This is where I went wrong.
I began my journey to Silver Falls already tired from my walk to O’Grady Falls, with 50% phone battery (although it was ok because I had a portable charger in my bag). You see, it’s possible to do O’Grady Falls, Strickland Falls and Silver Falls all in the same day because they’re quite close to one another on Mt Wellington (see below).
However, in hindsight I probably started the wrong way around. It would make much more sense to begin at Strickland Falls or Silver Falls and make your way to each in a linear direction. Anyway. That’s not what I did. So this is my story.
I began my walk from O’Grady Falls, continuing down the mountain rather than heading the opposite direction up to Pinnacle Road. I passed the Woods Track off to my right (above) and appeared at a small clearing. The O’Grady Falls Track continues off to the right.
And the Rivulet Fire Trail heads downhill to the left. I paused and tried to decide what to do. I checked the map on my phone. Strickland or Silver? Silver or Strickland?
I was unsure whether to continue to Strickland Falls (down the Rivulet Fire Trail) however, you can only see the falls from a distance from this trail, with no access to their base. I decided to turn around and head on the Woods Track, because Silver Falls were only 2km away.
I figured I could always walk back and see Strickland Falls, then pop out at Huon Road and get a metro bus back into Hobart. Yes, I thought. That was a good plan. So I headed uphill.
Uphill was the killer. I was quickly out of breath (super unfit at this point) and had to ‘take 5’ on a log, munching on my banana and muesli bar. It was at this point I noticed a leech on my camera bag. So yeah, there’s leeches around this area – beware!
After what seemed like a lifetime of trudging uphill, lifting my heavy hiking boots one after another, I finally reached some stairs up to Pinnacle Road. At this point I was gasping for air, which was sharp and cold when it filled my lungs. So I plonked myself down at the top of the stairs and scooped a Woolworths salad into my mouth followed by copious amounts of water. (Never forget to bring sufficient snacks and water when you go on a day trip).
I’m not going to lie, at this point I was so exhausted I was contemplating whether to keep going. I glanced across the road at where my maps was telling me to continue – along the Fern Glade Track. It seemed it was more uphill.
But I had come so far. Triumphed up the Woods Track. I found a sudden source of energy and sprung to my feet. Looking both ways twice before I crossed the road, I began up the Fern Glade Track. While it was uphill at first and I felt my glutes and calves burning, shortly after the track levels itself out and no longer requires a strenuous hike uphill.
Along this track you can also deviate to Rocky Whelans Cave and The Springs via Fingerpost Track. Soon along the track you’ll see the path to The Springs (there are lots of ways to get to The Springs on Mt Wellington) off to the right.
There are lots of signs along this trail, which instead of being helpful can actually become rather confusing if you’re not sure where you’re headed. The Fingerpost track intersects with the Fern Glade Track, so you’ll have the option to turn left or right onto this trail if you want. To get to Silver Falls, ignore this and continue straight.
(On Google Maps it still calls the Fern Glade Track a continuation of the Woods Track at this point).
Follow the signs for Fern Tree and The Springs.
Soon you’ll hit the Radfords track, which runs through like an intersection. This is another track to follow if you’re keen on The Springs.
The Woods Track/Fern Glade Track meets The Radfords Track and officially becomes the Fern Glade Track, Google Maps. (2017).
For Silver Falls, continue straight ahead onto the Fern Glade Track (pictured in the distance of the below image).
A key indicator of if you’re in the right place is this headstone, which appears on the right hand side of the above photo. It marks the spot where George H. Radford died whilst competing in the race to the Pinnacle on September 19, 1903.
This meant nothing to me at the time – apart from being slightly spooky all alone in this deathly quiet forest – but after some research I found a great article of the history of the race and the tragedy. If you’re keen you can find it here.
Shaking off the element of spook, I continued on the Fern Glade Track. (Google now sorts itself out and calls it the Fern Glade Track from here on in).
There was a change in scenery once I entered the ‘official’ Fern Glade Track. There was more tree cover and an increasing amount of dark green moss clinging to everything in sight.
Monstrous fallen trees that had been ripped from their roots lay to the sides of the track. I found myself wondering what it would have been like the moment they fell. They would have caused an almighty, frightening crack.
I was then thankful for the clear weather I was experiencing. The track then began to descend quite vigorously, and I found myself realising there was no way I would be heading back up it. I hoped that after Silver Falls I could find my way back to a main road to get myself back to Hobart.
But it wasn’t time to worry about that yet. Downhill I went, winding my way through thick greenery and across many small bridges.
All in all I would say this track is moderate in difficulty – half quite drastically uphill and the other drastically down, with a small segment of flat in between the two. Quite the accurate definition of moderate really.
It was deadly quiet along this trail, winding down, down, down the mountain. I felt uneasy, all my senses pricked up and alert. I had the crazy feeling that I was being watched. The headstone had me rattled.
If I thought O’Grady Falls was the trail of bridges, I was yet to experience this one. There were plenty of them hovering over small, intricate streams that were barely filled with water. I would imagine after heavy rainfall these would be full and flowing.
