The Devils Thumb hike is a long and steep hiking trail located in Mossman Gorge in the Daintree National Park. This strenuous hike leads to a tremendous granite feature known as Devils Thumb or Manjal Jimalji, an exposed boulder offering unparalleled Coral Coast views from Cape Tribulation to Cape Grafton.
In terms of rainforest hikes in Mossman and the Daintree National Park, none are as diverse or as rewarding as the Devils Thumb hike. This 10.6-kilometre track climbs steeply up a section of the Main Coast Range, with well over 1200 metres of elevation gain through dense tropical rainforest.
I’ve hiked and documented over 30 trails in Far North Queensland and I have to say, Manjal Jimalji is one of my absolute favourites. In this hiking guide, I’ll answer all of the questions you might have about hiking to Devils Thumb, including how to get to the trailhead and a step-by-step breakdown of the mission to the top of this epic granite boulder!
- About the Devils Thumb Hike
- Video From the Devils Thumb Boulder
- Getting to the Devils Thumb Trailhead
- Devils Thumb Trail Map
- Devils Thumb Hike – What to Expect
- View from the Devils Thumb Boulder
- Bonus: Devils Thumb Waterfall (Karnak Falls)
- Best Time to Hike to the Manjal Jimalji Trail to Devils Thumb
- Is the Devil’s Thumb Trail Closing?
- FAQ About Hiking to Devils Thumb
- More Travel & Adventures Guides in Far North Queensland
By Olly Gaspar, traveler, travel blogger & photographer for 5+ years with 600+ published travel guides. I visit every place I write about & share real tips from what I learn.
About the Devils Thumb Hike
Devil's Thumb is a sacred granite boulder that is an obvious feature on the mountain range above Mossman. When you see it from the Captain Cook Highway, it's not difficult to see where they got the name.
Consequently, the traditional name of this place is Manjal Jimalji in their language. It tells the tale of fire creation, whereby a fire spirit is believed to have taught a tribal warrior the art of making fire by rubbing sticks together at this spot.
I consider the Devils Thumb hike as one of the best hikes in the Cairns region. However, it is also one of the most challenging. The incredible view spanning the coastline is earned after a long and steep, 7-9 hour return walk through dense rainforest.
The Devils Thumb trail is well-marked with pink and orange ribbons. However, QLD Parks recommends bushwalking experience and above-average fitness to complete this hike.
Video From the Devils Thumb Boulder
Here is a quick video showing you how epic the views are from my trip to the top.
Getting to the Devils Thumb Trailhead
The Devils Thumb trailhead is located in Whyanbeel Valley at Little Falls Creek, which is just 17 kilometres north of Mossman and 80 kilometres from Cairns.
There are currently no tours that I can find online. There is also no public transport routes to this remote trailhead. Therefore, you're going to need your own car to get here.
For directions, you want to head to Mossman along the famous Great Barrier Reef Drive from Cairns. From there, head north on the Mossman-Daintree Road. After roughly 8 kilometres, you'll reach a strange intersection where you will need to take the left (straight ahead) road.
Continue for roughly 3 kilometres before turning left onto Whyanbeel Road.
Next, continue for a further 4 kilometres and take the second road on the left (Karnak Road) after crossing the bridge over Whyanbeel Creek. Continue down this road until you reach a cattle grid beside a visible trail sign.
You can park your car in the space next to the sign or just off the road on the left before the cattle grid.
GPS Coordinates: 16°23'37.5"S 145°20'01.0"E
Admittedly, the trailhead is a little difficult to find in my experience. However, if you plug in the coordinates above, you shouldn't have too much trouble.
Make sure to check for any QLD Parks Alerts before heading out to the trailhead. Also, once I got out here, i noticed that I didn't have any phone reception until I made it to the summit. So, make sure to notify people of your intentions.
Car Rentals in Far North Queensland
Cairns is one of the most popular travel destinations in Australia and car rentals quickly book out!
I've missed out on cars before & recommend booking well in advance. I always use DiscoverCars as they compare the widest range of rentals across dealerships in the Far North.
Devils Thumb Trail Map
Below is an elevation map that is useful for planning the hike and estimating distance. As you can see, it's fairly steep but the highest point is actually near "Split Rock", with a short descent after that to the lookout.
Here's the GPX file that I generated from my Garmin watch. You can download the file using the link below the map to help with navigation using your GPS watch or phone.
GPX File: Download
My Strava: Visit
Remember to only use this GPS data for a rough route or for elevation profiling. Tracks and routes change regularly and therefore you can't solely rely on a GPX file for navigation.
