Behana Gorge & Clamshell Falls
Distance: 6km return
Time: 1¾ hours return
The coastal corridor between Cairns and Mission Beach along the Bruce Highway is a patchwork quilt of cane farms and banana plantations interspersed with small agricultural towns. The fertile plains are a result of millennia of erosion.
The present coastal range, the Hodgkinson Formation, has had a chequered history. It started to form on the sea bed about 420 million years ago during the Late Silurian period, when thousands of underwater landslides deposited sediment eroded from ancient coastal ranges near Chillagoe into a deep sea basin.
This undersea sediment was buried, compressed and then metamorphosed into rock, which was eventually buckled upward by massive tectonic forces to form the Hodgkinson Formation, a mountain range that once rivalled the Andes in height.
This all took a lot of time, and it has taken a fair bit of rain to wear it down to its present state, but it’s been worth the effort. Mount Bartle Frere and Mount Bellenden Ker are the tallest mountains in the formation and are the focal point of several wilderness walks.
The walk along Behana Creek, which flows off the western slopes of Mount Bellenden Ker, is the easiest walk in the area and can be done in almost any weather.
From the highway intersection at Gordonvale travel 5.9km south along the Bruce Highway to Behana Gorge Road. From the turnoff, it is 4.6km to the end of the road. The gorge is a Cairns Regional Council water catchment area.
A locked gate and signage mark the start of the 6km return walk along a cement road. The water pipeline and road run roughly parallel to Behana Creek and soon enter Bellenden Ker National Park.
The almost straight road initially passes through riverine forest populated with various eucalypt and ferns. It takes about 20 minutes to reach a point where the road touches a tributary of Behana Creek.
From here the undulating road gets steeper as the gorge narrows, passing an old cement helicopter pad. Patches of rainforest border the creek while elegant eucalypts populate the higher slopes and ridges.
It takes about 30 minutes to reach Rudge Lookout, set on the rocks above a waterfall in Behana Creek. After a short steep climb, the road rounds a bluff on a raised cement causeway skirting the gorge wall overlooking Behana Creek. Clamshell Falls cascade down the gorge into deep green pools.
The creek narrows through an open chute, changing direction abruptly, bearing north at right angles. From here you can see the end of the road and the water intake plant a few hundredm away. The rock pools are accessible from the road near the intake.
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Mowbray to Black Mountain road
Distance: 7.6km (including detour to Mowbray Falls)
Time: 3 hours (including detour to Mowbray Falls)
The Bump Track is noted for its steepness, but it is not a particularly difficult walk, though it is easy to see that transporting goods by bullock team would have been a tough task. The track, initially fairly exposed, rises steadily up the steepest section between Slatey Pinch and The Landing through guinea grass and eucalypt regrowth.
From this point, it swings west toward Robbins Creek through dense forest of wait-a-while and wattle. The forest is not particularly noteworthy, mostly regrowth scrub, but it is a good clear track for energetic walkers.
Mowbray to Robbins Creek crossing takes about 1½ hours; the final 2km to Black Mountain Road, an easy ½ hour.
Because the track entrance and exit are 40 minutes apart by car, a two-car shuffle has to be arranged if you want to do a one-way journey, but fit walkers should be able to complete a return journey, including the track to Big Mowbray Falls as a full day outing.
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Black Mountain road to big Mowbray Falls
Distance: 4.6km return
Time: 2 hours return
From the Black Mountain Road Trailhead it is only 1.5km to the T-junction with the falls trail. A return walk from Black Mountain Road to Big Mowbray Falls would be a less strenuous alternative to climbing the Bump Track from Mowbray.
There are a couple of impressive lookout points just above the falls overlooking Mowbray Valley and a good view from the head of the falls. Signs beside the track warn that access to the area requires caution.
In wet weather, the rocks are slippery and the falls are inaccessible. In dry conditions, the rock pools and shady trees at the head of the falls are a tranquil spot to linger a while.
mission beach kids activities
Sun, sand and sea ensures that families can find plenty to do in Mission Beach although there are no dedicated children’s activities.
