The Glacier Rock hike is a short out-and-back trail offering magnificent coastal views from Cairns to the Northern Beaches. The gentle climb up to the 450M Glacier Rock lookout is a great bet for catching excellent sunrise or sunset views near Kuranda.
It seems that wherever you stand in Cairns, the stark, bare face of Glacier rock stands exposed against the iconic rainforest backdrop.
If you’re up for a short, yet rewarding hike near Cairns or Kuranda, then the Glacier Rock hike is an excellent choice. We decided to hit the trail approximately an hour before sunrise in hopes of catching the sunrise from the top.
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Glacier Rock Cairns, as well as the other walking tracks and trails in the Barron Gorge National park make up what was once an essential network of Djabugay tracks. These tracks are significant to the indigenous community as they were usfeul tracks for connecting the coast to the Tablelands.
Directions to Glacier Rock Cairns
The Glacier Rock hike is located in the Barron Gorge National Park, with most access points starting near Stoney Creek.
The short, 260M Glacier Rock track branches from a fork on the Douglas Track. This means that for those wanting to just hike to the Glacier Rock lookout will have a couple of options.
Option 1: Start at Stoney Creek Car Park
Based on the online trail maps of the Barron Gorge, the best place to start is from the Stoney Creek car park. From here, take the Stoney Creek/Douglas trailhead, keeping right and following signs for Douglas Track.
This option adds approximately 750M each way as the track connects close to the start of the Douglas Track road trailhead (option 2 below).
Option 2: Starting From Douglas Track Road
The second option for where to start the Glacier Rock hike is at a cul de sac at the end of Douglas Track Road. This road is the last right, just before the Stoney Creek car park.
There are a few spots to leave your car, and the trailhead is an unmarked entry track into the bush just to the left of a closed-off private driveway.
I’ve pinned the location for the Glacier Rock start point on the map below to help you find it.
Glacier Rock Hike Distance
So, how far is Glacier Rock Cairns? The Glacier Rock hike is approximately 5.9KM long, accounting from an out-and-back from the Douglas Track from the Douglas Track Road trailhead.
Again, if you’re departing from the Stone Creek car park, add an extra 1.5KM for the return trip.
Glacier Rock Map
Below I’ve included a GPX file of the route that I took up to the Glacier Rock Lookout from the end of Douglas Track Road, recorded using my GPS watch.
You can also download the file by clicking the link below the map.
What to Expect on the Glacier Rock Hike
Although much of this track is an upward climb, the elevation gain of 395M is spread, meaning that it’s more of a gentle ascent and not too steep.
Starting from the Douglas Track road trailhead, you will enter a thick, bushy section with tall grass on either side of the track just before reaching a makeshift plank bridge over a small gulley.
Soon after, the track leads to a fork with a signpost, whereby you’ll need to take the right path (Douglas Track). This is the point where the track joins to the Stoney Creek car park track.
Soon after the fork, the track begins to climb, with several switchbacks turns as you make your way up to the ridge.
Douglas Track Rail Crossing
At roughly the halfway mark, you will come to an overhead bridge which allows you to cross the railway track. Following this bridge, there is a steep ascent up the metal staircase beyond the bridge.
Breaking Out of the Bush
After another short switchback climb, the track opens up to an exposed, grassy section offering increasingly better views before reaching a flat section which serves as a powerline service track.
Continue on this wide path to a point where the McDonald track joins onto the Douglas Track. To your left will be a signpost indicating the final stretch to the Glacier Rock lookout point.
Glacier Rock Lookout
Just 260M from the fork and you will have reached Glacier Rock, marked by a signpost beside the cliffside lookout point.
From the Glacier Rock lookout, there are spanning views of the Cairns coast, including the Northern Beaches, Cairns city, the Barron River, Earl Hill, the Mount Whitfield Conservation Park, and the distant mountains of the Lamb Range.
Cool Off at Stoney Creek
After taking in the sunrise view from the Glacier Rock lookout, it’s time to return back to the carpark on the same route that you came in on.
If you’re looking to cool down then Stoney Creek, a refreshing swimming hole, makes the perfect spot. This is located just around the corner at Stoney Creek Carpark.
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Cairns Accommodation Guide – Where to Stay
BEST BUDGET HOSTEL WITH A POOL FOR $19 A NIGHT – MAD MONKEY BACKPACKERS
The best budget backpacker option in Cairns is Mad Monkey Backpackers. This one has a swimming pool, AC, a complete kitchen and even free bike hire to take you around Cairns. There are also three locations, but we thought that the village was the best. They also organise plenty of things to do in Cairns straight form the hostel.
BUDGET HOSTEL CLOSEST TO THE ESPLANADE FOR $26 A NIGHT –YHA CAIRNS CENTRAL HOSTEL
If you’re looking to stay close to Cairns center, then you can’t beat YHA Central. It’s only a 5-minute walk to the esplanade and situated right near pubs and supermarkets. There’s also a pool and two spas, with a free breakfast included.
SLEEP ON A BOAT IN CAIRNS HARBOUR – BOATEL CAIRNS
If you’re looking for a unique stay in Cairns, then you can’t get much more unusual than staying at a “boatel”. It’s located 1 KM from Cairns and only a 6-minute walk from Cairns Rainforest Dome. The boat has free WiFi, AC, a bar and even a TV in the room.
More Photos From the Glacier Rock Hike
Here are some more photos of the hike to Glacier Rock Cairns to inspire your trip.
More Things to do in Cairns
I hope that this quick guide to hiking to the Glacier Rock lookout has been useful in planning out your Cairns activities.
For more ideas on hikes, islands, waterfalls and other Cairns attractions, make sure to check out some of the links below.
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