Barron Gorge National Park is a spectacular geological feature of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and the centre of a fascinating network of historic trails. These trails were originally developed by the Djabugai People when they hunted and gathered food in their traditional tribal lands. With the advent of European settlement the trails were used by miners and agriculturalists in their drive to open up the hinterland and connect it with the coast. In recent years a co-operative effort between the Djabugai people and various government bodies has seen the trails reopened as historic walking tracks. The tracks follow the course of the original trails quite closely, and offer rewarding experiences for visitors of all age groups, whether they seek a tranquil rainforest stroll or a challenging long distance hike.
The walks listed below offer everyone a chance to experience a World Heritage listed national park in its full glory.
See the details below to find the walk most suited to you.
This walk, the first section of McDonald’s Track, starts at Wright’s Lookout and follows a service track through mixed forest types to Surprise Creek. It passes through a curious section of open forest that is rare in high rainfall country. The moderately strenuous walk descends to a small bridge over Surprise Creek. Upstream from the bridge there are deep clear pools and tumbling rapids.
Once you have completed the 1∙4km Surprise Creek section, McDonald’s Track continues another 3∙4km to Red Bluff. After a 500m forested section, it passes through cleared open country along the top of the Barron Gorge and connects with the Douglas Track. McDonald’s Track and Douglas Track link Kuranda with Speewah Trailhead and Kamerunga. There are views of the Gorge from elevated points along the track. Walkers can hike from Kuranda to Glacier Rock along this trail.
In 1876 Sub-Inspector Douglas and his party blazed a trail between the Tableland goldfields and Cairns, following an existing Djabugai trail. The present trail from the Speewah Trailhead follows the original Douglas Track fairly closely. It winds through dense rainforest to Glacier Rock, and then descends to the Douglas Track Road Trailhead in Rainforest Estate, Kamerunga. *The 4 hour return walk from Speewah Trailhead to Glacier Rock Lookout is a good alternative to a one-way hike.
Gold miner and explorer Bill Smith’s first attempt to blaze a trail from the Hodgkinson goldfield to the coast was thwarted by the Barron Gorge, where he glimpsed Trinity Inlet in the distance. Smith and his team decided on a different approach and sailed south from Cooktown in search of the inlet and found it. They battled through a maze of swamps to the Barron Gorge and found a way up a steep spur to the top of Stoney Creek and beyond to the goldfields, where they received a hero’s welcome. Now named Smith’s Track, the trail can be accessed from the Speewah Trailhead, from the end of Stoney Creek Road, Speewah, or from Kamerunga on the coast. The trail passes through rainforest, vine forest, grassland and open woodland, passing Toby’s Lookout and Bam-an Lookout *The 4-hour return walk from Speewah Trailhead, to the pools at the top of Stoney Creek Falls is a highly recommended alternative to a one-way hike.
The 3.6km Yalbogie Trail links Cadagi Corner and Toby’s Lookout. Along a 1km section of the trail there is a group of magnificent Kauri pines. The first and largest kauri has markings on its trunk that have been attributed to Chinese miners, but some suggest the marks were made by a local pastoral family who drove their cattle through the area. The trail reconnects with Smith’s Track at Toby’s Lookout. *In conjunction with Smiths Track and Douglas Track it forms a pleasant day’s circuit walk.
Djina-wu is the link trail between Speewah Trailhead and the start of Smith’s and Douglas Tracks. It can be undertaken as an easy short return walk from the campground.
Gandal Wundal is the link trail between Smith’s and Douglas Tracks that follows the ridgeline above Stoney Creek gorge. This pleasant, easy ridgeline walk forms part of a 5 hour circuit walk from Speewah Trailhead.
It is usually difficult to catch a glimpse of the wildlife, but a quiet walk into the forest can be pleasantly rewarding. Although many animals are nocturnal, in the morning bird activity is intense, Musky Rat Kangaroos forage through the undergrowth and Cassowary stalk the forest paths. You are almost certain to come across Scrub Turkeys aimlessly wandering across the trail or thoughtfully scratching leaves into nests. The secret is to walk quietly and wait patiently, and then the park occupants may reveal themselves.
© Kuranda 2023