Dunk Island has a great children’s club should you decide to holiday there overnight. Day trips can include visits to the interesting artists’ colony and watersports include child-safe options.
Misty Mountains & Cannabullen Trail
Time: Full day
The Misty Mountains trails are a recent addition to the walking trail network in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. The trails access ancient forests in the Tully Gorge and McNamee Tableland by utilising a network of logging tracks built during the 1930s.
The areas alongside the tracks were extensively logged until 1988, when the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area was declared, after which they lay undisturbed until a recent initiative re-established some sections as long distance walking trails.
For the intervening years, the rainforest has been regenerating and regrowth is reclaiming the roads. The trails pass through pockets of spectacular virgin rainforest, saved from logging by its inaccessibility.
The Cannabullen Trailhead is at the Cochable Creek campsite in Tully Gorge.
Initially, the trail follows an old logging road beside Cochable Creek for 1.4km past a succession of rapids and deep pools. Then it veers right, away from the road, and climbs over a steep ridge, crossing several creeks along the way.
It is an abrupt climb that passes spectacular mature rainforest that must have been beyond the loggers’ reach.
From the ridge, the trail descends into a steep gorge, emerging at the base of an unnamed waterfall that plunges from a sheer rock escarpment into a deep pool. This strenuous 7km return walk is an outstanding wilderness experience.
For those continuing through to the Hinson Trailhead, the trail climbs the gorge wall onto a basaltic plateau above the pool. The trail follows the rim of the gorge, crossing the creek only a fewm above the waterfall.
The creek has worn a channel through the volcanic flow, creating an unusual natural formation. From the plateau, the gradient diminishes and the trail follows a logging road along a narrow spur, climbing from the plateau to Carter Creek.
Carter Creek, about halfway to the Hinson Trailhead, is an official campsite. It is also a good place to stop for lunch and a dip in the creek.
Beyond Carter Creek, the trail climbs steadily for 2km, crossing several small creeks. This section through to the Hinson Creek campsite and the junction with the Cardwell Range trail is not particularly notable.
Extensive erosion of the road embankment along this section has necessitated several steep detours that bypass the landslips. Beyond the Hinson Creek campsite, the trail crosses Hinson Creek and follows an old logging track 1.7km to the Hinson Trailhead on Sutties Gap Road.
Because they follow the contours of the hills, old logging roads make the walk easier, but the quality of the experience is sometimes compromised by environmental damage. This strenuous 13.7km trail is a day’s walk (about six hours) for experienced hikers.
Crystal Cascades is a popular destination for Cairns’ locals and visitors. The Cascades are 10km from Redlynch, northwest of Cairns at the end of Redlynch Intake Road.
Cascades in 30 minutes return
From Crystal Cascades car park a 1.2 kilometre paved path follows swift-flowing Freshwater Creek up a densely rainforested valley. Numerous tributary streams tumble down the valley walls, feeding a chain of rock pools and rapids in Freshwater Creek. This popular swimming spot has picnic facilities.
Dowah Creek in 15 minutes return
A path leaves the southern corner of the car park and meanders along the eastern bank of Dowah Creek for a short distance to a small waterfall and pool, a peaceful setting to relax and enjoy the forest.
Crystal Cascades to Lake Morris
Time: 1 hour
The rough unmanaged track that climbs from Crystal Cascades to Lake Morris starts just before the second picnic shelter, 150m in from the entrance gate. This is a steep climb for fit walkers. It takes about one hour to get to Lake Morris.
The track weaves up a steep spur through dense rainforest and wait-a-while and is marked with flagging tape. For the first few hundredm it is rough, ill defined, and laced with slippery matted roots, but the forest gradually opens out as you climb.
In about 30 minutes, you reach a power pole where there is a view of the coast near Yorkeys Knob. This pole is about half way to Lake Morris. From here, the walk follows the powerline access road along a ridge toward the lake.
