Leven Canyon: Walking The Forest Stairs Circuit

Leven Canyon, Tasmania.

Leven Canyon Reserve is a fantastic family friendly reserve which is a great place to spend an afternoon. The reserve offers a relaxing place to have a picnic with the family or get out and be active by hitting the hiking tracks.

The reserve is located in the town of Nietta, which is a 42km drive from Ulverstone in Tasmania’s North West region.

Hiking tracks

Technically there are 4 hikes available at Leven Canyon. But since they all intertwine into the two main hiking paths to the lookouts, we decided to make things easier.

We decided to only cover the two main lookout hiking tracks. Cruickshanks Lookout and Edge Lookout.

The reason for this is because if you complete the Edge Lookout track, then you’ve completed the Fern Glade track. Which is just a shortened version of the Edge Lookout track. And if you have completed the Cruickshanks Lookout track, then you either return to the car park or take the Forest Stairs.

As for the hiking tracks themselves. All the tracks at Leven Canyon are very well built and maintained. With some funny but helpful signs thrown into the mix.

Seat saying you reached the half way point of the hiking track
You made it halfway!

The tracks look to be a compressed sand/gravel composition that has a very smooth surfaced (a few rocks poke out occasionally) and good grip. They are easily tackled with normal footwear. No hiking boot required!

[alert type=”warning” dismiss=”no”]We encountered a lot of bees during our summer visit. They were not aggressive, but they definitely followed us around and got close whenever we stopped to rest or take photos. We are unsure if this was a one off issue or if this occurs every summer. Beware if you are allergic.[/alert]

Cruickshanks Lookout

The hike to Cruickshanks Lookout is a 20 minute return journey with a slight but constant slope heading up towards the lookout.

It’s the easiest of the hiking tracks at Leven Canyon and people of almost all ages and fitness levels should have no issues tackling it.

The track starts off with a big display of greenery with large and beautiful ferns beginning the track. From here the vegetation starts opening out into a more dry tree dominated landscape as the track starts hugging the more exposed hillside.

Ferns at the beginning of Cruickshanks Lookout track
Ferns at the beginning of Cruickshanks Lookout track

The trees create a light and airy corridor around you for most of the track. You can occasionally catch glimpses of the distant mountains through the trees. But for the most part, dry grasses, fallen leaves, some mosses and the occasional ferns is what you’ll mostly be looking at during the hike.

Mountains peaking through the trees at Leven Canyon, Tasmania
Mountains peaking through the trees
Boy walking on the Cruickshank Lookout Track
Cruickshanks Lookout Track

That is of course until you crest the rise and you get the first glimpse of the lookout platform ahead.

Boy standing on the Cruickshanks Lookout platfrom
Cruickshanks Lookout

Stepping out onto the giant metal platform as it juts out from the cliff wall is pretty damn impressive! Panoramic views and a dizzying drop of 275 metres down to the Leven River are your reward.

From up here you can see literally everything. Getting right up in your face is Black Bluff, the ancient and jagged tree covered rock wall that dominates Leven Canyon. And then flowing off into the distance as far as you can see are mountain ranges, rolling hills and an sea of green trees.

Tree covered mountains heading into the distance
A sea of trees

[alert type=”info” dismiss=”no”]If you can only visit 1 lookout due to physical limitations or time constraints, we’d recommend Cruickshanks Lookout.[/alert]

Edge Lookout

The hike to Edge Lookout is a 30 minute return journey with a steep slope heading down towards the lookout.

While the hike down is easy and rather pleasant, struggling back up the steep hill is a real pain.

The track leading to Edge Lookout encompasses the Fern Glade hike (not to be confused with the other Fern Glade) and as the name suggests, ferns are everywhere.

Hiking track through ferns at Leven Canyon, Tasmania
Edge Lookout/Fern Glade Track

Even though it’s only a few hundred metres away from the dry landscape of Cruickshanks Lookout. The landscape along the Edge Lookout track is drastically different, it’s covered in lush rainforest.

