It's the weekend again and you need somewhere to hike, near the city, a bit rugged, challenging and scenic. Just 12km north east of Adelaide, the Three Falls Hike in Morialta Falls Conservation Park has all these things and more. It's an ideal hike for those who enjoy climbing, scrambling over rocks, crossing creeks and maybe getting a little muddy. Take a water bottle, put on your sunscreen and a hat and get started on the 7.3km hike, which commences from the First Falls car park, located at the end of Morialta Falls Road, off Stradbroke Road.
Your first decision is whether to start from the small bridge on your left, near the information board or start with the stone steps on the right near the toilets. It's up to you, either way there will be a climb involved.
Deep View Lookout provides amazing views of the Conservation Park. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
If you start from the bridge, the trail ascends along a dirt path, zig zagging 750 metres up toward the Deep View Lookout. Take a few minutes to walk down the steps to the lookout and enjoy a well-earned drink break, overlooking Adelaide and a park favourite; the Giant's Cave.
The waterfall can be seen and heard while walking on the trail. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Returning to the trail, the path continues alongside the craggy rock formations formed around 50 million years ago, with the sound of the waterfall getting louder as you follow the creek toward the Third Falls. This area is popular for abseiling; on most weekends you will see the bright yellow helmet wearing abseilers making their way down the cliff face. Keep an eye out for the koalas peacefully snoozing in the gum trees and a variety of native birds.
Abseiling down the cliff face. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Here's where the fun begins, when winter rains cause the water level in the creek to rise, crossing the creek becomes a whole lot more challenging. Stepping from rock to rock, you can reach the other side, as long as you don't fall in, as you make your way toward the Third Falls. The smallest of the falls in the park, the 13metre waterfall can be reached via a 380 metre spur trail that will take you to the viewing platform and, if you have your camera, provides a good opportunity to practice getting the cascading water captured correctly before you get to the bigger falls.
Stepping stones are harder to find as the creek level rises. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Returning to the main trail, veer to the left to get to the Second Falls. Climbing up the stairs to the bridge will allow you to look down over the water cascading 15 metres down the quartzite cliff. If you are tempted to climb down the rocks for a better view of the waterfall, save yourself some time by going back along the bridge and walking a short distance along the trail, where a small block of steps will get you front and centre with the falls and provide great photo opportunities.
Second Falls can be viewed from above on the bridge or below from the trail. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Get back on the trail, joining the Morialta Falls Plateau Hike section to First Falls. The largest and most dramatic of the falls, it has been attracting visitors since the park was declared a reserve in 1915. The viewing area of the 30-metre waterfall is close enough for you to get a little wet from the spray and allow you to get a great view.
First Falls is a seasonal waterfall. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Return to the main trail on your way to the Kookaburra Rock Lookout. Views of the valley, First and Second Falls are on offer from the lookout. Zig zag back down towards the stone staircase, leading back to the beginning of the trail in the car park.
Open to walkers from sunrise to sunset, the park is best visited in autumn, winter or spring to provide the greatest view of the seasonal waterfalls and creeks.
The trail travels through some rugged bush land. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
The steep inclines and undulating terrain that make up this 2-3 hour hike require a good level of fitness. Sun protection is essential in any weather, as shade can be difficult to find.Free parking is available along Morialta Falls Road or you can find limited paid parking in the First Falls car park, between the hours of 8.30am to 15 minutes before sunset.
Morialta Falls Conservation Park has a network of trails suitable for all fitness levels, from the easy First Falls walk and the Giants Cave Walk to the Heysen and Yurrebilla Trails, which also run through the park. If you are looking for a tough workout or a short walk and a picnic with the family, Morialta has it all.