Mount Matheson loop
Nightcap National Park
Starting at Mount Nardi picnic area, the Mount Matheson loop takes you on a short walk through rainforest. You can combine this hike with other tracks for a longer day walk.
- Nightcap National Park
- 3km loop
- Time suggested
- 1hr 30min - 2hrs
- Grade 3
- What to
- Hat, drinking water, sunscreen
Experience the variety of the unique landscape along the Mount Matheson loop. On this short walking track you’ll hike through the lush rainforest that encircles Mount Matheson, before reaching the dramatic cliff edges that feature eucalypt forests. It’s not a long walk but some might find it challenging, so you’ll need to be reasonably fit, and remember to bring plenty of water.
The walk starts and ends at Mount Nardi picnic area, a small grassy area with a couple of barbecues and a picnic table.
You may want to use this loop walk to reach the Pholis Gap or historic Nightcap walking tracks. Pholis Gap is a good option to extend the loop into a day walk, and you can take the Nightcap track if you’d like to do some overnight walking and bush camping.
For the latest updates on fires, closures and other alerts in this area, see https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/mount-matheson-loop/local-alerts
- National Parks Contact Centre
- 7am to 7pm daily
- 1300 072 757 (13000 PARKS) for the cost of a local call within Australia excluding mobiles
- 02 9585 6831
- in Nightcap National Park in the North Coast region
Nightcap National Park is open sunrise to sunset but may have to close at times due to poor weather or fire danger.
All the practical information you need to know about Mount Matheson loop.
Grade 3Learn more about the grading system Features of this track
1hr 30min - 2hrs
Quality of markings
Short steep hills
Quality of path
Formed track, some obstacles
Some bushwalking experience recommended
Getting there and parking
On entering Nightcap National park, Mount Matheson loop is on the left-hand side of the road just before you reach Mount Nardi picnic area.
Parking is available at Mount Nardi carpark a short distance from the start of the track.
Best times to visit
There are lots of great things waiting for you in Nightcap National Park. Here are some of the highlights: Weather in the northern rivers region is generally mild in winter ranging to hot in summer. It can be very wet (the park receives the highest annual rainfall in NSW) and misty so check local weather conditions and pack suitable clothes as well as a hat, sunscreen and insect repellent.
Weather, temperature and rainfall
18°C and 29°C
6°C and 19°C
The area’s highest recorded rainfall in one day
Maps and downloads
Mullumbimby (42 km)
Mullumbimby sits on the Brunswick River and is overshadowed by subtropical hills.
Murwillumbah (48 km)
Murwillumbah is rich dairy, sugar cane and banana country. It's located on the banks of the Tweed River and set in the Tweed River Valley against a backdrop of rainforest-clad hills.
Nimbin (23 km)
Nimbin is the counter-culture capital of Australia. It's set in a beautiful green valley pierced with limestone spires.
Mount Matheson loop is in Nightcap National Park. Here are just some of the reasons why this park is special:
Nightcap National Park is the traditional land of the Bundjalung People, in particular the Widjabul People who have inhabited the area for thousands of years. The park contains many ancient sites of cultural significance, including ceremonial and sacred sites that are still used by local Aboriginal people today. The creeks, plants, animals and landscape of the park feature in the stories, teachings and practices of Aboriginal people that continue to be passed on today.
Nightcap National Park's rainforests are part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, the largest area of subtropical rainforest in the world. They are a living link to the environment of ancient Australia and give us insight into the environment of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana. This lush and diverse conservation area protects a number of vulnerable and threatened species such as the rufous scrub bird, red goshawk, sooty and masked owls and regent bowerbirds. It is also home to the recently discovered nightcap oak, which can grow up to 40m high.
The rainforest creeks in Nightcap National Park are home to a number of threatened frogs, including Fleay's barred frog and the pouched frog. You might see Fleay's barred frogs hiding under leaf litter near streams or foraging for food on the rainforest floor, but you're more likely to hear their chorus, a distinctive 'arrrrrrk'. This rare frog feeds mainly on insects and invertebrates, so crickets, moths and beetles make a good meal. Keep your eyes open for this pale brown frog around Terania creek at the base of Protesters Falls.
- Goorgana walking track Goorgana walking track is ideal for experienced bushwalkers keen to tackle the challenging iconic peaks in Nightcap National Park.
- Terania Creek picnic area Terania Creek picnic area is a great place for a family picnic or barbecue. Close to the carpark, walking tracks and waterfalls, its home to birds and goannas.
Nightcap National Park contains a number of sites of historical interest, including a flying fox on the Googarna track. The flying fox was used to lower logs 500m down to the Kunghur mill during the 1940s and 1950s. The historic Nightcap track provided the first bridle track and telegraph line between the Richmond and Tweed valleys in the 1870s, and today you can explore this track on foot, camping overnight in the bush.
Plants and animals you may see
Satin bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus)
With vibrant blue-violet eyes and curious antics, the satin bowerbird is a favourite for bird watching and easy to spot as it forages for food in open forest. Relatively common across eastern Australia, in NSW they’re found in coastal rainforests and adjacent woodlands and mountain ranges.
Australian brush turkey (Alectura lathami)
The Australian brush turkey, also known as bush or scrub turkey, can be found in rainforests along eastern NSW. With a striking red head, blue-black plumage and booming call, these distinctive Australian birds are easy to spot while bird watching in several NSW national parks.
Lace monitor (Varanus varius)
One of Australia’s largest lizards, the carnivorous tree-dwelling lace monitor, or tree goanna, can grow to 2m in length and is found in forests and coastal tablelands across eastern Australia. These Australian animals are typically dark blue in colour with whitish spots or blotches.
Coachwood (Ceratopetalum apetalum)
Coachwood trees are Australian native plants that grow in warm temperate rainforests along coastal NSW. Also known as scented satinwood, the mottled grey bark of the coachwood has horizontal markings and a delicate fragrance.
Blueberry ash (Elaeocarpus reticulatus)
The blueberry ash is a rainforest shrub which produces blue olive-shaped berries and spectacular bell-shaped flowers, which often appear on the plant together. It is a tall slender shrub or small tree found in rainforest, tall eucalypt forest and coastal bushland in eastern NSW, south-east Queensland and Victoria.