Location - Paluma Range National Park, North Queensland, Australia
Grade - 3, easy
Distance - 3 km return from Hussey Road or
8 km return from Paluma Township:
- McClelland Lookout to Cloudy Creek (2 km each way)
- Cloudy Creek to Ethel Creek (2 km each way)
Time - Allow 2-3 hours return
You won't find Ethel Creek Falls listed on any of the National Park websites, nor will you find it on any of the signs in the area. But, that could be a good thing! Ethel Creek Falls are a hidden gem in the middle of Paluma Range National Park, and not only are these falls beautiful, but you're very likely to be the only ones there! However, this could change if Queensland's Department of National Parks take over the maintenance of the Paluma trails. So, take advantage of this gem while you can!
Ethel Creek Falls are located behind the acreages to the west of Paluma and are primarily accessible on-track via the Paluma tracks.
There are several ways to access Ethel Creek Falls. However, the easiest way to access Ethel Creek Falls is via Hussey Road.
Ethel Creek Falls via Cloudy Creek Falls (Paluma Village)
The track to Ethel Falls starts at Cloudy Creek Falls, which can be reached via a trail starting from McClelland's Lookout at the Eastern edge of Paluma Township. The total distance covered via this route will be 10 km return. Once you reach Cloudy Creek Falls, you will notice two steel poles concreted into the ground for no apparent reason; however, a keen observer will see two more poles on the other side of the creek. All four of these poles are the remains of an old suspension bridge. So, once you've crossed the creek, you'll see the start of the track where the other two poles are located. The track to Ethel Creek is much less defined than the Cloudy Creek track, but anyone with a reasonable amount of experience should have no trouble following it. Follow the track until you come across track junctions 39 and then 37 before the falls.
Ethel Creek Falls via Colwyn's Track (Paluma Village)
This newly cut track takes you through the headwaters of Cloudy Creek and along old logging roads. You'll also notice a water race at the creek crossing. Starting at Junction 45, follow the track to junction 46, then onto 39 and 37 before reaching Ethel Creek Falls.
Ethel Creek Falls via Hussey Road
This is by far the shortest, and therefore the easiest way to reach Ethel Creek Falls. Park at the end of Hussey Road and follow the track to function 46, then onto 39 and 37 before reaching Ethel Creek Falls.
Regardless of how you get to junction 39, continue onwards west until you reach 37. At junction 37, the turns into a quad bike track all the way to the falls. You'll also find a short side track down into the creek just about the falls. Here, you may spot platypus in this pool.
Once you reach Ethel Creek, you'll find yourself at the top of the falls. Then, if you cross the creek and follow the track to the right, you'll find a steep climb down to the bottom of the falls. There, you'll also find a fixed rope tied as a handrail most of the way down. The water hole at the bottom of the falls is big enough to swim in if you need to cool off before the return journey. You also may consider packing a picnic to enjoy at the falls as well.
There are trail markers tied and nailed to tree trunks along the route, and there are numbered junction markers at the major intersections as part of the larger trail network. All of these elements should help you find your way without trouble.
Always take care when crossing creeks or stepping on rocks in the rainforest. Paluma is one of those places that never really dries out, and the rocks will always be wet and slippery. Whenever the undergrowth is wet, there will be leeches as well. Apply insect repellent before you start your walk, and reapply after your swim. It is also wise to tell someone where you're going and what time you are expected to return. Bring a first aid kit along with you.
What to take
- Drinking water
- Insect repellent
What to wear
Wear whatever clothing that allows you to move freely. Some people wear long-sleeved shirts, others don't; some people wear long trousers, while others wear shorts. It is up to you. Whatever you wear, however, it is key that you are able to move easily.
- Meditation and yoga
- Reading books and relaxing
- Some people even abseil Ethel Creek Falls