The Carnarvon Great Walk starts and finishes at the visitor area of the Carnarvon Gorge section, Carnarvon National Park. A secondary entrance is located near the West Branch camping area in the Mount Moffatt section of the park.
When to visit
The Carnarvon Great Walk is closed from the start of November to the end of February—the hottest time of the year. The track may also be closed at other times during fires or adverse weather conditions, for essential track maintenance or for safety reasons.
The Carnarvon Gorge and Mount Moffatt sections of Carnarvon National Park (and the short walks within them) are open to visitors all year round.
There are a number of short-walk options within the Carnarvon Great Walk, based around the main gorge track at Carnarvon Gorge. The main gorge track is also the first section of the longer Great Walk, which continues up and beyond the gorge onto the tablelands of the Great Dividing Range.
Please make sure you have a copy of either the Carnarvon Gorge Visitor Guide or the Mount Moffatt Visitor Guide when you walk in these parks.
Above and beyond—the complete circuit
There are six sections of the Carnarvon Great Walk, marked as routes R1 to R6. The walk should be tackled in a 'clockwise' direction from the Carnarvon Gorge Visitor Area.
The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has produced a Carnarvon Great Walk Topographic Map, which is essential for planning and undertaking your Great Walk. Purchase a copy of the Carnarvon Great Walk Topographic Map.
Key to track standards
The classification system is based on Australian Standards. Please note that while each track is classified according to its most difficult section, other sections may be easier.
Class 3 track
- Gently sloping, well-defined track usually with slight inclines or few to many steps.
- Steep sections occur.
- Caution needed on creek crossings, ladders, steps and lookouts.
- Reasonable level of fitness and ankle-supporting footwear required.
Class 4 track
- May be extensively overgrown; hazards such as fallen trees and rocks likely to be present.
- Caution needed on creek crossings, loose surfaces, cliff edges and exposed naturally-occurring outlooks.
- Moderate level of fitness and ankle-supporting footwear required.
Class 5 track
- Steep track with irregular surface and loose stones.
- Requires high level of physical fitness. Considerable exposure to the elements may be experienced.
- High-quality, ankle-supporting footwear with flexible soles and good grip should be worn.
R1 Carnarvon Gorge visitor area to Big Bend walkers’ camp—9.7 km (allow 3–4 hours walking time, longer if you visit the side-gorges) Class 3 & 4
From the Carnarvon Gorge visitor area, the Great Walk heads along the main Carnarvon Gorge track, following the winding course of Carnarvon Creek up the ever-narrowing gorge. The main walking track is mostly flat, although side-branches involve steeper sections.
Surrounded by towering cliffs of Precipice Sandstone, Carnarvon Creek is a cool and green oasis compared to later, more elevated, stages of the Great Walk. Carnarvon fan palms, ancient cycads, flowering shrubs and gum trees line the creek, while narrow side-gorges provide a protected environment where remnant rainforest survives. Side-branches from the main track lead to a range of sites, including the Moss Garden, Ward’s Canyon, the Art Gallery and Cathedral Cave.
The Aboriginal rock art adorning the sandstone walls at the Art Gallery and Cathedral Cave includes some of the best-known and finest rock imagery in Australia.
This first section of the Great Walk ends at Big Bend—also the end of the gorge’s main walking track.
R2 Big Bend walkers’ camp to Gadd’s walkers’ camp—14.8 km (allow 6–7 hours walking time) Class 5
From Big Bend the Great Walk trail leads through the narrow, boulder-lined Boowinda Gorge before heading steeply up and out of Carnarvon Gorge towards Battleship Spur. Ascending over 600 m in 4 km, the walk to Battleship leads the walker along narrow ridges and across rocky scree slopes towards the basalt-capped top of the Great Dividing Range.
At over 1000 metres above sea level, the Battleship Spur lookout provides sensational views back over Carnarvon Gorge and further east. From here, the trail heads across grassy plateaus and down the western side of the Great Divide into the Mount Moffatt section of Carnarvon National Park. This is the headwaters of the Maranoa River—itself part of the Murray-Darling catchment. Gadd’s walkers’ camp is situated near the site of an old stockyard—for many years stockmen camped here when this area was a highlands cattle run.
R3 Gadd’s walkers’ camp to West Branch walkers’ camp—15.8 km (allow 5–6 hours walking time) Class 5
From Gadd’s walkers’ camp, the trail leads uphill, heading along a narrow-side branch of the Maranoa River for 6km before leading steeply up onto the plateau and the Great Dividing Range once more. There are great views back over Carnarvon Gorge, and also to the south-west a little further on. From here the track heads south-west, before leading steeply down a ridgeline into Boot Creek, from where the basalt-capped peak of Mount Moffatt itself can be seen beyond the rolling hills with their cover of yellow grass and waves of silver-leafed ironbark.
