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About Goldfield trail

Getting there and getting around

Goldfield trail. Photo: WTMA.

Goldfield trail. Photo: WTMA.

The Goldfield trail links The Boulders Scenic Reserve, 7 km from Babinda, and Goldsborough Valley day-use and camping areas, 46 km south of Cairns.

Both ends of the Goldfield trail can be reached by conventional vehicle but access roads, bridges and the trail may be closed due to flooding, particularly during the wetter months (December to April). The ends of the trail are over 60 km apart by road and neither is serviced by public transport. Walkers should consider this before setting out and arrange transport at their destination, or consider returning to their starting point. Alternatively the trail could be walked on different days, from either The Boulders or Goldsborough Valley, as two separate return trips.

See the Department of Transport and Main Roads for information about road and travel conditions.

Weather forecasts are available from the Bureau of Meteorology.

North-west end

The north-west end of the trail is at the far end of the Goldsborough Valley camping area, 46 km south of Cairns. Travel 24 km south of Cairns along the Bruce Highway and turn right onto the Gillies Highway at Gordonvale. Continue along this road for 6 km to the Goldsborough Valley turn-off on the left. Cross Peets Bridge and continue for 16 km through farms and cane fields to the camping and day-use area. The last 5 km is unsealed, narrow and winding but suitable for conventional vehicles, with caution. Please drive slowly and watch for wildlife and oncoming traffic.

South-east end

The south-east end of the trail is at The Boulders Scenic Reserve, 7 km west of Babinda. Drive 57 km south of Cairns along the Bruce Highway to Babinda. Turn right into Munro Street and follow the signs to The Boulders Scenic Reserve.

Wheelchair accessibility

The Goldfield trail is not wheelchair accessible. There are wheelchair-accessible toilets and day-use areas at both ends of the trail.

Park features

Boulder-strewn Mulgrave River. Photo: WTMA.

Boulder-strewn Mulgrave River. Photo: WTMA.

The Goldfield trail allows visitors to experience the beauty and diversity of Wooroonooran National Park. The trail links The Boulders Scenic Reserve and Goldsborough Valley day-use and camping area and travels through a lush tropical rainforest with refreshing creek crossings.

Originally the trail was a rough track from the coast over a saddle in the Bellenden Ker Range. Prospectors created the track in the 1930s, eager to reach the north-west slopes of Bartle Frere in search of gold. Although the trail fell into disuse when the goldfield failed to live up to its promise, the trail was re-opened in 1986 as an international volunteer project and is now popular with visitors.

The north-west half of the trail follows the banks of the East Mulgrave River along an old logging track, through stands of trees and sections of high grass.

Read more about the nature, culture and history of the trail.

Camping and accommodation


There is a bush camping area with no facilities halfway along the Goldfield trail at the Mulgrave River top causeway—at the end of the old logging road. Campers must be completely self-sufficient, carrying food, water and a fuel or gas stove. Camping permits are required and fees apply.

Camping is also available at the Goldsborough Valley camping area, at the north-west end of the trail. Again camping permits are required and fees apply.

There is also a campground outside the national park near The Boulders Scenic Reserve. Contact the Cairns Regional Council for more information.

Other accommodation

There is a range of holiday accommodation between Townsville and Cairns, including hotels, motels, B&Bs, hostels, farm stays, eco-lodges, caravan parks and commercial camping areas. For more information see the tourism information links.

Things to do

Creek crossing, Goldfield trail. Photo: Queensland Government.

Creek crossing, Goldfield trail. Photo: Queensland Government.

East Mulgrave River causeway. Photo: Queensland Government.

East Mulgrave River causeway. Photo: Queensland Government.

Walker on the trail. Photo: Queensland Government.

Walker on the trail. Photo: Queensland Government.

Mountain-bikers can use a section of the Goldfield trail. Photo: WTMA.

Mountain-bikers can use a section of the Goldfield trail. Photo: WTMA.


