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
- Fitzroy Island Full Day Trip – the closest (and cheapest) Great Barrier Reef Island to visit from Cairns. Check out the world-famous famous Nudey Beach and hike to the island summit // Fitzroy Guide
- Daintree & Mossman Gorge Trip – visit the oldest rainforest in the world in the Daintree National Park. Visit Cape Tribulation, Mossman Gorge and get an included cruise.
- Great Barrier Reef by Catamaran – visit the outer reef and snorkel or scuba dive at two pristine reef locations.
- Scenic Helicopter Flight – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the Great Barrier Reef from above on a scenic helicopter flight from Cairns city.
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.
Read More: 11 Best Tours in Cairns
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 has 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.
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 carpark, 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.
The Wankaroo Falls Hike
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.
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…
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.
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.
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 towards Wankaroo Falls.
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 towards the falls. There’s also plenty of wait-a-while on the trail so do your best to avoid it.
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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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 – 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.
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.
Having spent a fair bit of time off-course, we spent about an hour or so at the waterfall, swimming and snapping some photos.
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.
Cairns Accommodation Guide – Where to Stay
Planning a trip to Cairns and wondering where to base yourself? Below I’ve listed some of the best options near Cairns Esplanade. I’ve also written a comprehensive accommodation guide to Cairns, as well as a comprehensive Port Douglas Accommodation guide too.
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.
Tip: Make sure to head up to Rocco’s Bar at the top of the Crystalbrook Riley for great views over Cairns!
Rydges Resort – This hotel offers excellent bang-for-buck in terms of an epic stay for a decent price! The location is perfect, close to the esplanade and features include three swimming pools, two tennis courts, a jacuzzi, a fitness centre and even an award-winning restaurant.
Fitzroy Island Resort – If you’d rather sleep out on one of the picturesque Great Barrier Reef Islands, look no further than the Fitzroy Island Resort. While you can get out here on a day trip, I highly recommend spending the night so 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 is Gilligan’s Backpackers. That’s because this one has a swimming pool, AC, a complete kitchen and a great common area to meet other travellers.
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.