In search of a bushwalk bit off the beaten track, I’m exploring Mowbray National Park to the north of Cairns (and just south of Port Douglas). The Bump Track is a “feeder track” for the 5330km Bicentennial National Trail, and is a multi-use track open to horses (permits required) and mountain bikes as well as walkers.
You could spend a few hours reading all the signs at the start of the track, which explain some of the history of the Bump Track…
Of all the wagon roads that opened up the frontiers of Queensland, few were as important or as colourful as the old Port Douglas Road – Thornborough Road, now known as the Bump Track.
Blazed in 1877 by prominent bushman Christie Palmerston and his friend “WL” (either Billy Little or William Lakeland), the Bump Track provided an essential route for bullock and pack-horse teams hauling basic supplies from Port Douglas to the interior. It was the lifeline for a vast territory where mines, farms, stations and townships were being formed in the bush.
The wide track descends gently, with (another) sign indicating that you’re entering Mowbray National Park after a few hunded metres.
It’s easy walking and it the forest feels less tropical and more open than many other bushwalks in Far North Queensland – but that’s probably more because of the wide track.
After 1.5km the fun begins, as the Bump Track reaches a junction with the narrow bushwalking track to Big Mowbray Falls. It would be easy to miss the track, although its fairly obvious if you’re looking our for it.
The trail is generally easy to follow, and more interesting than the Bump Track – even though it’s a more challenging track.
There are a few obstacles, including fallen trees, wait-a-while vines and spiky plants ready to inflict some flesh wounds if you’re not paying attention!
Toward the middle of this section of the bushwalk, the track traverses a small gully, crossing a creek at the bottom before ascending to the top of the ridge.
The track then follows the top of a wide ridge, where the forest is much more open. There are views out over Mowbray National Park to the ocean.
The very last part of the track is super-steep, as it descends to the Mowbray River. I’m not looking forward to the climb back out…
The track emerges on the bank of the Mowbray River, which is flowing well over a series of small rapids. (Make a note of where the track ends – it can be a bit trick finding it again on the way back!)
Cross the river and continue downstream, where there is a wide pool. It’s a nice spot to cool off – although not quite deep enough to swim.
Just below the pool is Big Mowbray Falls, which cascades over the rocks to a pool at the bottom. If it’s not raining (when the rocks get very slippery) you can clamber down to the pool at the base of the falls. It’s not too difficult to het get halfway down for a better view; I didn’t climb all the way dow to the bottom which is a bit more challenging.
Enjoy a swim or a break in one of the many shaded spots along the Mowbray River, before returning the same way.
Getting to the Bump Track to Big Mowbray Falls
You can access the Bump Track from either Connolly Road or Black Mountain Road; it’s a much longer and steeper walk from Connolly Road (12.6km return). It’s about 90min from Cairns, or 40min from Port Douglas. Whether you’re coming from the north or the south, turn off onto Mossman Mount Molloy Rd, then take Euluma Creek Road and finally Black Mountain Road (which is partly unsealed).
On the drive up, there are some nice view from two lookouts along Mossman Mount Molloy Rd. The view from the first (lower) lookout is slightly marred by some electricity wires and posts.
The second (Rex Range Lookout) has a more panoramic and uninterrupted view over the hinterland and ocean.
- Parks QLD – Kuranda National Park and Mowbray National Park