West Mulgrave Falls is one of Far North Queensland’s most epic waterfalls! This hidden gem is located deep within the Wooronooran National Park and requires a challenging, yet ultra-rewarding hike to reach.
Are you looking for an epic, off-the-beaten-path waterfall with a truly wild rainforest hike? West Mulgrave Falls is easily one of my favourite waterfalls and hikes in Far North Queensland.
This megalithic cascade is found at the base of a deep gorge within the Wooroonooran National Park. The hike down is fairly strenuous and requires a bit of bush-knowledge and navigation skills to complete. However, if you decide you want to give it a go, then it’ll definitely be worth your while! The waterfall is one of the most spectacular near Cairns and includes a deep, aqua-blue waterhole for swimming.
Note: This hike, while not extremely difficult, isn’t suitable for people without plenty of experience hiking in the Australian bush. The track is wild, often overgrown and you can expect plenty of leeches any time of year. There are also creek crossings involved that I wouldn’t attempt following heavy rainfall.
Where is West Mulgrave Falls?
West Mulgrave Falls is located within the Wet Tropics, in the incredible Wooroonooran National Park. This park is home to Queensland’s tallest mountain; Mount Bartle Frere. The access car park to the trail is approximately 85 kilometres from Cairns.
The waterfall itself is located at the base of a steep gorge, accessed from the Tablelands side of the Bellenden Ker Range. Since West Mulgrave Falls is very little known, there isn’t much information online or a Google Maps pin for its location. However, if you follow this hiking guide, then you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding it, assuming you are well prepared, experienced and the conditions permit.
How to Get to the Trailhead Car Park
The West Mulgrave Falls hike picks up from the same new car park as the Windin Falls hike. To get here, you’ll need to drive up to the Tablelands, and then down a fairly long unsealed road. However, the road is well-graded and in good conditions, a regular 2WD will make it easily.
Quick Navigation to Old Cairns Track: Either paste in the GPS coordinates below to navigate all the way to the trailhead or try “Lamins Hill Lookout” which is the closest named pin.
To get to the West Mulgrave Falls trailhead from Cairns, drive south on the Bruce Highway (A1) towards Gordonvale, where you’ll turn right onto Riverstone Road (State Route 52). Go through the roundabout and follow the winding Gillies Range Road all the way up to the Tablelands.
Just near Lake Eacham, take a left onto Lake Barine Road and follow this for 6.4 KM, where you’ll need to turn left again onto Topaz Road. This road is very narrow so take care to move aside for oncoming traffic.
After 9.5 KM, you’ll reach an intersection near “Lamins Hill Lookout”. Veer left here onto “Old Cairns Track“. Next, just a few hundred metres up the road, you’ll come to an obvious fork. Take the right fork and follow this unsealed road for 6.6 KM before arriving at a very obvious car par with a sign: “Windin Falls”.
Finding the Track
The trailhead to West Mulgrave Falls begins about 100 metres up the Windin Falls track but is unmarked and quite difficult to spot initially. My best advice is to just follow the wide Windin Falls Track while keeping an eye out for a track in the bush to your right. This track is often overgrown with grass so it can be difficult to spot. Below, you’ll find the GPS coordinates for the West Mulgrave Falls trailhead, and if you keep scrolling, a GPX file that you can follow to help you navigate.
The West Mulgrave Falls Hike
The West Mulgrave Falls hike is considered difficult, both in terms of navigation and physical effort. You’ll definitely need to have bush experience and a decent level of fitness to reach this waterfall.
The track is overgrown in sections and is more of a general “route” than a worn hiking trail. However, there are well-marked pink and orange ribbons on the trees that are an essential navigation tool. My advice is to download this blog post for offline use (there is no reception on the track) or download the GPX file below to supplement the ribbons for navigation. This GPX track is the one that I recorded on my trip to the falls. Tracks and conditions often change in the Wet Tropics, so remember that it should only be used as a general aid and not a primary means of navigation.
The route down to West Mulgrave Falls crosses through dense tropical rainforest before descending steeply down the gorge. Once at the base, hikers will follow a creek all the way to the waterfall. There are two knee-height creek crossing sections that are fairly easy to manage, assuming regular conditions (can change rapidly). Please don’t attempt to cross any rivers following heavy rainfall or any that you aren’t comfortable with and only do so at your own risk and judgement.
Below I’ll detail a route based on experience on the West Mulgrave Falls hike. This might prove to be a helpful aid for you to complete the walk safely.
First Section: Flat But Tricky to Navigate
Begin the West Mulgrave Falls hike by picking up the overgrown, grassy trail on your right, just a few hundred metres from the start of the Windin Falls track. Traverse through the long grass as the track follows the edge of a fenced cattle property.
