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Long distance walks

Walking track network

Glacier Rock seen from Smiths track. Photo: Ann Chalmers.

Glacier Rock seen from Smiths track. Photo: Ann Chalmers.

A network of Aboriginal walking tracks—djimburru—traversed the traditional Djabugay lands between the tableland and the coast. The Djabugandgi Bama walked these tracks for trade, seasonal food gathering and to visit ceremonial sites. In the period of early European contact—around the late 1800s—the network of walking tracks was adapted by gold miners, cattle drovers and railway workers to cater for pack horses. The two main routes through the Barron Gorge became known as the Smiths and Douglas tracks. Today these historic trails, along with more recent linking tracks, form a network of long-distance walking tracks throughout the park. Walkers may choose from half and full day walks. Some options are listed in the table below. Walkers need to be fit, well-prepared and experienced to undertake these long-distance walks throughout the park.

Maps

Walking options at a glance

From To Via Distance Time Grade

Speewah camping area trailhead

Map location: thirteen (13)

Stoney Creek/Douglas trailheads, Kamerunga

Map location: one (1)

Djina-Wu/Douglas tracks

Track junctions 5,4,3,2  (can be walked in reverse)

7.8 km

4–6 hrs

Easy–moderate

Speewah camping area trailhead

Map location: thirteen (13)

Smiths trailhead, Kamerunga

Map location: eleven (11)

Djina-Wu/Smiths tracks*

Track junctions 5,6,7,8,9,10

8.25 km

6–7 hrs

Easy–difficult

Speewah camping area trailhead

Map location: thirteen (13)

Smiths trailhead, Kamerunga

Map location: eleven (11)

Djina-Wu/Smiths/Yalbogie/Smiths tracks*

Track junctions 5,6,7,9,10

9.8 km

6–7 hrs

Easy–difficult

Speewah camping area trailhead

Map location: thirteen (13)

Wrights lookout, Kuranda

Map location: twelve (12)

Djina-Wu /Douglas /McDonalds tracks

Track junctions 5,4,3,2 (can be walked in reverse)

9.8 km

6–8 hrs

Easy–moderate

Wrights lookout Kuranda

Map location: twelve (12)

Stoney Creek/Douglas trailheads, Kamerunga

Map location: one (1)

McDonalds/Douglas tracks

Track junctions 2 (can be walked in reverse)

7.3 km

4–6 hrs

Easy–moderate

Speewah camping area trailhead

Map location: thirteen (13)

Speewah camping area trailhead

Map location: thirteen (13)

Djina-Wu/Douglas/Gandal Wandun/Smiths tracks

Track junctions 5,4,8,7,6

7.9 km

5–7 hrs

Easy–moderate

Stoney Creek/Douglas trailheads, Kamerunga

Map location: one (1)

Smiths trailhead, Kamerunga

Map location: eleven (11)

Douglas/Gandal Wandun/Smiths tracks

Track junctions 2,3,4,8,9,10

11 km

6–8 hrs

Easy–difficult

Stoney Creek/Douglas trailheads, Kamerunga

Map location: one (1)

Smiths trailhead, Kamerunga

Map location: eleven (11)

Douglas/Gundal Wandun/Smiths/Yalbogie/Smiths tracks

Track junctions 2,3,4,8,7,9,10

13.5 km

9–10 hrs

Easy–difficult

* Starting Smiths track from Kamerunga (map location: eleven (11)) is not recommended unless you are very fit.

Douglas track

Start: Stoney Creek/Douglas trailhead, Kamerunga (Map location: one (1))

Finish: Speewah camping area, Speewah (Map location: thirteen (13))

Distance: 7.8 km one way

Time: allow 4–6 hrs walking time

Grade: easy—moderate

These track notes refer to sections of tracks between the numbered track junctions indicated on the Barron Gorge National Park map (PDF, 166K)*.

Track junction 1–2

Distance: 2.6 km

Time: allow about 2 hrs walking time

Grade: moderate–difficult

From the Stoney Creek/Douglas trailhead, the first section of track climbs steadily through rainforest, joining an historic railway construction track that traverses the face of Stoney Creek Gorge up to the rail crossing. Along the way, look for native nutmeg Myristica insipida with two-toned leaves and brown oval seeds which, when fresh, are enmeshed in a red aril, and bird’s nest ferns Asplenium nidus growing among the moist rocky outcrops.