The landscape on the western side of the Great Dividing Range is less dramatic than Carnarvon Gorge, but equally as interesting. Here, the Maranoa River has eroded broad valleys from the soft, more elevated layers of sandstone.
Descending into Boot Creek, the track heads down one of these sandy valleys and eventually over a suspension bridge across the west branch of the Maranoa River and into the West Branch walkers’ camp. Water is available here, and toilets are a short distance away.
R4 West Branch walkers’ camp to Consuelo camping zone—17.3 km (allow 6–7 hours walking time) Class 5
This is the Great Walk’s longest section. From West Branch the trail climbs steadily uphill once again, leading up onto the Consuelo Tableland, where you will cross the crest of the Great Dividing Range, which heads away in a north-westerly direction. There are great views of the western mountain ranges and Mount Moffatt.
A cool change from the open rugged country you have just passed through, the Consuelo Tableland has deep, fertile basalt soils—remnants of the Buckland Volcano’s basalt flows. The deep soils and cool, moist conditions support a tall woodland/open forest of silvertop stringybark and Sydney blue gum, with patches of rough-barked apple. Swathes of kangaroo grass, blady grass and at times, bracken fern cover the ground. Macrozamia (cycads) are common here, in places reaching as much as six metres in height.
The track leads through a very tall open forest consisting almost entirely of majestic silvertop stringybark. Known as the Mahogany Forest, this is one of the area’s best examples of this forest type. The trail passes close to the southern edge of the plateau, through small pockets of casuarinas where the sound of red-tailed black cockatoos may be heard from high above.
The Consuelo Tableland reaches a height of 1232 metres above sea level at a point just to the south of the Great Walk trail. You are now walking across the 'Roof of Queensland', the most elevated part of the Central Queensland Sandstone Belt and one of the highest places in Queensland.
R5 Consuelo camping zone to Cabbage Tree camping zone—13.8 km (allow 3–4 hours walking time) Class 5
Foley’s camping zone has been a place where people have camped for many years under the shelter of Queensland blue gums and rough-barked apple trees. A series of springs—including Foley’s, Ferntree and Heavenly springs—are hidden along the tableland. These water points were known to Aboriginal people and the stockmen who followed.
This section of the Great Walk is a gradual south-east descent along the top of the Consuelo Tableland. The track will lead you through an area of grass trees with towering flower spikes, with casuarina forest on your right.
From Foley’s Springs the trail heads through tall open forest. This area is frequently burnt, with the varied undergrowth reflecting this—carpets of bracken fern indicate recent burns, while unburnt areas have an understorey dominated by acacias.
R6 Cabbage Tree camping zone to Carnarvon Gorge visitor area—15.3 km (allow 5–6 hours walking time) Class 5
The last leg of the Great Walk skirts the eastern edge of the Consuelo Tableland and heads back down into the Carnarvon Gorge visitor area. After several kilometres of walking the tableland narrows, and the trail leads close to the northern edge of the plateau, from where there are views north to Mount Acland (Black Alley Peak)—a remnant of basalt rising from the sandstone of Black Alley Ridge.
The trail descends steeply to the south from the tableland, down onto a broad, lower plateau known as Jimmy’s Shelf. You are following the trail once used by stockmen to travel between the plateau and the lower country. After several kilometres heading south, the trail climbs several steep ridges and crosses deep gullies before heading up Demon’s Ridge. Passing within view of the large rock formation known as the Devil’s Signpost, the trail leads south again, with the imposing Bulknaoo Cliffs looming overhead. A 700 m side-track leads to the Boolimba Bluff Lookout, with views over the mouth of Carnarvon Gorge.
From here, the trail descends through spotted gum woodland to Carnarvon Creek. There are steps, steep sections including one very steep section with 300 m of steps and short ladders.
Expect the best, but prepare for the worst—you are responsible for your own safety. Sections of the Carnarvon Great Walk are very remote and isolated. Accidents have happened, even to experienced bushwalkers. Nature can be unpredictable, and storms, fires and floods can happen in a flash.
Follow these guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip for you and your group.
- Check weather conditions a day or two before leaving on the Bureau of Meteorology website.
- Check park alerts for fire danger, track closure and other park information before you leave.
- Never walk alone. Small groups of about four are ideal.
- Be surefooted. Wear sturdy, enclosed boots or shoes.
- Don’t overheat. Avoid walking in extreme heat or during periods of high fire danger.
- Watch your head. High winds cause branches to fall. Walkers’ camps may be closed temporarily in very windy conditions.
- Carry adequate drinking water, food and a first-aid kit. Treat all water before drinking.
- For your safety, do not walk at night—plan to set up camp well before sunset; pack a torch and batteries.
- Have an emergency plan.
- Ensure experienced adults accompany children.
- Obey all safety and warning signs.
