behana gorge & clamshell falls

Rating: Moderate
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.


mowbray to black mountain road

Rating: Strenuous
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.


black mountain road to big mowbray falls

Rating: Moderate
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

Rating: Strenuous
Distance: 13.7km
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

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

Rating: Strenuous
Distance: 2.7km
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

Rating: Moderate
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.


kearneys falls

Rating: Easy
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.


babinda boulders

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

Rating: Easy
Distance: 850m
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

Rating: Easy
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.