A large strangler fig Ficus sp. embracing an impressive granite boulder and its victim alongside, a milky pine Alstonia scholaris, marks the location of an historic railway construction camp. Remains of stone-pitched walls and old mango trees indicate the main camp sites along this section of the track.

Further on, tall wattles Acacia spp. mark the edge of the rainforest and several large mango trees indicate the site of another historic railway construction camp. The forest then opens up—large pink bloodwoods Corymbia intermedia and red mahoganies Eucalyptus pellita form a high canopy with a sparse rainforest understorey. Pink bloodwoods have distinctive spotted, barrel- or urn-shaped seed capsules, often found scattered along the track. The track winds up a steep switchback towards the ridge top and another railway camp site indicated by a single mango tree. Views of the coast, Lake Placid and the Barron River can be had along the way.

The track crosses the Kuranda–Cairns railway line on an overpass. The distinctive landmark of Red Bluff can be seen above the railway line. Note the change in soil to red clay. In 1888 during the construction of the railway line, a huge navvy camp boasting three hotels was located between here and Glacier Rock. Much of the track between the railway line and Red Bluff is unstable so take care through this area. The track ascends steeply via a series of stairs and switchbacks then continues underneath the power lines to the junction of the McDonalds and Douglas tracks 2. This section of track provides views to the east over Cairns and the Barron River delta and to the west over the rainforest-clad Barron River gorge.

Option

From junction 2, follow the McDonalds track (4.8 km) to Wrights lookout, Kuranda (Map location: twelve (12)) or continue along the Douglas track (5.2 km) to the Speewah camping area (Map location: thirteen (13)).

Track junction 2–3

Distance: 730 m

Time: allow about 15 mins walking time

Grade: easy to moderate

The track now descends into multi-layered rainforest. As you enter the forest, notice the woody oval-shaped seeds of the Kuranda quandong Elaeocarpus bancroftii on the ground. Many seeds contain holes made by the white-tailed rat feeding on the enclosed seed. As the track undulates through the rainforest, look for two types of lawyer cane—the vicious hairy Mary Calamus radicalis with hairy spines and Calamus motii with large yellow-green spines.

Further along where the forest opens out, she-oaks Casuarina sp. with needle-like leaves and large-fruited red mahoganies Eucalyptus pellita are dominant. As the track nears the top of the hill, harder metamorphic rocks become more obvious. Stone-pitched remains of the original dray road can also be seen just before junction 3 to Glacier Rock (Bunda Bulurru).

Glacier Rock (Bunda Bulurru)

Distance: 260 m one way

Time: All about 10 mins walking time

Grade: moderate

This short climb to the highest point on the Douglas track is rewarded with a spectacular panoramic view of the coastal lowlands and surrounding ranges. Notice the quartz veins on the side of the rocks. This rock type is more resistant to erosion than the surrounding rocks so forms a high point in the landscape—Glacier Rock. Bunda Bulurru is a significant cultural site and was an important meeting place for the local Djabugandgi Bama. Take extreme care at this site and supervise children at all times to keep them away from the cliff edge.

Track junction 3–4

Distance: 1.75 km

Time: allow about 1 hr walking time

Grade: easy to moderate

From junction 3, the track again follows the original Douglas track. Stone retaining walls from the original formed dray track can be seen in places. Old draught horse shoes, picks and chain links have been found here. As the track descends, low woodland changes to patches of remnant wet eucalypt forest which quickly gives way to rainforest. Look for smooth green bark of the elegant cadagi trees Corymbia torelliana usually found growing on the margin of rainforest.

At the entrance to the gullies, the temperature drops. Look for the smooth, flaky bark of kauri pines Agathis robusta and whip vines Flagellaria indica with cane-like stems and curved tendrils at the leaf tips, used for climbing. The track crosses a large footbridge across a seasonal creek and continues to wind through rainforest. Young pandanus trees with long, radiating, serrated leaves grow in the wetter gullies. In the higher, slightly more exposed areas, large pink bloodwoods, eucalypts and wattles emerge above the rainforest canopy. After crossing several small creeks, the track winds through slightly undulating terrain. Look for climbing pandanus Freycinetia excelsa, with serrated, pencil-like leaves, scrambling over smaller trees.

Option

From junction 4, the Gandal Wandun track (1.5 km) connects to the Smiths track, providing an alternate route to the Speewah camping area (Map location: thirteen (13)).

