Cairns is at the heart of adventure in Queensland adventure. The diverse national parks and rainforests that hem in the city are just as wonderful as the Great Barrier Reef out to sea.

Teeming with wildlife and home to ancient rainforests, the lush wilderness is ripe for exploration and the myriad hiking trails in the area will take you on journeys through landscapes that will titillate your imagination and satiate your sense of adventure.

If you feet are itching for some adventuring, throw on your walking boots and check out these hiking trails near Cairns.

1. Crystal Cascades

In stinger season, jellyfish swarm Cairns’s beaches, driving people inland in search of swimming spots. The Crystal Cascades is one of the best places to cool down, with icy waters spilling over smooth rocks. Shaded by the tree canopy, the water is always refreshing after hours in the sun. The hollows formed in the rocks in Freshwater Creek look like natural spa pools, inviting you to hop in and splash around after the hot walk to get there. The rainforest-fringed waterfalls can be reached easily via a one-kilometre track, around 25 minutes’ drive from the city centre.

If you’re a keen hiker and want more of a challenge, you can carry on past the cascades to Lake Morris. The steep track can be difficult, but is a great place to be immersed in dense rainforest.

2. Barron Gorge National Park

Seeing the water thundering down Barron Gorge is well worth the 20-minute drive from Cairns. The land is traditionally owned by the Djabugay Aboriginal people, so there are many stories within the park, and the walking tracks follow historic trails that have been used for centuries.

Hikes range from 30 minutes to 6 hours, so you can choose your path according to your experience and fitness level. There is plenty of wildlife and a number of photo-worthy vistas in the park, but the main feature is Barron Falls, reached via an elevated boardwalk. In wet season, floodwaters amplify the falls, creating a spectacular display.

3. Mount Bartle Frere

The highest peak in Queensland is found 75 kilometres south of Cairns. Hiking up to the summit is a chance to explore the World Heritage-listed rainforest of Wooroonooran National Park, that covers the Bellenden Ker Range.

If you want to be king (or queen) of the mountain, you’ll need to get an early start on the six to eight-hour trail. Bear in mind that the mountain is located in the wet tropics, so the weather can be rainy. The driest months are August to October – during this time you will have the best chance of having a cloud-free view from the top.

4. Walsh’s pyramid

The highest freestanding natural pyramid in the world, this small mountain is a geological oddity. At 922 metres high, it makes for a steep hike, but the views from the top are spectacular. The near-perfect pyramid shape gives you unobstructed 360-degree views.

You can make it up and back down again in three hours, but you may want to allow longer if you aren’t very fit or if you want to spend some time at the top. The trail winds through eucalypt woodlands near the base, then gives way to more scrubby vegetation near the rocky summit. Bear in mind that as there is no shade near the top, the walk can get hot and thirsty – be sure to bring a water bottle!

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5. Babinda Boulders

A popular swimming and picnic area, the Boulders is where large granite outcrops funnel cool, clear mountain water down to Babinda Creek. A walk through the rainforest will take you to lookout areas where you can admire the boulder formations and small waterfalls.

According to local Yindinji folklore, a young woman’s spirit resides amongst the boulders, where she calls longingly for her lover. Her cries allegedly lure passersby into the dangerous water. Sure enough, drownings have been known to occur in the aptly named Devil’s Pool. Whether or not you believe the story, you should stick to the well-maintained walking track and stay within the railings at the lookout areas. There is a safe pool for swimming near the picnic area and there is free camping available if a day trip isn’t enough.

From the picnic area, you can head upstream following the creek, on a trail that goes into the Wooroonooran National Park. This is the start of a seven-hour hike that will take you up Mt Bartle Frere.

You should always take a map, sunscreen and plenty of water with you when you go hiking near Cairns. Let people know where you are planning on going before you set off and check in with them again when you get back.

There is limited public transport to these locations, so to make the most out of your outdoor adventure, you’ll need a good set of wheels. Check out our range of vehicles before hitting Cairns’s hiking trails!