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 450 m 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.
- Directions to Glacier Rock Cairns
- Glacier Rock Hike Distance
- Glacier Rock Map
- What to Expect on the Glacier Rock Walking Track
- Glacier Rock Lookout
- Cool Off at Stoney Creek
- More Photos From the Glacier Rock Hike
- More Things to Do in Cairns
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 useful tracks for connecting the coast to the Tablelands.
I'm Olly, a full-time traveler for the past 5 years. I visit every destination I write about & handpick all recommendations.
Best Cairns Outdoor Experiences
Not sure which tours to choose for your next adventure to Cairns? I have you covered. Whilst living in Cairns I have been on over 20 different tours and worked with countless tour operators. This is a summary of my favourite tours & bookable experiences in Cairns.
2. Great Barrier Reef by Catamaran Top-Pick
Visit the outer reef and snorkel or scuba dive at two pristine reef locations. You might even get lucky and meet the local Maori Wrasse like we did in the photo.
Travel tip: By far, the best islands for snorkeling in Cairns are the Frankland Islands (pristine reef). There is only one boat trip allowed to stop on these islands and you can book this directly with BackpackerDeals + use code OLLY5 to get $5 off.
Directions to Glacier Rock Cairns
The Glacier Rock hike is located in the Barron Gorge National Park, with most access points starting near the Stoney Creek walking track.
The short, 260 m Glacier Rock track branches from a fork on the Douglas Track. This means that 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 750 M 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.
Related:White Rock Lookout Hike
Glacier Rock Hike Distance
So, how far is Glacier Rock Cairns? The Glacier Rock walking track is approximately 5.9 km long, accounting for an out-and-back from the Douglas Track Road trailhead.
Again, if you're departing from the Stone Creek car park, add an extra 1.5 km 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 download it and follow it if you want. But, honestly, this track is fairly easy to follow and it's very hard to get lost on the way.
GPX File: Download
My Strava: Visit
What to Expect on the Glacier Rock Walking Track
- Hike Distance: 5.9 km return
- Duration: 2-2.5 hours
- Elevation: 395 m elevation gain to 450 m AMSL
- Difficulty: Easy
Although much of this track is an upward climb, the elevation gain of 395 m is spread, meaning that it's more of a gentle ascent and not too steep.
First Section From Stoney Creek
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 switchback 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 that allows you to cross the railway track. Following this bridge, there is a steep ascent up the metal staircase beyond the bridge.
Related: Red Arrow, Blue Arrow Tracks Cairns
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 that serves as a powerline service track.
Continue on this wide path to a point where the McDonald track joins the Douglas Track. To your left will be a signpost indicating the final stretch to the Glacier Rock lookout point.
Related: Kahlpahlim Rock Hike (Lambs Head)
Glacier Rock Lookout
Just 260 m 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 car park 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.
Related: Devils Thumb Hike in Mossman
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!
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. Otherwise, check out my Cairns hiking mega-post to find more tropical walking tracks and routes.
- 60+ Things to do in Cairns - my ultimate Cairns and FNQ travel resource covering the best activities, hidden gems, and unmissable experiences.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.