The road is not as steep as the spur track. Initially, the road passes through open eucalypt forest, but enters complex notophyll vine forest after a short downhill section.
Lake Morris comes into view a fewm before Lake Morris Road. There is a locked metal gate across the end of the road.
Turn right and follow Lake Morris Road 200m to the second gate of the Copperlode Dam Water Reserve. It is only a short distance from this gate to Lake Morris Kiosk, which has a sheltered observation deck where you can enjoy the view, a meal, and an excellent cup of coffee.
Douglas track & Speewah trailhead
In 1876, Sub-Inspector Douglas and his party blazed a trail between the Tableland goldfields and Cairns, using an existing Aboriginal trail along a ridge between Stoney Creek and Surprise Creek.
With disuse, rainforest reclaimed the trail and it was not reopened until horse riders and walkers re-blazed the route. This was done more than once, and as a result the alignment gradually changed.
The present Douglas Track walking trail begins at the Speewah Trailhead campground and finishes at the end of Douglas Track Road in Rainforest Estate, Kamerunga.
To get there, turn off the Kennedy Highway 6km west of Kuranda onto Speewah Road. There are roadside signs on the highway. Drive 3.2km along Speewah Road and turn left into Stoney Creek Road.
Smiths Track (Road) is immediately on your left across a bridge 1.4km from the start of Stoney Creek Road. This is the entrance to the Speewah Trailhead and campground.
The campground has campsites, parking areas for three campervans, gas barbeques and an amenities block with a cold shower. Signs at the trailhead indicate where the walks start.
Douglas track to Glacier rock return
Distance: 8.7km return
Time: 4½ hours return
The Douglas Track starts at Speewah Trailhead and passes through Barron Gorge National Park, descending into Stoney Creek gorge beside Red Bluff.
There are numerous small creek crossings, but footbridges span major gullies and junctions along the trail are signposted. Overall, this is a moderate rainforest walk.
A new 765m track, Djina-wu, crosses Surprise Creek directly opposite the parking area via a boardwalk and heads northeast to the junction of Douglas Track and Smiths Track. This takes about 15 minutes.
At the junction, the new Douglas Track continues straight ahead. Along this section, the walk passes through rolling terrain then descends slightly to a signed junction, 1.5km from the trailhead. At this junction, the track joins the original course of the Douglas Track and heads off on the right.
The trail passes the Gandal Wandun junction 2.8km from the trailhead. It gets steeper toward the Glacier Rock turnoff, 1.7km further on. A 300m path connects the trail to the lookout.
The spectacular view from Glacier Rock extends over Stoney Creek gorge to Mt Whitfield, Cairns and the coast. A return walk to Glacier Rock from Speewah Trailhead makes a great full-day out.
For those not returning, the track descends from Glacier Rock turnoff for 700m to the junction with McDonalds Track. At this junction walkers can turn left and walk 8.5km to Kuranda via Wrights Lookout, or descend 2km to Douglas Track Road in Rainforest Estate.
The flagged descent to Douglas Track Road passes Red Bluff and crosses the railway line just north of the cliff-face. From the line, the trail descends a few switchbacks and then levels out toward the Douglas Track Trailhead. A 1km link track to Stoney Creek Trailhead joins the trail just before the end.
Although Queensland Rail claims to support the walking trail strategy, they do not permit access across the railway line and fines do apply.
Goldsborough Valley State Forest Park
The Goldsborough Valley State Forest Park is 24km from the intersection of the Bruce Highway and Gillies Highway at Gordonvale south of Cairns.
To get there, travel 6.5km along the Gillies Highway from the intersection and turn left into Goldsborough Road. This road immediately crosses the Mulgrave River over Peets Bridge, and then winds through the valley for almost 12km before crossing a bridge onto a narrow dirt road.