Track junction 4–5

Distance: 2 km

Time: allow about 1 hr walking time

Grade: easy

The track continues through rainforest, steeply undulating in places, and then runs along a creek bank before entering some deep gullies with dense rainforest and thick lawyer cane. Tall wattles emerge above the rainforest canopy on the higher ridges, regrowth from previous clearing for logging and grazing.

After the junction with a closed track, the track leaves the original dray road of the Douglas track. It winds into rainforest with large buttressed trees, lawyer cane and pandanus. Look for large black bean trees Castanospermum australe with orange-red flowers and long, boat-shaped seed-pods littering the ground from March to November.

Option

From junction 5, continue to the Speewah camping area along the Djina-Wu track (765 m) or turn left and follow Smiths track (track junction 5­–6) and Stoney Creek Road (3.6 km) to the Speewah camping area (Map location: thirteen (13)).

Smiths track

Start: Speewah camping area, Speewah (Map location: thirteen (13))

Finish: Smiths trailhead, Kamerunga (Map location: eleven (11))

Distance: 8.25 km one way (or via Yalbogie track, 9.8 km one way)

Time: allow about 6–7 hrs walking time (or via Yalbogie track, 8–9 hrs)

Grade: moderate–difficult

These track notes refer to sections of tracks between the numbered track junctions indicated on the Barron Gorge National Park map (PDF, 166K)*.

Track junction 13–5

From the car park at the Speewah camping area (Map location: thirteen (13)), take the Djina-Wu track to track junction 5 and turn right.

Track junction 5–6

Distance: 1.4 km

Time: allow about 1.5 hrs walking time

Grade: difficult

After a short distance, the track begins a steep climb. Stinging trees and lawyer cane are common in this section. The track passes through an area where several large trees have been snapped off at mid-canopy level by cyclones, and climbs through a taller stand of rainforest trees, many with buttress roots. On a short flatter section of track, look for the beautiful staghorn fern Platycerium superbum high on the trunks of trees. After a short steep climb, a ridge top provides views through the trees. At the top of another ridge is a beautiful stand of rainforest with maple silkwood Flindersia pimenteliana before the track winds on to junction 6.

Option

At junction 6, turn right to return to Speewah camping area via Stoney Creek Road (2.2 km).

Track junction 6–7

Distance: 1.1 km

Time: allow about 1 hr walking time

Grade: easy

Turn left at junction 6. This section of track follows an old logging track. Immediately to the right, notice two large flooded gums Eucalyptus grandis with yellow trunks and large back ‘socks’ at their bases. After the green gate the track descends, winding through wet eucalypt forest which is being encroached upon by rainforest due to the lack of fire in recent times. The candlenut tree Aleurites moluccana, with its broad, pointed leaves and nuts that can be moulded into a candle, is common along this section. Cadagi Corner (junction 7) features a beautiful stand of cadagi trees.

Option

From junction 7, continue to Tobys lookout (junction 9) along either Smiths track (turn left), with views over Stoney Creek gorge and falls, or Yalbogie track (turn right), past giant kauri pines and old mining sites.

Track junction 7–8

Distance: 375 m

Time: allow about 20 mins walking time

Grade: easy

Turn left at junction 7. The track leaves the old logging route, becomes narrower and re-enters mature rainforest. Soon, rainforest begins to change to wet eucalypt forest. Flooded gums, large-fruited red mahoganies Eucalyptus pellita and pink bloodwoods Corymbia intermedia dominate the canopy. The bloodwood’s spotted barrel- or urn-shaped seed-capsules may be scattered along the track.

Option

At junction 8, continue along Smiths track (turn right) or turn left onto the Gandal Wandun track (1.5 km) to join the Douglas track and return to Speewah or continue onto Kamerunga.

Track junction 8–9

Distance: 1.6 km

Time: allow about 1.5 hrs walking time

Grade: easy

From junction 8, the track winds along a ridge top, then descends into a gully and crosses the side of a steep ridge. It leads on to a ridgeline with views of Stoney Creek gorge to the left before descending back into rainforest. Remains of stone pitching from miners’ camp sites can be seen along the way.

Take care when crossing Stoney Creek. Do not attempt to cross when the flow is rapid or during wet conditions. From Stoney Creek the track winds up a steep embankment and then through a switchback section, providing views of Stoney Creek gorge, the railway line and Glacier Rock. Do not attempt to walk to the top of Stoney Creek Falls from here. A view of the top part of the falls can be had from the eastern ridgeline after crossing the creek. Extreme care should be taken due to the narrow ridge and sheer cliffs on both sides.

