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Hiking to Wankaroo Falls in Wooroonooran National Park

Hiking to Wankaroo Falls in Wooroonooran National Park

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.

Wankaroo Falls is a roughly 35-metre single-plunge waterfall flowing on Wankaroo Creek in Wooroonooran National Park, Far North Queensland, Australia.

If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure in Cairns, check out the Wankaroo Falls hike, a 13.2 kilometre (return) hike in Wooroonooran National Park.

This waterfall is one of my personal favourite waterfalls in the Cairns region and one worth checking out if you’ve already visited some of the more popular waterfalls in the region.

About the Wankaroo Falls Hike

  • Hiking Distance: 13.2 kilometers (return)
  • Duration: 4-5 hours return
  • Elevation: ~400 meters total incline (undulating)
  • Difficulty: Medium

Wankaroo Falls isn't listed in any hiking guidebooks or tourist information sheets. It's very much a hidden gem, and a waterfall you'll likely have all to yourself if you make the effort to find it.

The Wankaroo Falls trail briefly follows the Russel River upstream before diverting into dense rainforest, crossing many small freshwater creeks along the way. Hikers will enjoy a mostly flat trail for the majority of the walk, with short sections of undulation resulting in the majority of the overall elevation gain.

Wankaroo falls hike in cairns

This trail follows a low section of the Wooroonooran National Park beneath Queensland's tallest mountains and runs beside a major river arterial. As a result, the Wankaroo Falls hike can be very wet and muddy.

So, I'd definitely suggest it as a dry season hike.

Additionally, the track is quite easy to follow and was recently cleared when I set out to find the falls. There were some pink ribbons but these were sporadic and often led off the main trail for short side walks to the Russel River.

However, it seems also that somebody has intentionally tried to remove these and potentially confuse hikers by moving them off the main track– disappointing...

Wankaroo falls, wooroonooran national park, queensland
Wankaroo falls, wooroonooran national park, queensland

How to Get to the Wankaroo Falls Trailhead

The start point is located near the Golden Hole, quite close to Josephine Falls and the Mount Bartle Frere eastern approach trailhead. The Golden Hole is just by the Biggs Recreational Reserve, where you will find a large car park, toilets, and a wide grass clearing for camping. Expect a roughly 1-hour drive from Cairns.

Once you've left your car at the car park, walk past the toilet block, across the grassy field towards the large black boulders.

There are no signs or trailhead markings indicating the start of the trail. However, if you look closely into the rainforest in this area, you'll soon see a very obvious trail clearing indicating the start of the Wankaroo Falls hiking trail.

Below I've pinned the exact location of the car park to help you navigate from Cairns or the Tablelands.

Map location of the golden hole in qld
Wankaroo falls trailhead
Wankaroo Falls trailhead
Golden hole, wooroonooran national park
Golden Hole
Golden hole, wooroonooran national park
Golden Hole
Golden hole, far north queensland
Golden Hole

My Experience on the Wankaroo Falls Hike

Below I'll give you a more detailed breakdown of what to expect when hiking the Wankaroo Falls waterfall trail in Far North Queensland.

Hiking tip: I recommend planning ahead and knowing the GPS coordinates beforehand because I ended up diverting off the Wankaroo Falls trail and continuing on for several kilometers until I realized that I had gone too far. There is also very little reception as you get into the scrub.

Wankaroo falls hiking trail, queensland
Wankaroo falls drone

Starting the Wankaroo Falls Hike

After just 500 meters you'll come to the first fork in the trail. To the left, there is a side trail leading down to a deep section of the Russel River which looks nice for swimming and camping. However, there have been crocodile sightings in the Golden Gole, so I was wary.

This is a very short side trip, which loops back to the main trail. If you want to avoid it and head straight to the falls, continue straight rather than turning left.

Rainforest beach in queensland
Russel River Access - side trail

Second Russel River Access

Following the trail for another two kilometres and you'll come to a second river access point. This is another very short detour leading down a slope to the water. Undeniably, the Russel River is very beautiful, with a rich shade of emerald or even deep blue depending on the cloud cover.

We hiked down to the river to take some snaps and then headed straight up the hill toward Wankaroo Falls.

Russel river, far north queensland
Russel River, Far North Queensland

Creek Crossings

The rest of the trail leading to Wankaroo Falls is very scenic and features several small creek crossings. When I hiked the trail in the dry season it was possible to avoid wet shoes by rock hopping over the majority of these shallow streams. I'd imagine these could be quite dangerous in the wet season.

Continuing on, the trail is easy to follow and carves through dense rainforest with a full canopy for the majority of the trail toward the falls. There's also plenty of wait-a-while on the trail so do your best to avoid it.