The last few kilometres wind a circuitous course to the end of the valley where the day user park and camping areas are strung along the bank of the Mulgrave River. The large mown area has picnic facilities, toilets and a self-registration booth for campers.
Distance: 1.7km return
Time: 30 to 40 minutes
A sign at the rear of the camping area marks the start of the track to Kearneys Falls, named after an early settler. The walk heads up a short valley on the western side of Mt Bellenden Ker.
Signage narrates the history of the Malanbarra clan of the Yidinydji Aboriginal tribe, the original inhabitants. The easy, 1.7km return walk through majestic rainforest takes 30 to 40 minutes.
The path meanders along the open forest floor, climbing sets of stone steps over rocky outcrops as it approaches the apex of the valley. All too soon, you arrive at a fenced lookout facing the three cascading tiers of Kearneys Falls.
The Boulders Wildland Park is 65km south of Cairns off the Bruce Highway, at the end of a picturesque valley west of Babinda.
From Babinda follow Munro St through the centre of town and continue along Boulders Rd for 6.9km to The Boulders carpark and picnic area. Just before the park entrance, there is a well-appointed camping area.
The large granite boulders that form Babinda Creek play an interesting role in local Aboriginal history.
According to Yindinji tribal folklore, the spirit of a young woman named Oolana calls to her lost lover from amongst the boulders. Those wandering nearby should be careful her anguished cries don’t lure them too close to the treacherous water.
The legend seems to be supported by the unfortunate deaths of several young men who have drowned in the Devils Pool. Directly in front of the picnic area, there is a deep clear sandy bottomed pool in Babinda Creek that is safe for swimming.
All information about the park, Aboriginal culture and walking tracks is narrated on conveniently placed signs. This is a Cairns Regional Council flora and fauna reserve.
Wonga Track Circuit
Time: 20 minutes
The walk starts at a suspension bridge that crosses North Babinda Creek. It is an easy 20-minute, 850m rainforest stroll.
The level narrow dirt path heads upstream beside the creek then veers inland, where it weaves through dense forest choked with wait-a-while and pandanus palms. Name markers identify some of the trees beside the path.
When the track emerges beside Babinda Creek, it swings east and follows the creek bank. It continues along Babinda Creek, passing the confluence with North Babinda Creek just before the suspension bridge and the end of the walk.
Devils Pool Walk
Distance: 1.2km return
Time: 25 minutes return
The walk to Devils Pool Lookout and Boulders Gorge Lookout begin on the same gravel path at the southern end of the park. This 1.2km return walk takes about 25 minutes.
After crossing a wooden boardwalk, a sealed path follows the creek down the gorge through mature rainforest shrouded with moss. It takes about five minutes to reach the first lookout at the Devils Pool and another two minutes to the second lookout.
This section of Babinda Creek flows amongst large granite boulders and drops into deep turbulent pools. Further down the gorge across a succession of wooden footbridges there is a timber viewing deck suspended over the rocks beside the creek at the Boulders Gorge Lookout.
The Goldfield Trail was originally blazed in the 1930s by gold prospectors seeking a route from the coast through to the northwestern slopes of Mt Bartle Frere; a limited lode meant the trail was soon abandoned and not reopened until 1986.
The trail passes through Wooroonooran National Park, part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, covering 79,500ha. The two access points to the Goldfield Trail are 60km apart by road and neither is serviced by public transport.
The 19km walk through wet tropics rainforest takes a full day, so the logistical problem of transport needs to be solved to ensure you will be met at your chosen exit point.
A car shuffle could be arranged if a few people intend walking together. Rather than give a repeat description of how to access the trailheads, refer to the directions for The Boulders and Goldsborough Valley State Forest Park walks.
If it isn’t possible to arrange the necessary transport the walk can be done in two sections. From Goldsborough, the easy 16km return walk to the East Mulgrave River causeway takes about four hours, and from The Boulders the moderately strenuous but more scenic 22km return walk to the causeway takes about seven hours.
babinda boulders to goldsborough valley
Time: 7 hours
From The Boulders, the trail leaves the picnic area, heading upstream along North Babinda Creek. The gravel path immediately enters dense mature lowland rainforest and soon crosses the only footbridge.
