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About Bartle Frere

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Getting there and getting around

The Bartle Frere trail can be accessed from the coast at Josephine Falls or from the west via the Atherton Tableland. From the summit you can return to your starting point or continue to complete the 15 kilometre trail.

From Josephine Falls

Josephine Falls is 75 kilometres south of Cairns. Turn right off the Bruce Highway two kilometres south of Miriwinni and drive eight kilometres to Josephine Falls. Access is suitable for conventional vehicles.

From Atherton Tableland

From Malanda, travel 5.5 kilometres along the Malanda–Yungaburra road then turn into Topaz Road and travel two kilometrespast Butchers Creek School. Turn left to Lamins Hill lookout—this gravel road can be slippery when wet—and follow the signs for seven kilometres to the end of Gourka Road and the national park boundary. Junction camp, two kilometres along the track, marks the start of the walking trail.

Wheelchair accessibility

There are no wheelchair-accessible tracks or facilities along the Bartle Frere trail.

Trail features

The Bartle Frere trail provides opportunities for fit, experienced and well-prepared bushwalkers to access the rugged wilderness of the Bellenden Ker Range, part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

You will discover the unique vegetation and wildlife of the upland and lowland rainforests as you climb to the summit of Bartle Frere, Queensland's highest peak. On a clear day, enjoy stunning views stretching from the coast to the Atherton Tableland.

Natural, cultural and historical values make this walk special.

Read more about the nature, culture and history of Bartle Frere, Wooroonooran National Park.

Camping and accommodation

Camping

Four camping areas have been established along the trail: Junction camp, Western Summit camp, Eastern Summit camp and Big Rock camp. Bush camping is also allowed along any part of the trail if required. No facilities are provided. There is an evacuation hut at the Eastern Summit camp for emergency use only. It should not be relied upon for shelter. There is a small creek at Western Summit camp but no guaranteed water along the trail. Treat all water before drinking.

Camping permits are required and fees apply. All camping along the Bartle Frere trail must be pre-booked—self-registration at camping areas is not possible. Bookings are not for specific camping areas, but for the trail as a whole.

Other accommodation

There is a range of holiday accommodation in and around the towns between Townsville and Cairns and on the Atherton Tableland. These include hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, hostels, farm stays, eco-lodges, caravan parks and commercial camping areas.

For more information see the tourism information links below.

Walking options

The Bartle Frere trail is not for everyone. Be aware that walkers have been lost for several days in this area, despite widespread searches. Walkers must be well-prepared and responsible for their own safety. See things to know before you go and staying safe for further information.

Although well marked, the trail is unformed and very steep. Walkers must be prepared for rock scrambling in places. Only experienced and extremely fit bushwalkers should attempt the trail.

Walk times are approximate only. They are based on what an average walker would expect to travel in good conditions. You will need to adjust these times to suit your group's level of experience and fitness. Remember to allow plenty of extra time for rest, meal breaks and sightseeing.

When walking, always follow your movements on a map. Distance markers have been placed along the entire length of the trail at one kilometre intervals. These indicate the distance to the east or west trailheads for the walk. For example, '3W' means three kilometres to the west trailhead. This can help to accurately pinpoint your location and monitor your progress.

From the summit you can return to your starting point or continue to the other side. If you plan to walk from one end of the trail to the other, be sure to make private transport arrangements.

Walks from Josephine Falls

Josephine Falls to Broken Nose—10 kilometres return (allow eight hours) Grade: difficult

Josephine Falls to Big Rock camp

The walk from Josephine Falls carpark to Big Rock camp is relatively easy, with only a moderate climb (rising 400 metres over three kilometres; allow about two hours).

Big Rock camp to Broken Nose

The trail to Broken Nose branches off the main Bartle Frere trail at Big Rock camp. The climb from Big Rock camp to Broken Nose is steep (rising 400 metres over two kilometres; allow about two hours) and there is no water along the trail. Broken Nose offers excellent views of the coast and the Atherton Tableland. The trail returns to Josephine Falls along the same route.

Many campers choose to leave their overnight packs at Big Rock camp and carry only day packs on the climb.

Josephine Falls to Bartle Frere summit—15 kilometres return (allow two days) Grade: difficult

The trail starts at an altitude of 100 metres and rises to 1622 metres at the summit; an average gradient of one in five.

Josephine Falls to Big Rock camp

The walk from Josephine Falls carpark to Big Rock camp is relatively easy, with only a moderate climb (rising 400 metres over three kilometres; allow about two hours). Many campers choose to leave their overnight packs at Big Rock camp and carry only day packs to the Bartle Frere summit.