This first section is one of the most difficult to navigate due to the lack of ribbons. Also, the track pretty much disappears after entering the rainforest, so the GPX map below might be useful here. If you struggle with navigating this section, then it’s a good sign that you’re ill-prepared for the hike.
Continue following the route through the rainforest on soft and root-filled undergrowth. Keep an eye out for ribbons as you go. This section is fairly dense but you won’t need to do much bush bashing. Eventually, the ribbons lead you to a wider, obvious track and then back into the bush.
This first, flat section before the descent is very serene and will offer what I believe to be a real slice of Tropical Far North Queensland’s ancient rainforests. After approximately 3 kilometres, you will begin the very steep descent down to the base of the gorge.
Prepare your legs up as you make your way down the steep and slippery 40-degree gradient for almost a kilometer as you descend roughly 250 metres to the base of the creek.
This part is easy to follow but there are pink ribbons every 5 metres or so. If you are up to it, continue down and push thoughts of the return climb to the back of your mind, for now.
Following the Creek to West Mulgrave Falls
Once you arrive at the base of the creek, the track opens up to a broad and very scenic rainforest oasis. You can fill your water bottle here (consider filtering) and there is even a small waterfall just a few hundred metres upstream.
Next, follow the pink ribbons to other side of the creek. There are several spots which were suitable for crossing during my visit. However, we had to take our shoes off as the rocks were too slippery to jump across. Again, it has been raining heavily, or if the creek is flowing too hard, don’t attempt to cross.
My water filtration system: Grayl Geopress Water Purifier
Once on the other side of this first creek crossing, follow the ribbons into the bush once again. This final push to the waterfall is filled with heavy treefall and wait-a-whiles hanging off seemingly every branch, fern and palm.
Not too long after the first crossing, you’ll reach the second. This creek flows directly from West Mulgrave Falls and is definitely more powerful than the first, so take care and don’t cross if you are not comfortable with the conditions.
Finally, once you’ve crossed, continue to follow the pink ribbons, traversing a slippery boulder field with heavy treefall until you finally see the giant, West Mulgrave Falls at the edge of a spacious clearing.
Hike Data & GPX File
Below is a GPX map recorded by my Garmin watch and shows the route that I took down to West Mulgrave Falls. You can download the file by clicking the link below.
This resource will be very helpful in case you lose track of the ribbon trail markers. However, don’t rely on it as a primary means of navigation. Also, tracks change and the creek crossing sections that I took might not be suitable when you go. So, use your own judgment and don’t blindly follow what you find online.
GPX File: Download
My Strava: Visit
What to Expect at West Mulgrave Falls
As soon as I arrived at West Mulgrave Falls, I was blown away. Having not seen too much information online or even pictures of the waterfall before, the reward was definitely worth the walk!
It’s difficult to say how tall the West Mulgrave waterfall is, but I’d say it’s at least 60 metres tall. The waterfall crashes violently down the almost vertical cliff face into a deep, aqua-green pool below. There is also a large boulder on the left side of the waterfall that makes a great vantage point. The waterfall pool extends around this boulder in a section that was at least 3 metres deep when I checked the depth. I discovered that it was possible to jump off this boulder into the pool below, but I made sure to do depth checks first as always.
The waterfall pool is the perfect place to swim and cool off before preparing for the steep climb back to the car park. To return, follow the same route as you took on the way in.
Cairns Waterfall Tours
|Most-booked waterfall tour from Cairns||$115||Josephine Falls, Millaa Millaa, Dinner Falls, Crater Lakes|
|Cheapest Atherton Tablelands Waterfall Tour||$107||Josephine Falls, Millaa Millaa, Dinner Falls, Curtain Fig Tree|
|2D1N Waterfall and Atherton Camping||$251||Barron Falls, Lake Eacham, Overnight Camping, Peterson Creek (platypus viewing), Curtain Fig Tree, Josephine Falls|
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, so make sure to check that out too before you book!
Also, if you’re looking to stay in Port Douglas, I’ve got some tips on finding great accommodation deals there too.
LUXURY RESORT WITHOUT THE PRICE TAG – Rydges Resort
This hotel offers the best 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.
Best 5-Star Luxury Without the Price Tag: Pullman Reef Hotel Casino
If luxury and location are what you’re after, you can’t beat the Pullman. It’s rated Cairns’ best hotel and features restaurants, a pool, live music gigs and even a casino! If nightlife is your thing, don’t go past this one.
Check price & availability at Pullman
Stay on the islands: 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.
Check price & availability at Fitzroy Island resort
Best Budget Hostel With a Pool – 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.
Check price & availability at Gilligan’s
More Hikes and Waterfalls in Cairns & The Tablelands
I hope you found this hiking guide to West Mulgrave Falls useful in planning your adventures in the Wooroonooran. For more adventure guides, hikes and waterfalls around Cairns, check out the list below.
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