Mount Matheson loop

Nightcap National Park

Overview

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.

Where
Nightcap National Park
Distance
3km loop
Time suggested
1hr 30min - 2hrs
Grade
Grade 3
Price
Free
What to
bring
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 directions, safety and practical information, see visitor info

Current alerts in this area

There are no current alerts in this area.

Local alerts

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

General enquiries

Park info

  • 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.

See more visitor info

Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about Mount Matheson loop.

Track grading

Grade 3

Learn more about the grading system Features of this track
  • Time

    1hr 30min - 2hrs

  • Quality of markings

    Sign posted

  • Gradient

    Short steep hills

  • Distance

    3km loop

  • Steps

    Many steps

  • Quality of path

    Formed track, some obstacles

  • Experience required

    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

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

Summer temperature

Average

18°C and 29°C

Highest recorded

40°C

Winter temperature

Average

6°C and 19°C

Lowest recorded

-0.6°C

Rainfall

Wettest month

February

Driest month

September

The area’s highest recorded rainfall in one day

350mm

Maps and downloads

Safety messages

Bushwalking safety

If you're keen to head out on a longer walk or a backpack camp, always be prepared. Read these bushwalking safety tips before you set off on a walking adventure in national parks.

Mobile safety

Dial Triple Zero (000) in an emergency. Download the Emergency + app before you visit, it helps emergency services locate you using your smartphone's GPS. Please note there is limited mobile phone reception in this park and you’ll need mobile reception to call Triple Zero (000).

Prohibited

Pets

Pets and domestic animals (other than certified assistance animals) are not permitted. Find out which regional parks allow dog walking and see the pets in parks policy for more information.

Smoking

NSW national parks are no smoking areas.

Nearby towns

Mullumbimby (42 km)

Mullumbimby sits on the Brunswick River and is overshadowed by subtropical hills.

www.visitnsw.com

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.

www.visitnsw.com

Nimbin (23 km)

Nimbin is the counter-culture capital of Australia. It's set in a beautiful green valley pierced with limestone spires.

www.visitnsw.com

Learn more

Mount Matheson loop is in Nightcap National Park. Here are just some of the reasons why this park is special:

Aboriginal heritage

Rainforest creek flowing through Nightcap National Park. Photo: John Spencer

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.

Ancient rainforest

Minyon Falls, Nightcap National Park. Photo: John Spencer

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.

Frogs galore

Rainforest creek flowing through Nightcap National Park. Photo: John Spencer

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.

History buffs

Goorgana walking track, Nightcap National Park

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

Animals

  • Satin bowerbird. Photo: Ken Stepnell

    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, Dorrigo National Park. Photo: Rob Cleary

    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, Daleys Point walking track, Bouddi National Park. Photo: John Yurasek

    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.

Plants

  • Coachwood flower. Photo: Michael Van Ewijk

    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. Photo: Jaime Plaza

    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.

Environments in this park

Education resources (1)

Matheson Loop Walking Track, Nightcap National Park. Photo: John Spencer