The trail follows the creek and crosses a few small streams before it enters Wooroonooran National Park, 1km from The Boulders. There are no track markers, but the trail is obvious.
The graded gravel path comes to an end 30 minutes into the walk at a creek about 2.5km from the start. From here, the narrow rocky trail, which heads in a north-westerly direction for most of the walk, starts to gradually climb toward a saddle.
The trail descends through a rocky section about 4.5km from the start and crosses a boulder strewn creek before climbing a moderately steep pinch to the saddle between Mt Bartle Frere and Mt Bellenden Ker, the highest point on the walk.
The climb reaches an altitude of 350m on the saddle, about 6km from The Boulders. Rare King ferns with fronds up to sixm long thrive along the creek banks.
The steeper slopes on the trail are covered with coarse-grained granite rocks. There are no views along the walk, just occasional glimpses of a neighbouring mountainside.
Across the saddle, the trail curves around the apex of a valley, following a stream populated with king ferns and Oraniopsis palms. Moisture and heat create a very humid environment in the sheltered valleys.
The trail climbs past a grove of tall slender palms to an undulating ridge, where it has been severely eroded in some places. From the ridge, the roar of the East Mulgrave Falls can be heard to the northeast. The falls sound deceptively close but are at least 2km from the trail.
The ridge narrows to a razorback only a couple of metres wide, with almost vertical drops on either side to raging creeks below. The trail descends a steep spur, crosses a creek and levels out for the remainder of the walk.
The trail bounds the East Mulgrave River for a few hundred metres and joins an old logging track on the river flat for the final 1km to the causeway, where a Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service sign indicates it is 11km to The Boulders and 8km to Goldsborough. If you intend returning to The Boulders, this is the best point to turn back.
During or directly after the wet season, the water level is high and it may not be possible to safely cross the cement causeway across the East Mulgrave River.
There are bush campsites along both sides of the river and a very deep pool on the downstream side of the causeway.
The remaining 8km walk to the Goldsborough Valley camping area follows an old forestry road.
The track runs roughly parallel to the Mulgrave River and occasionally touches on the riverbank, where you can fully appreciate its scenic attributes. For the last 1.2km, the track crosses a grassed clearing.
At the Wooroonooran National Park sign, 300m before the end of the trail, there is a great view of Kearneys Falls cascading down the western face of Mt Bellenden Ker. Due to the distance and the moderate climb through the rugged sections, this 19km walk is rated strenuous.
Distance: 4km return
Time: 1½ hours return
Atherton lies at the base of the Great Dividing Range and the sparse rocky slopes of Mount Baldy on the western edge of town offer a walk that differs from the usual rainforest walks on the Tableland.
The walk to Mount Baldy summit starts 2km from Atherton GPO. Turn off the Atherton to Herberton road onto Rifle Range Road. Turn left at Newell Street at the gun club sign on the corner. The Mount Baldy car park and the start of the walk are 20m further along this road.
Mount Baldy peak is 1017m above sea level and the walk rises 320m over 2km to the trig point on the summit.
The return walk takes at least 1½ hours, but it is advisable to allow longer so you can take a break and enjoy the panoramic view of the Atherton Tablelands and coastal ranges. The strenuous climb up the steep, exposed hill slope is better done early during the coolest time of day.
The walk begins on a dirt road and crosses a small bridge over Thompson Creek just beyond the car park. The level road runs parallel to the gun club boundary for a few hundred metres, and then swings left and mounts the crest of a spur. On the crest, the foot trail heads off to the right from the road and climbs the steep spur. The junction is signposted.
The narrow path is quite obvious, but the rough rocky surface makes the climb strenuous. The vegetation is mostly sparse eucalypt forest dotted with grass trees and zamia palms, but during the winter month’s wild flowers and ground orchids bloom.
