6 mountains you can climb (and camp on!) near Cairns
Flying into Cairns it’s impossible to miss the vertiginous vantage points that let you admire the landscapes of Tropical North Queensland. The Great Dividing Range spills into the Coral Sea, creating the ultimate playground for amateur mountaineers.
If you’ve already hit the reef and sussed the night scene in Cairns, it’s time to look to the mountains. Lace up those boots and hit the trails.
Mount Bartle Frere
At 1622m above sea level, Bartle Frere is the highest point in Queensland, meaning this hike comes with an added sense of cred and accomplishment.
Expect to be on the trail anywhere from 6-8 hours to reach the summit, so make sure you plan well so you’re not depleted of daylight on your return journey.
Carefully check weather conditions before you leave too, as the powers above can be unpredictable. It’s also recommended to have some salt and insect repellent on hand to ward off leeches and mozzies… and water, don’t forget the water.
If a round-trip feels like a stretch, consider packing a tent and pitching at the top for the night.
Back on level ground, the rushing Josephine Falls makes a welcome spot to cool weary feet (stick to the designated swimming areas as the water gets rough in these parts).
If summiting a mountain feels a bit intense, opt for the 1.2km-return rainforest walk alongside the falls instead.
Why dominate just one mountain when you can cross two off your bucket list in one go?
The Baldy Mountain Forest Reserve on the Atherton Tablelands includes the 8.5km Baldy-Yabi circuit walk, which traverses across two mountains. Alternatively, you can just do a return walk to each summit separately.
The climb up Baldy is steep in sections, but the marked track is a favourite for fitness-loving locals who enjoy a quick view of Tinaroo Dam at the top before scuttling back down.
And remember, you’re in Tropical North Queensland, so keep your eyes peeled for snakes.
If you prefer to fuel your adrenaline with two wheels instead of two feet, this area also has excellent trails at the Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park.
A hulking form with a hidden history, Mount Emerald forms part of the Great Dividing Range and its track cuts through fragrant eucalypt forests.
Near the summit is a plane wreck, where the mayor of Cairns and a number of local councillors lost their lives in 1990. The trail begins at the end of unsealed Anderson Road and takes around 5 hours return.
You’ll find more info on the trail on the Tablelands Regional Council website.
Snorkelling, diving and beach lounging aren’t the only things to do on Fitzroy Island – you can also don your walking shoes and scale the island’s summit.
At 3.2km return, you won’t be left feeling too drained, but rather invigorated by the spectacular views of the beaches and rainforest. In winter you might even spot a whale cruising by.
The island’s lighthouse is en route and a number of other trails such as the Secret Garden and Nudey Beach hikes also cut across the island. Whatever path you choose, it would be rude not to reward your efforts with a cocktail. You’re on a tropical island after all.
This granite prism rises 922m to create a steep 6km return hike. Although a challenging climb, gallantly standing on the peak affords an impressive 360-degree view across the Wooroonooran National Park and beyond. Keen runners can sign up for the annual ‘Great Pyramid Race’, which tracks across Gordonvale and up the mountain.
You’ll find Walsh’s Pyramid 26km south of Cairns.
Visit the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing website for maps and more info.
Misty Mountains wilderness trails
While not a single mountain as such, the Misty Mountains Wilderness Trails traverse 130km of high-altitude terrain through national parks bordered by the towns of Tully, Innisfail, Mena Creek, Millaa Millaa and Ravenshoe. Depending on the trail you choose, feel at one with nature with crystal clear creeks, flowing waterfalls or dense forest foliage. This area receives high rainfall so the landscape is often a brilliant green.
Be sure to stick to tracks within your skill level, as some trails in this area are remote. Bad weather can also close off sections of the tracks.