Misty Mountain Trails

Blog Post

Camping out: Overnight cycling adventures

Cameron McGavin

TNQ Writer

If your idea of two-wheeled heaven is escaping into the wilderness and staying, the Misty Mountains region south of Cairns is made for you.

Welcome to the Misty Mountains. Tropical North Queensland’s most pristine high-altitude rainforest, spread out over the Tully Gorge, Tully Falls and Wooroonooran National Parks. Home to crystal-clear creeks, thundering rivers, towering waterfalls and Queensland’s highest peak, the 1622m Mt Bartle Frere.

With extensive camping facilities and 130km of wilderness tracks to explore – many open to mountain bikes – it’s possible to dial up any kind of adventure, from mild to wild.

With its diverse wilderness and abundant national parks, Tropical North Queensland is home to many breathtaking mountain biking tracks. It’s important to always follow the advice from Queensland Parks and never venture into dangerous areas to prevent serious injury or death. Check trail conditions for the Smithfield MTB Park, Atherton Forest MTB Park and for all other trails visit Trailforks.

K-Tree, Maple Creek, Sutties Gap, Bora Ground and Maalan Roads

K-Tree Road

K-Tree Road Creek Crossing

Track signs

These unsealed roads have their ups and downs but are technically easy, allowing you to really savour the beauty of the towering rainforest that envelops you, and their proximity to several camping areas puts a wide array of dirt-road adventures on offer. Park at the Henrietta Creek campground, ride 35km to the Hinson Creek camping area and overnight there before returning. Or park and camp at South Johnstone camping area, using it as your base for exploring these roads or other, more adventurous, Misty Mountains trails.

Koolmoon Creek Track

Elizabeth Grant Falls

While mountain bikes are only allowed on part of this trail, it’s a good part – 14km from the eastern trailhead to a lookout that takes in one of the region’s many watery attractions, the magnificent Elizabeth Grant Falls, then back again. The eastern trailhead’s proximity to the Cochable Creek camping area means this return ride, which includes a run over the impressive Cochable Creek causeway, can easily be bundled in with a night under the stars.

Gorrell Track

Follow an old logging track

The rainforest in the area is full of unique flora and fauna including many King Ferns

Gorrell Track

This old logging track traces a 25.8km trail through the mountains, valleys and dense rainforest of the isolated Downey Creek catchment area of Wooroonooran National Park. With its climbs, descents and river crossings it’s a more hardcore Misty Mountains adventure. The western trailhead’s proximity to the South Johnstone camping ground, plus the Downey Creek camping area approximately halfway along, puts everything from a monster 50km-plus return ride to more leisurely affairs on the table.

Cardwell Range Track

Cardwell Range

This track ekes a 19km path up and down steep slopes, through thick jungle and over the creeks and rivers of the rugged Cardwell Range, giving mountain bikers their toughest, most technical riding challenge in the region. But there are rewards for the hard work, not least the short detour to the awe-inspiring Cannabullen Falls. The western trailhead’s proximity to the Hinson Creek camping area, plus another campground along the trail at Cannabullen Creek, puts a range of bike-packing itineraries on offer.

Packing tips from a pro

A portable water filter is an bike-packing necessity

Few know more about riding Tropical North Queensland’s trails than Dan Foley. His company, Dan’s Mountain Biking, has been escorting eager punters on mountain-biking adventures in the region since 1993 and was the first tour operator in Australia to gain permits to ride in the World Heritage rainforest. If you’re planning a Misty Mountains bike-packing adventure, take his advice and pack the following:

1. GPS tracker
This is isolated country and the rainforest can change quickly. You need one of those spotter GPS devices so you can get back-up in an emergency.

2. Water treatment
You don’t have to carry as much water as you do in some places because there’s so much of it in these tropical areas, it’s all World Heritage and straight from the jungle. You can just carry filtration.

3. Cold/wet-weather gear
People think ‘North Queensland, it’s tropical’, but you can still get cold up here. Head up into those hills and you can get zero degrees at night, and you can easily get wet, so bring lightweight thermal wear and a spray jacket, just in case.

Keep pedalling on

With endless trails at your doorstep, why stop at these?

crankworx mountain biking
Cairns & Northern Beaches
The ultimate guide to Crankworx Cairns

The inaugural Cairns stop on the Crankworx World Tour is almost here. While the dirt is still getting turned and sculpted in the rainforest, we’re here to help you get prepared for the ultimate five-day bike festival and understand the ins and outs for all things Crankworx.

Read more
GoldField Trail river
Southern Cairns
Goldfield Trail: Crossing rivers and cane fields

You live for adventure on two wheels in exotic landscapes. And the most exotic landscape of all, the awe-inspiring World Heritage rainforest of Tropical North Queensland, is calling out to you.

Read more
Reef to Reef MTB Event
Here’s what to expect when you race the Reef to Reef

Gearing up for your first Reef to Reef race? Here’s your ultimate guide to what’s in store. Plus, a pro shares his tips on how to prepare yourself, and your bike.

Read more
Mission Beach & Cassowary Coast
5 Mountain biking trails from Cairns to Cardwell

Discover the lush tropical rainforest by bike with a list of five great trails that you too should head out and ride – stat! From the Mission Beach Mountain Bike Park to Musgravea Trail, these iconic routes are the perfect way to explore the Cassowary Coast.

Read more
Camping on Bartle Frere
Cairns & Northern Beaches
Great places to go camping near Cairns

Are your campsites better described as camp palaces, or do you just roll with the bare essentials? Whether you’re at one end of the spectrum or the other, lace up your hiking shoes, load up your 4WD (or hatchback) and string your fairy lights around these camping sites near Cairns.

Read more
campervan driving through chillagoe
Cairns & Northern Beaches
Home is where you park it: 10 caravan parks to stay at

Have caravan, will travel. Say bye-bye to bricks and mortar accommodation and check out these incredible caravan parks in Tropical North Queensland.

Read more