Looking to do the Glacier Rock walk via the Douglas Track? About 6 or so km return, this moderate hike is very popular with Cairns locals, due to its easy access location and stunning views across North Cairns. Depending on your fitness level and how often you want to stop this hike can take approximately 1.5 – 3 hours return.
Suggested read: The 5 Best Hikes in Cairns.
Where is Glacier Rock?
The Glacier Rock hike is found only 20 minutes outside of the Cairns CBD, within the Cairns suburbs. Located within Barron Gorge, the easiest way to get to the start of the hike is to drive before beginning your ascent.
Glacier Rock Hike: Where to Park
You have two main options for parking at Glacier Rock and this depends on whether you want to start/finish at Stoney Creek.
Stoney Creek Car Park Entrance
One entrance to Glacier Rock is through Stoney Creek. Stoney Creek is a popular swimming hole and waterfall (suggested read: The Best Cairns Waterfalls) and also marks the start of the Glacier Rock hike (Google Maps link here).
Here you can park your car and follow the signs through to the creek. Once you’ve crossed over the first part of the creek, continue in the way you are heading (don’t turn left to follow the creek up) and you’ll find yourself at the start of the Glacier Rock hike.
Douglas Track Road Entrance
An alternative way to begin the Glacier Rock hike, is through the Douglas Track Road entrance. Just before arriving at Stoney Creek, turn right at the roundabout onto Douglas Track Road.
Follow this road around until you come to a rounded section, with plenty of place to park your car.
You’ll see the path heading through the bush and this marks the start of the Glacier Rock hike from this entrance.
If you choose to enter this way, you’ll shortly come to an empty creek bed with a plank of wood across.
After you’ve crossed, you’ll arrive at a T intersection. This is where you meet the trail that began at Stoney Creek. By coming in from the Douglas Track Road entrance, you’ll knock about 10 or so minutes from your hike. Be sure to turn right here to continue up towards Glacier Rock.
Glacier Rock: The Hike
Glacier Rock hike can be roughly divided into three main parts.
Glacier Rock Hike Part 1
The first part is through relatively dense rainforest until you reach the Kuranda Scenic Railway train line.
If you’re attempting this hike in the warmer months (October – March), this part of the hike can be quite humid. As you walk you’ll see a few large boulders along the way.
And as you ascend through the rainforest, this hike will get steadily steeper before levelling out at a large mango tree and clearing. In my opinion this first part is the harder part of the overall hike, so it’s good to get it over and done with early on.
This is a great spot to take a decent break before tackling the next parts of the hike. If you’re up for a bit of rock hopping you can climb the boulders just behind the mango tree for your first view out across Cairns and the rainforest.
Continue on from this point, and you’ll shortly arrive at the Kuranda Scenic Railway line.
Glacier Rock Hike Part 2
The second part of the hike is my favourite part due to the open air and views along the way. Head across the Kuranda Scenic Railway bridge and you’ll see stairs heading up the mountainside.
Once you’ve made it to the top, you’ll have the chance to catch your breath as the majority of the second part of this hike is on flatter ground. Having left the rainforest you’ll also enjoy a cool breeze.
From here you’ll start to see views of the rainforest and the north Cairns coastline behind you.
There is also a picnic table here if you’ve brought food with you where you can sit and take in the view.
Once you reach the top of this section, continue on the open track
You’ll see a sign pointing you back into the rainforest to continue the third and final part of the Glacier Rock hike.
Glacier Rock Hike Part 3
The third and final part heads back into the rainforest before you reach the peak and the Glacier Rock lookout across Cairns.
While the open air section of the hike is great, you’ll find heading back into the rainforest to be quite refreshing to get out of the heat of the sun.
Continue along the path until you see a sign pointing you up towards where the lookout is.
and then you’re here!
The view from the lookout is quite beautiful as you can follow Barron River through the rainforest, look across Cairns and out across the ocean. You will also be able to see the Kuranda Scenic Railway train line in the distance (and if lucky, spot the train meandering its way along the mountainside).
Lookout Photo Locations
There are a few sneaky spots to snap a pic at the Glacier Rock lookout, you just have to be very careful as there are obviously no barriers and steep cliffs if you misjudge your step. Be careful for loose stones as well.
First Spot: The Tree
Let’s start with the obvious, the tree front and centre at the lookout.
Second Spot: Left Cliff Face
If you’re looking at the view, turn to your left and follow the small path down to the cliff edge. Be very careful but you’ll see there is a spot to sit and take in the view.
There are also a few spots lower down but I’ve never gone further down that this spot.
Third Spot: Right Cliff Face
If you’re looking at the view, turn to your right, head around the Glacier Rock sign and follow the path that seems to take you a little further away from the view. This will lead you to another great vantage point to snap a pic through the trees.
After you’ve taken in the view, head back the way you came.
Best time to do Glacier Rock Hike
Time of Year
The best time of the year to do the Glacier Rock hike is in Cairns’ cooler months between April and September. Cairns’ winter temperature is very pleasant, especially for bush walking.
Time of Day
Like a lot of outdoor physical activity in the north, Glacier Rock hike is best done in the early morning or late afternoon when the weather is cooler and the sun is not as strong.
I have hiked Glacier Rock in the dark for sunrise and it was easily my favourite time. I’d recommend doing this hike first in daylight before tackling it in the dark but watching the golden light come up across Cairns and the ocean was incredible.
Things to be Wary of
While Glacier Rock is a frequently trafficked hike and you’ll often come across other people tackling the hike, it always pays to be wary of Australian wildlife, especially wild pigs, cassowaries and snakes that you could come across on the trail. This is especially true if you’re hiking in the early morning. Also remember that part of the hike is exposed so don’t forget to bring sunscreen with you.
Please also note that this hike is in a National Park and therefore you can’t bring your furry friends with you.
Finishing off the Hike
If you’ve parked at the Stoney Creek Carpark (or don’t mind a bit of a detour from the Douglas Track Road entrance), finish the hike by cooling off one of the many waterholes at Stoney Creek.
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