Location - Paluma Range National Park, North Queensland, Australia
Distance - 8 km one way from Paluma to Little Crystal Creek bridge;
7 km one way from Little Crystal Creek bridge to Base of Range.
Time - 6-12 hours one way
Difficulty - 5, difficult; off-track bushwalk, rock hopping, and rock scrambling.
The crystal clear waters and pristine waterfalls of this freshwater creek are ideal for a refreshing swim. The mountain water cascades under a picturesque heritage-listed stone arch bridge built in the 1930s depression. It's bridge is a popular place amongst the Townsville locals on the weekend; just watch out for those the wet, slippery rocks covered in moss and lichen.
A few locals have rock scrambled their way up Little Crystal Creek to the upper waterfalls but not many people have seen the full length of the creek. This hike will take you from Paluma village along the PRB Track down Little Crystal Creek past the heritage-listed bridge to where the creek entres Big Crystal near the Bruce Highway. You can also break it up into two trips starting at the bridge and climb up to Paluma village or rock hop down to the base of the range. Note: Car shuttle required.
How to get there
From Townsville, drive north along the Bruce Highway to the Paluma turn off. Either drop one vehicle off near the last bridge of Little Crystal Creek on Spiegelhauer Road (-18.968159, 146.290171), or drop the vehicle off near the base of the range (-19.000286, 146.281923), or follow the windy road (Mt Spec Road) up to the Stone Bridge at Little Crystal Creek (-19.015702, 146.266436). Where ever you leave the vehicle, continue up to the Paluma Township where the PRB Track starts (-19.01084, 146.21822).
Start walking from Paluma Village along the PRB Track for four kilometres towards Smith Falls; look out for Little Crystal Creek's watershed on your left. Carefully walk down into Little Crystal Creek valley, following it downstream for three kilometres to the heritage-listed bridge of Mt Spec Road. From there, continue down to the base of the range or to where your parked the vehicle.
"The present road to Paluma was largely completed by 1935. Construction was undertaken as a Depression unemployment relief project. Most work was done by men with picks and shovels, mostly labour intensive, with up to 180 men employed at a time. The masonry arch bridge over Little Crystal Creek was built at this time, with stone quarried from Barrett's Bluff, not far past Crystal Creek. A series of guest houses and camping grounds were established along the length of the road during its construction. As construction teams moved slowly up the mountain building the road, they built ten tent camps. One team would work up the mountain from their camp while the other would work down to meet them from a higher camp. They would then abandon camp and move on and up... McClelland's Lookout (The Loop) was named after the Main Roads Officer-in-Charge of the construction of the Paluma Road." - History of Paluma, Mount Spec
What to bring
You'll need a day pack with:
- About 2-3L of water for the walk in. The water in the creek should fine to drink without sterilising it above the bridge but do so at your own risk. You will need to sterilise your water around and below the bridge. You may also want to keep a bottle of water in the car at the bottom.
- Food and snacks for the days.
- Shoes that have grip on wet & mossy granite rocks.
- A headlight in case you go into the night.
- An extra set of clothes to leave in the car at the bottom.
- First Aid Kit and PLB
- Dry bag
If rain is expected, rock hopping will be very difficult and you should cancelling your trip. Climbing up and down the wet mossy rocks would not only take four times as long, but it would be dangerous and not possible in a day.
Here's an interactive map on the journey with points of interest marked.
Just above the heritage-listed bridge as some very spectacular waterfalls and swimming pools. It's also the most popular place in Little Crystal Creek and for good reasons. A perfect place to escape the summer heat by having a quick dip in refreshingly cool water. The rainforest has a good canopy so the vegetation isn't too dense.
Below the bridge, is completely different terrain. It turns into open bushland with larger boulders which make for some tricky rock hopping and scrambling. Since it's downstream from the easily public accessible area, there is also a lot of litter in the creek that has been washed downstream.
Devil's Leap, a.k.a. Peanut Falls, is also a well-known place located a few hundred meters below the bridge and has a dirt track leading to it from Mt Spec Road.
Be careful around cliffs, wet rocks, and fast flowing water. Many people have been injured and emergency services have had to be flown in.
After rock hoping downstream a few more hundred metres, you will come to a cliff with a swimming pool below. Check the water before jumping in. From here, it's a short distance to the mini-slot canyon that is easy to walk around on the left.
After scrambling around the slot-canyon, you will come to Lower Little Crystal Creek Falls, which is the last waterfall of the creek located at the base of the range. This waterfall is spectacular and not only does it offer a beautiful large and deep swimming hole but has the opportunities for abseiling, cliff jumping, and scrambling.
- Gimpe Gimpe (stinging tree)
- Loose and wet rocks