point that the long descent begins, initially over large boulders and then through sections of scrub and rainforest. The descent is very steep in difficult, with one point in particular requiring you to effectively climb down a cliff that really only has one safe route down, so it is important to take extreme care and stick as close as possible to the GPS route available on this page.
Eventually, after a descent of about 300 metres you will come out to the expansive plains at the source of the Franklin River, and from here it is just a short walk down to Lake Hermione. The hike to the lake takes at least 6-7 hours, so it is recommended to find a campsite by the lake, and attempt the trip downstream to Orites Falls the following day.
The walk from Lake Hermione to the falls is best attempted by crossing the river just past the outlet on the southern end of the lake, and following it downstream on the western side, before crossing just above the falls and descending from the east. It’s best to stay a little ways above the river itself, as the forest beside it is very thick and scrubby, as opposed to the nice rainforest higher up. Allow about 1.5 hours each way from the lake to reach Orites Falls.
Although it is a very challenging trek, if you are up to the challenge it is also very a worthwhile adventure through a spectacular part of Tasmania.
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