Filled with stunning natural attractions, Macquarie Pass National Park is an underrated haven in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales (NSW). It’s actually a relatively small national park with just a few walks on offer. But, all of the trails at Macquarie Pass have magnificent waterfalls and cascades. This is owing to the river and creeks weaving their way through the scenic forest.
In this guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about visiting Macquarie Pass National Park. The main thing to do in the national park is to do waterfall walks. So, we’ll tell you all about the five best Macquarie Pass waterfalls, which can be found over three different walks.
Table of Contents
Macquarie Pass National Park Guide
Macquarie Pass National Park (known as Mac Pass to the locals) is surprisingly close to Sydney. So, there’s no excuse for the Sydneysiders who haven’t visited yet! Other than the spectacular waterfalls, the trails leading to them are equally special. A moist eucalypt forest floor with gorgeous Illawarra flame trees, plants, ferns, moss-covered rocks, steep sandstone ridges and natural stepping stones along the creeks. What more could you want when escaping the hustle and bustle of the city?
It’s certainly possible to see all of the major Macquarie Pass waterfalls in just a day. So, feel free to use this guide as a day trip itinerary if you like. Otherwise, feel free to explore all of the different trails leading to these epic waterfalls as you please, perhaps over a few separate trips!
Reaching the trailheads to explore these waterfalls is pretty straightforward. But, finding Clover Falls on the Clover Hill Trail isn’t easy! On the same trail, Mulangong Falls is another difficult-to-reach waterfall. So, if you and your adventure buddies are keen to roll up your sleeves and find these waterfalls, follow this guide. We’ll detail how to reach these waterfalls and reveal some of the other best Macquarie Pass waterfalls.
Where Is Macquarie Pass National Park?
Macquarie Pass National Park is found along the Illawarra escarpment, near Wollongong and Kiama. Specifically, the national park is located between Robertson and Albion Park in the Southern Highlands of NSW. Please click on the map below to access an interactive map of the area on Google Maps.
Best Waterfalls and Walks in Macquarie Pass National Park
Without further ado, let’s look at the best waterfalls and walks in Macquarie Pass National Park. First, we’ll look at the tremendous Clover Hill Trail, which is perhaps the best walk in the national park.
Clover Hill Trail
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 9.5km
- Time: 3.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 350m
- Difficulty: Hard
- Trailhead: Clover Hill Trailhead
- Map: AllTrails
As graded by NSW National Parks using the Australian Walking Track Grading System
One of the most adventurous and fun trails in Macquarie Pass National Park is the Clover Hill Trail (AKA the Macquarie Pass Waterfall Walk and the Macquarie Pass National Park Waterfall Walk). Its luscious green surrounds will have you feeling like you’ve transcended into a sub-tropical rainforest. On top of that, are some sensational waterfalls such as Rainbow Falls, Mulangong Falls and Clover Falls.
Rainbow Falls is easy to find, as it’s located at the end of the official trail. But, finding Mulangong and Clover Falls requires extra exploration. Given there is no actual trail after Rainbow Falls, nor any consistent or reliable markings, it’s very difficult to find Mulangong and Clover Falls. In theory, it’s easy enough. Just follow the river stream (Macquarie Rivulet) and that’s where the waterfalls will be located. But it’s not that straightforward.
Simply following the river stream is near impossible because of the large boulders and natural obstacles. It means you have to hike away from the river at times, but not too far away, as you’ll then just be merely heading into the dense forest and away from the waterfalls.
The trick is to find, any old path, that stays as close to the river as possible, when possible. This helped us to continue to follow the river stream, somewhat adjacently, within the dense forest, to eventually find Mulangong and Clover Falls.
Extra Tips for the Clover Hill Trail
Whilst trying to find Mulangong and Clover Falls, you’ll find lots of different trails leading back to the rivulet. A lot of them are false trails that merely lead to different parts of the river stream, without going to a specific waterfall. Of course, they all offer a unique perspective of other cascades along the river stream. But, a lot of them will steer you off-path if your main goal is to find Mulangong and Clover Falls.
Also, it’s common practice in off-trail hiking in Australia, to find ribbons tied to trees to help guide you. We had read elsewhere online that ribbons would be present on this trail to help us find the extra waterfalls. But, the ribbons were few and far between.
So basically, don’t rely on or plan to follow any ribbons. You’ll just have to practice patience and persistence, understanding that you’re likely to make some mistakes finding Mulangong and Clover Falls. Stay calm, retrace your steps, work with your hiking buddies and you’ll figure it out.
