You can do the Rosewood Creek Track (5.5km) and Red Cedar Falls Track (2.2km) in Dorrigo National Park as two separate bushwalks… but they are even better combined. The Rosewood Creek Circuit is a relatively easy loop through World Heritage-listed rainforest and past a small waterfall, while the Red Cedar Falls Track descends steeply to the highest accessible falls in the park. It’s a much more challenging version of the Wonga Walk!
Rosewood Creek Track
The walk starts at the northern end of the Never Never Picnic Area, and immediately enters dense rainforest. (In hindsight, I’d recommend doing the loop in an anti-clockwise direction, rather than the clockwise direction that I walked.)
Despite the logging which was done in this area a long time ago, enormous Tallowwood and Blackbutt trees remain along the track.
A branch is covered in tiny orange fungal spores, or mushrooms – a visual contrast to the greenery surrounding me.
Despite lots of recent rain, the track is well constructed and other than a very small number of muddy patches, my feet are so far remaining dry!
The Rosewood Creek Track passes through a section of tall ferns, as it gradually descends towards Rosewood Creek.
After just over 2km of walking, Rosewood Creek is visible through the trees, although it’s a fair way below the track.
There’s a fair amount of water in the creek, making an impressive sight (and sound) where it cascades over a rock shelf and through a narrow chasm in the rocks. It’s a bit hard to photograph from the track, but a rough pad gets you right above the river and over the chasm.
The Rosewood Creek Track generally follows the Rosewood Creek, through more coachwood and Strangler Fig vines..
After crossing a small creek (not shown on any maps, so it may often be dry) a sign indicates Dorrigo plum next to the track. A rare rainforest tree that grows in eastern Australia, the Dirrigo plum (Endiandra introrsa) is a Rare or Threatened Australian Plant (ROTAP). The tree reaches a height of up to 40 metres with a trunk diameter of 90cm, and its fruit (which resemble a plum) matures in January to March .
Another crossing of a side creek results in one wet foot – I should have taken off my shoes to cross, but I was in a bit of a rush. Soon after the creek crossing, Rosewood Creek comes into view again.
After 3.5km I reach the top of Coachwood Falls. It’s more impressive than it looks in the photo, with the water thundering through a narrow crevice. A short distance upstream of the falls is a shallow but nice pool, where you could cool off on a warm day.
The rocks are fairly slippery around the top of the falls, and a sobering sign warns there has been a fatality and a serious injury over the last few years. The general warning being – don’t get too close to the edge!
The track ascends gradually from the falls, passing more dark, ferny sections and more enormous trees.
Another kilometre of pleasant walking brings me to the junction with the Red Cedar Falls Track.
Red Cedar Falls Track
The Red Cedar Falls Track starts descending immediately after the signposted junction, initially with long zig-zags or switchbacks down the steep side of the valley.
The track gets increasingly steep as it continues to descent to the bttom of the valley.
I should perhaps add that along the first hour of the bushwalk along the Rosewood Creek Circuit, I’ve seen only one other person. By comparison, the attraction of seeing the “highest falls in the park accessible by a walking track” means I’m suddenly encountering a lot more people on the trail!
As I near the bottom of the valley, the Red Cedar Falls can be seen through the rainforest. The track crosses a small cascade along a side-creek (which meets the main river below the falls) before reaching the bottom of the Red Cedar Falls.
It’s an impressive waterfall – and I can see why there are so many people on this track! The waterfall plunges into a pool – which I can’t yet see, being behind some large rocks.
There’s a very shallow pool near the bottom of the waterfall where you can cool off – but it’s not deep enough to swim. You’d have to be very brave/and or foolhardy to swim in the pool at the base of the falls!
Returning the same way, it’s much harder work going up the Red Cedar Falls Track – although the entire track is well shaded and passes some small creeks, with refreshingly cool water.
Back on the Rosewood Creek Track
One back at the top, I resume the last (and shortest) part of the Rosewood Creek Ciruit. There’s more enorous Blackbutt trees next to the track – they grows up to 70m in height, reaching their largest sizes on drier slopes near rainforest.
Blackbutt is also one of the highest value timbers, so it’s no surprise that the area that’s now protected as Dorrigo National Park was logged in the past. Red Cedar was logged out of the plateau in the 1890s, and in 1893 Government Botanist J.H. Maiden visited the Dorrigo Forest Reserve and “wrote an enthusiastic report on the size and quality of high-value timber trees”. Logging of warm temperate rainforests continued until 1983, with the park’s Plan of Management noting “Annual records of timber
removal go back 60 years and show that the heaviest and most extensive logging took place in the 1950s”. Effective lobbying in the late 1950s stopped logging in what is now the national park.
There is still evidence of the logging, with some of the enormous tree stumps displaying the holes used by the loggers to insert boards to stand on while they sawed.
The track continues to ascend gently, with occasional interpretative signage.
For the last kilometre or so, the walking trail becomes a fire trail. Which is not as nice an experience; hence my suggestion to do the Rosewood Creek Circuit in an anti-clockwise direction. It means you’re doing the less-nice firetrail section first, and after the steep climb back up from Red Cedar Falls you can cool off at Coachwood Falls. The firetrail finishes at an old gate further up the carpark which has no signage, making it a bit trickier to find the start of the walk if you’re walking anti-clockwise.
The official distance of the Rosewood Creek Circuit is 5.5km (2 hours) and the Red Cedar Track is 2.2km (2 hours) return from the Rosewood Creek Track, making the combined loop just under 8km. I measured the distance as being closer to 10km, but this may be due to GPS inaccuracy – I would allow 3-4 hours, allowing time to relax at the base of Red Cedar Falls.
Getting to Rosewood Creek Track and Red Cedar Falls Track
Both trails start from the Never Never Picnic Area, which is at the end of Dome Road. Partly unsealed (but suitable for all vehicles) Dome Road is accessed via the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre, just off Waterfall Way, and is about a 15min (9.3km) drive. It’s about 1:15min drive from Coffs Harbour, and six hours north of Sydney. The Rosewood Creek Track has a trailhead near the entrance to the parking area and near the top (far end). To do the Rosewood Creek Circuit in the anti-clockwise direction, start at the firetrail at the top of the Never Never carpark.
- National Parks (NPWS) – Rosewood Creek walking track
- National Parks (NPWS) – Red Cedar Falls walking track
- The Armidale Express – History Matters | Campaign beats loggers and saves national park