Rainforest trees covered in ferns
Green and lush

Giant emerald coloured ferns fill in the spaces surrounding the trees. Mosses, ferns and lichens dangle from branches. And you might even catch a glimpse of one of Tasmania’s cutest residents, the Pademelon.

Tasmanian Pademelon
Pademelons are the cutest!

The Edge Lookout track, we believe, is the much more visually appealing of the 2 tracks at Leven Canyon. Which is good, as you get to enjoy nature as you wind your way deeper down the canyon wall.

Once you reach the sharp right hand turn, you know you’re almost there. A bit further and true to its name, is Edge Lookout.

Dangling out along the edge of the canyon wall.

Lookout platfrom jutting out from the canyons egde
The Edge Lookout
Lookout cage hanging over the canyon floor
On the Edge

Due to it locations lower down the canyon wall, you don’t  get the sweeping panoramic views like Cruickshanks affords you. But you get a much closer view of Black Bluff and the white wash of the Leven River as it flows over the rocks below.

Canyon wall views from the Edge Lookout platfrom
Inside Leven Canyon
Black Bluff in Leven Canyon, Tasmania
Black Bluff
River flowing down on the canyon floor below
The Leven River

Looking up, those with 20/20 vision might just be able to make out Cruickshanks Lookout far, far up the canyon wall above.

Cruickshanks Lookout as seen from Edge Lookout
Can you spot Cruickshanks Lookout?
Cruickshanks Lookout as seen from Edge Lookout
How about now?

Forest stairs

While both Cruickshanks and Edge lookouts can be done individually. The Forest Stairs can be used to combine both tracks into a circuit.

The forest stairs cut through the heart of the  reserve and link Cruickshanks Lookout and Edge Lookout hiking tracks together.

The stairway starts just back from Cruickshanks Lookout and winds its way down to around the halfway mark of the Edge Lookout track.

Stairs winding through Leven Canyon, Tasmania
Winding stairs

While the stairs themselves are well built and sturdy, they are poorly designed and implemented.

Stairs range from giant to tiny, with some being so small I could barely fit my foot onto them. Which means you end up focusing on your foot placement instead of enjoying the scenery.

Stupidly small stairs with feet that cant fit on it
The stairs are stupidly small

The stairs do have a support railing, but once again, poorly designed and implementation make it pointless.

It’s basically a piece of rope looped between wooden poles, with the rope being so slack that it dips low in most places as to be almost unreachable.

I found myself walking hunched over just to reach the rope and even then, I didn’t feel like it was a structure that I would trust putting much weight onto. And with 697 stairs to tackle, a solid railing is required.

Stairway heading through the Tasmanian forest
Heading down the Forest Stairs

Even with these issues, the Forest Stairs are a fun addition to the reserve and the scenery is pretty, if you take the time to stop and soak it all in that is.

Stairway heading through the fern covered forest
Bottom of the Forest Stairs

Doing the full circuit using the Forest Stairs should take around 45 minutes return.

Facilities

Leven Canyon Reserve is one of the best when it comes to facilities. Picnic tables are placed all around the reserve (covered and uncovered). Plenty of car parking spaces. Clean and modern toilet facilities with disabled access and BBQ areas, as well as free basic camping sites.

Snow

Due to the relatively ease of reaching Leven Canyon and the elevation of the reserve, this can be an excellent spot to see some snow during the colder months of the year.

It’s not enough to go skiing and you’re probably unlikely to see snow flakes falling as it mostly happens during night time, but you can enjoy a reserve blanketed in snow.

Moss covered in snow
Snow!

We found enough to build a snowman and throw some snowball around and just have some fun in the snow.

We even witnessed some kids sliding down the hills of the reserve on sleds having a fantastic time.

[alert type=”warning” dismiss=”no”]Severe weather and snow might make the hiking tracks dangerous or impassable.[/alert]

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