Montezuma Falls is definitely my favourite walk so far! It is located between Zeehan and Rosebery on Tasmania’s west coast. The weather here really does give you four seasons in one day so be prepared as I experienced hail, rain and sunshine, and it got down to about 7°C at one point so pack for all seasons (even in the middle of summer).
Anyway, I jumped into the car on Saturday morning and wound my way through Queenstown and Strahan. If you drive through Strahan a bit further you will see the turnoff to Zeehan and Rosebery. Then once you have passed Zeehan and see what looks like a chairlift on the side of the road between Zeehan and Rosebery you know you are getting close to the turnoff. The chairlift I think was actually something they used to cart their findings out of the mines.
From the turnoff, the car park is 6km away. It is quite windy and narrow in spots, but there is only a short distance of gravel so taking a car would be fine. There are a few picnic tables at the car park, and a toilet is located just a short distance into the walk. There is also a separate track for bike access near the start of the walk which I think would be great fun and would love to come back to do as well as the 4WD track!
I was pleasantly surprised that the track was quite wide and flat. This is because it runs along the old North East Dundas tramway which was constructed in the 1890s to link the smelters in Zeehan to mining operations in the hills. The smelters were closed in 1914 with the outbreak of the war, and was continued to be used infrequently until its closure in 1932. There is still evidence of the tramway with sleepers obvious in some spots. You really just can’t imagine how hard the men must have worked to put the tramway in, digging away in the hills to form a track which has at least 60 bends in every 2km of line which helped to maintain the steady grade of the track.
There are a lot of interpretive signs along the track which are great for giving you an insight into the history of the area. While it is a three hour return walk, the first hour and a half of it flies by and you barely notice. Before you know it, you are at a wooden bridge which crosses a small river, and on the other side are a bench and a sign telling you that you have almost made it half way in. Here is also a good opportunity to get closer to the water, and you can get right down to the river to get some great photos.
During the creation of the tramway a lot of the forest was cleared either side of the track to help with the construction (for the sleepers) and also for building bridges, homes and firewood. Now, looking at the forest around you can barely tell, the only evidence I could really see if the track and sleepers I was walking over. This is due to the high levels of rainfall in the area (3 metres per year!) meaning the trees grow at a steady pace. It would also explain the soggy ground, and I would recommend wearing closed in shoes unless you want muddy, soggy feet.
After some more walking, a sign indicates when you are only 20 minutes walk away from the falls. This is where you start to see the sleepers still in their place on the ground. I also saw an old mine shaft, tin, gold, lead, silver and zinc were all once mined in this area. I went in a little way, but I didn’t have a torch and it was pitch black so I had no idea what was in front of me. By now I could hear the waterfall, and around a few more bends, the track turns into board walk and you are pretty much there.
There is a swinging bridge over the creek below gives you a great view of the waterfall. It really is amazing, with a drop of 104m I have never quite seen anything like it and I think it is Tasmania’s highest waterfall. The name Montezuma Falls apparently comes from the Montezuma Silver Mining Company which used to operate in the area. The swinging bridge has actually replaced an old wooden trestle bridge that the tram used to run over back when it was operational, and if you look down you can see some remnants of it.
On the other side of the bridge is the end of the 4WD track in. I spoke with some tourists who had driven in and they said it had taken them almost an hour and a half to drive in. The 4WD track begins just out of Zeehan and is 14km long. It goes over Melba Flats, but is only recommended use by off road bikes or 4WD vehicles. There is a warning that it is impassable in heavy rain. I would definitely like to come back and visit one day but take the 4WD track instead of walking in for something different. It would be great if you went with a group and then split up into two smaller groups. That way one group could be dropped off at the walking track and the other could continue onto the 4WD track. Eventually both groups would meet in the middle at the waterfall, and could swap over so you got to experience both.
Back over the swinging bridge, another track takes you closer to the base of the falls. Here you can feel the spray of water, and get some great close up photos from here. The photos I took really don’t do this amazing waterfall justice at all. The walk in was definitely worth it, and at the end I can’t believe I had walked 9.6km, it took 3 hours return but didn’t feel like it at all.
It would seem that it is fairly popular as there were a fair few cars in the car park when I got back, and I passed a few families and some solo walkers as I walked back to the car.
GPS Coordinates :
LAT : 41°49'41.12"S
LON : 145°28'41.72"E
Always check our road and track closure information before setting off on your journey (click here)