Goldfield trail (Grade: moderate)

Distance: 19 km one way

Time: Allow about 7–9 hrs walking time

Details: At The Boulders Scenic Reserve the trail starts beyond the children’s play area, near the toilets. Take the right-hand path at the Y junction and cross the wooden bridge. The trail follows Babinda Creek upstream and after 1 km enters Wooroonooran National Park. The trail leaves the main creek edge but continues along flat ground, crossing several smaller creeks. This section was partly logged before being declared Bellenden Ker National Park in 1921. The park name was changed to Wooroonooran National Park in 1994.

After about 3 km the trail rejoins the creek and starts to climb steadily for the next kilometre or so. There are no grand views from this trail but about 4 km from the start the first of many glimpses of the high Bellenden Ker Range can be seen through the trees. At about 4.5 km there is a fairly large creek lined with king ferns. Walkers wanting to do a shorter 4–5 hr return walk should turn back here (see map).

After crossing the creek the trail becomes slightly wetter with more king ferns. Red-bellied black snakes are reasonably common, sunning themselves in patches of sunlight. These are venomous snakes and should be avoided. At about 5.5 km the trail crosses another picturesque creek with mossy boulders and large king ferns. Take a break and listen for the calls of rainforest birds: the raucous screams of sulphur-crested cockatoos or the chatter of smaller bush birds like scrubwrens and thornbills. Look for Australian brush-turkeys turning over leaf litter on the forest floor.

From this creek the trail climbs steeply but beyond 6 km it becomes undulating, with more views of Bellenden Ker Range. The ground is quite rough and care should be taken, especially after wet weather. After some fairly steep climbs and descents visitors may hear the roar of the East Mulgrave Falls, about 2 km away.

After about 8 km the trail follows a ridge with valleys dropping away to the left. Some very steep descents eventually bring walkers to flatter ground and a series of creek crossings. Beyond the 9 km mark there is a wide creek crossing and the forest opens out. Follow the trail for a further 2 km to reach the causeway over the East Mulgrave River. Not far beyond this it joins the Mulgrave River.

The clear, deep pools of the river are a refreshing sight. Although there are no facilities, camping is permitted but permits must be booked in advance. Please note that after heavy rain it may be impossible to wade across the East Mulgrave River causeway.

From the causeway the trail follows a wide, former logging track along the banks of the Mulgrave River, crossing numerous creeks. Rainforest, with some picturesque strangler figs, arches over much of the trail with abundant native gingers at ground level. After 15 km the trail crosses an area of high grass with views of Kearneys Falls to the right. Another 4 km brings walkers to the Goldsborough Valley camping area and the end of the trail.

The trail may also be walked in the other direction, starting from the Goldsborough Valley camping area and finishing at The Boulders Scenic Reserve.

Read more about the nature, culture and history of the trail.

Picnic and day-use areas

Picnic tables, shelter sheds, gas barbecues and toilets are provided at Goldsborough Valley, Wooroonooran National Park and also at The Boulders Scenic Reserve.


Fishing is permitted in the Mulgrave River. Fisheries regulations apply—information on bag and size limits, restricted species and seasonal closures is available from Queensland Fisheries.


Mountain bike on an 8 km stretch of the Goldfield trail from the Goldsborough Valley camping area to the causeway over the East Mulgrave River (refer to map (PDF, 107K)). Expect to share the roads with pedestrians and other cyclists.

Mountain bikes are not permitted beyond the causeway.

Permits are not required to ride mountain bikes along this section of the Goldfield trail.

For more information, see cycling.

Things to know before you go

The trail crosses several small creeks. Photo: Queensland Government.

The trail crosses several small creeks. Photo: Queensland Government.

Be prepared for your hike to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable time.

Remember to tell a responsible person where you are going and when you expect to return. Let them know your route and contact them on your 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

Walkers of the Goldfield trail must be fully self-sufficient. Pack essential equipment and bushwalking gear including:

  • a basic first-aid kit, including a space blanket, and know how to use it
  • adequate clothing—be prepared for very cold and wet conditions
  • a high quality, lightweight and waterproof tent
  • a lightweight sleeping bag and sleeping mat
  • sturdy, reliable footwear—make sure your footwear has been worn in before you start your walk
  • sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and insect repellent
  • a torch or headlamp
  • biodegradable toilet paper and a small hand trowel
  • a gas or liquid fuel stove with spare fuel—open fires are not allowed
  • lightweight cooking and eating utensils
  • waterproof matches or a lighter
  • a washing-up container
  • drinking water
  • 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 worth of extra food
  • solid containers to store food, as native rats will chew through non-solid materials
  • at least one form of communication equipment—satellite phones and personal locator beacons (PLBs) are the most effective. Mobile phone coverage is unreliable.

