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LOCATION: Stoney Creek

Photos courtesy of Tourism Tropical North Tourism

If you speak to 99% of the people who have visited Cairns or Far North Queensland and asked them what they thought of Stoney Creek, the Douglas track and Glacier Rock, you would probably hear “you say what?” coming back from the tourist’s mouth. Along with that will be a look of astonishment, “Stoney where?, We went to the reef and the rainforest.” Well, the Stoney Creek section of The Barron Gorge National Park is an unsung marvel, jam packed with swimming holes, sensational views (think Jurassic Park) and densely packed rainforest. There are numerous walking tracks through the region that allow hikers to explore a multitude of different terrain in the Wet Tropics.

Hiking Barron Gorge National Park from Stoney Creek

The last time we hiked in the region there was wildlife a plenty. Admittedly we started walking at the break of dawn (by 6am) and it was nice and cool for the animals to be out playing. In the first fifteen minutes there were sightings of wallaroos, paddy melons, wallabies, a snake, lizards, uncountable birds and much Cassowary scat (but no big bird). There is something nice, knowing you are so close to civilisation and being so inundated by nature at the same time. Stoney Creek is only a 15 to 20 minute drive from the central hub of Cairns and yet it still remains a secret.

People don’t realise just how close Cairns and Kuranda are, to drive between them takes about 45 minutes, but it’s only 8km in a straight line. The tracks around the Stoney Creek region connect Kuranda and Speewah to as close to Cairns as you are going to get. To walk to Kuranda from the bottom of the range can take as little as 1.5 hours or as long as you would like. This is a great walk but even better when you mix in the views from Glacier Rock and a quick dip in one of the many creeks around. It makes for the most interesting way to get up to Kuranda.

The rest of the article will highlight the main trek with Barefoot Tours through the region. This is the final day on their 4 day hiking tour and also a possible day tour for the keen hiker. Once around the Stoney Creek region the hike begins at the start of the Smith Track. From the beginning we get the hardest of the walk out of the way, climbing to an altitude of around 550m above sea level. Even though the first 45minutes of hiking is uphill it is made easier by the early start, cool air and the abundance of wild life singing you along the path. The beautiful thing about this track is that it is in the shade for the majority of the day.

After about an hour there are stunning views from Toby’s lookout, followed by a relieving stop around the top of Stoney Creek for a cool down (if the water is deep enough a quick dip). There will be a number of small waterholes throughout the hike, and we have learned to take advantage of the crisp clear rainforest streams. Through this region the rainforest gets thick and there are some astounding ferns and carpeted mossy fallen trees. The walk has now got a lot easier since we have climbed up the main steep section to begin with. Following the trail around to Speewah is fun, but if you wish to shorten the track you can skip this section by taking on the Gandel Wandun track to shorten the days stride. Doing the whole circuit including Speewah tracks in at just over 18km, but every step is well worth it.

Following the Smith Track around past Speewah is more dense and beautiful rainforest and once on the Douglas Track this will continue until Glacier Rock. (Don’t worry the signposts are well marked for the track but we definitely advise taking a map with you just in case.) Glacier Rock is exactly what it sounds like, a massive smooth rock. But this is not just any old rock, the views from the top of this walk rival many around the region. You will be stunned.

From here we hike back to the Douglas track and follow it as it meanders down the range. It’s the first time in the day you will be walking without the shade of the rainforest. Even though it is exposed, it allows for great variations of views over Cairns and the Coral Sea. The contrast between walking up through the depths of the rainforest and coming down with open views of the coast has a dramatic effect of making this feel like the complete hiking trail. As well as this you will be walking down and over the Kuranda Railway, so if you time it correctly you might just get the train. 

The last section of the hike is a very relaxed meander to the bottom of Stoney Creek, and by now you have definitely earned a swim. There is the choice of swimming at the bottom of the creek or even going for a little more of a hike to the slightly deeper pools further up the hill. All in all a great day hike with a fantastic way to finish.

Photo credit: Photos courtesy of Tourism Tropical North Queensland