Hiking in Cape York

Most of the Peninsula’s few dedicated walking tracks are simply links between parking areas and particular points of interest. The opportunities for longer walks are mainly provided by 4WD access tracks, while experienced bushwalkers will find potential for getting off marked routes in Rinyirru and Oyala Thumotang national parks. Apart from that there is little on offer, with the 10km (return) Old Coen Track in Kutini-Payamu National Park and walking tracks, up to 12km return, in Undara Volcanic National Park being worthy exceptions.

A couple of walking routes between Cape Tribulation and Cooktown are suitable for experienced bushwalkers. One of these is the challenging Mt Sorrow Track near Cape Tribulation. The other is the Cedar Bay Track from the Home Rule Rainforest Lodge (near Rossville) to Cedar Bay – allow at least two nights for this one. Cooktown’s Scenic Rim Walk has plenty of variety including the summit of Mt Cook, which overlooks the town.

When setting off on a walk through rainforest remember that night comes early in such places, particularly in overcast conditions.

Walk safely

The key to safe and enjoyable walking is being prepared for the conditions. Although seasoned locals may think of a typical dry season day as being pleasantly warm, it may be hot for visitors from chilly southern climes. Consider the following precautions before undertaking any walk:

  • Don’t undertake any walk that may be outside your level of fitness
  • Dress comfortably – a shady hat, loose-fitting clothes, comfortable hiking boots and 30+ sunscreen is recommended.
  • Avoid walking in the heat of the day – know the signs, symptoms and treatment for heat-related illnesses.
  • Know the treatment for snake bite – wear long trousers and closed-in footwear to avoid being bitten.
  • Register your intentions with a friend and arrange a search-and-rescue time if you fail to check in as planned.
  • Inexperienced walkers should stay on marked routes and be mindful of the fact that darkness comes early in the rainforest.
  • Carry and drink plenty of water – go easy on dehydrating beverages such as soft drinks, tea and coffee.
  • A minimum group size of three is recommended for longer walks.
  • Carry DEET-based insect repellent. Apply roll-on repellent to leeches (common in wet areas) and they drop off.
  • If you become lost, sit down and wait for help to arrive – running around like a headless chicken will only make things worse. Mind you, you may have reason to panic if you’ve failed to let responsible people know of your plans.