Opening hours

Wooroonooran National Park is open 24 hours a day. The Goldfield trail may be closed during the wetter months, between December and April. Additional closures may occur for management purposes including pest plant and animal control. All walkers should check trail conditions before planning a trip.

Permits and fees

Camping permit

Camping permits are required and fees apply. A camping tag with your booking number must be displayed at your camp site.

Other permits

Permits are required for commercial or organised group activities. Contact us for further information.


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 November when the weather and trail conditions are at their best.

Daytime temperatures and humidity can be high at any time of the year and nights can be cool. Please carry suitable clothing for all extremes. May to November is generally the driest period, but heavy rain can fall at any time.

For more information see the tourism information links.

Fuel and supplies

Fuel and supplies are available from local towns including Babinda, Gordonvale, Innisfail and Cairns.

For more information see the tourism information links.

Staying safe

Take care near rocks. Photo: Queensland Government.

Take care near rocks. Photo: Queensland Government.

Stinging-tree leaves. Photo: Queensland Government.

Stinging-tree leaves. Photo: Queensland Government.

Walking the Goldfield trail is an extremely rewarding journey, but is also potentially dangerous. Rocks can be very slippery, the water cold and water levels can change suddenly and without warning. Flash floods are common in the wetter months.

  • Never jump or dive into water—there may be submerged objects.
  • Take care around steep slopes and rock faces along the track, and at lookouts.
  • Stay on the track and take care on uneven surfaces, especially in wet conditions.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Wear sunscreen, a hat and a long-sleeved shirt, even on cloudy days.
  • Wear insect repellent, adequate clothing and sturdy footwear for protection against stings, scratches and bites.
  • When cycling, wear appropriate safety gear and be realistic about your cycling abilities.
  • Slow down or stop when approaching other track users. Follow the give-way code—cyclists must give way to walkers, and alert others when approaching.
  • Avoid riding in large groups—keep groups to fewer than 12.
  • Avoid skidding and sliding around turns—this may result in collision with other trail users.
  • Treat all water before drinking.
  • Venomous red-bellied black snakes are relatively common on this trail. Always detour around snakes. Never provoke them.
  • Cassowaries live in this area. Never approach or feed these animals and remember to be cass-o-wary.
  • Be aware that stinging trees grow along the trail. These plants grow to 4 m 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 advice.

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

Looking after the park

Parks and forests protect Queensland's wonderful natural diversity and scenery. Help keep these places special by following the guidelines below.

  • Camping is only permitted in the designated camping area and permits are required.
  • Rubbish bins are not provided. Do not bury rubbish—take it with you when you leave. This includes cigarette butts, which do not decompose.
  • Stay on walking tracks at all times. This reduces the risks of injury, prevents disturbance to native plants and animals, and reduces erosion.
  • When cycling, stay on the track—riding over vegetation, breaking branches, taking shortcuts and forming new trails damages the environment.
  • Limit the spread of weeds by ensuring clothes, shoes, gear and bike are clean and free of seeds before arriving at the park.
  • Feeding of wildlife is not allowed as it can affect the health of animals and alter the natural population balance.
  • Take care not to pollute fresh water. Do not use soap, shampoo or detergents in rivers or creeks.
  • Bury human waste and toilet paper at least 15 cm below the ground and 100 m from waterways, camping areas and the trail.
  • Lighting of fires is not allowed. Please use a fuel or gas stove for cooking.
  • Everything in the park, living or dead, is protected. Please leave everything as you find it.

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.

Wooroonooran National Park is managed by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, in collaboration with the Wet Tropics Management Authority and the Traditional Owners.

Tourism information links

Cairns and Tropical North Visitor Information Centre 
51 The Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870
Phone: (07) 4051 3588

Babinda Information Centre

Munro Street, Babinda QLD 4861
Phone: (07) 4067 1008

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

Further information

Contact us.

Last updated
15 September 2016