Hiking Carnarvon Gorge and Battleship Spur. The ultimate guide to hiking the Main Gorge Trail and Battleship Spur extension all in one day!
Described as an ‘oasis in the semi-arid heart of Central Queensland’, Carnarvon Gorge was truly spectacular. There is so much to see and do here in Carnarvon National Park. But, it is undoubtedly hiking Carnarvon Gorge that most people come here for. Referred to as the ‘Main Gorge/Walking Track’ what makes this hike so special is the added bonuses of all the short add-on side tracks. These side tracks branch off to diverse sites containing Aboriginal art, canyons, side gorges, rock formations and so much more. But for us it wasn’t only the Main Gorge Track we wanted to complete in a day. We were keen to add-on Battleship Spur, a further 8.7km return extension for the ultimate views over Carnarvon Gorge itself and the wider Carnarvon National Park.
Hiking Carnarvon Gorge Information
|Distance: 25km return (with all the side tracks) for the Main Walking Track + additional 8.7km return to Battleship Spur|
Trail Type: Return
Start Point: Carnarvon Gorge Visitor Area
Finish Point: Carnarvon Gorge Visitor Area
Duration: 6-8 hours for Main Walking Track and all side tracks + additional 2.5-3.5 hours to add on return hike to Battleship Spur
Difficulty: Grade 4 for Main Walking Track & Grade 5 for the additional Battleship Spur Extension
Map: See below
Hiking Carnarvon Gorge
You can park up at the big car park at the Carnarvon Gorge Visitor Centre or the camping area just next to it. From here you walk up past all the signage and visitor centre. There’s plenty of information here about distances and grading and toilet facilities should you need them. If you’re starting early like us 08:00 (early July), you’ll almost certainly see both the kangaroos and whiptail wallaby (also known as the Pretty-faced Wallaby) in and around this area and sporadically along the track.
From the visitor centre you’ll make you first of several Carnarvon Creek crossings using the strategically placed rocks to hop across. Here in the Gorge mouth you’ll pass the turn off towards the beautiful Nature Trail and not too long after you’ll pass a second right hand turnoff to Boolimba Bluff. Both of these are great little walks which we highly recommend for another day.
Checkout our WALKS AND WILDLIFE OF CARNARVON GORGE blog for more info on all the other walks and wildlife around this amazing national park.
Off the Carnarvon Main Walking Trail, there are several short ‘add-ons’ not to be missed. Each is unique and they are what makes this such an awesome hike. We chose to do them all in the one day hike, but this can be done over two or more day hikes at a more gentle pace. If doing them all in one day, it’s recommended to walk to the furthest point and start from there. As we were adding on the Battleship Spur, we actually chose to do the ‘add-ons’ as we came to them. The reasons for this were three-fold. Firstly, we didn’t want to get to Battleship Spur too early, as we wanted to be there for the favourable early afternoon light. Secondly, we wanted to have them done before the strenuous climb up to Battleship Spur. Thirdly we wanted to avoid the crowds.
Moss Garden Information: 650m one way from the Main Track with some uphill sections with stairs
2.8km from the visitor centre, you come to the first side track (or last, if visiting them in reverse order). The Moss Garden is a really nice and scenic 650m walk off the main track in what is classed as the Lower Gorge zone. Taking you past strangler fig clad boulders, huge tree ferns and a small waterfall, you are led into a lush green oasis. The sandstone walls are carpeted in mosses and other greenery which surround a waterfall that tumbles over a small sandstone ledge.
Amphitheatre Information: 630m one way from Main Track
900m on from the Moss Garden turn-off, you come to the second side track. Probably our favourite, the Amphitheatre was spectacular. After walking the 630m track in, you scale a multi-tier ladder before squeezing in through a crevice revealing a massive stone amphitheatre and encircling a hidden oasis. This huge chamber with its natural skylight made us feel like we’d just stepped into an enormous terrarium.
Wards Canyon Information: 270m one way from the Main Track a short, steep climb winds around a waterfall
Although only a short detour from the main track, this is quite a steep climb up but well worth it. Passing a small waterfall, you head up into a lush side gorge. This sheltered canyon is full of towering King Ferns and the water appears to run a reddish-orange colour due algae-coated rocks. It was a really cool and tranquil spot.
Art Gallery Information: 340m one way from Main Track with the last 300m of the track a gradual uphill climb
Said to contain some of the best examples Aboriginal stencil art in Australia, the Art Gallery really was impressive. The signage explains that this ‘spiritual place’ displays a storyboard of images from the Bidjara and Karingbal People and that during ceremonies, their ancestors left images here to tell stories of their time.
Note: 5.4km from the visitor centre, the Art Gallery is often the furthest many people chose to venture along the Carnarvon Gorge Main Walking Track. From here it’s 4km one way to the next add-on to this track – Cathedral Cave. This takes you from what is classed as the Lower Gorge zone into the Upper Gorge section. So for many, this is great place to use as the their turn around point for the track. It means you really only miss out on the similar Cathedral Cave and Boowinda Gorge section of the track and save hours and kilometres of hiking.
Cathedral Cave Information: Right on the Main Track.
4km from the Art Gallery is an overhanging sandstone shelter adorned with engravings, paintings and stencils. Similar to the Art Gallery this was and is an important site for the Bidjara and Karingbal People and the paintings depict meanings and stories. The ‘net’ paintings indicate this was a ceremonial site. The signage explains of the ‘complex rituals involved in preparing a person for burial’ so ‘their spirit can be returned back to country’.
