Tropic Now’s list of the best hikes around Cairns: treks, trails and walking adventures

Although you hear it all the time, we’re here to tell you again: there’s so much to do around Cairns.

Whether you dip into the world’s most dazzling underwater playground, traverse the prehistoric Daintree Rainforest, or indulge in the Tablelands’ abundance of tropical produce, there’s no excuse to be bored in this beautiful part of the world.

But you can’t fully comprehend how incredible the tropical north is until you’ve trawled through its quieter corners and scaled its highest peaks.

In no particular order, the Tropic team has curated a list of the best treks and trails to take you there. Let’s go.


1. Walshs Pyramid

Duration: 3 hours return

Elevation: 864m

As the world’s tallest freestanding natural pyramid, this hike is at the top of our hit list.

A 6.2km return track that initially hits hard with a steep, relentless incline (and a bit of rock scrambling), but eventually rewards you with 360° views of Cairns and surrounding mountains.

You won't miss it, but make sure you also take a moment to admire the peak from the ground.  Oh, and remember to take plenty of water.

MAP: Take me there

2. Earl Hill

Duration: 45 minutes return

Elevation: 197m 

A zigzagging walk between Trinity Beach and Half Moon Bay.

Taking only half an hour to reach the top of this shady, at times steep path, Earl Hill is a good one to do with your kids and furry friends.

This 3km track also makes for a good run, if you’re that way inclined.  

MAP: Take me there

3. Glacier Rock

Duration: 4 hours return

Elevation: 440m

Glacier Rock via Douglas Track is a little challenging but definitely do-able.

This 6.9km return track varies from rainforest to bushland to rainforest again, with a few clearings near the top to enjoy the view.

The track also starts and finishes at Stoney Creek, which is a perfect (and convenient) spot for a cool-down dip.

MAP: Take me there

4. Windin Falls

Duration: 3 hours return

Elevation: 278m 

There's a natural infinity pool, overlooking a scene that looks like it's straight outta' Jurassic Park. Need we say more?

Even better, this trail is lightly-traversed and relatively easy; perfect for people of all skill levels.  

Located in Wooroonooran National Park, less than two hours out of Cairns, Windin Falls makes for a wicked day trip. 

MAP: Take me there

5. White Rock

Duration: 2 hours return

Elevation: 272m

Short and sweet, but gets your heart going.

This trail is steep at the beginning and end, with a good dose of flowing trails beneath a rainforest canopy. 

As one of the only exposed rocky outcrops on the range, it offers unparalleled views over Cairns and the entire Trinity Inlet.

MAP: Take me there

6. Crystal Cascades to Copperlode Dam 

Duration: 2.5 hours return

Elevation: 462m

This trail starts with a tough 1.7km climb before flattening out. 

You'll then trek through dense rainforest alive with the sounds of cicadas and native birds. 

Follow the road for the last 500m to get to the picturesque Copperlode Dam (Lake Morris) – and a well-deserved cup of coffee at the lakeside kiosk.

MAP: Take me there

7. Ivan Evans

Duration: 1 hour

Elevation: 163m

Ivan Evans Walk is a nice all-rounder, accessible at any time of year.

Situated just beside Bayview Heights, this trail is a great spot to punch out some cardio. 

Whether you're a runner or a wanderer, it's a nice escape from the suburbs. Oh, and it's pooch-friendly. 

MAP: Take me there

8. Kahlpahlim Rock (Lamb's Head)

Duration: 4.5 hours return

Elevation: 721m 

The rock peak here is pretty impressive, but those who have conquered it will know the view from the top's even better. 

Overlooking Cairns in one direction and the Atherton Tablelands in the other, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better picnic spot in the region. 

The 12.6km loop is a solid slog but well worth it for the cloud-high vantage point and freshwater swim at the end. 

MAP: Take me there

9. Mount Sorrow

Duration: 5 hours return

Elevation: 706m

Beautiful but challenging, this hike offers a rare view over the Daintree coastline, Cape Tribulation and Snapper Island. 

There's a steep incline at the end, but entirely worth it when the view opens up. 

This one is best to tackle in the dry season to avoid leeches. Also, beware of cassowaries! 

MAP: Take me there

10. The Arrows

Duration: 1 to 5 hours return

Elevation: 364m 

In Mt Whitfield Conservation Park you'll find four different trails winding through all terrains, from grasslands to eucalyptus, wildflowers to rainforest.

Located just behind the Cairns Botanic Gardens in Edge Hill, Yellow Arrow and Red Arrow are a nice retreat for runners at less than 2km return each.  

Blue Arrow and Green Arrow take a bit more to tackle, though these tracks offer unrivalled vantage points over the Cairns Airport and coastal mangrove forests. 

But there are fantastic views along all trails and, if you have a sharp eye, you might even see a red-legged pademelon or an echidna along the way.

MAP: Take me there

11. Nandroya Falls

Duration: 2.5 hours return

Elevation: 267m 

The trail to Nandroya Falls is nothing but a treat. 

A little way in you'll come to a fork in the road: take the right turn along Douglas Creek to pass by rock pools and scenic views of the gorge.

The 6.6km loop meanders through Wooroonooran National Park, where you'll eventually encounter the magnificent waterfall (and maybe even a cassowary).

MAP: Take me there

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12. Hartleys Creek Falls

Duration: 2 hours return

Elevation: 290m

Closer to a bush walk than a hike, this local secret rewards you with a waterfall and plunge pool at the leisurely trail's end.

The entrance isn't signed, so use Hartley Creek Retreat as a landmark and you'll find the trail's start to the left.

Despite sharing a name with the nearby Hartley's Crocodile Adventures, you're safe from snappy things at these falls. 

MAP: Take me there

13. Mount Bartle Frere

Duration: 12 hours return

Elevation: 1500m

This isn't a hike for the faint-hearted. 

As Queensland's biggest peak (and the country's second biggest behind Mt Kosciuszko), Mount Bartle Frere can get the better of you.  

The walk should only be attempted in the 'dry' cooler months of August to October, as the wet weather will not be your friend when it comes to scrambling up the boulder field. 

Camp at the peak overnight if you'd like to break the trek into two – and catch the most spectacular sunrise ever.  

MAP: Take me there

14. Behana Gorge

Duration: 1.5 hours return

Elevation: 220m

Just a 30 minute drive from Cairns, this one is a great one to punch out in a few hours. 

The path is actually a sealed road – making great for all abilities – although it's a series of steep, heart-rate rising hills, so moderate fitness is required. 

At the end, you'll be rewarded with a super cold dip at Clamshell Falls. 

MAP: Take me there

15. Spring Creek Falls

Duration: 3 hours return

Elevation: 150m

There's no specific path to follow here other than alongside the creek, which offers plenty of small waterholes and cascades along the way. 

After a few kilometres of gentle elevation you'll reach a giant, gorgeous waterfall. 

Just out of Mowbray near Port Douglas, these falls are also known as Black Rock Waterfalls. 

MAP: Take me there

Any other hidden gems you think we should include? 

Let us know