First aid—be prepared
A practical working knowledge of basic first aid is highly recommended when undertaking remote walks. Be familiar with first aid procedures for blisters, hypothermia, heat exhaustion, snakebite and sprained or twisted ankles. Ideally, at least one person in your party should have an up-to-date first aid qualification. You should carry a well-stocked first-aid kit, and make sure that other members of your party know where it is located. The nearest hospitals are at Roma, Injune and Mitchell.
Stay on track
Do not forget to take the Carnarvon Great Walk Topographic Map, a compass and a GPS with you! Stay on marked tracks and trails. Check your map regularly to mark your progress against features. Do not push too hard—stop to make camp well before dark or before bad weather and keep your group together, especially towards the end of the day. If someone becomes ill or if difficult weather sets in, make camp and wait for conditions to improve or for help to arrive. Know your group and its limitations and change your plans as necessary.
If you think you are lost, sit down and stay calm. Use the map and compass or GPS. Do not continue travelling until you know where you are. If you are lost, stay in one place and wait for help to arrive.
Fires and floods
Bushfires can occur without warning. Be aware of, and prepared for, the dangers. If there is a bushfire, follow the track or trail to the nearest road, firebreak or waterway for refuge. Burnt ground, large logs or a ditch can also provide some protection. Avoid areas of long grass and stay low to the ground where the air is coolest and contains the least smoke.
Water levels in the area’s creeks can rise very quickly during rain. Do not cross creeks during floods or after heavy rain. If caught during a flash flood, stay on high ground and wait until the waters have receded. Continue your walk only when you can safely cross the creeks.
The walking track may be closed in extreme weather conditions. Please observe all signs.
Where the wild things are
Carnarvon National Park is home to an enormous diversity of fauna. Remember that any animals you encounter are wild, and should be treated with respect.
Do not feed any wildlife, or non-native animals. Human food is often harmful, with kookaburras, magpies, butcherbirds and goannas especially vulnerable. Some animals can quickly become reliant on human food and become aggressive. Keep food hidden in your pack or tent, and please take all rubbish home with you.
You may encounter wild dogs, dingoes or horses on this Great Walk. If so, do not encourage, excite or coax them in any way. Occasionally, stallions can be threatened by people and may become aggressive. In such situations stay calm and move away.
Like most national parks, Carnarvon has a range of snake species. As they prefer to avoid humans, snakes are rarely seen—if you do encounter a snake, calmly walk away without disturbing it. Some snakes are more active at night, so always use a torch, wear shoes and watch where you walk. Ensure that you are familiar with first aid for snake bite.
For more information on snakes visit the Queensland Museum's Queensland Snakes webpage.
In an emergency
Emergencies do happen. What happens when things go wrong can depend to a large extent on the planning and preparation you have made at home. Make sure you have followed the procedure outlined in the plan your walk carefully section.
There is no mobile phone coverage along the Carnarvon Great Walk. If you have an EPIRB, it should only be activated in a serious emergency situation, when there is no alternative way to raise assistance. Satellite phones can be used on the Carnarvon Great Walk.
For more information, please read the guidelines on safety in parks and forests.
Carnarvon National Park is a special place that has been loved by generations of visitors. Help protect Carnarvon by following the guidelines below.
Only use existing sites at walkers’ camps. Do not dig trenches or flatten or break any vegetation. Leave your site in the same or better condition than when you found it, so others may enjoy the Great Walk too. Check your site thoroughly before leaving to ensure nothing is left behind.
Rubbish: Pack it in, pack it out
All rubbish (including food scraps and bagged sanitary products) must be carried out. You can help the park by bringing out any other rubbish you find. Carry a small rubbish bag, so that even tiny scraps of tin foil, lolly papers, and cigarette butts can be removed.
For more information watch the reduce and recycle web clip.
No open fires are allowed along the walk—fuel stoves must be used. Open fires increase the danger of wildfires, lead to vegetation being trampled when firewood is collected and the removes plant material that provides shelter for fauna.
Toilets are provided at Big Bend, Gadd’s and West Branch walkers’ camps. To assist the treatment process, do not throw rubbish or sanitary items into toilets and please close the lid after use.
Where no toilets are provided, take care with sanitation and hygiene and do not pollute the natural water supplies.
- Bury all faecal waste and toilet paper in holes 15 cm deep and at least 100 m from water, camps and tracks. Make sure you carry a small trowel or spade for this purpose.
- Consider using a human waste disposal kit to take waste out with you. Kits are available from some camping stores. Please follow manufacturer’s directions on the packet and dispose of waste responsibly.
- Wash away from streams, gullies and watercourses, as all detergents, soaps, sunscreens, insect repellents and toothpastes pollute water and damage aquatic life.
For more information watch the bush toileting practices web clip.
See the guidelines on caring for parks for more information about protecting our environment and heritage in parks.