The Spectacular Minyon Falls Walk – Northern Rivers

I love exploring the Northern Rivers region in NSW, where I lived for six years before relocating to Brisbane. It’s one of the most spectacular regions in Australia, and as I still have family down that way, I make regular visits with my little gang. One of my favourite walks in the area is the Minyon Falls Walk, which I last did 12 years ago. Here a waterfall plummets 100 metres over a towering rhyolite cliff face into world heritage forest.

The day after Boxing Day I tried to rally some troops – my son, my partner, the in-laws, but it seemed everyone was still in a food coma. Only my dog wanted to join me, but of course dogs aren’t allowed at the waterfall, which resides in Nightcap National Park. So, after departing solo from the in-laws’ in Lennox Head, I reached the top of the falls in just under an hour.

Minyon Falls Lookout

If you’re not feeling up to the 8km Minyon Falls Walk down to the base of the falls and back, the falls still look magnificent from Minyon Falls Lookout. You can also walk along the creek bed from where they flow, and there were two people when I got there lounging in a rock pool just metres away from the cliff’s edge.

View of Minyon Falls from Minyon Falls Lookout

Walking along the boardwalk lookout, I stopped to admire the falls and surrounding scenery. Even though it looked sublime, I had high expectations, particularly as it had been raining a fair bit before today and I was expecting more water. Minyon Falls can get pretty wild when there’s lots of rain, when it looks incredible. However, the good thing about it being relatively dry like this, is that it’s safe to swim in the falls’ pool below.

Repentance Creek up to the lookout, looking pretty dry

Minyon Falls Walk

After stopping at the lookout, I started my descent to the base of the falls along the west section of the Minyon Falls walking track. There’s more than one way to get to the bottom of the falls (see my ‘other tracks section later on), but this is the shortest way down from the lookout car park.

Bathers at the start of the track at the top of Repentance Creek

From the lookout, simply cross Repentance Creek along the concrete stepping pylons. Here I walked past bathers taking advantage of the hot day and a part of me wanted to stop and have a swim, but I continued on through the forest. Pretty soon I reached a sign that read ‘Minyon Falls Base 4km’.

Near the beginning of Minyon Falls Walk
The tree canopy on the Minyon Falls Walk

I didn’t see anything of particular note along the Minyon Falls Walk. I passed a few hikers heading back, looking slightly weary going uphill, while I was heading down into the basin just past the middle of the day. After undulating along the ridge for a little while, I descended quite suddenly until I was in the forest. Here there are giant creepers, tallowwood gums and ferns, lending shade to a forest floor of microorganisms.

Descending into the forest basin
One of the giant strangler figs in on the walk

After walking along the basin for about 30 minutes, enjoying fleeting views of the falls and surrounding foliage, I came to a section of boulders and a sign telling me it was a 200-metre scramble to the base of the falls. It’s not a hard scramble by any means, but if you’re someone with dexterity issues or injuries of any kind, this is something to keep in mind. After a few minutes, I reached the end of the Minyon Falls Walk, joining about 10 others at the foot of the falls.

Views of Minyon Falls from the forest basin
The last scramble to the foot of the falls

Minyon Falls Base

Once you reach the bottom, you’ll realise it was well worth the effort. You can appreciate this geological phenomenon – the towering rhyolite cliff that bends in a slight u, specked with foliage at either end – which propels the falls roughly 100 metres onto the rocks below. Depending on how much water has fallen in the region, the falls look different every time.

Minyon Falls and its spectacular rhyolite cliffs in Nightcap National Park

On my first walk to Minyon Falls’ basin, I descended the Minyon Falls Walk via Minyon Grass (more on that later), which is a different route. On that day there was even less water than there was today. Another time after that, I just visited Minyon Falls Lookout, when the water was raging. Today the water was somewhere in between.

Water flowing steadily (but not too strongly) at Minyon Falls

As I mentioned earlier, days like today are perfect for swimming. If it’s flowing fast, it gets a little too dangerous as the spray and churn from the falls can get menacing. I didn’t bring my swimmers today, but I didn’t feel like swimming. I spent my 45 minutes or so at the base of the falls exploring – walking behind the falls, climbing up either side and taking pics.

The towering rhyolite cliffs of Minyon Falls

The base of the falls gradually got busier and pretty much everyone but me was swimming there. Also, everyone else was a couple so I felt a tad self-conscious, even though I was happy, hiking around the cliff face. I had a chat with a couple for a bit, who were enjoying a swim. As you can see from my photos and video at the end, you’d be hard-pressed not to have a good time here!

A swimmer enjoying the base of the falls in ideal conditions

As I had roughly an hour to drive back to Lennox Head, I decided to leave as it was now getting towards the later part of the afternoon. I stupidly didn’t bring enough water and even more foolishly I decided I’d hike swiftly back up the mountain to the car park. I therefore completed the return leg of the Minyon Falls Walk (4kms back uphill) in about an hour, and I was incredibly parched when I did. Check out my video at the end, as I recorded my spoken bit at the end of my walk!

A Hot Tip

Reaching Minyon Falls Lookout once again, I was glad I’d taken pics and video of the lookout before the walk, as the cliffs were now cast in shadow. So, get your shots of the top of the falls before you descend – at least during the summertime!

