The Glacier Rock hike is a short out-and-back trail offering magnificent coastal views from Cairns to the Northern Beaches. The gentle climb up to the 450 m Glacier Rock lookout is a great bet for catching excellent sunrise or sunset views near Kuranda.
It seems that wherever you stand in Cairns, the stark, bare face of Glacier rock stands exposed against the iconic rainforest backdrop.
If you’re up for a short, yet rewarding hike near Cairns or Kuranda, then the Glacier Rock hike is an excellent choice. We decided to hit the trail approximately an hour before sunrise in hopes of catching the sunrise from the top.
- Directions to Glacier Rock Cairns
- Glacier Rock Hike Distance
- Glacier Rock Map
- What to Expect on the Glacier Rock Walking Track
- Cool Off at Stoney Creek
- More Photos From the Glacier Rock Hike
- More Things to do in Cairns
Glacier Rock Cairns, as well as the other walking tracks and trails in the Barron Gorge National Park, make up what was once an essential network of Djabugay tracks. These tracks are significant to the indigenous community as they were useful tracks for connecting the coast to the Tablelands.
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.
- ... 7 more top-rated tours here
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.
Directions to Glacier Rock Cairns
The Glacier Rock hike is located in the Barron Gorge National Park, with most access points starting near the Stoney Creek walking track.
The short, 260 m Glacier Rock track branches from a fork on the Douglas Track. This means that those wanting to just hike to the Glacier Rock lookout will have a couple of options.
Option 1: Start at Stoney Creek Car Park
Based on the online trail maps of the Barron Gorge, the best place to start is from the Stoney Creek car park. From here, take the Stoney Creek/Douglas trailhead, keeping right and following signs for Douglas Track.
This option adds approximately 750 M each way as the track connects close to the start of the Douglas Track road trailhead (option 2 below).
Option 2: Starting From Douglas Track Road
The second option for where to start the Glacier Rock hike is at a cul de sac at the end of Douglas Track Road. This road is the last right, just before the Stoney Creek car park.
There are a few spots to leave your car, and the trailhead is an unmarked entry track into the bush just to the left of a closed-off private driveway.
I've pinned the location for the Glacier Rock start point on the map below to help you find it.
Related:White Rock Lookout Hike
Glacier Rock Hike Distance
So, how far is Glacier Rock Cairns? The Glacier Rock walking track is approximately 5.9 km long, accounting from an out-and-back from the Douglas Track Road trailhead.
Again, if you're departing from the Stone Creek car park, add an extra 1.5 km for the return trip.
Glacier Rock Map
Below I've included a GPX file of the route that I took up to the Glacier Rock Lookout from the end of Douglas Track Road, recorded using my GPS watch. You can download it and follow it if you want. But, honestly this track is fairly easy to follow and it's very hard to get lost on the way.
GPX File: Download
My Strava: Visit
What to Expect on the Glacier Rock Walking Track
- Hike Distance: 5.9 km return
- Duration: 2-2.5 hours
- Elevation: 395 m elevation gain to 450 m AMSL
- Difficulty: Easy
Although much of this track is an upward climb, the elevation gain of 395M is spread, meaning that it's more of a gentle ascent and not too steep.
First Section From Stoney Creek
Starting from the Douglas Track road trailhead, you will enter a thick, bushy section with tall grass on either side of the track just before reaching a makeshift plank bridge over a small gulley.
Soon after, the track leads to a fork with a signpost, whereby you'll need to take the right path (Douglas Track). This is the point where the track joins to the Stoney Creek car park track.
Soon after the fork, the track begins to climb, with several switchback turns as you make your way up to the ridge.
Douglas Track Rail Crossing
At roughly the halfway mark, you will come to an overhead bridge that allows you to cross the railway track. Following this bridge, there is a steep ascent up the metal staircase beyond the bridge.
Related: Red Arrow, Blue Arrow Tracks Cairns
Breaking Out of the Bush
After another short switchback climb, the track opens up to an exposed, grassy section offering increasingly better views before reaching a flat section that serves as a powerline service track.
Continue on this wide path to a point where the McDonald track joins the Douglas Track. To your left will be a signpost indicating the final stretch to the Glacier Rock lookout point.
Related: Kahlpahlim Rock Hike (Lambs Head)
Glacier Rock Lookout
Just 260 m from the fork and you will have reached Glacier Rock, marked by a signpost beside the cliffside lookout point.
From the Glacier Rock lookout, there are spanning views of the Cairns coast, including the Northern Beaches, Cairns city, the Barron River, Earl Hill, the Mount Whitfield Conservation Park, and the distant mountains of the Lamb Range.
50+ More Cairns Bucketlist Items
- Visit the Cairns Islands
- Kuranda Railway & Skyrail
- Rusty's Markets
- Day trip to Cape Tribulation
- ... +51 more things to do in Cairns!
Cool Off at Stoney Creek
After taking in the sunrise view from the Glacier Rock lookout, it's time to return back to the car park on the same route that you came in on.
If you're looking to cool down then Stoney Creek, a refreshing swimming hole, makes the perfect spot. This is located just around the corner at Stoney Creek Carpark.
RELATED: Devils Thumb Hike in Mossman
Cairns Accommodation Guide – Where to Stay
Visiting Cairns? The best places to stay are near the Cairns Esplanade or on the sunny Northern Beaches. Below are the top 4 options for varying budgets.
- 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.
- Fitzroy Island Resort - Sleep out on one of the picturesque Great Barrier Reef Islands at Fitzroy Island Resort. Spending the night on the island can work out cheaper than staying in town and means 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. Great place to meet like-minded travelers and has facilities including a pool. air-con, a huge shared kitchen, and a great common area!
- Pepper's Beach Club - stay at the best beach resort in the heart of Palm Cove on the Cairns Northern Beaches!
More Photos From the Glacier Rock Hike
Here are some more photos of the hike to Glacier Rock Cairns to inspire your trip.
More Things to do in Cairns
I hope that this quick guide to hiking to the Glacier Rock lookout has been useful in planning out your Cairns activities.
For more ideas on hikes, islands, waterfalls and other Cairns attractions, make sure to check out some of the links below. Otherwise, check out my Cairns hiking mega-post to find more tropical walking tracks and routes.