One of the best hiking highlights in Outback Queensland would be to visit the Carnarvon National Park and complete the Carnarvon Gorge Walk. This wanders beside the banks of Carnarvon Gorge, crossing the stream several times. The sheer beauty and untouched nature will draw you to explore the different areas and sites to see. You will be hypnotised by the echoing sounds coming from the Birds and crickets. As well as a meditating effect, listening to the streams running over the rocks.
The Main Gorge track to the Big Bend will take about 8 hours to complete, but there are at least 6 diverts off the main track to see other sites, along with several other smaller hikes in the area. Therefore, plan your visit over a few days, to a week and organise a few different sites each day.
Where is Carnarvon National Park?
Carnarvon Gorge is located within Carnarvon National Park, in central Outback Queensland (about 9 hours north-west of Brisbane). It is easier to drive your own vehicle, although there are options to fly into Roma, hire a car from there and drive 3 hours to the National Park. After the turn-off from the main highway, the roads are intermittently gravel and dirt. This means a Four-wheel drive is also recommended, but not impossible for a standard two-wheel drive vehicle. Make sure to check that your insurance covers dirt roads if hiring a vehicle.
When to visit?
Due to the river crossings on the Carnarvon Gorge Walk, you need to visit at a time when the water level is low. Therefore, in winter, from March to October will be your best time to visit, but poles and waterproof shoes are always recommended to combat the water. Either way, you do still need to keep an eye on the rainfall before you visit, if only to know that the roads are not blocked on the way in.
Carnarvon Gorge Accommodation
Aside from the Parks & Forests run camping areas (read below), there are two different holiday park options close to Carnarvon National Park. The first one and the closest – being within the park itself – is the Breeze Holiday Park, which offers both camping and fixed accommodation. This is located only a short distance away from the walking trails. The second is the Sandstone Caravan Park which has a beautiful spot on top of a hill. It’s cheaper, but very basic and offers camping only. You’ll need to be self-sufficient with your own facilities. There are alternate and less convenient accommodation options at Rolleston and Injune, which are one to two hours away.
Carnarvon Gorge Camping
Camping at Carnarvon Gorge comes in two forms:
- Car camping at Carnarvon Gorge Camping Area (only open during the Autumn, Winter and Spring school holiday periods). Fees apply.
- Hiker (walk-in) camping at Big Bend Camping Area (open all year round), which is a 19.4 km return walk.
Away from the gorge, there are several other campsites that are within Carnarvon National Park. Find more info at the Queensland Government’s Parks & Forest Website.
Carnarvon Gorge Maps
This Carnarvon Gorge map from Parks & Forests gives a good overview of the gorge. Check out the Carnarvon Gorge / Carnarvon National Park Discovery Guide for even more detail, especially if you’re planning to undertake some of the detours. This Maps & Resources page is always worth checking out before you head to the gorge. Those undertaking the Carnarvon Great Walk will need to pick up a good topographic map.
The Main Carnarvon Gorge Walk
The Main Gorge hiking trail will leave from the Car Park or Information Centre and travels 19.4 kilometres return down the banks of the Carnarvon Gorge to The Big Bend. The track has you crossing the gorge several times and will be sign-posted with green-coloured pickets and arrows. There are stepping stones to help you over the stream, but some can be more difficult than others. Walking poles will definitely help, however, expect that your feet might get wet.
Apart from the detours, there is only a small amount of elevation on the Main Gorge Hike, and easy enough to do for most levels of fitness. However, the days are long and can be tiring walking over intermittent rocks. Consequently, a good pair of hiking shoes with ankle support are recommended to deter away from rolling ankles.
Things to see & side-tracks to the Main Carnarvon Gorge Walk
Along the Main Gorge Hiking Trail, you have a few shorter routes, coming off the track to see other sites and unique areas of the gorge. Read on for details…
Distance from Main Track: 1.2 kilometres return (30 mins)
One of the more popular spots to visit due to ease and the closest to the Information centre. There are a few stairs to go up and down, but in the end, you reach an isolated, wet and dark area called the Moss Garden. There’s a small boardwalk and a very mossy cliff edge with a gradual cascading waterfall. If you’re hiking on a hot day, you’ll find this area a lot cooler and a nice relief.
Distance from Main Track: 1.2 kilometres return (30 mins)
The Amphitheatre is the result of years of water erosion and debris forming a 60 metres chasm. Access is by aluminium stairs, through a small canyon, which opens up in a garden oasis. You can hear the echoing of each tiny sound made. However, if you can sing then this will be really amazing.
Distance from Main Track: 600 metres return (20 mins)
This is where you’ll find over 200 drawings and aboriginal rock paintings left behind by the Bidjara and Karingbal Aboriginal People. They have been placed on the sandstone walls and tell the stories of their time.
Distance from Main Track: 540 metres return (20 mins)
Be introduced to ferns, plenty of other gorge vegetation, and another cooler spot on your journey. Depending on how much water has been passing through at the time, it will determine how far you can get in.
Distance from the Information Centre: 18.2 Kilometres return (5 -6 Hours)
This is one of the largest cultural areas of the park and shows what housed the Aboriginal tribes thousands of years ago. There is a large overhang and much more rock paintings to explore.
Distance from the Information Centre: 18.4 Kilometres return (5 -6 Hours)
This is a slot canyon-style exploration, and without a formed track, you simply go as far as you possibly can. You’ll find a lot of plants and smooth rock edges marking your way through the chasm.
The Big Bend (End of the Main Gorge Track)
Find yourself surrounded by sandstone walls with a small waterhole at the bottom. This is your first off-grid camping location, for those completing the Carnarvon Gorge Great Walk ( 6 to 7 days and 87 km). Have a short break here and immerse yourself in nature at its finest, before heading back on the same track.
Need to Know
Map: Carnarvon Gorge Walks Map
Last Visited: 2020
Length:19.4 km return for the Main Carnarvon Gorge Hike (will vary depending on detours if you choose to explore any of those above).
Time: 7 to 8 hrs (for the Main Carnarvon Gorge Hike).
Grade: Moderate / Grade 3 (according to the Australian Walking Track Grading System). Defined track with inclines and steps. Caution is needed on creek crossing, ladders, and steps, and a reasonable level of fitness is required. Some of the detours can be Grade 4.
Region: Central Queensland.
Park: Carnarvon National Park.
Closest Town: Rolleston or Injune (or Roma for the airport).
Path Taken: Main Gorge Hike to the Big Bend, including Moss Garden, The Amphitheatre, Art Gallery, Wards Canyon, Cathedral Gorge, and Boowinda Gorge.
Car Access: Car Park and Information centre are available on Carnarvon Gorge Road, right at the entrance to Carnarvon National Park.
Nearby: The Warrumbah Gorge and Mickey Creek hike is still within the National Park and a must-do on your visit. The Rock Pools hike is short and the only swimming location available, although the waters can be very cold. Boolimba Bluff is recommended for the views over the National Park.
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