One of the most popular bushwalks around Cairns, the short Mossman Gorge Rainforest Circuit in the Mossman Gorge makes a loop through the stunning rainforest of the Daintree National Park. You can complete the Rainforest Circuit in about an hour – but allow extra time to enjoy a swim in the Mossman River.
You can also do a guided Dreamtime Walk with a Kuku Yalanji guide, who shares some of the Aboriginal knowledge, stories and legends of the rainforest. The walk starts with a smoking ceremony and includes information on traditional plant use and local bush food sources. (The traditional country of the Kuku Yalanji people extends from south of Mossman to Cooktown in the north, and Palmer River in the west.)
The self-guided Mossman Gorge Rainforest Circuit walk starts at the end of Mossman Gorge Road, and immediately enters the rainforest, on a paved walking path…
…the first section of the Rainforest Circuit is more of a stroll, than a bushwalk!
The paved track reaches a lookout over some small cascades and a popular Mossman Gorge Swimming Hole, which is always fairly busy – many people don’t go further than here.
The trail continues another hundred metres through rainforest, and past some colourful rainforest plants, before reaching a steel bridge. The vegetation of the Daintree is the most diverse in Australia, both floristically and structurally: the Daintree rainforest has 13 of the world’s 19 primitive flowering plant species.
The 2.4km Mossman Gorge Rainforest Circuit officially starts at the Rex Creek Suspension Bridge. While the entire loop is pretty easy, it’s nice to finally leave the paved and asphalt trail behind.
Just after the bridge, the informal Manjal Dimbi (Mount Demi) Lookout offers a view through the trees of this sacred mountain peak. A sign provides more information on the significance of this mountain.
Roughly translated, the words [Manjal Dimbi] mean ‘mountain holding back’, as the large humanoid rock represents Kubirri, who came to the aid of the Kuku Yalanji when they were persecuted by an evil spirit, Wurrumbu. Kubirri holds back the evil spirit, who is now confined to The Bluff above Mossman River. Manjl Dimbi has been anglicised to ‘Mt Demi’, and Kubirri is known as the ‘Good Shepherd’
The path soon reaches a fork, which is the start of the loop. You can do the Mossman Gorge Rainforest Circuit in either direction: I turn right, to do the the loop in an anti-clockwise direction. The track ascends gently, before starting to ascend.
As you’d expect, there are some impressive trees with enormous buttress roots along the path. There’s also frequent interpretative signage.
A (signposted) side-track leads to Wurrmbu Creek – it’s worth the short (400m return) detour. The creek forms an idyllic natural pool, surrounded by ferns and moss-covered rocks. It’s not really deep enough to swim, but is a great spot for a rest or too cool off in the water.
Continuing along the Mossman Gorge Rainforest Circuit, the track passes an enormous fig tree, which has its own sign and viewing area.
The track then starts descending towards Rex Creek.
The track descends parallel to Rex Creek, although most of the time you can’t see it. Next to the track is a large rock, with an overhang on one side.
The track passes next to Rex Creek one last time as it descends through the rainforest.
There’s more small cascades here, and large strangler figs along the edge of the creek.
The track soon re-joins the other side of the loop, returning the same way over the suspension bridge and past the swimming hole to the carpark / bus stop. If you’re doing the Mossman Gorge Rainforest Circuit walk late in the day, stop for a swim on the way back, when it will be a lot less busy.
Getting to the Mossman Gorge Rainforest Circuit
Mossman Gorge is about 75km (one hour) north of Cairns and 20km (20min) north of Port Douglas (and about 2km from the town of Mossman). The Mossman Gorge Centre has a large carpark, with regular bus shuttles between the Visitor Centre and the start of the Mossman Gorge Rainforest Circuit (fees apply). Although the Mossman Gorge web sites states “There’s no footpath or pedestrian access from the car park to the Gorge” you can walk the 2km along the sealed road to the start of the bushwalking track – but it’s not the most exciting walk (if you miss the last bus back, you’ll need to walk back down the road). No private vehicles are permitted beyond the Mossman Gorge Centre.
The Captain Cook Highway between Cairns and Mossman is part of the Great Tropical Drive, and passes many beaches and lookouts over the coast.