Location - Bowling Green Bay National Park, North Queensland, Australia
Distance - 17 km return
Time - 4-6 hours return
Difficulty - Easy to moderate walk on track. Some sections have a slight incline.
At 1210 m, Mount Elliot is one of the highest peaks in Queensland and a unique rainforest refuge emerging above the savanna plains of the dry tropics. This range is a granite massif rising to 1,342 m, has numerous small creeks and waterfalls on its eastern slopes. In some areas above 600 m are small patches of remnant rainforest.
The high peak of Mount Elliot supports rainforest that once stretched north to Mount Spec and south to Eungella. Isolated as a result of a drying climate, Mount Elliot is now evolving independently from other rainforest and is an important local refuge. The water way and lush creek lines that dissect the savanna woodlands on the lower slopes of Mount Elliot.
Its carved gorges and valleys and varying rainfall have created a diverse landscape, rich in animal and plant life. Alligator Creek flows in the valley between two rocky mountains – Mount Elliot and Saddle Mountain. The headwaters of Alligator Creek begin in the upland rainforests near Mt Elliot and descends with waterfalls and cascades that pour into deep pools.
Alligator Creek changes throughout the year, reflecting the seasons and weather patterns in North Queensland. We often experience two distinct seasons, the Wet and the Dry. Each season has an enormous influence on the creek environment and the animals that live here. The water of Alligator Creek not only sustains a wide ranging of aquatic plants and animals, but also serves as a reliable drinking source for many animals from the surrounding environment.
In the wet season, the creek tumbles off the slopes of Mount Elliot and rushes down the creek line through lush green hill slopes scouring the rocky walls of the valley. Vegetation grows right down to the high water mark. The bed of the creek is filled with a rumbled mass of rocks, debris and dry season growth.
In the dry season, water gently cascades over boulders and rocks into rippling pools of clear water. The creek often stops running in the late dry season before the rains of the wet season once again fill the creek line.
The Alligator Falls trail traverses through the Bowling Green Bay National Park, along the trail to Alligator Falls. Enjoy grassy open woodlands, cool riparian forests and views of the cascades of Alligator Falls. Eucalypt woodlands cover the lower slopes of Mount Elliot and are filled with many interesting plants that you will see along the walk.
Choose from short easy walk or an adventurous extended hike.
Alligator Creek Boardwalk and Swimming Area
Distance: 200 metres return
Duration: allow 15 minutes
Enjoy a shaded wheelchair-accessible boardwalk through riparian forest along the creek line. It starts from the day-use area to the bank of Alligator Creek where the boardwalk ends, continue along the rocky and sandy path to arrive at the popular swimming area. Spot turtles sunning themselves on rocks in the creek and swim with the jungle perch in the swimming hole at the end of the track.
Alligator Creek Lookout
Distance: 1 km return
Duration: allow 30 minutes
Take your camera on this short stroll to the top of a rocky outcrop for a view of the lower sections of Alligator Creek. Follow the sealed path from the car park to the viewing platform, or use the steps from the swimming area.
Cockatoo Creek Track
Distance: 3 km return
Duration: allow 1.5 hours
Wander through open eucalypt woodland, slowly climbing to Cockatoo Creek. Filled with boulders and rock pools and fringed with bottlebrush trees, this creek is ideal for a rest and a swim.
Alligator Falls Track
Distance: 17 km return
Duration: 4-6 hours
The track to Alligator Falls starts from the southern end of the car park and continues on from Cockatoo Creek venturing through woodland, where you'll wading across creeks, taking you well into the valley. Taking a right fork towards the Alligator Falls camping area, continue to ascend through rocky vine thickets and over boulders, emerging suddenly at the base of a massive granite cliff face, Alligator Creek Falls, and waterholes.
The falls are actually a series of steep sloping cascades. The track ends beside the creek at the base of the falls. With overhanging bottlebrush trees, damselflies skimming water, and butterflies dancing above the surface, these crossings are a perfect place to rest and catch your breath.
On the way, there is a clearing called "Hidden Valley" and is the site of an old homestead, long since gone, old mango trees and a clearing are the only evidence of occupation. Agile wallabies might be spotted here as they feed closeby.
There are four creek crossings and some boulder scrambling is required. It is a perfect piece to rest before embarking on your return to the car park. The walk is long and can be hot – especially in summer.