Finally I popped out at the Reservoir Trail, which is a horseshoe-bend at this point.
The Fern Glade Track continues on the other side (below). However, if you want to find Silver Falls, don’t continue down here. Head to the right, up the Reservoir Trail. And be careful – this is a shared use track.
Heading up the hill:
Soon you’ll reach a wide clearing. The confusing (and also pretty great) thing about Mt Wellington is the copious amount of walking trails available. They all intertwine and intersect, so it provides hours of walking pleasure for keen hikers. However, it also means you need some pretty accurate directions in order to get from A to B.
The clearing has entrances to the Middle Track (either left or right) and the Silver Falls Track.
Then, the Silver Falls track runs off to the left. This will lead you back towards the Fern Glade Track and eventually reaches Pillinger Drive.
On the opposite side of the clearing (to the right) the Silver Falls Track leads you to Silver Falls. Hooray! (So confusing, right?) I was lucky I had my phone to direct me.
So obviously I continued on the Silver Falls Track towards Silver Falls. After an easy, flat walk I found myself at a fork in the track.
The track on the right, on the higher ground, is the Reids Track, which leads back to Radfords Track and Pinnacle Road.
The other, on the left – Silver Falls!
A small descent begins, and I could spot further signs in the distance. Finally I was in the right place.
A staircase appears and rounds down to the right.
And I finally reached the falls.
There’s a water collection tank at these falls, which you obviously can’t and aren’t meant to access.
Continuing down the wooden staircase, I reached the base of Silver Falls. Due to lack of recent rainfall, they were only a thin trickle. But I didn’t mind. I had made it!
I experimented with many angles of these falls, trying to capture their intricate beauty. I’ve named them “crimped” falls in my mind, because they reminded me of crimped hair. A classic 90s kid memory.
These falls spill over the edge of a rather level rock face, and into a concrete-looking base. I had a hard time working out whether they were natural or man-made.
Perhaps they had been altered to assist with the water catchment.
In any case, they were well worth the trek. I was glad I decided to continue on. I took my time taking photos and trying not to freeze in the chilly air in the process. My phone was on 20% battery, but I wasn’t worried. I had brought my brand new portable charger with me.
After marvelling at the falls, I decided it was finally time to leave. I had no idea how to get back to civilisation, so I fished through my backpack to find my charger. I felt around in the mesh pocket, searching for my white iPhone cord. I started to panic. It wasn’t there. And then I remembered – I had used it to charge my phone the previous night in the hostel.
So there I was, on the side of Mt Wellington, with a no idea how to get back to Hobart, a phone on 20% – nope, now 19% -, a portable charger on 100%, and absolutely no way of using it to charge my phone.
Safe to say I was angry at myself. Fat lot of good a charger is without the cord, Annabel. But I had to calm down. I decided to continue on the track, across a small bridge that allows a front-on view of the falls, and downhill. I hadn’t come this way, so I had no idea where it led. But it had to go somewhere, right?
Soon I reached a small clearing with options to head left or right on the Pipeline Track. This clearing was accompanied by huge metal water tanks, and a small, very old shelter and picnic area with rotting wood off to the right. There were plenty of ‘historical’ information signs around here, but I was a tad too anxious/panicky to read them.
Something possessed me to take the track to the left, so I did. Trudging along, there were no signs to help me out. The track was gravel and flat and wide, like a road. I had no idea where I was heading and I could feel my heart pumping faster. I didn’t want to use my phone to map anything in case I needed it to call someone for help.
Soon I was walking alongside a proper road, where I could see cars whizzing by. Well, I wasn’t so much alongside as I was elevated-next-to it. I wasn’t able to reach the road from this track. But the road was a good sign, so I continued on.
And then I hit Huon Road and popped out in the suburb Fern Tree. I felt relief wash over me. Everything was fine. I had been so close to civilisation all along! (This also means to get to these falls you could drive to Fern Tree – there’s a carpark across the road from the track – or get the metro bus).
There was a bus stop right next to the Pipeline track, to the right. I checked the times. Buses came every hour. My eyes flicked around, frantically trying to decipher when the next bus was due. 2:49pm. I checked the time. It was 2:47pm.
I couldn’t believe my luck. If I had been a minute later. If I had dwaddled back at the track. If I had taken the time to read the historical signs. If I had taken a few minutes longer to decide which way to go. I would’ve been stuck in the cold, on the side of a mountain, waiting for the 3:49 bus.
But I wasn’t. I was lucky. I was an idiot – but I was a lucky idiot. The bus pulled up and the kind female driver let me have a concession fair using my Uni Melb student card, which cost me $2.30 to get back to Hobart (full fare is $3.30 AUD). I sat on the bus in the warmth, relaxing my muscles as I realised that everything was going to be A-okay.
Moral of the story? Always check the bus times, and plan your trip before you go. Know (roughly) where you are heading (I mean it’s always fun to explore), but at least know how you’re planning to get back to shelter and safety. And last, but not least, always check you’ve packed all your supplies before you go!