Springbrook National Park_open Queensland National Parks

A runner’s guide to exploring Queensland’s national parks

Our recent home-bound lifestyle has seen many of us either blow the cobwebs off the treadmill, or run lap after lap around our neighbourhood pretending we’re in one of Queensland’s national parks. But as of May 2, a selection of Queensland national parks have reopened for locals who live within 50km (with social distancing measures still firmly in place, of course). For the full list, click here.

For the lucky people with these national parks on their doorstep, it’s time to immerse yourself in nature. Move your body, fill your lungs, and be inspired by the natural world – in-person – once again.

For everyone else, continue plotting, continue smashing those kilometres on the treadmill. Soon we’ll be able to welcome you back to explore these trails or tackle an endurance event in Queensland in the second half of 2020.

Before heading outside, always check park alerts and while restrictions are beginning to ease, please don’t abuse them. If you’re lucky enough to be back exploring nature, follow the rules so everyone else can join you shortly.

Courtney Atkinson’s top 5

Olympian and all-round outdoorsman Courtney Atkinson has explored his fair share of national parks. He ran eight trails in seven days in every state and territory around Australia, and has explored Queensland’s beaches, mountains, rainforests and Outback on foot.

As parks re-open, Courtney has compiled his top five Queensland trails, from local favourites to a track in the shadows of our tallest peak.

Mix-use trail network, Nerang National Park

Nerang National Park trail run | Queensland's National Parks

The Nerang circuit offers 50km of winding, multi-use trails where you’ll see everything from horses to MTB riders, walkers and runners.

Located only 20 minutes from Surfers Paradise Beach, the beauty of Nerang is its accessibility. Beginning at the Nerang Velodrome, head onto the network and start at the trail map which outlines the track grades and directions. From there, the single tracks through the dry rainforest and open eucalypt forests are well marked.

This green haven on the back doorstep of the Gold Coast is perfect for runners who want to push themselves on a long run, or for anyone who wants to enjoy a peaceful loop through the bush.

Courtney’s track notes

Nerang trails strava route

To view the route click here.

It’s amazing that this network of trails is so close to a big city. People travel all over the world for trails like this and Gold Coast locals have it on their doorstep.

The National Park has plenty of kangaroos that you’re likely to spot on an early morning run or walk too, as well as plenty of birdlife.

The trail network is multi-use, so if you’re out there on foot, always give way to mountain bike riders and horses.

Manjal Jimalji Trail (Devils Thumb), Daintree National Park

Manjal Jimalji Trai | Daintree Rainforest | Queensland's National Parks

Any opportunity to explore the oldest surviving tropical rainforest in the world is special, but it’s the end of this trail that has hikers returning time after time.

The trail begins in the Whyanbeel Valley at Little Falls Creek about 17km north of Mossman, which is 80km north of Cairns along the Captain Cook Highway. Manjal Jimalji is the eastern Kuku Yalanji place name for the locally known Devils Thumb. Manjal Jimalji is a significant cultural site that tells the story of fire creation.

The trail can simply be described as an adventure. Plenty of creek crossings, damp and thick vegetation dominated by ferns and a finish that reminds you of just how small we are as humans.

The end of the trail is dominated by a rocky outcrop that overlooks the Cairns coast out towards the Coral Sea and the Great Barrier Reef. Here, you’re in isolation above the Daintree Rainforest that continues to hum with life below as you catch your breath.

Courtney’s track notes

Manjal Jimalji Trail strava route

To view the route click here.

Standing on that rock is one of the more surreal feelings you can have on a trail. The trail itself is challenging, but the Daintree Rainforest never ceases to amaze, from the sounds to the way the light filters through the canopy.

When on the trail, keep an eye out for parks markers and tape, take your time, and like most trails in the tropics, it’s best to wear gloves, long pants and keep an eye out for stinging wait-a-while vines.

Warrie Circuit waterfalls, Springbrook National Park

Springbrook National Park_Queensland's National Parks

Starting and finishing at the Tallanbaba Picnic area in Springbrook National Park, this 12km loop is all about the waterfalls.

After a short stroll to the circuit proper you descend and follow the track, passing 16 waterfalls and many creeks before ascending back to the beginning. The track’s highlight is undoubtedly the waterfalls you can jump in to cool off, or the short extra route to visit Twin Falls.

The trail is part of the World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforests, the last remaining remnants of the once-vast rainforests that covered the southern supercontinent of Gondwana 180 million years ago.

Courtney’s track notes

Springbrook National Park Strava route

To view the route click here.

This is a track not to rush – take your time and enjoy the lush rainforest, or lie down in one of the creeks to cool off. Also keep an eye out for the Lamington blue spiny crayfish – you’re more likely to see them at high elevation.

Thorsborne Trail, Hinchinbrook Island

Zoe Falls_Hinchinbrook Island_Queensland's National Parks

A truly untouched environment, this is a trail for the serious adventurer that you can run in a day, or tackle as a multi-day hike.

Your hike starts unlike most, gliding across the water at sunrise via boat before landing on the beach and starting the trail with roughly 6km of sand.

As the trail continues, you pass through varying natural environments, from fragile heath vegetation to lush rainforest, tall eucalypt forests, and past unforgettable locations such as Zoe Falls, before finishing down a secluded beach and mangrove fringes.

Courtney’s track notes

Thorsborne Trail Strava route

To view the route click here.

As far as day adventures go, this trail is right up there. It’s as close to a lost-world as you’ll find in Australia. From rocky headlands to elevated tramped rainforest tracks, creek crossings and long-isolated beach stretches, this trail is Queensland at its very best.

The Thorsborne Trail sits right towards the top of many people’s must-explore list, and requires some preparation. You’ll need to be self-sufficient (especially water) and a tracking or SOS device is recommended.

Broken Nose track, Mount Bartle Frere

Mt Bartle Frere trail

This trail to Broken Nose takes in the best of Mt Bartle Frere, without having to complete the ascent to the metaphorical top of Queensland that juts 1,611 metres into the sky.

This trail is north Queensland rainforest at its finest. Thick, lush and roaring with life, this is a trail to slow down and simply enjoy the sounds and calming nature of the rainforest.

Beginning at Josephine Falls, the track to Broken Nose is clearly marked. Toward the end of your hike, the path tightens before ending on a rocky ledge overlooking the country side of north Queensland.

Courtney’s track notes

Broken Nose Lookout strava route

To view the route click here.

This trail is one to do without headphones; the noises and sounds of the birds and the rainforest is as loud as you’ll hear. This part of the world always feels prehistoric. It’s a place where nature reigns supreme and has for millions of years.

This trail passes a few crystal-clear streams, so be sure to pack water filters so you can take advantage and keep your bottles full.

Scaling Queensland’s tallest mountain requires preparation before you go, and always prioritise safety when on rainforest trails.