The track return is approximately a 17 km. Return along the same track to the car park. Seven kilometres of this track is located under power lines, where it shares the same path as a management access road. This walk is long and can be hot and should only be undertaken by fit walkers. This walk return can be completed in one day. Alternatively, some hikers do camp overnight at Alligator Falls camping area. Camping permits are required.
The top of the falls offers private infinity swimming holes and views of Saddle Mtn, Giru and the ocean.
To get to the top of the fall, which is well worth the effort, rock scramble (grade 10) up the right hand side in dry weather – Do not attempt in wet weather or drizzle. Alternatively, there is a tagged bush track further to the right marked in orange, blue, and pink tape.
Slippery rocks on the cliff face have cause falls and serious injury. Landing on submerged objects in the creek can result in serious injury or death.
As this is a national park, no pets are allowed.
What to bring
- 3L of water & electrolytes if you think you will need them.
- Trail snacks, morning tea and lunch
- A hat, sunscreen and insect repellent - this walk will be hot.
- Sun safe clothing
- Shoes & socks
- First Aid Kit
- Camera - it is always gorgeous in our lovely NQ bush
- Wildlife watching
- Book reading
- Scrambling and abseiling Alligator Falls
There are several options to camp in this area:
- Alligator Creek camping area
- Cockatoo Creek camping area
- Alligator Falls camping area
- Mount Elliot remote bush camp
Covered picnic tables, gas barbecues, and wheelchair-accessible toilets are provided at the day use area. Alligator Creek campground has wheelchair-accessible toilets and 16 numbered campsites — some with wheelchair-accessible furniture. Alligator Creek camping area allows for car camping where as the other are hike in only. Camping permits must be obtained in advance; book through the Queensland Parks website.
Alligator Falls walk-in camping site is just off the track and is for self-sufficient campers only, with a maximum of six campers. Cockatoo Creek is a short walk-in for self-sufficient camping and takes a maximum of six campers.
Take rubbish (including food scraps) home with you. Bury human waste at least 15 cm deep and 100 m from watercourses and tracks. Take care not to pollute freshwater. Do not use soap, shampoo or detergents in or near creeks, streams and waterholes.
Here's an interactive map of the area:
Flora and fauna
From about 400 m and above in elevation. Mount Elliot supports rainforest that once stretched north to Mount Spec and south to Eungella. Isolated as a result of a drying climate, Mount Elliot is now evolving independently from other rainforest and is an important local refuge for wildlife, some found only here. Some animals that live here are found nowhere else in the world!
The Mount Elliot nursery frog and leaf-tailed gecko are protected in the high altitudes of the mountain, but there is plenty of local wildlife at Alligator Creek.
Early morning is a great time for wildlife watching. As the sun rises look for great bowerbirds as they swoop and search for trinkets to adorn their bower. Listen to the chorus of bird calls and try to spot the kookaburras, flycatchers, honeyeaters and cuckoo-shrikes that take part in the morning melody.
Watch the wallabies as they feed on the mown grass or try to spot a turtle sunning itself on a rock in the creek before it splashes into the water.
During the heat of the day activity slows as most animals seek shelter and rest. Night time, however, is when nocturnal animals awake. With a torch look for brushtail possums and sugar gliders on trunks and branches, or a rufous bettong scurrying across the grass in the campground. A rustle in the undergrowth may be a northern brown bandicoot searching for insect larvae in the soil. In the morning look for the small conical holes they make as they dig out their prey.
Kapoks (Cochlospermum gillivraei) are deciduous trees growing on the rocky hill-slopes beside Alligator Creek. They break out in brilliant yellow flowers after the dormant winter months. Leaves then follow before the flowers form large seed pods that eventually split open revealing a mass of white fluffy seeds. During the early settlement of Australia these soft seeds were used to stuff pillows and mattresses.
Cycads (Cycas media) are striking primitive plants and clumps of these are often seen in the understorey. Their leathery fern-like leaves grow from the top of a thick trunk. The trunk is often black from past fires and is covered in a pattern of triangular leaf scars.
Climbing hibiscus (Abelmoschus moschatus subsp. tuberosus) grows during the wet season (October to April) and has bright pink or red hibiscus-like flowers. The flowers last for only one day but they are prolific and continue to appear until the wet season ends. These trailing groundcovers survive through winter with a dormant underground tuber.
A freshwater crocodile lives in Alligator Creek. Unlike estuarine crocodiles, freshwater crocodiles are considered timid and not life-threatening. Very few incidents have been reported involving people. This crocodile may become aggressive and cause if disturbed.