A Treat on My Return

Driving to and from the falls reminded me how beautiful the Northern River region is, with its shadows, trees and rolling green hills covered in meadows that could rival Switzerland in the world meadow Olympics. However, my real treat on the way back to my family base in Lennox Head was stopping off at the Bangalow Hotel.

My halloumi burger and Dark Moon Brown Ale were much-appreciated post-walk!

I was hungry, thirsty and after powering back along the Minyon Falls Walk, I felt I deserved a beer. So, I ordered myself a pint of brown beer (I love brown beer), the Dark Moon Brown Ale on tap, along with a halloumi burger and chips. Of course I also grabbed about six glasses of water, and I sat there slurping, munching and reflecting on how glad I was that I’d done the Minyon Falls Walk again!

How Long Does the Walk Take?

As I’ve mentioned, I did the shortest Minyon Falls walk to the base of the falls from the lookout, which is 8km in total, returning the same way. I took a little over an hour either way and spent about 45 minutes at the falls – so about three hours in total. However, I was walking pretty quickly and have long legs, so I would give yourself an hour and a half either way, just to be comfortable. However, if you have a low level of fitness, an injury or disability, add more time for this.

How Difficult is The Walk

NSW National Parks rates the Minyon Falls Walk along the west section (the way I approached it) as a grade 3 walk, which is a medium to hard walk. Just take your time and if you’re able-bodied and have a reasonable level of fitness, you should be fine. Just remember to take lots of water as I took 1.2 litres and this wasn’t enough!

Preparing you for the short scramble at the end

Can You Swim on the Minyon Falls Walk

As you can see from my pictures and video, you sure can! If you just jumped to this part and missed what I said earlier, swimming here when the water is raging is certainly not advised. After heavy rain the falls become strong and the spray and churn is overwhelming (and undoubtedly dangerous) at the bottom. However, on days like today when there hadn’t been too much rain, the falls are perfect for a swim!

Swimmers (look closely) at Minyon Falls

Getting there from Brisbane

From Brisbane, the falls are about 2 hours and 15 minutes drive away, depending on traffic. Simply head to the little town of Mullumbimby if you’re coming from Brisbane and make your way south along Coolamon Scenic Drive and turn into Goonengerry Road. Follow this road until you hit Mafeking Road, then turn onto Repentance Creek Road before turning onto Cooper Creek Road. Coopers Creek Road will finally turn into Minyon Falls Road, which will take you straight to the lookout.

If all goes well with the traffic, you should be there in a little over 2 hours!

What Should You Take?

Lunch, plenty of water, sunscreen, insect repellent, a good wide-brimmed hat, hiking boots and swimmers!

What Facilities Are There at Minyon Falls Lookout

Again, I only went to the Minyon Falls Lookout and I walked the western section of the Minyon Falls Walk. I have walked via the Minyon Grass side, but it was too long ago to provide any reliable information here. As for facilities at the Minyon Falls Lookout, there are toilets, benches, shelters, a car park and a boardwalk. There is no drinking water and no BBQ facilities at Minyon Falls Lookout.

Shelter at Minyon Falls Lookout

Wildlife on the Minyon Falls Track

I honestly can’t remember seeing much wildlife along the Minyon Falls Walk. I did hear a lot of birdlife, but they were too elusive and perhaps I was too loud with my clumsy stomping and panting to catch a glimpse. A sign near the falls at the bottom mentions possums and rainforest birds such as ‘Olive-backed Orioles’ (which sounds a bit like an exotic biscuit), which you may be lucky enough to see.

About Nightcap National Park

Nightcap National Park is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, which has heritage listing due to its ancient rainforest, incredible rock formations, views and waterways. The park also contains a number of threatened species within its 20,000 acres, such as the Albert’s lyrebird (found only in this region) and Fleay’s barred frog.

Along the Minyon Falls Walk – Nightcap National Park

The park is the traditional land of the Bundjalung people, and their subtribe, the Widjabul people, inhabited the park for thousands of years. Nightcap National Park therefore contains many sacred sites of significance that are still used by Aboriginal people today. However, I’ve been through various parts of Nightcap National Park and I haven’t encountered any, so if you have, let me know in the comments, social media or via email.

Other Tracks to Minyon Falls

As I’ve mentioned, there’s another Minyon Falls walk that takes you to the base of the falls, which I did 12 years ago on my other blog here. I honestly can’t remember much of it though. It’s a walk via Minyon Grass, which is not from the top of the lookout. It’s apparently a little longer. Check out the pic I took along the trail below for more details.

Things to do Near Minyon Falls

As I used to live down this way, I’ve personally experienced quite a lot to do around Nightcap National Park! Check out these surrounding activities I’ve documented on my other blog:

Final Thoughts

Minyon Falls is one of the best waterfalls I’ve seen in Australia, it’s that good! The towering 100-metre rhyolite cliffs that propel the falls into world heritage forest make it a must-visit destination if you’re in south-east Queensland or northern NSW. Additionally, Minyon Falls Walk is not too taxing, and it offers an excellent little tour of the region and the flora, fauna and geological wonders of Nightcap National Park.

This one’s well worth the trip!

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