A taste of Queensland’s Great Walks—take a day hike!
Issued: 23 Sep 2020

Have you always wanted to have a sneak-peak of one of Queensland’s Great Walks?

Photo credit: Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government


Have you always wanted to have a sneak-peak of one of Queensland’s Great Walks but don’t yet consider yourself to be a multi-day hiker? Or, perhaps you only have one day to spare, not several in a row?

Exploring Queensland National Parks on a multi-day hike is an incredible experience, but it’s not for everyone! And that’s ok!

So, don’t be put off by the title—many of these multi-day Great Walk trails also offer a selection of shorter day hikes where you can experience Queensland’s remarkable natural areas and outstanding biodiversity (and be back home for dinner!).

Many multi-day hikes are one-way, while others are long distance circuits. This means if you’re walking a section of track as a day hike, you may need to do it as an ‘out and back’ return hike. Alternatively, if there are access roads along the route, you may be able to walk one-way and organise transport to pick you up, or do a ‘car drop’ at the start and finish.

So, are you ready for a taste of Queensland’s Great Walks?

Before you set off

Hiker inspecting a park map with scattered gear in the background.Plan your hike | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government

Before you travel, do your research.

  • Read up on the location, weather, conditions and climate, and check Park Alerts for track conditions or park closures.
  • Research the day hikes on the Great Walk trail webpages and note the distances and times suggested. Take into account the fitness level of your group and also the extent of their outdoor hiking experience. Be mindful that you are only as fast as the slowest person in your group and that the group must always remain together.
  • Most multi-day walks are graded for level of difficulty, which takes into account the hardest sections of the trail, based on the Australian Standard Track Classification system. Check the track classification and notes for your intended trail on the park web page.
  • Choose the route you intend to walk and download the relevant maps and track notes. Topographic maps are available for a number of Great Walks.
  • Plan your transport and where to leave your vehicle/s.
  • Check if you require permits or need to sign on/off a walker register.
  • Pack and wear gear that is suitable for the climate and conditions on the trail.
  • Take two or more mobile phones shared among the group as well as a basic first aid kit. You will also need a satellite phone, Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) so you don’t get caught out in areas with no reception.
  • If you choose to do an ‘out and back’ route set yourself a time limit at which point you must return to base. Check the energy levels of the individuals in the group and if anyone shows stress symptoms consider turning around earlier in the hike to allow more time for the return leg.
  • Work out the travel times to/from the start/end of the walk and build this into your itinerary for the day.
  • Always carry plenty of drinking water—even for shorter hikes.
  • Always carry a head torch even if you don’t intend to walk in the dark. Many a hiker has been caught out on a trail in fading daylight when they have underestimated the duration of the hike.
  • Before you head off, always leave a copy of your walking plans with friends or family and let someone know your estimated time of arrival (ETA).

Preparation is key

Hiking boots, socks, a towel and the contents of a first aid kit are laid out on a rock.Pack all the essentials | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government

Be prepared and then be willing to adapt! Part of the appeal of adventures on foot is that you don’t really know what you will find out there! There is always the possibility of an unexpected challenge such as a sudden change in the weather, or a trail that turns out to be harder than you had anticipated, meaning ‘Plan B’ has to be implemented.

This is how we grow and build resilience—by adapting to change, stepping out of our comfort zones and making the best of a situation.

So make sure you head out on to the trails, well-prepared, with a positive attitude. Don’t be scared, be prepared!

Here are two suggestions for day hikes that will give you a taste of Queensland’s Great Walks.

Carnarvon Gorge: Visitor Area to Big Bend Walkers' Camp return

A dark creek dotted with rocks and fringed by palmtrees leads way to a towering sandstone gorge.Carnarvon Creek along the Main Gorge track | Robert Ashdown © Queensland Government


Time/distance walking: Total 20km+ return with option to turn back before reaching the 10km at Big Bend.

Track grade: 3 and 4 (Track grades range between 1 and 5, where 1 requires no walking experience, and 5 is for very experienced hikers with specialised skills)

Location: Carnarvon Gorge section of Carnarvon National Park is about 246km north of Roma and 241km south-east of Emerald. This is a remote location, far from shops or facilities, so you will need to come prepared with everything you will need and stay somewhere nearby to access the walk.

