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Horsnell Gully Waterfall Hike

Home > Adelaide > Outdoor | Nature | Free | Day Trips | Walks
by Wandering Foodies (subscribe)
Two creative foodies out to discover enticing flavours and food ideas. When we aren't tucking into our latest delicious find, we're photographing and designing our hearts out.
Published May 2nd 2015
A gorgeous hike and fresh air are waiting for you
Horsnell Gully Conservation Park is located just 10 kilometres east of Adelaide, in the Mt Lofty Ranges. Even though it's remarkably close to the city, you'll feel a whole world away once you hit the trail. If you've got a free day coming up, this is the perfect way to get some fresh air and soak up a healthy dose of nature. Pack some trail snacks and water, slap on some sunscreen and get ready to take in the beautiful views and intriguing history of Horsnell Gully.

Horsnell Gully, Waterfall, Hike, Day Trip, Heysen, Yurrebilla, Trail, South Australia, Adelaide Hills
There are plenty of photo opportunities along the way.


European settlement of the area began in 1842 when John Horsnell, once coachman to Governor Gawler, established market gardens and orchards here, as well as a homestead and associated buildings. Be sure to check out the ruined remains, including the coaching sheds, stable and cowsheds. Interestingly you'll find elm trees, plum trees, and orange trees growing amongst the native flora at the start of the hike; they're remnants from the original Horsnell gardens.

Horsnell Gully, Waterfall, Hike, Day Trip, Heysen, Yurrebilla, Trail, South Australia, Adelaide Hills
If you can see these ruins, you know you are in the right spot.


Horsnell Gully, Waterfall, Hike, Day Trip, Heysen, Yurrebilla, Trail, South Australia, Adelaide Hills
Past the quarry this road will lead you to Rockdale Hill.


A great way to experience the area in a short amount of time is to take the 'Main Valley and Rockdale Hill Hike', which should take you about two hours to complete. This short walk will take you through groves of majestic river red gums and South Australian blue gums. You'll traverse a beautiful waterfall and cross a ridgeline with fascinating views over the nearby quarry and the city of Adelaide in the distance. On a nice day you're likely to share the trail with birds, butterflies and bees buzzing lazily from flower to flower. Keep your eyes peeled and you might also spot a Koala or two up above, while elusive echidnas and bandicoots can be heard foraging in the undergrowth.

Horsnell Gully, Waterfall, Hike, Day Trip, Heysen, Yurrebilla, Trail, South Australia, Adelaide Hills
Watch out for Barry the Koala along the way.


Now, before you take off on your adventure it's time to make a decision; will you cross the footbridge and make your way up the waterfall, or stick to the left-hand path and make your way up the Rockdale Hill fire track? There are a few benefits whichever direction you take.

Horsnell Gully, Waterfall, Hike, Day Trip, Heysen, Yurrebilla, Trail, South Australia, Adelaide Hills
Take a snap of this map before you make the hike to make sure you make the right turns.


Clockwise
  • The steep walk up the fire track will have you feeling the burn in the best way.
  • The view from the top of the waterfall is captivating. Check out the city of Adelaide peeking out between the adjacent tree-covered hills.
  • Hopping down the waterfall is easier than going up and, in our opinion, it's much more fun.


Horsnell Gully, Waterfall, Hike, Day Trip, Heysen, Yurrebilla, Trail, South Australia, Adelaide Hills
We love skinny tracks like this, no concrete paths and no one in sight.


Counter-Clockwise
  • A section of the trail just past the waterfall is quite steep and skinny, with a loose rocky surface. This is quite a bit easier to walk up since you can use your hands more easily to keep your balance. You might consider finding a sturdy walking stick or bringing a lightweight walking pole to help you at this point, but it's not essential.
  • It's easier on the legs and lungs to go with gravity and walk down the fire track.


Horsnell Gully, Waterfall, Hike, Day Trip, Heysen, Yurrebilla, Trail, South Australia, Adelaide Hills
The rocky slope towards the top of the waterfall.


Horsnell Gully, Waterfall, Hike, Day Trip, Heysen, Yurrebilla, Trail, South Australia, Adelaide Hills
If you are heading down the firetrack, watch out for this sign so you don't miss the turn off.


We've walked this loop hike several times now and prefer a clockwise direction to get a bit more of a challenge on the Rockdale Hill fire track. You're also guaranteed not to miss out on that impressive view from the top of the waterfall, which is our most favourite aspect of the entire hike. Be careful if there has been recent rain as the area will be quite slippery from the rushing water. In warmer months you should have no problems.