Devils Thumb Hike - What to Expect
- Hike Distance: Official: 10.6 km return |
I recorded: 14.8 km (with a side-trip to the waterfall)
- Duration: 7-9 hours
- Elevation: Total elevation gain: 1275 m |
Devil's Thumb Elevation: 1190 m AMSL
- Difficulty: Difficult
The Devils Thumb hike is an out-and-back trail considered to be a strenuous and difficult hike that takes between 7-9 hours to complete with stops. The track is well-marked with orange and pink ribbons on the trees. However, you'll need to be vigilant in following them as sections are very dense and it can be very easy to get lost. The second time I was here I noticed there were fewer ribbons. So, come prepared with a map and GPS device.
This track is also quite steep, with some sections of almost vertical root scrambling and some requiring light boulder scrambling. All in all, the Devils Thumb hike is no more challenging than climbing Mount Bartle Frere, but I would say it is more demanding than Walsh's Pyramid and the Kahlpahlim Rock hike.
You don't need climbing experience or gear, but you'll need to be fairly fit and diligent in following the markers. Make sure also to keep an eye on the trail for snakes. Believe me, they are there.
Tip: Remember to bring at least a couple of litres of water per person. There's only one spot to refill your bottles once you start the ascent and this is roughly halfway up the range at a waterfall (more info below).
The Ascent to the Coral Fern Patch
From the cattle grid, park your car on the side of the road and follow the directions on the green QLD Parks sign. The first section requires you to navigate your way through a small section of private property, so make sure to be quiet and respectful.
The sign indicates that you should follow the pink ribbons and keep off the wider, private road. We started the Devils Thumb trail well before sunrise, so finding our way through this first section was one of the most difficult parts of the hike for us in terms of navigation in the dark.
Soon, you will pop out of the scrub and pass "Little Falls Huts", a beautiful rainforest property beside the creek.
Keep following the pink tree markers leading to the river, which you will have to cross. Although there are some rocks, it's difficult not to get wet, so we decided to take off our shoes and cross the knee-high river to the start of the Devils Thumb walking track.
From here, you'll need to continue for roughly another 3.5 kilometres on a very steep gradient, climbing roughly 950 metres before breaking out of the rainforest at a scenic patch of coral ferns at approximately 1000 m AMSL.
Coral Fern Patch to Split Rock
After resting your legs following the tiring climb, you'll need to continue on for roughly another hour before reaching Devils Thumb (Manjal Jimalji).
Follow the obvious track through the coral ferns, which begins to climb gently and crosses a raised section elevated by an aluminium support.
This section is definitely less steep and quickly tapers off to a flat gradient. However, after re-entering the forest, it becomes very dense and you'll need to be careful to follow the coloured ribbons on the trees.
After approximately 800 m, you'll come across a huge split boulder which the trail leads into. This section requires a bit of scrambling up the granite boulders, which shouldn't be very difficult at all for anyone who's made it this far.
Split Rock to Devils Thumb (Manjal Jimalji)
Following split rock, you'll be at the highest point of elevation for the Devils Thumb hike at 1190 m AMSL. From here, the track continues but dips back down the other side of this ridge for roughly another kilometre.
There won't be any question about whether you've reached Devils Thumb or not. You'll immediately see the towering boulder suddenly appear in front of you.
To reach the top of the boulder, follow the ribbons, which lead to a makeshift "bridge" that somebody has kindly supported using straps and ropes. Scramble up the dirt mound, cross the bridge, and you'll have reached the end of the Devils Thumb hike, where mind-blowing views await.
Update: I've been told that this bridge has been taken down for some reason. If you head up and find the bridge gone, please take a photo and let me know so I can add it to the blog.
To return, climb down the Manjal Jimalji rock and follow the same track back to Little Falls Creek. There is also an option of stopping by the waterfall (below) on the way back down.
View from the Devils Thumb Boulder
In my opinion, the views from Devils Thumb (Manjal Jimalji) are one of the best in Far North Queensland.
On a clear day, you'll get a view north all the way to Mount Sorrow and Cape Tribulation. To the south, views span as far as Cape Grafton, with Port Douglas, Palm Cove and Double Island visible along the coast.
The entire length of the Daintree River is also visible as it snakes its way from the rainforest to its sand-spit bar.
Inland, views include sections of ranges and valleys of the Mount Windsor National Park, and of course, the world's oldest rainforest in the ancient Daintree National Park.
Bonus: Devils Thumb Waterfall (Karnak Falls)
Although there are a few guides out there to the Manjal Jimalji trail and Devils Thumb lookout, I haven't seen one mention the waterfall that is accessible from the halfway point on the ascent to the coral fern patch.
It's actually quite difficult to miss the fork in the track at roughly 400 m elevation (2.5 km distance), and the sounds of crashing water seem it fairly obvious that there was a waterfall here.
If you follow the left path, you'll quickly reach the creek, which can be followed downstream by the pink ribbons to the top of the waterfall. It's a fairly steep descent but it's only 200 m from the main track so I thought it was worthwhile.
The creek and waterfall are scenic and make for a great spot to fill your bottles or cool off. From the top of the waterfall, you'll get open views out to the ocean. Just remember to follow the signs, stay off the slippery rocks, and don't try to walk on the surfaces near the edge as it's very dangerous.
