A guide to the best day walks and hikes in Carnarvon Gorge
The US may have the Grand Canyon, but here in Queensland we have the ‘Green Canyon’, AKA Carnarvon Gorge, a slice of sandstone wilderness full of mesmerising hikes.
Located some 700km north-west of Brisbane, Carnarvon Gorge offers passionate hikers the chance to dust off a comfy pair of boots and explore a variety of different walking tracks.
While it may be relatively unknown compared to other National Parks in Queensland, Carnarvon Gorge is easy to access and has a range of accommodation options. With over 173 bird species, rugged cliffs, ancient cycads, fragile ferns, refreshing swimming holes and Aboriginal rock art, you’ll feel like you’re walking through dinosaur country.
Strap up your boots, pack a few snacks and get set to explore one of Queensland’s most underrated National Parks with these handy tips.
Once you’re out on the country roads, avoid driving at dawn or dusk when the local wildlife is active (and hard to see). Roma makes for a great overnight stop if you’re running out of light. Injune and Rolleston are the last stops for fuel before heading towards Carnarvon Gorge.
For a speedier trip, fly to Emerald and then hire a car for the three-hour drive to Carnarvon Gorge.
Nature Trail (1.5km return)
The nature trail is a beautiful yet concise way to see just what Carnarvon Gorge is about.
Head out at dawn or dusk for your best chance to see wildlife, including platypus in Carnarvon Creek.
Mickey Creek Gorge (3km return)
Mickey Creek Gorge is a fun walk for little ones, as the trail becomes a rock-hopping and scrambling adventure at times. Take care as the rocks can be slippery after rain.
Swamp wallabies and echidnas can be spotted along the track.
Rock Pool (600m return)
With a name like Rock Pool, it’s no surprise that this short walk leads to the only place in Carnarvon Gorge designated for swimming. It’s the perfect spot to visit after a day of tough hiking.
Watch out for platypus and turtles while you swim in the cool waters or laze around in the shade of fig and casuarina trees. There’s also a picnic area and toilets here.
Boolimba Bluff (6.4km return)
Be warned: the track to Boolimba Bluff is steep. Really steep.
The track involves one arduous section that is made up of a few hundred metres of steps and ladders. But the view from the top, 200m above Carnarvon Creek, is well worth the effort.
If the mind and body are willing, start early to arrive in time for sunrise.
Moss Garden (7km return)
Escape the midday sun and make your way to the cool waterfall and green walls of the Moss Garden.
This little gem of a walk is like stepping into a storybook, where imaginary fairies play amongst sandstone walls that drip with water and lush green moss.
Amphitheatre (8.6km return)
This one is for the slightly more adventurous walker and involves scaling a tiered ladder – kind of like an adventure to Middle Earth – to get to the point where you can venture 60 metres deep into the sandstone chamber.
This walk is perfect for those wanting some quiet time, and is one of the must-see sites in Carnarvon Gorge.
Inside the chamber you’re surrounded in nature’s very own amphitheatre.
Ward’s Canyon (9.2km return)
Here, you’ll come face-to-face with ‘green dinosaurs’ as Ward’s Canyon is home to the world’s largest fern – the king fern (Angiopteris evecta).
Walking into the narrow canyon is like stepping into a chilly air-conditioned office. It’s the perfect pit stop to rest your feet, cool down and watch the gentle swaying ferns.
Art Gallery (10.8km return)
Carnarvon Gorge is home to some of Australia’s best Indigenous art and the Art Gallery makes for a wonderful day out.
There’s a slight hill towards the end of the trail, but the extra huff and puff is worth it.
The rock art tells stories from the local Bidjara and Karingbal people.
Cathedral Cave and Boowinda Gorge (18.4km return)
If the legs can handle the long return walk, Cathedral Cave is an excellent spot to see more Aboriginal rock art.
100m upstream of Cathedral Cave is Boowinda Gorge, a narrow boulder-filled landscape that is begging to be explored.
Big Bend (19.4km return)
Big Bend is a long day walk that leads to the upper reaches of Carnarvon Creek.
There is a camping ground here with a composting toilet.
If almost 20km in a day seems like too much, camp overnight at Big Bend before heading back the next day. This option allows you more time to explore all the side tracks in the park.
Really long walks
Carnarvon Gorge Great Walk (87km circuit)
For serious hikers, the Carnarvon Gorge Great Walk is a challenging and rewarding way to explore the park in full.
The 6-7 day journey links the Carnarvon Gorge and Mount Moffat parks, treating walkers to quiet trails and five walker’s camps.
Expect to see plenty of wildlife, be engulfed by stars each night and reach some lofty heights – including the ‘Roof of Queensland’ at 1232 metres above sea level.
You need to be completely self-sufficient for this hike and have had previous experience with multi-day hikes. Stock up on food in Roma or Injune.
The walk is closed from the start of November to the end of February due to the summer heat.
What to bring
As with any hike in the wild, make sure you bring more than enough food, water, sunblock, insect repellent and warm clothing.
For any of the longer hikes, go with a partner or group and let someone know where you’re going.
The average temperature is normally very pleasant, but in winter, the minimum can creep below zero so pack accordingly.
And always make sure you check the QLD Parks website before departing for the latest alerts.
Where to stay
The most convenient place to base yourself for your Carnarvon Gorge odyssey is at the visitor area, which is open for camping for the Easter, winter and spring Queensland school holidays.
Wallaroo Outback Retreat is a little bit further out, but it is a great option for glampers looking for a peaceful spot.
After more great hikes in Queensland, try one of these:
- Wander the lush trails of the Gold Coast Hinterland
- Conquer enormous sand blows on the Cooloola Great Walk
- Have an epic adventure on the Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island