No matter which direction you take you can rest assured that signage is clear along this trail. You'll notice that both the Heysen and Yurrebilla trails wind their way through this area, offering stunning views of the surrounding region if you take a quick detour.

Horsnell Gully, Waterfall, Hike, Day Trip, Heysen, Yurrebilla, Trail, South Australia, Adelaide Hills
The beginning of the steep waterfall descent.


Optional Visit to Giles Conservation Park Ruins
If you're looking for more of a challenge (or just want to stay out in nature a bit longer) you can add in an optional visit to nearby Giles Conservation Park. This will add an extra couple of hours to your walk depending on how long you spend admiring the ruins. The walk forms part of the Heysen trail; when you reach the top of the fire track you'll come across some signage pointing you in the direction of this additional trail. Follow the trail past cairns crafted by other avid bushwalkers, along skinny paths up and down the hills and across a beautiful little creek.

Horsnell Gully, Waterfall, Hike, Day Trip, Heysen, Yurrebilla, Trail, South Australia, Adelaide Hills
The winding path that leads to Giles Conservation Park is quite steep.


Horsnell Gully, Waterfall, Hike, Day Trip, Heysen, Yurrebilla, Trail, South Australia, Adelaide Hills
The landscapes vary from dramatic to captivating.


Before long you'll be well into the Giles section of the Conservation Park and on your way to check out some fascinating cottage ruins. Check out the signage to gain insight into the history of the area and the daily life of its previous inhabitants. Or snap a few silly photos around the ruins like we did. The choice is yours. Just note that one ruin in particular has been restricted from access for safety reasons, so please be sensible and admire that one from afar.

Horsnell Gully, Waterfall, Hike, Day Trip, Heysen, Yurrebilla, Trail, South Australia, Adelaide Hills
These ruins and trails are the perfect spot for a mid-hike picnic with friends.


Best Time to Hike
This is a beautiful hike to take on a clear day in the cooler months, since the exertion will keep you nice and warm and you won't need to drink as much water. In warmer weather make sure to wear plenty of sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses as large sections of the trail will have you walking in open sun.

Getting There
Take Magill Road out of the city and turn right onto Horsnell Gully Road. Limited car parking is available at the entrance to the park. Take note of any fire danger warnings as the park may be closed in rare cases of extreme risk. Both Horsnell Gully and Giles Conservation Park are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Horsnell Gully, Waterfall, Hike, Day Trip, Heysen, Yurrebilla, Trail, South Australia, Adelaide Hills
The ever-changing views make this hike very rewarding throughout the entire length of your journey.


So now that you know this brilliant place is waiting for you so close to Adelaide, it's time to get out there today. Take the time to recharge your batteries and reward yourself with beautiful fresh air and happy nature feels.


We give Horsnell Gully Waterfall Hike 4/5 Wanders in a Clockwise direction and 3/5 Wanders in a Counter-Clockwise direction because we find it so much more enjoyable to scramble down the waterfall. This beautiful area covers everything you need for a good hike; captivating views over the hills and the city, gorgeous flora and fauna, and a bit of a challenge for those who like to have some fun.

Where 1 Wander isn't worth getting off the couch for and 5 Wanders should leave a trail of dust in your wake: it's that good.


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Why? Get out of the city and enjoy some happy nature feels.
When: Open 24hrs a day, 7 days a week.
Phone: 08 8336 0901
Where: Horsnell Gully Road, Horsnell Gully SA 5072
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Awesome , I'm very motivated to do this one. Do you think my 7 year old would handle it? Thanks for including a map. Ther aren't enough directions on trails in SA 😄
by loutr (score: 1|26) 1566 days ago
If anyone wants to take a look at the Horsnell Gully Waterfall, here it is:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/edkhoo/9326142018/in/dateposted-public/
by Reductio ad absurdum (score: 2|207) 1555 days ago
Who knew about this trail, looks wonderful 😄 Thanks for including the map. There aren't enough directions on trails in SA.
by loutr (score: 1|26) 1566 days ago
Looks gorgeous! !
by bel_t (score: 0|6) 1564 days ago
Excellent article.Walked in this area along time ago and enjoyed it...but never saw the waterfall....can't recall if I knew about it or not.I imagine one would have to visit after heavy rains and perhaps it is just a tiny fall,but pretty nevertheless?
by noelp (score: 3|1199) 1563 days ago
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