Highlights: Towering cliffs, colourful gorges, mountain streams, colourful plant life and sites steeped in history and culture.

Carnarvon Gorge visitor area to Big Bend walkers’ camp: 9.7km one way (allow 3–4hr walking time one way, longer if you visit the side-gorges). Return via the same route, or if you have time, visit some of the side gorges, each of which hosts a beautiful natural feature. You can choose from the Moss Garden, the Amphitheatre, the Art Gallery and Cathedral Cave. At the turn off to each of these from the main trail there is excellent signage giving you distance, time and description of the trail. You can literally lose track of time exploring these magnificent trails and being amazed by the vastness of the Amphitheatre. So make sure you take this into account when planning how many of the side trails you can include in your day hike.

Tall sandstone gorge walls encircle a space filled with lush tree ferns, creating an amphitheatre-like atmosphere.The Amphitheatre | John Augusteyn © Queensland Government

Expect relatively flat terrain with lots of river/creek crossings, which can take time and may slow you down if you are not familiar with this type of terrain. The advantage of this return hike is that you can always turn around if you realise you are running out of time, or decide that you would like to do more of the side trails instead of trying to get all the way to Big Bend.

Autumn and winter generally provide the best climate here, but be prepared for very cold overnight temperatures below 0°C. Note that it gets dark fairly early during these two seasons.

You will need to have booked accommodation or camping nearby to be able to access the park and walk within daylight hours. Find out more about camping at Carnarvon National Park.

Remember, the use of drones is not permitted within the Carnarvon Gorge section of Carnarvon National Park.

Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk: Baroon Pocket Dam to Kondalilla National Park

A waterfall flows into a rock pool. Waterfall at Kondalilla National Park| Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government


Time/distance walking: 10km one way (‘out and back’ return 20km). Allow 4–5hr one way.

Track grade: 3 and 4 (Track grades range between 1 and 5, where 1 requires no walking experience, and 5 is for very experienced hikers with specialised skills)

Location: About 90km north of Brisbane, traversing the Blackall Range in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. Drive from Montville and follow the signs towards Baroon Pocket Dam via Western Avenue and Narrows Road. Turn right into the Great Walk (GW) entrance car park just before the Baroon Pocket Dam picnic area.

Leave your car here if you intend to do the return route, and remember to take any valuables with you. Leave any non-essential valuables at home so you won’t have to worry about them throughout the day. If you intend to walk one way and finish at Kondalilla, you could park a vehicle at each end of the walk and when your group finishes the walk drive someone back to the starting point to collect the other car. Allow time for this car shuffle in your day’s itinerary.

The end point at Kondalilla is the car park for the day-use area, located at the entrance to the national park, at the end of Kondalilla Falls Road.

Highlights: Palm-lined streams, bridges and boardwalks, views over the Narrows Gorge, lookouts, waterfalls and rock pools.

Two hikers on a boardwalk surrounded by bush.Hikers in Kondalilla National Park | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government

Expect varied terrain and water over the track after heavy rain. Take care and check local conditions and reports after a rain event. You’ll find well-marked trails with lots of beautiful lookouts, so take the opportunity to photograph some of these, and take note of the abundant bird life all around. The route is fairly well-shaded by forest so it can be walked at any time of the year, but the cooler weather is preferable. If you go in the warmer months, aim to start early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day.

The Sunshine Coast Hinterland is a gorgeous area to explore, with many restaurants, cafes, country shops and friendly guest houses. Make a weekend of it and enjoy other day hikes exploring different sections of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk.

Keen for more?

: A hiker in bright rain gear on a walking track surrounded by lush green rainforest. Hiker in rainforest | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government

While you might not think of yourself as a long-distance hiker right now, but after experiencing a taste of Queensland Great Walks, you could easily find yourself planning your first multi-day or overnight hike.

Find out more about these parks and start planning:

Looking more for adventure? Check out the website for more longer or multi-day hikes in Queensland National Parks.

Remember, no matter what type of hike you’re planning to do, always check park alerts and weather conditions before you go! Happy exploring!