McGowans Falls | An Elusive And Epic Adventure In Tasmania

In true Tasmanian style, reaching McGowans Falls is as much of an adventure as witnessing the cool sheet of water flowing over blackened boulders in the heart of northwest Tasmania’s wilderness. 

We’ve visited a good chunk of waterfalls in Tasmania and can honestly say that McGowans Falls is up there with the best. Not only is the actual waterfall a unique wonder, but the short walk in will have you dipping and weaving between gnarled moss-covered trees on little more than a goat track. 

You’ll find little information on McGowans Falls, and even some of the information you find will lead you astray – thanks Google Maps! But we are here to help and in this post, we’ll cover all the necessary details including how to get there, where the best views are and when to visit.

Standing underneath McGowans Falls, Tasmania

Exploring McGowans Falls In Tasmania’s Northwest

1.4km return

30 – 60 minutes

Elevation Gain
100 m

Highest Elevation
311 m


Entrance Fees

Grade 2

Where Is McGowans Falls

McGowans Falls is found flowing into Relapse Creek in a hidden valley just west of West Takone among a tangle of 4wd tracks and service roads. The waterfall was found while a ranger named Douglas William McGowan was surveying the logging area and aided in preserving the falls, which in turn were named after him. 

The closest town to McGowans Falls is Wynyard, 47km northeast, but most travellers will visit on a day trip from Burnie which is just under an hour northeast of the waterfall.  

How To Get To McGowans Falls

Getting to McGowans Falls is possibly the trickiest part of the whole adventure. It begins simply by following the Bass Hwy west for 7km before turning left (south) onto Murchison Hwy. You’ll drive through the lush countryside full of farmlands for 20km before taking a right turn (west) onto Takone Rd.

The first 8km of Takone Rd is sealed but after that, dirt roads make up the last 15km. Takone Rd is relatively well-maintained, however, some sections are steep and consist of very soft dirt that could become hazardous for a 2wd in wet weather. 

At the 47km mark, you’ll find a left turn (west) onto Farquhars Rd where it gets a little more interesting! Follow this bumpy track for 1km before veering right (northwest) onto Relapse Creek Rd for the last 3km. 

The last two dirt roads were in questionable condition when we drove to McGowans Falls and while we managed in our van, it wasn’t ideal. Especially due to the fact that there were loads of trees hanging low and even two major ones blocking the road, forcing us to walk the last kilometre to reach the trailhead and reverse 2 km on our return as the edges of the road were too soft for us to turn around. 

Note: If you’re travelling from Detention Falls to McGowans Falls, or anywhere west of Boat Harbour for that matter, you’ll enter from the west along Myalla Rd, then Pruana Rd which turns into Takone Rd. Google Maps will tell you to turn onto Relapse Link Rd rather than Farquhars Rd. This isn’t correct and the link road did not look accessible for most vehicles so continue on for approximately 4.5km until you find Faquhars Rd and turn right there instead. 

McGowans Falls Trail Notes

Climbing over fallen trees on the McGowans Falls Track while sun shines through the forest

If you’re lucky enough not to encounter any fallen trees, the only indication that you’ve reached the trailhead for McGowans Falls will be a rock cairn and a homemade sign to the right, and a slightly cleared space for you to park on the left. 

The trail begins on an old 4wd track with countless fallen trees that look as if they’ve been there for quite some time. A helpful person has cut away the branches of one to allow you to crawl underneath. 

Not long after you’ve begun the trek, another homemade sign points left into the scrubby forest which will be your track for the remaining 400 m to the top of McGowans Falls.

The trail is not much of a path, but rather a meandering line of breadcrumbs in the form of pink ribbons leading you through the dense forest. Fallen trees continue to create an obstacle course as you walk deeper into the moss-covered woods. 

As you wander closer to McGowans Falls, giant gum trees create a shaded canopy and allow moss and fungi to flourish. Each fallen truck is covered in a furry green cloak with peculiar mushrooms emerging. 