The first section of the climb is the steepest, but you get some respite between the peaks as the terrain flattens out for long enough to catch your breath.
There are two false peaks before the summit. As you head up the final slope to the summit, grevilleas start to appear amongst the eucalypt and the gnarled, stunted trees are festooned with a variety of moss.
The top of the hill has been cleared of saplings, providing a great vantage point to view the Atherton Tableland. This is a good location to view Lake Tinaroo in its entirety.
The ascent takes 50 minutes and the descent is not much faster due to the need to concentrate on your footholds. Choose a fine day for your walk; it would be a pity to miss the view due to cloud cover and the path is very slippery when wet.
Distance: 7km return
Time: 5 hours return
Captain Cook named Cape Tribulation when his ship Endeavour ran aground on a nearby reef in 1770. His despondent mood was recorded when he named Mt Sorrow.
The walk up Mt Sorrow starts on the Bloomfield Road 150m north of the turnoff to Kulki at Cape Tribulation. This 3.5km trail climbs to a lookout 650m above Cape Tribulation. The trailhead is signposted but is difficult to see, as it starts by a culvert near the road.
This is a difficult, steep walk that requires a high level of fitness and preparedness. It is inadvisable to walk alone, but if you have no option, tell someone you are going and let them know when you return – walkers have disappeared. Depending on your level of fitness, the walk can take from three to six hours.
Allow the maximum time and start the walk before midday to ensure you return before dark. Carry at least 2 litres of water per person, wear strong footwear and take a warm jacket because the weather on the ridge is changeable and often cools rapidly.
The walk can be slippery and dangerous on the steep sections in wet weather and cloud often obscures the path. However, the trail is marked with flagging tape so if you choose a sunny day and stay on the track it is a safe and enjoyable walk.
The rainforest trail follows a spur from the edge of the road up the first hill. From the top, the trail gradually descends across a saddle through groves of licuala palms and then climbs another small bluff. After a slight descent, the serious climb begins. The steep spur you are about to climb can be glimpsed occasionally through the trees ahead.
Beyond the second bluff, the spur starts to narrow and the trail becomes rougher, winding back and forth across the crest of the spur. This is the toughest section of the climb, and it continues to get steeper and rockier until the trail gradually swings northwest along the spur.
From this point it is still a tough climb, but it is not as abrupt as the previous section. At this higher altitude, the vegetation begins to change. Tall rainforest gives way to shorter, gnarled, wind-blown cloud forest where palms and trees are draped with epiphytes and moss.
The rocky terrain is strewn with ground lilies, cycads and ferns. This is the enchanting part of the walk. The trail levels out and swings west along a very narrow ridge – about 1m wide – with a steep drop on both sides.
The trail curls around trees and boulders and advances through a Tolkien landscape to a lookout on top of a cluster of boulders.
From this windswept position there is an extensive view over Daintree National Park to Port Douglas on the southern horizon. Mount Sorrow summit can be seen further along the western ridge and Cape Tribulation is directly below.
Time: 2 hours
The Atherton Tablelands offers a cooler option to the coast and the walk to Nandroya Falls, where you can also swim, is the perfect choice. This walk is in Wooroonooran National Park near Henrietta Creek Campground, 25km from Millaa Millaa on the northern side of the Palmerston Highway.
Camping facilities are provided for those who want to stay long enough to do all the walks in the area. The Nandroya Falls walk starts at the western end of the campground. Follow the signs down to and across the creek, or follow the road verge 300m across the bridge.
The Nandroya Falls circuit track is a moderately easy walk. A sign at the start of the track indicates the distance to the falls is 2.2km by the most direct route.
About 700m from the start, you come to the circuit fork, where a sign suggests you follow the 3.5km path on your right to Nandroya Falls along Douglas Creek.
Apart from some impressively large trees, you get to see more waterfalls and lava flows if you choose this route.