Big Rock camp to Eastern Summit camp

This section is a steep climb (rising 1000 metres over four kilometres; allow about five hours). The remains of an old mine are 100 metre off the trail at Eastern Summit camp, but take care as the descent to the mine is steep. There is a camping pad at Eastern Summit camp that you are encouraged to use to reduce impacts on the environment. Do not leave equipment on the camping pad during the day as the pad may be used to land a helicopter in an emergency.

Those camping overnight will enjoy the beautiful sunset and sunrise, weather permitting.

Eastern Summit camp to Bartle Frere summit

The final ascent (rising 300 metres over 500 metres; allow about one hour) to the broad summit of Bartle Frere requires scrambling over boulders and can be slippery when wet. For your safety, grip bars have been installed to help you through the boulder field. Enjoy fabulous views over the township of Innisfail and the coast to the east. To the west you will see the undulating landscape of the Atherton Tableland.

From the summit, walkers can either return to Josephine Falls or continue on to Junction camp.

Josephine Falls to Junction camp—15 kilometres one way (allow 10–12 hours) Grade: difficult

The trail from Josephine Falls to Bartle Frere summit is described above. The trail from the summit to the Atherton Tableland is described below under: Walks from Atherton Tableland.

Walks from the Atherton Tableland

Junction camp to Bartle Frere summit—15 kilometres return (allow two days) Grade: difficult

The trail starts at 700 metres altitude and rises to 1622 metres at the summit; an average gradient of one in eight.

Junction camp to North West Peak (five hours )

The trail starts at Junction camp. A short distance from the start of the trail is a turn-off to the picturesque Bobbin Bobbin Falls. The trail to North West Peak is steep (rising 700 metres over 5 kilometres). This part of the trail has occasional rock scrambles and long sections of continuous uphill walking.

North West Peak to Western Summit camp (two hours)

On a clear day, enjoy excellent views of Bellenden Ker and the Mulgrave River valley from an exposed outcrop of rocks one kilometre from North West Peak. The trail continues to Western Summit camp. This campsite is in a very small clearing beside a creek. The site is suitable as a rest point before the climb to the summit, or as a campsite for an overnight stay.

Western Summit camp to Bartle Frere summit (one hour)

From Western Summit camp it is 750 metres to the summit. The trail becomes a scramble over and through numerous granite boulders to the broad summit of Bartle Frere. This part of the climb can be very slippery when wet. Enjoy fabulous views over the township of Innisfail and the coast to the east. To the west, enjoy views of the undulating landscape of the Atherton Tableland.

From the summit, walkers can either return to Junction camp or continue to Josephine Falls.

Junction camp to Josephine Falls—15 kilometres one way (allow two days) Grade: difficult

The trail from Junction camp to Bartle Frere summit is described above. The trail from the summit to Josephine Falls is described under: Walks from Josephine Falls.

Things to know before you go

The Bartle Frere trail is remote and isolated. Prepare thoroughly to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable walk.

Before you go

The Bartle Frere trail is isolated and help can be hours away. You must be responsible for your own safety and be well prepared. Tell a responsible person where you are going and when you expect to return. Let them know your route and don’t forget to contact them on your safe return. Have a contingency plan in place if you fail to contact them by the agreed time. If you change your plans, inform them.

Essentials to bring

The Bartle Frere trail is remote and isolated. Prepare thoroughly to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable walk. Plan to be fully self-sufficient and pack the following safety equipment and bushwalking gear:

  • a basic first-aid kit including a space blanket
  • adequate clothing—be prepared for very cold and wet conditions
  • a compass and a map or track guide
  • a quality lightweight and waterproof tent
  • a lightweight sleeping bag and sleeping mat
  • sturdy, reliable footwear
  • sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and insect repellent
  • a torch or headlamp
  • biodegradable toilet paper and a small hand trowel
  • a pocket knife
  • a gas or liquid fuel stove with spare fuel
  • lightweight cooking and eating utensils
  • waterproof matches or a lighter
  • a washing up container
  • adequate water—enough for the duration of the walk
  • waterproof bags for keeping clothing and bedding dry, and for storing rubbish
  • nourishing lightweight and compact food, and high-energy snacks—for safety, allow 1-2 days extra food
  • solid containers to store food as native rats will chew through non-solid materials
  • at least one form of communication equipment, preferably a satellite phone or an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), as mobile phone coverage is limited and unreliable.

