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Wankaroo Falls Hike in Wooroonooran National Park

Wankaroo Falls Hike in Wooroonooran National Park

Useful information and my detailed experience hiking to Wankaroo Falls in Wooroonooran National Park, Far North Queensland Australia.

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

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

Best Cairns Outdoor Experiences

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About the Wankaroo Falls Hike

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.

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.

Wankaroo Falls, Wooroonooran National Park, Queensland

How to Get to the Wankaroo Falls Trailhead

With that quick foreword out of the way, let's help you 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.

Wankaroo Falls trailhead
Wankaroo Falls trailhead

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

Golden Hole, Wooroonooran National Park
Golden Hole
Golden Hole, Wooroonooran National Park
Golden Hole
Golden Hole, Far North Queensland
Golden Hole

The Wankaroo Falls Hike

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

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 when I hiked in August 2022 but these were sporadic and often led off the main trail for short side walks to the Russel River. As I mentioned above, 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 hiking trail, Queensland

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.

Below I'll give you a more detailed breakdown of what to expect when hiking the Wankaroo Falls waterfall trail in Far North 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
Great Barrier Reef aerial photograph near Cairns, Australia

50+ More Cairns Bucketlist Items

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
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Creek crossing on the Wankaroo Falls trail

Descent to Wankaroo Creek

At the 5.5-kilometre mark (probably 5km 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
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Wankaroo Falls, Far North Queensland, Australia
Wankaroo Falls, Far North Queensland, Australia
Wankaroo Falls, Far North Queensland, Australia

Wankaroo Falls - What to Expect

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.

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

The Return

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

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.

  • Crystalbrook Riley - If luxury and location are what you're after, you can't beat the Crystalbrook Riley. This is the best 5-star resort in Cairns and features absolutely everything you'd expect from a Crystalbrook resort.
  • Fitzroy Island Resort - Sleep out on one of the picturesque Great Barrier Reef Islands at Fitzroy Island Resort. Spending the night on the island can work out cheaper than staying in town and means you get more time to explore the reef, coral beaches and rainforest walking trails.
  • Gilligan's Backpackers - The best backpacker option for a great vibe in Cairns. Great place to meet like-minded travelers and has facilities including a pool. air-con, a huge shared kitchen, and a great common area!
  • Pepper's Beach Club - stay at the best beach resort in the heart of Palm Cove on the Cairns Northern Beaches!

For a bigger list, don't miss my Cairns accommodation guide or as an alternative stay in FNQ, read my Port Douglas Accommodation guide too.

Girl sunbathing at Crystalbrook Riley resort in Cairns
Backpacker hostel in Cairns, Australia

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.

Up for more walks? Start with my guide to the best hikes in Cairns & surrounds.