Initially the track gently undulates from the junction, crossing a crest and doubling back as you descend toward Douglas Creek. A charming stone staircase descends to a small creek beneath a waterfall about 30 minutes from the start. More of this artful stonework can be seen along the way.
About an hour into the walk, you reach Douglas Creek. From here the path undulates along the creek bank toward Nandroya Falls.
The creek tumbles over lava flows, sculpting a series of waterfalls and deep pools. Heat-cracked lava formations hang ponderously above the path, a reminder of relatively recent volcanic activity. It takes a total of 1½ hours to reach the falls.
The signed circuit junction is 100m before Nandroya Falls. At the falls, a 40m plume of water plunges into a pool below a semicircular cliff face, then flows over a secondary set of falls into a deep swimming hole.
It is definitely a place to spend a little time. The return walk is a steady climb past Silver Falls. It takes 35 minutes to complete the circuit. Overall, the walk takes about two hours.
Distance: 4.3km return
Time: 2½ hours return
Local settler and explorer James Robson found a track up a steep spur in the Mulgrave Valley south of Cairns, near the site of the Gillies Highway today.
For years, bullock teams and pedestrians lugged supplies up the steep track to the Tableland towns, but it was never more than a track, and mishaps were common on the steep treacherous sections.
Today a foot track follows the same route to the top of the range. Because Robsons Track is a steep hillside walk, it is best to start at the Gillies Lookout on the Atherton Tableland. If you intend doing the return walk, it won’t matter which end you start from.
The turnoff to Gillies Lookout and the start of Robsons Track is about 5km from the Gillies Highway along Boar Pocket Road. The 4km dirt road to the lookout is signposted and passes through two gates.
From the lookout (a launch pad for hang gliders) there is an impressive view over Goldsborough Valley, the Mulgrave River and the western slopes of Mount Bellenden Ker.
Robsons Track starts from the northern end of the lookout car park behind the state forest sign. The trail follows an old forestry track along a ridge through scrub and rainforest. Go right where the track divides, this shorter path soon rejoins the forestry track.
Turn right at a T-junction about 200m from the car park. The track descends through open bushland, levelling between short steep pinches as it follows a broad spur. Some old telegraph poles define the original trail used by early settlers.
The trail drops down a steep embankment to a small rainforest creek, 25 minutes from the lookout. Once across the creek, the trail follows a narrow open dry spur for about 200m, and then swings toward the coast and starts a steep descent.
From here, the track weaves among granite boulders, splitting regularly where mountain bikers have created a multitude of new tracks that have eroded the steep slopes, and then emerges at a parking area beside the Gillies Highway 16.3km from the highway intersection at Gordonvale. There is signage explaining the history of Robsons Track at the parking area.
Time: 2 hours
Lake Tinaroo, built in the 1950s, is a popular destination for swimming, fishing, boating and camping enthusiasts and the surrounding hills have extensive bushwalking trails.
The Torpedo Bay walk can be accessed from three different points. This description starts at Trailhead 1, 2.3km from the dam wall lookout at Tinaroo Falls township along Danbulla Drive, 100m before the Barabadeen Scout Camp entrance.
It takes about two hours to complete the 4km circuit. Most of the walk is steep and rough so you must be fit.
The obvious bush trail winds up the steep hill face to the ridgeline. From the top of the granite boulders, there is a good view over Lake Tinaroo.
The ridgeline trail passes through open forest, typical Australian bush scattered with grass trees, pandanus palms, zamia palms and eucalypts. From several points along the walk there are views of the lake and boulder-strewn hill slopes to the north.
The trail crosses the saddles between the peaks, occasionally splitting then merging 10 or 20m further on. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the first T-junction. The track on the left descends down a steep spur to Danbulla Drive, 250m west of the dam wall to Trailhead 2.
From the T-junction, the trail weaves around a mass of large overhanging boulders. A myriad of exploratory tracks head off in all directions then rejoin on top of the ridge. At this point, you are directly above the dam wall.