Opening hours

Wooroonooran National Park is open 24 hours a day. The Bartle Frere trail may be closed during the wet season, between December and April. Additional closures may occur for management purposes including pest plant and animal control.

Permits and fees

Camping permits are required for camping in Wooroonooran National Park and along the Bartle Frere trail and fees apply. A camping tag with your booking number must be displayed at your campsite.

Pets

Domestic animals are not permitted in Wooroonooran National Park.

Climate and weather

To ensure your visit is fun and comfortable, try to visit between May and October when the weather and trail conditions are at their best. During this time, temperatures are generally cooler and the weather drier. Temperatures on the mountain are around 10 degrees Celsius cooler than on the coast. Be aware that strong winds of 25–40 kilometres/hour can occur and the wind chill factor can result in temperatures below freezing.

During the wet season, from December to April, rain can be extensive and very heavy. The region receives some of the highest rainfall in Australia, often more than 10 000 millimetres annually. The highest recorded annual rainfall for the summit was 11 850 millimetres in 1999. Day temperatures average about 30 degrees Celsius with 90 per cent humidity and nights can be cool.

Cloud envelops the upper ridges of the mountain suddenly and rainstorms are common all year round. Rain, cold and poor visibility can make camping and bushwalking uncomfortable and potentially unsafe. In extreme weather conditions the trail may be closed.

Carry suitable clothing to accommodate all extremes.

For more information see the tourism information links below.

Fuel and supplies

Fuel and supplies are available from local towns such as Innisfail, Tully, Malanda and Yungaburra.

Staying safe

The Bartle Frere trail travels through remote and isolated country. Walkers must be well-prepared and responsible for their own safety. Consider your ability and the trail conditions carefully before setting out.

  • Never walk alone. Groups of four are ideal.
  • Always let someone know your travel plans—see things to know before you go.
  • Carry adequate drinking water. There is a small creek at Western Summit camp but no guaranteed water source along the trail. Treat water collected from creeks.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Wear sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and a long-sleeved shirt, even on cloudy days.
  • Take waterproof clothing as it is often wet, windy and cold near the summit.
  • Wear adequate clothing and insect repellent for protection against stings, scratches and insect bites, especially bites from ticks.
  • Check regularly for leeches and remove.
  • Avoid stinging trees. These plants are found at rainforest edges. They grow to four metres high and have large, heart-shaped leaves with serrated edges. Do not touch these plants as it will almost certainly result in a very painful sting. If you are stung, and symptoms are severe, seek medical attention.
  • Set up camp well before dark. For your safety do not walk at night.

In the event of an emergency, communication equipment is vital. Satellite phones and EPIRBs are the most effective. Mobile phone coverage is available only on some exposed parts of the walk. In case of an emergency, if you have mobile network coverage available dial 000. If you have difficulty connecting to 000, try dialing 112.

For more information, please read the guidelines on safety in parks and forests.

Looking after the park

Please help protect this area and keep it in its natural state.

  • Do not chase, scare or feed animals.
  • Take all rubbish home with you, including food scraps.
  • Use fuel stoves only. Open fires are not permitted.
  • Always stay on the trail. Do not cut corners or create new tracks.
  • Wash at least 50m from creeks and rivers. Use gritty sand, hot water and a scourer to clean dishes. Avoid allowing soap, detergents, toothpaste and cosmetics to come into contact with creeks.
  • Toilets are not provided. Use a trowel to bury toilet waste and paper. Dig a 15 centimetre hole at least 100 metres away from watercourses and tracks. Take all sanitary items home with you as they do not decompose.
  • Remember this is a national park—everything is protected.

See the guidelines on caring for parks for more information about protecting our environment and heritage in parks.

Park management

Wooroonooran National Park forms part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. It is managed for the purposes of nature conservation and nature-based recreation.

Tourism information links

Cairns and Tropical North Visitor Information Centre
www.cairnsgreatbarrierreef.org.au
51 The Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870
ph (07) 4051 3588
fax (07) 4051 7509
email

Atherton Tableland Information Centre
www.athertoninformationcentre.com.au
Corner Silo Road and Main Street, Atherton QLD 4883
ph (07) 4091 4222
fax (07) 4091 5828
email

Babinda Information Centre
Corner Bruce Highway and Munro Street, Babinda 4861
ph (07) 4067 1008
fax (07) 4067 1118
email

For tourism information for all regions in Queensland see Queensland Holidays.

Further information

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Last updated
15 September 2016