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Turtle Rock Hike: Epic Lookout Trail (Cairns)

Turtle Rock Hike: Epic Lookout Trail (Cairns)

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

The Turtle Rock hike (Turtle Head Rock) is a circuit walking track located in the Dinden National Park near Cairns, Queensland featuring a spectacular boulder lookout, light rock scrambling and an easy river crossing.

The Turtle Rock Hike in the Dinden National Park is a great morning or afternoon circuit loop for those looking for a quick adventure from Cairns. I walked this circuit for a sunrise trip with my dad as a quick morning micro adventure from Cairns and I’d highly recommend it.

In this guide, I’ll detail how to get to the trailhead, what to expect on the track and I’ll also include a few photos that I hope will inspire your trip!

Turtle rock hike cairns

Where is the Turtle Rock Hike

The Turtle Rock Circuit is located in the Dinden National Park, approximately 61 kilometres from Cairns on the Tablelands side of the Lamb Range.

The trailhead is accessed from near the node 3 and 4 campsites on Davies Creek Road. This road is unsealed but is well-graded.

A 4WD is ideal but you'll make it with a regular 2WD sedan or hatchback.

This section of the Dinden National Park shares coverage with the Davies Creek National Park and features eucalypt forest and several freshwater creeks and waterfalls.

Tip: There are many adventures to be had in this remote area of Tropical Far North Queensland, many that happen to be some of my personal favourites.

These include the Kahlpahlim Rock Hike (Lambs Head), and the nearby Emerald Creek Falls.

Turtle rock track dindin national park

How to Get to the Trailhead From Cairns

To get to the Turtle Rock circuit trail, you will need to take the Captain Cook Highway north towards Smithfield. Then, take a left on Kennedy Highway, which climbs the MacAlister Range to reach Kuranda.

Continue past Kuranda for another 22 kilometres, where you will see a sign for "Davies Creek".

Turn left on Davies Creek Road and follow this unsealed road for 10 kilometres, passing Davies Creek Falls on your left.

The trailhead access point is on the right. It is a little tricky to find, but I recommend keeping an eye out for the "camping nodes 3 & 4" signs and you can't go wrong.

This campsite is a wide clearing just beside the creek and the Turtle Rock Circuit trailhead begins here.

Car in the rainforest near cairns

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.

The Turtle Rock Circuit Hiking Details

  • Hike Distance: 6.7 kilometres (round circuit)
  • Duration: 1.5 hours - 2.5 hours
  • Elevation: Maximum: 910 metres AMSL |
    Total elevation gain: 320 metres
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Track details and GPX: My Strava

The Turtle Rock hike is best completed in an anti-clockwise circuit. This way, you'll smash the steepest part of the hike early on, leaving a gentle decline back to the campsite.

The track is worn and easy to follow. There are also orange arrows on the trees that mark the route. So, you shouldn't have any problem finding your way.

Turtle head rock qld

Hiking Directions From My Experience

Upon arriving at the campsite nodes mentioned above, we walked in the direction of the obvious outdoor toilet cubicle.

Just 20 meters down from here is what I would call the start of the Turtle Rock hike.

The first section of the climb to Turtle Head Rock begins with a light incline through dry eucalypt forest.

After a short stroll, the track steepens and you'll need to do a bit of light boulder scrambling. This section is pretty steep but it doesn't last long. Before you know it, you'll reach Turtle Rock, just 2.2 kilometers from the start point.

Turtle rock hike cairns
Turtle rock trail cairns
Turtle rock cairns

When we first approach the rock it's immediately apparent as to where it got its name. The large boulder resembles a turtle with its head out, basking on the edge of the cliff face.

Turtle head rock cairns

I decided to scramble to the top of Turtle Head Rock for epic views over the pristine Dinden National Park. Just be careful as it's a sheer drop on the other side!

After taking in the view and resting the legs, we followed the orange arrows to the left (looking at Turtle Rock), and enjoy the gentle walk back.

Turtle head walking track cairns

Near the end of the trail, you'll need to cross "Varch Creek", which isn't more than a hop over the narrow section.

The trail then back on Davies Creek Road, just a few hundred metres to the right of the campsite. Just continue following the arrows left and you'll soon arrive back at the camp node.

Dindin national park davies creek hiking trail
Grayl water filter bottle

Get Clean Drinking Water on Your Hike

I take the Grayl GeoPress Purifier Bottle on every hike and use it as my go-to source for filtering water all over the world. I've even used it to drink tap water in India!

Compare how the GeoPress stacks up against the best water bottle filters on the market.

More Photos of the Turtle Rock Hike Cairns

Want more inspiration for your trip to Dinden National Park? Here are some more photos from my trip along the walking track to the boulder viewpoint for a great sunrise with my dad.

Turtle rock walking track
Dindin national park view
Davies creek national park hiking trail

Where to Stay In Cairns

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.

Girl sunbathing at crystalbrook riley resort in cairns

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.

Fitzroy island wharf

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.

Gilligans backpacker resort

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.

Peppers beach club four mile beach port douglas

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 Hikes and Adventures Near Cairns

If you enjoyed this quick guide to the Turtle Rock Hike from Cairns, make sure to check out some more blog posts I've written for more Cairns adventure ideas. A great waterfall hike I recommend close by is Windin Falls.

Alternatively, if you're heading back to Cairns after your hike to Turtle Rock, go check out the Cattana Wetlands (a hidden gem for nature lovers).

If you have any more questions or trail updates or feedback for the blog, please let me know by leaving a comment below!

Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.