Of course, off-path hiking is generally reserved for experienced hikers and bushwalkers. If you’re lacking experience, perhaps just hike to Rainbow Falls on this occasion. If you’re very keen to see Mulangong and Clover Falls, try and find an experienced hiker to go with. Alternatively, consider hiking some easier trails first to increase your experience. Consider hiking in the nearby Southern Highlands and Kiama before taking on more challenging trails like the Clover Hill Trail.
1. Rainbow Falls
The first of the Macquarie Pass waterfalls to see on the Clover Hill Trail is Rainbow Falls. To get to these falls and eventually find the others, head to the Clover Hill trailhead. Using Google Maps, follow directions to Clover Hill Road and you’ll be taken to a small car park. It’s unsealed and rough so be careful with a 2WD. There’s probably enough space for a dozen cars. It can fill quickly on the weekends so make sure to do this hike early!
Macquarie Pass is located fairly close to some suburban areas. So, it’s surprising how quickly you’ll feel immersed in thick forest terrain. It’s easy to hike through the initial sections of this trail as it’s wide, very gently undulating and has stable terrain. You’ll pass a creek after 1km or so, and from there, your surrounding landscape becomes even more lush and green.
Nearing the end of the trail, is a narrow side trail to your right, leading away from an exposed grassy area. It takes you towards the rivulet, down a slippery muddy path, towards Rainbow Falls. It’s easy to spot, as it’s the first set of cascades you’ll see along the river stream. Be careful when approaching the waterfall because the surrounding rock platforms are very slippery.
Rainbow Falls includes a number of streams, converging beautifully together. For this reason, they’re difficult to photograph, as there is so much to capture. Once you’ve enjoyed Rainbow Falls, it’s time to find the elusive Mulangong and Clover Falls. This is where the real hard work begins!
2. Mulangong Falls
With Rainbow Falls to your left, continue upwards on a muddy path away from the waterfall. After only 50 metres or so, you’ll cross the rivulet, and continue hiking with the river stream to your right. As mentioned, walking along or immediately by the river isn’t possible. But as you hike into the dense forest, try and stay as close to the river stream as possible. It should always be in sight.
Further upstream from Rainbow Falls is a series of cascades leading to Mulangong Falls. We took some of the false side trails incorrectly initially. But, you could say that we were happy to have gone the wrong way! We saw a pretty set of cascades with a colossal boulder amazingly balanced on a rock platform. Luckily, it’s easy enough to retrace your steps back into the adjacent forest if you do incorrectly follow a trail to a random section of the river stream.
It’s difficult to explain exactly how to get to Mulangong Falls. But, essentially, after a few of the false side trails, there will eventually be a correct side trail that leads you to it. This waterfall is much bigger than the other cascades so it’s obvious to recognise. After losing our way in the forest a couple of times, it was a relief to find the first significant waterfall after Rainbow Falls. Mulangong Falls is truly one of the best Macquarie Pass waterfalls.
3. Clover Falls
Once you have re-joined your chosen path through the dense forest, continue further upstream to find Clover Falls. Mulangong Falls is seriously impressive, but Clover Falls is even better. Finding it takes excellent navigation, hard work and composure. But it’s absolutely worth it. At the end of the unmarked trail, is a spectacular waterfall and a pristine turquoise swimming hole. It’s truly a slice of paradise. Given how difficult it is to reach, you may even be lucky enough to have it all to yourselves.
It’s actually possible to walk around the rim of the swimming hole to your left and approach behind the waterfall. Proceed with caution though as it obviously gets quite slippery. For that reason, I didn’t go directly behind it. But getting closer to this majestic single-drop waterfall, at least, helped me appreciate its power. It’s possibly the best of the Macquarie Pass waterfalls. But even just the experience and hardship in finding Clover Falls, made this waterfall and trail, truly memorable.
FYI – it’s possible to find a fourth waterfall during this walk – McAndrew Falls. This is the most challenging waterfall to find the area. Many people have reported sustaining injuries during their off-trail journey to find it. So, this waterfall is certainly reserved for very experienced bushwalkers. Personally, we didn’t attempt to find McAndrew Falls.
Jump Rock Trail
- Type: Out and Back
- Distance: 4km
- Time: 1.5–2 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 75m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Cascades Picnic Area
- Map: Wikiloc
PLEASE NOTE THAT AS OF MID-2020, THE JUMP ROCK TRAIL IS CLOSED. It doesn’t seem as though NSW National Parks will re-open this trail. For the latest information, check NSW National Park Macquarie Pass local alerts.
