How to do Girraween National Park
The UK has Stonehenge; Queensland has Girraween National Park, home to curious, natural rock formations – the kind that lure 120,000 visitors to the park each year.
Spread across 117 square kilometres, Girraween National Park’s natural rock formations prove Mother Nature is the world’s best landscape gardener.
Wind, water and ice are her tools of choice, and she used them all to carve this national park out of the granite landscape over tens of millions of years.
Set aside a day or an overnight adventure to find beauty in this park’s ruggedness, with this guide to Girraween National Park:
What’s so special about Girraween National Park?
Within its 11,800 hectares you’ll find a scattering of granite boulders, balancing in gravity defying positions.
Take Balancing Rock for instance – the giant boulder that looks like it’s teetering on a mountaintop, resting on a base that looks to be the size of a dinner plate.
Girraween National Park trails
Before choosing a walking adventure, you’ll need to select your launchpad. The walking tracks start from Bald Rock Creek Camping Area, Pyramid Road and Dr Roberts Waterhole car park – aka in the north, south or east of the park.
Most walks start from Bald Rock Creek Camping Area so if you’re short on time, we suggest starting from there.
Please note that due to current drought conditions, both camping facilities at both Bald Rock Creek and Castle Rock are currently closed. However, they are still very much open for day-use, so there’s no need to delay your trip.
Walks to take for a good time, but also a long time
If you’ve time and energy on your side, take the 15km return walk to Castle Rock, The Sphinx and Turtle Rock, then on to Mount Norman.
The ridge-line track to The Sphinx and Turtle Rock is a little gentler than The Pyramid, promising views of the Granite Belt countryside before arriving at the famous rock formations.
From here, if you’re up for a little rock scrambling you can continue onwards a few more kilometres to Mount Norman – the highest point in the national park.
Walks to take when you’re short on time
The most-famous return route is The Pyramid, which winds its way through Girraween National Park to its most famous attraction, Balancing Rock.
This 3.6km return journey takes you to the top of a natural pyramid, where you’ll find Balancing Rock.
Getting there is nothing short of a scramble, so expect to be on all fours in parts of the climb.
Shoes with strong grip are essential as there are no safety rails on this incline. Remember – if it’s raining or snowing, forget about your climb.
The flora and fauna of Girraween National Park
In the local Indigenous language, Girraween translates to ‘place of flowers’ and with over 750 plant types, Girraween National Park very much delivers on its name.
The best time to see wildflowers in full bloom is spring, from golden wattles to yellow, red and purple pea flowers. In summer you’ll find flannel flowers and orchids in bloom.
On the cute and cuddly side, there are 22 mammals who call this park home, but it’s most common to see red-necked wallabies and brush-tailed possums.
In the warmer months, you’re likely to see slithery inhabitants who otherwise hibernate as the temps drop.
Please note, the current drought affecting this area is attracting more wildlife to the edge of the road to feed, so please be cautious entering the park as our fauna-friends are often difficult to see.
The best photo spots in Girraween National Park
For your very own photo that’s akin to holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa with one hand, climb to the top of the Pyramid to pose as if you’re holding Balancing Rock upright.
If that’s all a bit cheesy for you, pack a light tripod and hike the Pyramid in the wee hours to catch sunrise over the national park from its second highest point.
Granite Arch also frames a crisp photograph but without a wide-angle lens, you can struggle to fit the whole thing in.
For something less expected, visit the outdoor spas at Girraween Environmental Lodge down the road. If you time the trip for July/August, this winter wonderland will look like a scene you’d normally see apres-ski in the northern hemisphere.
Local tips and tricks
Like most of Southern Queensland Country, Girraween experiences four seasons.
Girraween National Park dishes up a taste of the northern hemisphere with winter nights that dip to temps as low as -8°C.
It gets so chilly that its rock pools can ice over like little glaciers, snow caps can form over the granite boulders, and fresh powder can fall on the tracks in winter – even enough for a snowball fight!
Although you can visit all year round, winter is the season to visit because the weather is temperate for longer hikes, and you’re likely to hike under big blue skies.
Where to stay in Girraween National Park
Unfortunately due to current drought conditions, the park’s two campsites – Bald Rock or Castle Rock – are temporarily closed along with its remote walk-in sites.
We hope they reopen soon because Girraween National Park’s two campsites earn a place on our camping hater’s guide to national parks. They have easy access, and happen to be within 30kms of these six James Halliday 5 star-rated wineries!
In the meantime, we suggest booking into a campsite in Stanthorpe and surrounds instead. Just be conscious south-east Queensland is under a total fire ban at the moment – so there’ll be no marshmallows on the fire this camping experience.
Where to sleep in comfort near Girraween National Park
If you’re more interested in creature comforts than camping, check into Girraween Environmental Lodge. Its romantic chalet-style cabins replace the tent’s canvas for Aspen-esqe wooden walls.
Set on 400 acres, it’ll give you the same taste of sleeping in Girraween, minus the outdoor showers and loos.
Did we mention their outdoor spa baths are perfect to soothe your aching hiking muscles?
Prep further for your Girraween National Park and Granite Belt adventure with these guides:
- If you’re less about the walk and more about the wine, check out these places to eat and drink around the Granite Belt
- Make a weekend out of it with this guide to weekend escapes from Brisbane
- Add a weekend visit to Stanthorpe onto your Girraween adventure
- Never heard of Girraween National Park? Discover more unknown national parks here.
*Please note the temporary closure of all Queensland campgrounds in national parks, state forests and state-managed recreation and protected areas, in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.