The Misty Mountains are home for many of Far North Queensland’s most impressive waterfalls and Cannabullen Falls is definitely one of the best.
The large waterfall of Cannabullen Creek thunders down over a sheer cliff to the rocky pool below. The breathtaking view from this lookout into Wooroonooran National Park is extraordinary, to say the least.
How to get there?
We recommend taking a 4WD or vehicle with decent ground clearance to access the Cannabullen Falls track. Your standard road car may not fare well on the last part of the road as it is unsealed and a bit dodgy. The mission is a 2-hour drive from Cairns up the Gillies Range via Millaa Millaa.
Here, simply take the Misty Mountains Tourist Drive for approximately 10 km and then turn left down Maalan Road. We clocked about 3 km along this road when we turned left again onto the well-signed Sutties Gap Road. We drove 8 km along this road, and on the right, we found the large signpost/map indicating the start of the Cannabullen Falls Track.
Note: If any of your passengers suffer from car sickness then you can opt (like we did) to drive down to Innisfail and take the Palmerston Highway up to Maalan Road (This avoids the ever sickening Gillies Range). On our drive up the Palmerston Highway, we realised that there are lots of other waterfalls in this area, so if we had more time to camp overnight, then we would have been able to see a few more waterfalls that this area had to offer but alas we didn’t. We will get there though, soon.
How long is the hike itself and how hard is it?
The walk to the falls took just over 2 hours and we tracked 6.8 km each way. We would rate this an easy to medium level for experienced hikers but harder for beginners. The Cannabullen Falls track was extremely well-signed and can be broken into 3 sections as indicated on the map. We followed red plastic triangle markers for the first 2 km, blue for the second 2 km and then red again for the last 2 km.
The first 2 km is a relaxed descent down into the valley. There is a slippery grid at the beginning of the trail to be cautious of but otherwise, the first 4 km are easy. We rock hopped the first creek crossing and after ~100 m, we came up to a camp spot with a clear sign that indicated that we had walked 2 km and needed to turn right and follow the blue triangle arrows.
The second 2 km is a casual ascent and after another 2 km, there is a wider creek crossing that was approximately knee-deep. We chose to take off our shoes to keep our feet dry for the rest of the hike. After the creek crossing, the track continues for about 500m uphill, where there was another sign with directions indicating for us to turn left to the falls.
This is the last 2 km and is a definite scramble down a fairly steep clay track which takes you to the falls. As you get closer to Cannabullen Creek, the track becomes steeper and more slippery underfoot, so be careful. We took our time during this section because we did not want to slide and roll an ankle 2 hours down a track with no phone service.
Once you get to Cannabullen Creek, there are 2 beautiful sights 50 m either way. On the left-hand side, there is the large impressive plunging falls and the most incredibly beautiful view across the valley. On the right-hand side, there is a picturesque fall with beautiful heart-shaped vines creeping up the sides. This pretty small fall is the perfect spot for a picnic and a (chilly) swim.
Be aware that there was no phone signal along the track. This area isolated and help can be hours away. Therefore we urge you to carry a copy of a map so you are prepared for independent navigation. As per usual, we let someone responsible know what our plans were in case we got lost.
We would advise to cross over to the far side of Cannabullen Creek which we deemed to be the safer route down to the drop off falls.
The rainforest canopy ensures that it gets dark quickly around dusk so if you start your walk after midday bring a head torch just in case.
Wear appropriate hiking shoes, hat, sunscreen and insect repellent. This is the wet tropics and there were lots of insects, leeches, ticks and other creepy crawlies. In January, because it is starting to get wet, we would recommend covering the bottom of your legs and applying Vicks vapour rub to your ankle as a deterrent. (Super secret north Queensland hikers tip for stopping leeches).
Try to walk tracks in the dry season (between April to November) and be cautious of undertaking these tracks in the wet. Moreover, flash flooding is a common occurrence in this area so extra attention needs to be paid to creek crossings and weather forecasts. When checking the weather, remember that the area you are hiking in is generally not when flash floods come from. Check out topographical maps of the area to see where a flood would come from and check the weather forecast there too.
Keep your distance from wildlife such as snakes, cassowaries and wild pigs because they are potentially dangerous and could pop out of the bush at any second.
Watch out for lawyer vine (wait-a-while) which can infringe on the track and its sharp hooks can cause serious injury. These vines are nasty, we have had many encounters with them and the spikes almost always get mildly infected.
Cannanbullen Falls is certainly a sight to see. It’s eyegasmic in every direction and was certainly worth the hike, which is always an adventure in itself. Take some friends, lots of water and go have yourself an adventure.