Similar to the Clover Hill Trail, there is a small car park at its trailhead which is also bumpy and unsealed. We’d expect just over a dozen cars to be able to pack it out. Actually, in summer, it’s a popular place for locals to swim and escape the heat. So again, get here early as it’ll fill quickly on weekends.
Alternatively, there is a large car park just opposite this smaller car park. It’s actually the car park for the Cascades Waterfall Trail. So inevitably, you could use either car park for either hiking trail!
Starting roadside, the Jump Rock Trail quickly takes you into more dense forest typical of Macquarie Pass. Almost immediately the trail narrows with odd rocks and tree stumps creating a sometimes unstable terrain. Technically, this trail becomes even more challenging as it meanders its way up the forest and slightly away and adjacent to the river stream, which is always to your left.
4. Macquarie Pass Jump Rock Cascades
Eventually, you have steep and muddy trails, with fairly high vertical drops to your left. You’ll also be hiking up small slippery hills whilst dodging and weaving trees and vines. We imagine that these trails have since deteriorated further, creating an increased risk of unstable surfaces and landslides. This means your chance of slipping down is higher and so your injury risk is greater. So, we respect NSW National Park’s decision to close the track.
Despite being closed, there’s no denying the beautiful set of cascades that can be found at the end of the trail. Essentially, the trail steers you back down towards the river stream. With some further scrambling and exploration, you’ll soon arrive at the serene cascades. They gently and smoothly glide over a series of fairly levelled rock platforms. The resultant stream creates a soft but persistent flow only ever disturbed by the chatter of the local birdlife and perhaps the banter from your fellow hikers.
Arriving early morning is a great way to beat the crowds but is also better for photography. Without too much light penetrating through the forest, it’s easier to use a slow shutter speed to capture the cascades. The Jump Rock Cascades are certainly up there with the best of the Macquarie Pass waterfalls.
Cascades Walk (AKA Cascades Walking Track)
- Type: Return
- Distance: 2km
- Time: 1.75 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 50m
- Difficulty: Grade 3
- Trailhead: Cascades Picnic Area
- Map: AllTrails
The Cascades Walk is much simpler and straightforward, leading to a small but pretty waterfall. Honestly speaking, it probably ranks last in terms of the Macquarie Pass waterfalls discussed in this guide. But, there are some amazing trees and other natural attractions to enjoy on this trail.
5. Cascades Falls
After walking across the field that makes up the Cascades Falls Picnic Area, you’ll venture into the forest once again. You’ll then be walking through a very familiar landscape as the other trails. Overall, the trail is fairly flat with no challenging or technical sections.
The trail is likely the most walked trail in Macquarie Pass National Park because of its ease and accessibility. But take nothing away from its beauty. Keep an eye out for an amazing woody vine about halfway towards the waterfall.
Once you reach the waterfall, there are many rocks surrounding the swimming pool that act as great natural seats. It’ll give you a quick breather and a moment to enjoy this small but charming waterfall. Even the smaller of the Macquarie Pass waterfalls will leave you feeling blissful and re-invigorated.
Read more: Cascade Falls, Macquarie Pass – The Cascades Walk Ultimate Guide (coming soon)
Other Things to Do in Macquarie Pass National Park
Certainly, the main thing to do at Macquarie Pass National Park is to do the waterfall walks. But, there are a few other worthwhile things you could do during a visit.
- Cascades Picnic Area: why not enjoy a picnic at the Cascades Picnic Area before or after doing the Clover Hill Trail or Cascades Walk?
- Abseiling down Macquarie Falls: these waterfalls are found further upstream from Clover Falls. It’s possible to access the Macquarie Pass Canyon and abseil down these falls, before joining the Clover Hill Trail. Eagle Rock Adventures offer canyoning tours to Macquarie Falls.
- Guided walking tours: it’s possible to have a guided tour of the national park if you prefer that. Companies such as Nature Engagement Tours offer guided tours of Macquarie Pass National Park.
Macquarie Pass National Park Waterfalls and Walks Recap
The Macquarie Pass National Park waterfalls are some of the best around Sydney. By following this guide, you’ll know how to find all of them. Hiking the Clover Hill Trail, you’ll easily find Rainbow Falls. But, you’ll need a bit more persistence to find Mulangong and Clover Falls. The Jump Rock Trail leads you to some stunning cascades. But, unfortunately, the trail remains closed and will unlikely re-open. Finally, the Cascades Walk is the simplest of the trails leading to Cascades Falls.