Rainforest creek, far north queensland
Wooroonooran rainforest, queensland
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.

Creek crossing on the wankaroo falls trail

Descent to Wankaroo Creek

At the 5.5-kilometre mark (probably 5 km if you didn't take any of the detours), you'll arrive at a very obvious fork with ribbons (well, hopefully) on your left-hand side. This begins the short but sharp descent down to Wankaroo Creek.

I'd split this descent into two sections. The first is a short burst down to a small rocky cascade which is quite picturesque. There's also another nice waterfall just further upstream of this one, which is larger. I reached it by climbing up the side of this waterfall.

Wankaroo creek cascades
Wankaroo creek
Wankaroo creek

However, to get to Wankaroo Falls, don't do this. Instead, you'll want to turn to the left (downstream) right as you get to the base of the first cascade on Wankaroo Creek. I missed this on my attempt and ended up hiking back up and continuing on (don't do this).

Pink ribbon to mark the hiking trail to wankaroo falls

Instead, follow the ribbons hidden to your left further downstream of Wankaroo Creek for approximately 500 meters or so. This will lead you to the top of the waterfall– a sharp drop-off of at least 35 meters.

Wankaroo creek
Wankaroo Creek from above

The second section of the descent to the base of Wankaroo Falls is the most difficult part of the hike but I'd say very manageable for anybody who's set out to explore this deep section of the Wooroonooran.

Top of wankaroo falls
Arriving at the top of Wankaroo Falls
Above wankaroo falls
Top of Wankaroo Falls
Hiker in wooroonooran national park
Descending on the Wankaroo Falls trail

We followed the pink ribbons leading up and then sharply down the small hill beside the drop-off. There were some fixed ropes tied to the roots of trees, which helped us on the steep sections.

Girl hiking in wooroonooran national park

Arriving at Wankaroo Falls

After a few hundred metres, you'll arrive downstream of Wankaroo Falls, with the rainforest behemoth just to your right.

Wankaroo falls, far north queensland, australia
Wankaroo falls, far north queensland, australia
Wankaroo falls, far north queensland, australia
Wankaroo falls, far north queensland, australia
Wankaroo falls, far north queensland, australia
Wankaroo falls, far north queensland, australia

What to Expect at Wankaroo Waterfall

The waterfall itself is very picturesque, with a single, thin, plunging stream falling into a very deep, round basin pool. In photos, it looks very similar to the nearby Nandroya Falls and reminded me of the popular Twin Falls waterfall on the Gold Coast.

Wankaroo falls, wooroonooran national park

The pool is very deep, especially in the middle. Swimming up to the falls, you'll also see a small cave behind it, which makes for some impressive photos and a great spot to admire this incredible Woooroonooran waterfall.

Wankaroo falls cave

Having spent a fair bit of time off-course, we spent about an hour or so at the waterfall, swimming and snapping some photos.

Wankaroo falls
Wooroonooran waterfall
Cairns waterfall wankaroo
Wankaroo falls, queensland

Hiking Back to the Golden Hole

The return doubles back on the same route as the initial walk-in. Overall, it took us about 6 hours to find the falls with a significant amount of time walking off course. Without this, I'd say the hike would have taken us about 4 hours for the return at a leisurely pace.

Hiking in wooroonooran national park, cairns

My Thoughts on the Wankaroo Falls Hike

First of all, my intent for posting this waterfall hiking guide isn’t to popularise Wankaroo Falls. My goal is to help people who are already interested in trying to find this waterfall and do so safely. There are dozens of other waterfalls in Far North Queensland that are much easier to find and require much less effort.

I find it quite sad seeing some members of the online Cairns hiking communities complaining about passionate hikers sharing information about some of these more hidden waterfalls. After hiking this trail myself, I've even noticed that some of the pink ribbons have been purposely ripped off the trees, which is very irresponsible and potentially dangerous.

I find that most of the time, this is motivated by these people trying to force an agenda of “exclusivity”, perhaps to elevate their ego or somehow contain nature trails within their own cliques and walking groups. The Wet Tropics have been here for millions of years before all of us and is there for everyone to enjoy, respect and preserve.

The more people who get to experience its brilliance, the louder the voice of conservation grows.

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!

Find More Cairns & Far North Queensland Adventure Inspiration

I hope you've enjoyed this hiking guide to the Wankaroo Falls trail in Woroonooran National Park, Far North Queensland, Australia.

While you're here on my blog, make sure to check out some of my other posts. I'm sure you'll find loads of useful inspiration for your adventures in Far North Queensland.

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.