Reaching The Top Of McGowans Falls

Climbing over a labyrinth of fallen trees along the McGowans Falls Walk in Tasmania

After 500 m of ambling through the forest following the frequently placed pink tags, you’ll reach the top of McGowans Falls. A plaque can be found here that remembers Douglas William McGowan but there isn’t much point in spending a great deal of time here. 

From the top, you can only see a small portion of the falls and the base below. For the best views of McGowans Falls, continue on to reach the base of the waterfall. 

Getting To The Base Of McGowans Falls

McGowans Falls, Tasmania flowing lightly in the winter time

The ribbon trail continues steeply down the slope on the left of the waterfall. After descending a few metres, you’ll find a damp fixed rope that assists in clearing a particularly steep boulder section. 

After the rope, you’ll enter an eerily cool cave-like wall that’s covered in shaggy green foliage clinging to the wet rocks. From there, holding onto tree branches and trunks will help you drop lower through the steep and slippery terrain until you reach the bottom of McGowans Falls. 

A shallow and wide creek allows ease of access right to the waterfall’s base where you can wander about, feeling the soft spray from the falls settling on your face. 

Standing underneath McGowans Falls, Tasmania

The waterfall itself is majestic, beautiful in a calm way with a curtain of water cascading over the enormous blackened cliff. Thriving mini moss ecosystems cling to shadowed sections of the slick rocks and the pungent smell of muddy water and a decomposing forest fills the damp air. 

After a bunch of rain I imagine these falls would be gushing, but when we visited the water was peacefully flowing. The falls must be at least 40 to 50 m tall (no information can be found) and bulge out in sections, allowing the water to choose many courses.

Returning To The Trailhead

Climbing through fallen trees along the McGowans Falls Track in Tasmania

Once you’ve finished admiring McGowans Falls from below, retrace your steps to the top of the waterfall. Be mindful of the steep and soft terrain underfoot and use the surrounding trees for stability. 

The walk back from the waterfall follows the same route you took to reach it and while the path is unmaintained, it’s effortless to find due to the sheer amount of pink tags leading the way. 

Most people complete the return trip to McGowans Falls in 30 to 60 minutes, making it the perfect adventure to tack onto an afternoon or another waterfall nearby. We recommend including Detention Falls on the same day of activities as it’s located close by. 

Best Time To Visit McGowans Falls

Moss covered tree along the McGowans Falls Hike in Tasmania

We’re usually the first to suggest visiting waterfalls after a massive dump of rain, but not for McGowans Falls. This waterfall has so much detail in the rock wall that would be lost with a gushing overflow of water. 

Therefore, we recommend visiting McGowans Falls in Autumn or early Winter when there is less rain, but still enough to create a full flow. This time is also ideal due to the fact that the unsealed roads are quite challenging in wet weather.

Leave No Trace

McGowans Falls has no facilities nearby so you must be prepared to pack out anything you take in, including food scraps and any form of rubbish. 

Our natural areas are in grave danger and humans are the main cause. Therefore, it is each and every one of our responsibilities to do our part in striving for a healthy future for mother nature. If you’re not familiar with the 7 Leave No Trace Principles, you can read up on them here

What To Bring

Hiking through the moss covered forest to McGowans Falls, Tasmania

Due to the shortness of this hike, you won’t need to take much with you. However, it is still in a remote location so it’s best to bring along a small backpack with some water, snacks and your phone. 

McGowans Falls track is unmaintained and full of forest debris. We recommend taking a good rain jacket and wearing a pair of lightweight hiking boots for this walk to avoid the ever-present leeches and protect your ankles on the uneven terrain. 

Where To Stay Near McGowans Falls

Outdoor bathroom of 41 Found and Airbnb in Somerset, Tasmania
41 Found, Somerset

McGowans Falls is located in the heart of northwest Tasmania where there are plenty of idyllic towns to base yourself. The waterfall is 1 hr southwest of Burnie and 1 hr 30 mins  southeast of Stanley.

Below is a list of our favourite towns to stay in when spending time on the northwest coast, including a few accommodation options for each.


Boat Harbour



Free Camping Near McGowans Falls