The trail traverses a couple more saddles and peaks before cutting back behind the ridgeline. It mounts one last ridge before descending via a set of switchbacks.
At the base of the hill, you come to a T-junction at an old gateway, where you can either continue straight ahead for 150m to Trailhead 3, or turn left and follow the old fence line to Danbulla Drive, 50m upstream from the Barron River Bridge.
Across the road from Trailhead 3 lies the Barron River where you can take a break and swim in the rock pools. Your starting point is 1.7km back along the road.
White Rock Peak
Distance: 3.5km return
Time: 1½ hours return
The walk to White Rock Peak is not as gruelling as many of the hill climbs around Cairns, as most of the climbing is done in the seat of your car, but it is still a rough bush trail.
From almost anywhere in Cairns you can see Mt Sheridan and White Rock Peak looming on the western horizon at the southern end of the Whitfield Range.
The walk starts on Lake Morris Road, a narrow winding scenic drive that starts halfway along Reservoir Road at the base of the Whitfield Range.
At the start of Lake Morris Road, set the car odometer and drive 10km to an inconspicuous dirt road on the left, directly under the high voltage power lines on Mt Sheridan.
A locked gate restricts vehicle access, but there is a parking spot on the grassy verge on the hairpin bend 30m before the entrance. A 3.5kmreturn walk through State Forest starts at the gate.
This unspoiled rainforest walk follows the saddle between Mount Sheridan and White Rock Peak along the high ridge that separates Cairns from the forested wilderness to the west.
Initially the walk follows a service road past two large pylons where there are views over Cairns and Trinity Inlet, and then winds up a steep incline to a telecommunications tower on Mt Sheridan peak, 605m above sea level. Trees block any views from the peak. This section takes about 15 minutes.
A narrow foot track skirts around the tower’s security fence to the start of the walking trail. The trail is flagged at irregular intervals with coloured tape. At the eastern end of the saddle where the trail starts to climb toward White Rock Peak there are tree falls blocking the path; walkers have flagged alternate routes around these falls.
A flagged white steel post and a brass survey marker identify White Rock Peak. From the peak, a steep slippery trail leads down the eastern face of the mountain to the top of White Rock.
The descent is easier if you ease yourself down using the saplings beside the path for support. The panoramic view of Cairns, Trinity Inlet and the towns and sugarcane farms to the south makes the 50m scrabble worthwhile.
Tips for cairns walking tracks
- Always carry at least two litres of water on a long walk and don’t attempt any of the strenuous walks unless you are an experienced bush walker.
- Notify friends or family of your plans so someone will know where to start looking if you don’t return.
- Before planning your walk, check the Parks and Wildlife website at http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/ to see if parks and individual walks are open.
- There are lots of snakes in the tropics, ranging from harmless tree snakes to potentially deadly taipans. Do a little research on venomous snakes before you go walking.
- The wait-a-while palm is a prickly climbing vine with long barbed tendrils that dangle invisibly across rainforest paths. If you get ensnared, the hooked barbs won’t release you until you back off.
- A cassowary is a large flightless bird. There are stories of birds attacking people proffering food. Do not feed them. If you encounter a cassowary, stay back and wait for it to move on.
- A first aid kit is a necessity. Make sure your kit contains adhesive strips, tape, bandages, safety pins, non-adhesive dressings; a pair of scissors, tweezers and antiseptic cream.
- Leeches can latch onto your clothes and wriggle into soft fleshy spots. When a leach is removed it leaves a small puncture mark that usually bleeds for a while and is itchy for a week or so. Avoid sitting on moss.
- Ticks occur in many locations throughout Australia including the tropics. They latch on as you brush against the vegetation. Remove a tick as soon as possible; some varieties are toxic. Swab the tick with methylated spirits to make it release its hold before you pull it out. The bite can remain itchy for a week or two.
- Footloose Publications publish five guidebooks with maps and descriptions of 200 paths, walking tracks and trails from Townsville