The official name for this waterfall is Karnak Falls, and its height is 80 metres.
Best Time to Hike to the Manjal Jimalji Trail to Devils Thumb
By far, the best time to hike in Far North Queensland is between the months of May to September (dry season). During this time, the weather is cooler, and the chance of rain is lower. If you're hiking during the wet season, expect slippery surfaces, wet, boggy trails and more leeches.
Tip: I recommend departing at first light or just before sunrise on the Devils Thumb hike to get the best light at the top. This way, you'll get less afternoon haze and ensure you have adequate remaining daylight for the return trip.
Cairns Accommodation Guide – Where to Stay
Visiting Cairns? The best places to stay are near the Cairns Esplanade or on the sunny Northern Beaches. Below are the top 4 options for varying budgets.
Alternatively, check out my Port Douglas accommodation guide for more ideas on where to stay in Far North Queensland.
1. Crystalbrook Riley Luxury
If luxury and location are what you're after, you can't beat this 5-star resort right in the heart of Cairns Esplanade.
2. Fitzroy Island Resort Mid-Range
Sleep out on one of the picturesque Great Barrier Reef Islands! Staying at Fitzroy often works out cheaper than staying in town & means you get more time to explore the reef, beaches, and rainforest walking trails.
3. Gilligan's Backpackers Budget
The best backpacker option for a great vibe in Cairns. Great place to meet like-minded travelers & features a pool, air-con rooms, a huge shared kitchen, & a great common area.
4. Pepper's Beach Club Palm Cove
Stay at the best beach resort in the heart of Palm Cove on Cairns's Northern Beaches!
Is the Devil's Thumb Trail Closing?
The Devi's Thumb summit has always been a spiritual and culturally significant site for the Eastern Yalanji people. Recently they have announced that they will be installing a restricted access sign near the top of the trail, just at the boulder.
As a result, I will not be returning to this trail since it would be against the wishes of the rightful owners of this land. However, I believe that many people will still attempt this hike, and therefore I believe it is important for me to keep this blog post live and updated for the safety of hikers.
FAQ About Hiking to Devils Thumb
How long does it take to complete the Devils Thumb hike?
Typically, it takes about 7 to 9 hours round trip to complete the Devils Thumb hike. However, this can vary depending on your pace and how long you spend at the top boulder lookout.
How hard is this hike?
The Devils Thumb hike is considered challenging due to steep inclines and often slippery conditions that can get worse in the wet season. It’s recommended for experienced hikers with good fitness levels and those who have spent a bit of time hiking in FNQ.
What’s the best time of year to go?
The ideal time to hike Devils Thumb is during the cooler months from April to September to avoid the tropical heat and humidity. I haven't hiked this one during the Wet Season but I'd say that it would be very slippery and challenging.
What should I bring on the hike?
I recommend bringing plenty of water, high-energy snacks, a first aid kit, a map or GPS device, sturdy hiking boots, and a rain jacket. Remember to pack out what you pack in as well.
Is the trail well-marked?
The trail is marked, but it can be easy to lose your way since it can get overgrown since not a lot of people hike this one on a regular basis. I advise using a GPS or a detailed map, especially in areas where the path isn’t as obvious– especially the section down to the lookout after Split Rock.
More Travel & Adventures Guides in Far North Queensland
I hope that this guide will be useful in planning your day trip on the Devils Thumb hike (Manjal Jimalji). For more hiking guides and adventure travel ideas, take a pick from the list below.
- 60+ Things to do in Cairns - my ultimate Cairns and FNQ travel resource covering the best activities, hidden gems, and unmissable experiences.
- Cairns Hiking Guide - a huge list of epic rainforest, waterfall, and lookout hikes in Cairns.
- Cairns Waterfalls - a huge list of epic waterfalls that I've visited in Cairns and the surrounding tropics.
- Cairns Islands - discover my favorite Great Barrier Reef islands near Cairns and Port Douglas.
- Cairns Tours - my roundup of the best tours you can book in Cairns and FNQ, from the Great Barrier Reef to the Daintree Rainforest.
- Cairns Packing List - tips on what to pack for a trip to Far North Queensland.
- Top Things to Do in Port Douglas - a comprehensive guide to the sleepy Far North Queensland town of Port Douglas.
- Epic 5-Day Cairns Itinerary - my suggested adventure itinerary if you only have 5 days to spend in Cairns.
- Cape Tribulation Travel Guide - discover where the rainforest meets the reef at one of my favourite places in Australia.
- Magnetic Island Travel Guide - your ultimate resource for visiting "Maggie" near Townsville.
- Best Things to do in the Atherton Tablelands - my guide to one of Far North Queensland's most underrated adventure destinations.
- Accommodation Resources: Discover where to stay in Cairns, the best hotels in Port Douglas and my Cape Tribulation accommodation guide.