Location - Townsville, North Queensland, Australia
Distance - ~3 km return (JCU Stairs)
Duration - Allow 1 hour
Grade - 3, easy but steep
Looking for an activity for right before or just after work? Douglas Mountain Bike Reserve is the perfect solution! This area is noted, primarily, for mountain biking but also accommodates walking, trail running, and rock climbing.
What's better than having hills with picturesque views within 15 minutes of Townsville?
What's better than being able to ride 30 km of single track 24/7?
The JCU Walking Track is commonly called "JCU Stairs", likely because it is made up of 493 well-maintained steps. This track resulted from a joint project between TropEco and JCU Discovery Rise. Brave these steps spanning beautiful bushland, and you'll be rewarded with stunning views at the summit including the Mt Stuart foothills, James Cook University, Castle Hill, Townsville City, and the ocean. Kangaroos, crickets, spiders, and other little critters are common along this short but enjoyable walk.
Getting to the start of the JCU Stairs
Free parking for the trail is located behind the abandoned JCU Western Campus on Endeavour Drive. Here, you'll find signage indicating the start of the walk.
Getting to the first peak via the stairs will take about 10 minutes, but if you are running, you may reach it in half the time. Once you reach the first peak, the stairs finish, but you'll have the option to continue to a higher peak called Top Summit. While there appears to be multiple trails to Top Summit, care should be taken, as these trails can be consist of loose gravel, rocks, and washouts. Be mindful, especially when descending.
While at the Top Summit, take a moment to sit down (yes, there are seats!), take in the refreshing breeze, and marvel at the views of Townsville and James Cook University.
All of the trails have been added to OpenStreetMap for your perusal:
Douglas Mountain Bike Trails
In addition to the walking track, there are many mountain bike trails in the Douglas Mountain Bike Reserve. If you decide to walk, run, or mountain bike this extensive trail network, be sure to have a map, and check the trail conditions before heading out. Though it is great fun to exercise in the rain, please refrain from using these trails when they are wet. This trail network is in great shape thanks to the time and effort of many volunteers. If you enjoy using these trails, consider Adopting a Trail to help maintain them.
The main entrance to the Douglas Mountain Bike Reserve is on Angus Smith Drive; however, the other popular starting points are at the water tanks at the end of Windarra Avenue and from JCU via Monkhouse Road.
A comprehensive guide to the mountain bike trails can be found on the Trailforks website:
While it may not be the most stellar rock quality in all of Townsville, this climbing area is close to home and can be enjoyed in the evening after work. The two main cliffs are named the "Lazy Afternoon Wall" and "Vivacious Area". Lazy Afternoon Wall was first climbed in 1998 and provided an area close to JCU for some lazy afternoons climbing, hence its namesake, or for Uni students with bikes. Vivacious Area was developed more recently. On both cliffs, the rock type is very different for Townsville – not quite the granite of Mt Stuart or Frederick Peak, but rather more of a volcanic, bubbly, pocketed, highly-featured, and very frictional rock, similar to what you'd find on Castle Hill. Even though these cliffs are chossy, you'll still have a lot of fun. For more information regarding the routes on both cliffs, check out theCrag.
★ Triple Connection
Starting at "Binocular Pocket". Move up and diagonally right past the first hangerless bolt of "BP". Continue diagonally up R though to 2nd hangerless bolt of "SW". Keep tredning R to clip FH bolt of "NBN" when at chest height. Stay left of the bolt and move through bulge (crux) to run-out but easy finish on slab.
|Sport 16m, 3|
Up the obvious arching flake, piking R onto slab. Continue to traverse and finish around the corner. Natural belay.
Up the face and on the arete. Though the balancy crux and trend R to ledge and DBB.
|Sport 9m, 3|
Nasty But Nourishing
Starts 2m R of "Small Wonder". Up on run-out but slab to large concave. Up and slightly L to clip FH. Staying R of FH, traverse the lip of cave a few moves and then up over lip of cave (crux) into large corner. Finish on run-out but easy slab.
|Sport 13m, 1|
Starting at the base of the large outcrop, climb straight up through the boulder problem on the arete and then up on edges to DBB.
|Sport 10m, 5|
As these tracks are designated mountain bike tracks, mountain bike riders have the right of way. Do not walk on the 'downhill only' tracks, and respect all signage. Make sure to bring water, sunscreen, and a mobile phone with you, as there is reception in this area. Camping is not permitted at any time. Please be mindful that the Townsville Rockwheelers Mountain Bike Club hold tenure over the Douglas Mountain Bike Reserve for the primary purpose of mountain biking. The Club solely funds the building and maintenance of the mountain bike trails. Please read the signage at entry points before use. The Club requests that large groups remain on the designated walking trails. This is a dog friendly area, but please be a responsible pet owner. Dogs must remain on leashes at all times.
As of December 2019, the Club has restricted all walkers to the designated walking trails. New signage has been installed and walkers can no longer use the mountain bike trails.