The track continues to Tobys lookout (junction 9) along a narrow ridgeline of open woodland featuring the smooth white bark of the Queensland blue gum Eucalyptus tereticornis.

Track junction 7–9 (alternate route via Yalbogie track)

Distance: 3.56 km

Time: allow about 2–3 hrs walking time

Grade: moderate

Turn right at junction 7. The Yalbogie track follows on old logging road through rainforest and for a short section passes through Dinden National Park. At The Kauris, two giant kauri pines Agathis robusta grow close to the track. Lawyer cane is prevalent in areas indicating past disturbance by cyclones or early logging and mining activities. Along the track historic stone-pitched benching and mining shafts, relics of earlier mining days remain.

Tobys lookout

Tobys lookout (junction 9) provides excellent views across to Glacier Rock and the coastal lowlands. A mining camp in the late 1800s, this site was later used as a seasonal camp by Mr and Mrs Toby in the 1940s. Cattle once roamed this area and overnight mustering camps were temporarily established on the route between Cairns and Mareeba. This area was once open grassland and was ‘a prime place to stop and let the cattle graze’. Mrs Toby served tea to local stockman as they mustered horses and cattle between Cairns and Mareeba.

Track junction 9–10

Distance: 1 km

Time: allow about 1 hr walking time

Grade: easy–moderate

The track continues to a ridge top and then descends through open woodland. The track now begins a long, steady climb to another ridge top, mostly through sheoak groves, cycads and open forest, then traverses the ridge face. Grasslands for grazing were maintained in this area by more than 100 years of destructive burning practices. The re-establishment of natural plant communities is being attempted through an appropriate fire management system.

Track junction 10–11

Distance: 2.4 km

Time: allow about 1–2 hrs walking time

Grade: moderate–difficult

Just before the track begins its long descent from junction 10, look across to Glacier Rock and Red Bluff. Take your time and watch your footing on the steep descent. The track winds through open forest, grassland and beautiful cycad gullies. Towards the bottom, ironbark trees Eucalyptus drepanophylla, with deeply fissured bark, grow in rocky areas. The track then does a switchback through an old railway construction camp before reaching a vine forest and creek. The track ends at the Smiths trailhead on Stoney Creek Road, Kamerunga (MaP location: eleven (11)).

Linking tracks

Djina-Wu track (Track junction 5–P)

Distance: 765 m one way

Time: allow about 15 mins walking time

Grade: easy

This track links Speewah camping area to the historic Douglas and Smiths tracks. It is an easy walk through spectacular rainforest with several creek crossings, boardwalks and a high bridge over a deep gully. Stinging trees, with their heart-shaped leaves, grow along the track.

Gandal Wandun track (Track junction 4–5)

Distance: 1.5 km one way

Time: allow about 1 hr walking time

Grade: easy

This track is a pleasant undulating rainforest walk that links the Smith and Douglas tracks, providing shorter return walk options from both Kamerunga and Speewah trailheads.

McDonalds track (Track junction 2–P)

Distance: 4.8 km one way

Time: allow about 3–4 hrs walking time

Grade: easy–moderate

This historic track, linking Wrights lookout near Kuranda to the Douglas track, is a four-wheel-drive management road that is not open to private vehicles. This track provides a direct pedestrian route linking Kuranda and Kamerunga. The first section of the track winds through steeply undulating rainforest to picturesque Surprise Creek. The track then climbs steeply and, about 2 km past the creek, the rainforest opens up into grassland. The track winds in and out of rainforest, following the power line corridor, before linking up with the Douglas track, just before Red Bluff. This track provides lovely views over the Barron River gorge and lower Barron Falls.

Walk safely

  • Inform someone of your itinerary including starting and finishing times.
  • Plan to complete your walk well before dark.
  • Select walks to suit your fitness and experience level—you need to be a fit and experienced bushwalker to walk the longer tracks.
  • Stay on the walking tracks and take care on rough uneven surfaces.
  • Stay clear of cliff edges and steep rock faces, and carefully supervise children
  • Ensure you carry adequate drinking water.
  • Wear sunscreen, a hat, protective clothing and sturdy footwear.
  • Be careful at creek crossings—water levels can change rapidly.
  • Wear protective clothing and insect repellant for protection against stings, scratches and insect bites.
  • Be aware that stinging trees are found alongside the walking tracks. Never touch this plant as it may result in a very painful sting.
  • Mobile phone coverage is unreliable.

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Last updated
22 November 2012