How to Get to Macquarie Pass National Park
As mentioned, Macquarie Pass National Park falls just outside southern Sydney within the Southern Highlands area. For Sydneysiders, depending on where you’re living, you can expect a 30 minute to 2 hour journey.
To explore Macquarie Pass National Park, you’ll need a car. There are no public transport options for accessing the trailheads of any of these walks. If you need a car, we recommend using DiscoverCars.com. It’s a fantastic search engine for finding the cheapest car hire. Search for cheap car hire in Sydney today. Some of the car parks for these trails are unsealed, rough and bumpy. But a 2WD should suffice.
Getting to Sydney
Of course, you’ll need to fly to Sydney to do this trip from abroad. If you’re travelling to Sydney from overseas, use Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flights. When flying abroad, we always get the ball rolling with a Skyscanner search. Check out cheap flights to Sydney today!
Where to Stay Near Macquarie Pass: Robertson
Robertson is a quaint town located near Macquarie Pass National Park. If you’re wanting to explore more of the national park, why not spend the weekend in the charming town of Robertson? Below, we’ve handpicked the best Robertson accommodation options.
- Best hotel – The Robertson Hotel: certainly, when it comes to the best accommodation option in Robertson, look no further than the superb Robertson Hotel.
- Best holiday home – Wallaby Cottage: this cottage is an excellent choice for a holiday home.
- Best B&B – Greengate Bed and Breakfast: for the ultimate romantic weekend getaway not too far from Sydney, book yourself a room at the Greengate B&B.
- Best motel – Robertson Country Motel: one of the most budget-friendly non-camping options is the Roberton Country Motel.
Unfortunately, there are no Macquarie Pass National Park camping options. If you want to camp near the national park, we recommend the Carrington Falls Campground in Budderoo National Park.
Five Hiking Gear Essentials For Macquarie Pass National Park
For a more comprehensive packing list, please check out the Ultimate Packing Checklist. It’s a great general summary of everything you’d need for a trip. For even more information check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With.
- Merrell Moab 2 Mid Goretex hiking boots – the traction on these boots are great for the muddy sections on the Jump Rock Trail
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack – this backpack is just right for hiking wherever, whenever.
- Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Trousers – a light pair of trousers, great for bushwalking in the heat.
- Patagonia Torentshell 3L Jacket – a fantastic waterproof jacket – works well as your outer layer in wet conditions.
- The North Face TKA Glacier snap fleece jacket – in winter, it can get REALLY cold around Macquarie Pass, so make sure to pack a warm jacket!
- Give yourself plenty of time to see Mulangong and Clover Fall: it’s normal to get lost when trying to find these waterfalls. So, don’t put yourself under any time pressure to see them.
- Start early: with small car parks and narrow trails, you’ll have more fun if you start early to avoid the crowds.
- Expect misty roads on the Macquarie Pass: it’s common to have mist, fog and adverse weather on the Macquarie Pass. The roads leading to the trailheads of the waterfall walks can be windy and hairy so take it easy around the bends, particularly when visibility is poor.
- Clover Hill Trail distance: you’ll find that NSW National Parks quotes the Clover Hill Trail as 6km. But, that assumes you only visit Rainbow Falls. Realistically, if you explore all of the extra waterfalls at the end, you’ll hike closer to 9.5km with the inevitable trial and error.
- Check local alerts on the NSW National Parks website: trails at Macquarie Pass regularly close due to landslides. Check the local alerts before you visit Macquarie Pass National Park.
Below, you’ll find the most frequently asked questions about Macquarie Pass National Park.
Can You Swim in Macquarie Pass?
Yes, it’s possible to swim at Cascade Falls.
Where Is the Jump Rock at Macquarie Pass?
This map will show you the location of the Jump Rock; but, the trail has been closed since 2020. So, access to the Jump Rock is forbidden.
How Steep Is Macquarie Pass?
The Macquarie Pass is an 8km section of the Illawarra Highway passing through Macquarie Pass National Park. It’s peak steepness is nearly 10% on some of its ramps.
Is Macquarie Pass Closed?
Due to landslides, Macquarie Pass closure along the Illawarra Highway has frequently occurred in 2022 and 2023.
Were you able to find the elusive Clover Falls? Tell us your success stories in the comments section below.