Boowinda Gorge Information: 100m upstream of Cathedral Cave
The left hand turnoff to Boowinda Gorge is only about 100m metres up from Cathedral Cave. We actually bypassed this to head on a further 500m to Big Bend for a snack and toilet break before returning to hike through Boowinda Gorge and then onto Battleship Spur.
This Gorge was probably the most underrated section of the hike in our opinion. The curving, sculpted walls of this gorge don’t appear to get as much footfall as other parts of this hike. We really enjoyed the kilometre hike through this Gorge to the Battleship Spur turnoff marker.
Big Bend Information: End of the Main Walking Track
9.7km from the Visitor Centre, Big Bend technically marks the end of the Carnarvon Gorge Main Walking Track. There is a natural pool here at the base of the massive sandstone creek walls, but in all honesty, this was the least impressive section of the hike for us. However, with composting toilets and picnic tables, this area is a good spot for a snack break and is a walk-in camping area for those on the multi-day hikes. We didn’t spend long here as we hiked the 500m back to Boowinda Gorge for the Battleship Spur extension.
Battleship Spur Information: A very steep 4.3km one way Grade 5 track starts at Boowinda Gorge
When researching the Battleship Spur section of this hike, we frustratingly found very little information about it. Any we did find was about either overnight camping at Big Bend and hiking up from there, or its inclusion as part of the 4-6 day Carnarvon Great Walk. We really found no real information on anyone adding it on to the Carnarvon Gorge Main Walking Track and completing it all in one day. We did find one or two blogs that said it could be done and wasn’t recommended, but they hadn’t actually done it themselves. But looking at the distances involved and based on some of our previous hikes, we were confident we could easily squeeze it all into one solid day of hiking.
Hiking along Boowinda Gorge for about 1km you’ll come to a rock and tree on the right handside of the gorge with orange arrows as pictured below. These markers point you up and out of the gorge. Straight away you’ll notice this is a steep path that involves scrambling. It takes about 10 minutes of ‘climbing’ to complete this steep section.
From here, it’s about 90 minutes of predominantly uphill hiking all the way to Battleship Spur. But don’t worry, the diverse scenery helps take your mind off the inclines. The path is easy to follow, so you needn’t worry about getting lost. Once up a small laddered section, the views really begin to open up and give you a taste of whats to come from the lookout. 240m from the lookout you’ll come to the only T-Junction with some signage clearly pointing you to Battleship Spur.
As with many of our hikes, it was a picture we’d seen that lured us up to Battleship Spur. That photo was taken from the Battleship Spur lookout. And when we reached it, it did not disappoint! The unimpeded vistas from up here were stunning. With the early afternoon sun behind us we were able to enjoy epic views of the snaking sandstone scar of Carnarvon Gorge which cuts right through Carnarvon National Park.
After enjoying the views for a while, it was time to get going again. We headed back the way we came, down into Boowinda Gorge and back to our campsite. The descent from Battleship Spur down into Carnarvon Gorge to Cathedral Cave, only took about an hour to complete. From the Cathedral Cave, it’s a nice mostly flat 9km hike back along the Main Walking Track to the Carnarvon Gorge Visitor Area Parking.
Hiking Carnarvon Gorge was simply stunning. With its beautiful gorge, diverse side tracks and plenty of wildlife, we loved it! And adding Battleship Spur onto our day hike here was the icing on the cake! The views from that lookout were the undoubted highlight of this near 10 hour hike. Having said that, if you’re not up to hiking all of Carnarvon Gorge, it’s still worth doing shorter sections. Everything was beautiful here so take your time and soak it all in, you won’t be disappointed!
Where to stay
Carnarvon Gorge National Park is very popular, so book accommodation early! Particularly during the school holiday period sites can be booked out months in advance. We camped for 4 nights at Takarakka Bush Resort (now BIG4 Breeze Holiday Parks – Carnarvon Gorge) and we absolutely loved it. Wildlife everywhere, awesome location, friendly staff, great facilities with a range of accommodation options.
During the school holidays only you can camp at the QPWS Carnarvon Gorge Camping Area. Otherwise options include the luxurious Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge, the basic Sandstone Park or you can free camp outside the National Park on the side of the road.
Useful information and packing essentials for hiking Carnarvon Gorge and Battleship Spur
- Firstly, our pictures of hiking Carnarvon Gorge don’t do this beautiful place justice!
- It’s important to consider your health, fitness and experience when choosing a remote and potentially dangerous walk like this.
- With the Battleship Spur extension, this hike took us 9.5 hours so pack accordingly.
- Bring lots of water with you and make sure you have enough for the conditions. In the hotter months, you’ll obviously need a lot more than we did in early July.
- Likewise bring plenty of food and energy snacks.
- Whilst the Carnarvon Gorge Main Walking Track is a grade 4 and relatively easy track, please note that adding on Battleship Spur makes things considerably more difficult. Once you reach the top of Boowinda Gorge you’ll come to a green and white ‘STOP’ sign. This is no joke, it’s an important reminder that this is not just an easy little extension like the other side tracks. This is a remote section of track where you will have no mobile reception and potentially not see another hiker. It is only suitable for fit, experienced and well-prepared hikers.
- As always, leave no trace and take all your rubbish with you and dispose of it correctly.
- There are toilets at the Visitor Area, near the Moss Garden and at Big Bend.
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