The West Canungra Creek Circuit is one of four “waterfall circuits” in Lamington National Park, which I finally have the opportunity to do over Easter. It’s arguably the most challenging of the four circuits, involving at over ten creek crossings where you will almost certainly get wet feet. The bushwalk starts near O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in the Green Mountains section of Lamington National Park, and initially follows the Border Track.
Down to Yerralahla Pool
The easy walking of the Border Track (which is like a highway compared to the rest of the bushwalk) soon comes to an end. After about 300m is the junction with the West Canungra Creek Circuit track. The sign is a bit misleading – the West Canungra Creek Circuit is signposted as being 13.9km, but in reality is a fair bit longer. I measured it as being 18.4km including some short side-trips to waterfalls; others have logged it as between 18 and 21km. So allow a full day, especially with the many creek crossings and sometimes muddy terrain!
The West Canungra Creek Circuit track descends the side of the valley through thick rainforest… and through some muddy sections.
The track crosses Darraboola Creek, and the first of multiple cascades formed by the creek as it drops into the valley.
Some of the enormous rainforest trees include Red Cedar, or Toona ciliata. (Lamington National Park protects one of the most diverse areas of vegetation in Australia, including the largest upland subtropical rainforest remnants in the world.)
It’s not long before the track crosses another tributary of Darraboola Creek, as it zig-zags down the side of the valley.
The last waterfall along Darraboola Creek (Darraboola Falls) is the most picturesque, with the falls surrounded by dense foliage.
The trail continues to descend, past some enormous stranger figs. It’s pleasant walking, with the track now much less muddy that the upper section.
The next waterfall is even more impressive, as the West Canungra Creek Circuit track crosses Bundoomba Creek just below Bundoomba Falls.
There’s just under a kilometre left before the West Canungra Creek Circuit reaches the Yerralahla Pool.
The Yerralahla Pool (Blue Pool) soon comes into view – surrounded by tall rainforest, it feels a bit like walking into a scene from Jurassic Park.
A much less-used trail heads downstream to Stairways Falls (which was closed due to landslides), while the West Canungra Creek Circuit track heads upstream along West Canungra Creek.
Upstream of Yerralahla Pool are some small cascades, and another very inviting pool with a sandy beach.
River crossings along West Canungra Creek
The next section of the West Canungra Creek Circuit is the most interesting, with lots of cascades and waterfalls, many creek crossings and the occasional navigational challenge! The trail initially follows the western side of the creek, which it follows quite closely.
Just above the confluence of Kingakinga Creek and West Canungra Creek is Karrinbano Falls, a small cascade, which can be seen from the trail.
After about 0.4km the trail reaches Bundoomba Creek, which flows into West Canungra Creek Circuit. This is the first (and easiest) creek crossing, with feet so far remaining dry.
The trail then continues along the western side of the creek.
The next creek crossing is Darraboola Creek, an easy crossing just above a small cascade where my feet still stay dry.
The first major water crossing is West Canungra Creek – the first of a few times that the trail will cross this creek. Despite some large boulders in the creek and the water only being about knee deep, it’s not advisable to leap across the potentially unstable rocks – so it’s wet feet for this one (I’ve kept my shoes on for extra grip, as it’s the rocks underfoot are a bit slippery).
Near the crossing is what I think is Karrilya Falls; there are a many small waterfalls and cascades along the creek, with only a few of them named on the topographic map.
It’s about half a kilometre along West Canungra Creek before the next two crossings, which are in quick succession. Both are “wet-shoe crossings”, with the current quite strong as the water flows over the boulders which mark the route across the creek.
The West Canungra Creek Circuit track then rises above the creek, staying on the eastern side for a while. There are some nice views over the creek, as it flows down the steep valley.
The waterfalls are getting more impressive as I walk further upstream: Kalgamahla Falls isn’t very high but has an impressive volume of water cascading over the rock shelf.
The trail crosses the creek just above the waterfall, and is the most challenging crossing so far – not due to the water being deep, but because the current is strong and the rocky creek bed above the falls is quite slippery (and I don’t really want to slip and be swept over the waterfall).
It’s not long before the creek is crossed again (I’ve now lost count of how many times the trail has switched between the two sides of West Canungra Creek). The creek is wide but fairly shallow, and you need to carefully pick a path through the jumble of rocks.
Although the West Canungra Creek Circuit trail is generally fairly obvious, and has the occasional orange markers to indicate where the track crosses the creek, this is the only section where I get temporarily. It looks like there is a track going up a gully, away from the creek, but it soon peters out. After a couple of attempts, I look at the map more closely, and realise (a little ironically), that the path in fact crosses the creek again…
Continuing along the trail there are few more nice waterfalls (none of them are named) and pools along West Canungra Creek.
Box Forest Circuit
At the junction of the Box Forest Track, there’s a decision to be made: continue along the creek, or head up the valley away from the creek. Both are a similar distance, finishing back on the Border Track for the final (easy) stretch back to the starting point.
It’s an easy decision – I continue along the creek to visit a few more waterfalls. The Box Forest Circuit track soon passed above Bunyip Falls, which drops into a wide pool. (I’m a bit behind schedule, so I don’t scramble down to the base of the waterfall, which looks feasible.)
Still following the creek very closely, the track passes Nugurun Falls, a wide and picturesque cascade.
The track crosses West Canungra Creek just above Nugurun Falls, before passing Wajinya Falls.
There’s one last creek crossing (this time it’s Tooloona Creek, which flows into West Canungra Creek), as the Box Forest Circuit track passes through some very dense rainforest.
It’s now almost the end of the waterfalls… but the last two falls (reached by short side-tracks) are the most most stunning. The first signposted side-track leads to Tulleriguam Falls (Box Log Falls) – there’s so much water flowing over the falls I can’t get to the base without getting soaked.
The next (short) side-trip is to Elabana Falls.
Like the Box Log Falls, this is another spectacular waterfall – and also like the previous falls, there’s so much water flowing down the creek I don’t manage to get to the base.
The Box Forest Circuit starts ascending, reaching Picnic Rock after about a kilometre.
A large rock platform above West Canungra Falls, Picnic Rock is a nice spot for a picnic… when it’s not raining!
From Picnic Rock the Box Forest Circuit track ascends for about two kilometres – but never very steeply, as the trail zig-zags gently up the side of the valley. There’s some more enormous brush box (Lophostemon confertus) Antarctic beech trees.
Once back on the Border Track, the last two kilometres is very quick along the well-formed track.
It’s taken me just over four hours to complete the circuit, with no breaks; I would have liked a bit more time to photography some of the waterfalls and I would allow six hours for the circuit. The West Canungra Creek Circuit is definitely one of my favourite Lamington National Parks waks, with the creek crossings and wet feet adding an additional element of adventure to the stunning waterfalls and rainforest scenery. Even better – despite all odds I managed to avoid picking up any leeches!
Getting to the West Canungra Creek Circuit
The West Canungra Creek Circuit starts a few hundred metres along the Border Track from the O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat carpark, at the end of Lamington National Park Road (the Green Mountains section). The last section of the West Canungra Creek Circuit is also part of the Box Forest Circuit. It’s a two hour drive (110km) south of Brisbane or 1.5 hours (70km) inland from the Gold Coast.
- QLD Parks – West Canungra Creek Circuit
- QLD Parks – Box Forest Circuit
- QLD Parks – Green Mountains section walking tracks and information [PDF]
Finding the best waterfalls in Lamington National Park has more information on the best bushwalks to do if you’re chasing waterfalls, and a list of all the waterfalls along the major trails.